May is usually a month in South Dakota when anglers head to the streams and lakes in pursuit of a big catch.
With the rain and snow that has blanketed the Black Hills this year, that’s become less and less of a possibility.
Recent rain earlier in the week has Rapid Creek flowing much higher than normal, and it appears that the water level won’t be going down in the next few days.
Still, South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks area fisheries supervisor Jake Davis said he isn’t anticipating many long-term impacts of the flood waters impacting creeks and streams in the area.
“It’s not likely to be a long-term effect, fish populations have seen these high discharge events in the past, they’re able to handle it,” he said. “A lot of times they move to the margins or the backwater areas so they’re not out in that really heavy current system.”
Still, he said anglers should use caution when deciding whether or not to approach high water levels.
“Especially right now with the high water that we’re seeing, it’s limiting folks ability to use that resource,” he said. “Additionally there’s a safety concern that comes into play, we want to make sure people are using caution when they’re around those streams that are in flood stage.”
He said there can be short-term impacts to the creeks and streams depending on additional moisture the area receives.
There could also be short-term impacts to populations, but he said because this isn’t the first time areas like Rapid Creek have been at levels like it is at now.
When water levels are this high, however, some of those habitats can also change.
“We’ve certainly reached a level where sediments can start mobilizing,” he said. “You might see rocks and boulders and things move down the stream, pools might fill in or shift and that’s just a constant process within a stream especially when you get a certain amount of water moving through.”
As far as when the water levels can return to normal, it will depend on how dams are managed.
He said Pactola Dam is letting some water out but there is enough water still coming into Rapid Creek and heading into Rapid City.
“In a lot of cases in unregulated (undamed) streams will kind of flush themselves out,” he said. “That being said they’ll probably be above normal with runoff but on systems such as Rapid Creek that have multiple dams on them, when those systems hold back water it takes awhile for releases to relieve them of some of that pressure so we might be an above average discharge in Castle and Rapid Creek for an extended period.”
Davis said it will up to the discretion of the angler when they feel safe and comfortable enough to get back out in the water and enjoy the streams and creeks in the Black Hills.
“A lot of it depends on when an angler feels safe to use that resource again but additionally you have different input and sediments that come in and change the water color so some folks may not want to fish when it’s in (that) stage, so a lot of people will wait for that water to clear up from an angler standpoint,” he said. “Folks have a certain level they’re comfortable with when they’re ready to fish that system.”