Low water may affect spawn

The fall–and perhaps spring–spawn may fall victim to the low water levels but the Ministry of Natural Resources doesn’t feel it will have a devastating long-term effect on the fish population.
Darryl McLeod, a biologist with the local Ministry of Natural Resources office, said the low water would mean more sediment on the substrate, which could affect the oxygen going to the eggs and decrease their chance for success with the fall spawners–whitefish and lake herring.
Due to the cyclical nature, though, McLeod felt the population would rebound from a low year and make up for it in upcoming years.
“Some years we see good strong year classes produced and some years we see poor year classes produced,” he noted. “Both species are fairly abundant.”
He also said fish were very adaptable to changes in their spawning environment. “We hope that the water levels improve in the spring,” he added.
But Rick Walden, engineering advisor with the Rainy Lake Board of Control, wasn’t sure that would happen. So far, he said, the long-range winter forecast around Rainy Lake is predicting only slightly above normal precipitation and temperatures slightly below normal–and that’s with “La Nina.”
While above average snowfalls increase the likelihood of more runoff next spring, Walden noted there were no guarantees. Much depends on what spring is like, with most of the spring runoff coming from the rain.
“Whatever we do get out of that, the runoff from the snow pack is quite variable,” he explained.
In the meantime, water levels may drop even further (typically, it reaches its lowest point at the end of winter). Right now, Rainy Lake is at the lowest level it’s been at this time of year since the rule curve was put in place in 1949.
“The lake has been lower than it is presently,” Walden noted, but that occurred in the spring.
And net inflows into Rainy Lake are at the lowest they’ve been in the 88 years of recorded data, dipping slightly into the negative with evaporation.
The net inflow of Lake of the Woods also is in the negative, bringing it down to its sixth-lowest level on record. But Walden stressed because of its size and the wind, it wasn’t uncommon for Lake of the Woods’ net inflows to go in the negative.
“Things are lower than normal and dry right down through the system,” he added.