Releases from Jackson Lake Dam have dropped to near their long-term summer levels and tributaries are easing up, too, a combination that bodes well for anglers feeling the itch.
Snake River levels at South Park have dropped by a third in the last five days to about 7,500 cubic feet per second, and flows that ran turbid not long ago are beginning to show signs of clearing. Fishing guides in the community say the Snake is on the cusp of being in prime condition.
“It’s still a little high, a little quick and a little off color, but people are catching fish,” Westbank Anglers owner Baker Salsbury said. “So, go for it.”
Elsewhere, like on the Snake’s South Fork past Palisades Reservoir and on select streams in the Jackson Hole area, the waters are already clear and the bite plenty strong, he said.
Between Monday and Tuesday the Bureau of Reclamation cut the release rate at Jackson Lake from 3,250 to 2,600 cfs. The quickly diminishing snowpack and reduction in runoff prompted the change, Upper Snake Water Operations Manager Mike Beus said.
“Inflow fell off dramatically the end of last week, so we had to follow it,” Beus said. “Otherwise we’d be moving water downstream that we don’t want downstream yet — water that we’d rather float on in August.”
The near-average snowpack disappeared quicker than expected this spring. By last week significant snowfields were gone atop Togwotee Pass, which is about as high of horizontal ground as you find in the watershed, and levels on rivers like the Buffalo Fork are no longer responding to the heat, Beus said.
One implication of the heat and depleted snow is that Jackson Lake is now forecast to not fill completely, though it was 96 percent of capacity Thursday. Beus said he expects Jackson Lake to be 50 percent full by summer’s end instead of the 70 percent he anticipated a month ago.
“Somewhere in the range of 2,400 to 2,600 [cfs] — and 2,600 is where we are — is where we want to stay for the long haul,” Beus said. “I’m guessing that we’re already at flows that will be acceptable for fishing once the tributaries calm down.”
Typically it’s the first week of October when the Bureau of Reclamation transitions to a much-lower winter flow rate.
Contact Mike Koshmrl at 732-7067 or [email protected].