Wildfires and their impacts on fish

Print Article

Recently I stopped at FWP Region One headquarters in Kalispell and asked Fisheries Biologist Amber Steed what effects wildfires have on fish.

“One of the biggest negative effects of wildfire is the increase of sediment flowing into the stream in erosion after rains and snow melt.”

According to Steed, higher levels of sedimentation may affect fish in two ways.

“Sediments can suffocate eggs following the spawning process, thus reducing the numbers of eggs that mature into small fish.

“Also, stream-spawning fish often select gravelly areas of the stream where oxygen-laden water percolates up from the streambed. This is especially true of bull trout and westslope cutthroat trout.

“Higher levels of sedimentation may fill in the spaces between the pieces of gravel and reduce the oxygen available to the eggs.”

“When streamside trees burn and lose their crowns, there is a corresponding loss of shade which may contribute to higher water temperatures, but, more importantly, loss of shade means fewer hiding places for fish.”

“On the positive side,” added Sneed, “burned trees are more likely than live tress to fall into a stream and, once in the water, can serve as cover for fish, helping them to avoid predators, and to provide some shade otherwise lost (temporarily) when nearby vegetation burned.”

“Another possible positive effect of fire is a pulse of nutrients released into the soil in burned areas, then transported to streams during rain. These nutrients can help increase the aquatic food base for fish.”

Steed emphasized that fish living in streams are probably not affected by a sudden increase in water temperatures because they have the ability to move to more optimal conditions.

“What actually happens depends on the nearness of the fire to streams,” said Steed. “In Northwest Montana, the fact that cooler water may be entering the stream tempers the rise in stream water temperatures.”

While the immediate impacts of wildfire on fish might be minimal, long-term impacts can be more significant.

“What we’re having now with wildfires is much more likely to impact us than the fish!”

Print Article

Read More Outdoors

Close calls on the famed Rock Creek, as it lives up to its name

June 20, 2018 at 7:06 am | Hungry Horse News Recently we floated a section on Rock Creek, east of Missoula. Reason was the prolific salmonfly hatch which generally happens in early June. At one point we floated next to some very high, steep r...

Comments

Read More

Tally Lake District welcomes new ranger

June 20, 2018 at 7:05 am | Hungry Horse News As the new Tally Lake District Ranger, Bill Mulholland says he enjoys wearing a variety of hats. “Rangers do a little bit of everything,” Mulholland said recently. “Rangers are some of the busiest ...

Comments

Read More

Next river meeting is June 20 in Kalispell

June 13, 2018 at 8:16 am | Hungry Horse News The next comprehensive river management plan for the three wild and scenic sections of the Flathead River is June 20 in Kalispell. The meeting will be held in the lower level of the Arts and Technol...

Comments

Read More

You’ll catch more trout if you keep that line nice and straight

June 13, 2018 at 8:03 am | Hungry Horse News Keeping the fly line straight is one of the most important keys to catching fish. When the line has curves or waves, it only makes sense that a fish could actually pick up the fly and move it withou...

Comments

Read More

Contact Us

(406) 892-2151
PO BOX 189, 926 Nucleus Avenue
Columbia Falls, MT 59912

©2018 Hungry Horse News Terms of Use Privacy Policy
X
X