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The Drought of 2007

11/14/2007
This scattered chunk rock was barely within reach of deep-diving crankbaits last summer. 

The drought of 2007 has taken a severe toll on our nation and our fisheries. Reservoirs, lakes, ponds, rivers and streams are at all-time lows. In this three-part series we'll take a look at the drought's severity across the country, how it affects our sport and how we, as anglers, can turn these conditions to our advantage without damaging our resource.

How bad is it?

2007 has been a tough year. Lack of rain combined with extreme heat has wreaked havoc across our country. There are a variety of ways to measure its effects but the result is the same. The U.S. Drought Monitor, a governmental supported reporting agency, classifies drought conditions as exceptional, extreme, severe, moderate and abnormally dry.

As of Thursday, November 8, 2007, at least half of California was classified as extreme or severe. Nevada, Idaho, Utah and Arizona weren't any better. Portions of southern Ohio and eastern Kentucky were classified as extreme to severe. Eastern Tennessee as well as huge areas in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama were classified as exceptional — conditions only expected every 50 years.

To get a true perspective on this state of affairs, consider that it's actually a little better now thanks to heavy rains in some parts of the country in October and early November.

Our reservoirs are being affected accordingly. The great western canyon reservoirs are frighteningly low. So low, in fact, that it'll take years of normal rainfall to restore them to normal levels and allow their ecological systems to stabilize.

At legendary fisheries such as Buggs Island, Dale Hollow and Douglas Lake, ramps are closed, forcing anglers to drive many miles to launch their boats. At Dale Hollow the situation is so bad that the guides are docking their boats at the end of houseboat ramps for fear they won't be able to launch this winter.

As of this writing, water levels on Georgia's Lake Lanier are in danger of dropping to the point that the lake will no longer be able to supply Atlanta with drinking water. Can you imagine Lake Sidney Lanier going dry? That would have been laughable a year ago.

The Mississippi, Ohio, Cumberland and Tennessee rivers are suffering from low water levels and a lack of current flow. Places in the Ohio and the Mississippi are actually stagnant from these conditions.

Proposed solutions to this crisis cover a wide gambit. In some locales conservation is the key, both voluntary and government imposed. In other areas the solutions are more mercenary — withholding water and suing over who gets what, where and when. In Georgia, Governor Sonny Perdue has turned to public prayer.

Some see global warming as the culprit; others say it's just the normal cycling of our climate. Others blame mankind's gluttony. No matter the immediate cause, however, all agree that the short-term solution is rain, and lots of it.

As bad as the situation is, however, all is not lost, at least as far as our fisheries are concerned. Low water levels can actually help some waters by improving the habitat and concentrating the fish. In Part 2 of this drought series, we'll see what professional fisheries biologists have to say about how this happens and why it's good for some waters.