Lower Saluda River Trout Study

Summary of Second Year Study Results

Angler Tag Return Study

A total of 164 tag returns from 84 anglers were reported in the second year of the study. More than half of those tags were received in the first two months and only 13 tag returns were reported in the last nine months. Many factors can influence the reduction in tag returns, but we believe part of the reason could be explained by a high flow event that occurred three weeks after stocking. However, taking high flows into consideration, the early trend in tag returns still suggests a high mortality rate of rainbow trout in the first three months after stocking. An additional year of study will provide information to better understand the mortality rate.

High flows at Hope Ferry Landing on January 7, 2014

In keeping with the first year results, the majority of angler tag returns were from rainbow trout with 145 being rainbow trout and 18 being brown trout. There may be a number of factors contributing to this. One possibility is the rainbow trout are stocked at 8-10 inches and have higher metabolic demand than the much smaller 3-5 inch brown trout. This would suggest that rainbow trout would be feeding more aggressively and be more easily caught than are the brown trout. Another result that was very similar to the first year was 63 % of anglers reported they released the tagged trout while 37% reported they harvested the trout. Anglers reported different techniques to catch the tagged trout with 61% using spinning tackle, 34% fly fishing, and 5% still fishing with bait.

Site-Specific Electro-fishing Study

Site-specific electro-fishing was conducted at nine locations for each of eight months starting December 2013 and ending in October 2014. A total of 421 trout including 186 brown trout and 235 rainbow trout were captured. Eighty-eight carry/over trout (trout who have survived more than one after stocking) including 43 brown trout and 45 rainbow trout were captured. The largest brown trout was 22.4" (4.4 lbs) and the largest rainbow trout was 21.9" (3.6 lbs). Trout captures where highest in the winter months, remained fairly stable during the spring, and dropped to their lowest levels in the summer (Figure 1). This result correlates fairly well with the rate of tag returns during Year 1 of the study, but did not correlate well with Year 2 where angler tag returns dropped off dramatically after the first week of January 2014. Catch rates from electrofishing also proved interesting. Dividing the river into four reaches with Reach 1 being nearest to Lake Murray and Reach 4 being the furthest from the Lake Murray, a reduction in catch per unit effort (CPUE) from 27.4 trout per hour to a low 0.2 trout per hour was observed. This is likely related to our focused stocking efforts in the upper two thirds of the river; although, it is also possible that water quality, habitat diversity and predator abundance could be a factor.

Figure 1. Trout captures by month using site-specific electrofishing during second year of study

Electrofishing boat used to sample trout in the Lower Saluda River

Carry/Over Brown trout

Creel Study

The second year of the three-year creel survey was completed. The six hour creel was conducted 12 days/month during peak trout fishing season and 10 days/month for the rest of the year. During the second year, 122 creel surveys were conducted with 282 anglers interviewed. The majority of the anglers were from South Carolina with a few from Georgia and one from Massachusetts. Greater than 85% of the anglers were from either Lexington or Richland Counties. The number of contacts peaked in January with all anglers targeting trout. Of the total anglers interviewed, trout were targeted by 77% of anglers and striped bass were targeted by 18% of the anglers. The numbers of trout landings were highest in the winter, spring and fall months and dropped off during the summer months. Angler access was predominantly by boat (54.1%) with bank fishing (21%) and wade fishing (24.9%) adding significant contributions. This predominance of boating anglers was likely influenced by high rainfall amounts that resulted in river flows generally considered unsafe for wade fishing (flows exceeding 1000 cfs) greater than 50% of the year.

Fish Community Study

The fish community study involves an inventory of the Lower Saluda River fish community with an emphasis on documenting species composition, abundance, distribution, and length/weight data. The objective of the study is to document fish community response to new flow and oxygen requirements at the Saluda Hydro-electric Project. The study is conducted by boat electrofishing at 5 locations during the spring, summer and fall for three years. During the second year of the study, 2889 fish representing 47 different species were captured. Redbreast sunfish along with spotted sucker and northern hogsucker were some of the most abundant species. The most common top predators were largemouth bass, brown trout and chain pickerel. Striped bass were also abundant in the river from May through September.

A common top predator species found in the Lower Saluda River is the yellow perch