Officials tracking fish health, population during Boone Dam repair

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JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL)- Tennessee Valley Authority and Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency officials are beginning a five-year study to track fish health and population changes during the lowering of Boone Lake levels and later when the water levels return to normal.

The study will be used to determine whether people can expect a thriving fish population following the raising of lake levels.

“When we are out there doing this,” said TWRA Fisheries Biologist John Hammonds, “we see literally thousands, upon thousands, upon thousands of small fish.”

Crews search for large mouth, small mouth and spotted bass along Boone Lake.

Hammond said crews are looking for juvenile large mouth, small mouth and spotted bass along the shallow ends of the lake, which are good indicators of health and population for the approximately 25 species of fish in Boone Lake.

“We’re going to use that data as a measuring stick to tell if the reproduction in the lake is better after the lake comes back, as opposed to when the lake is down,” he said.

Biologists use electrofishing equipment to stun fish and then identify the species, weighing and measuring them as well.

Normally, these types of studies are conducted every two to three years.

TVA Senior Water Resources Specialist Shannon O’Quinn said they will now be sampling multiple times every year.

“We expect the fish population to be good,” said O’Quinn. “It will be good fishing for anglers after the water comes back up, there’s a lot of vegetation around the lake which will act as a nursery for those fish.”

TVA’s supplemental vegetation management plan is an area of interest for biologists as they survey the water.

Biologists will be monitoring areas of mulched vegetation and areas where mulching has not been done over the next five years.

SEE ALSO: A look at TVA’s supplemental vegetation management

During the Boone Dam repair project, TVA has worked with TWRA to allow vegetation to grow in some areas that did not have vegetation as a way to stabilize banks, reduce erosion and create natural habitats for wildlife, hopefully, resulting in an increased population of healthy fish.

“What we expect, and that’s kind of similar to other reservoirs across the country that have had this same scenario is that you usually see a bump in the reproduction of fish, which in turn grow into larger fish when you catch,” said Hammonds, “so it will probably be pretty good in five or six years after the lake comes back up.”

Fish samples from Boone Lake.

“Hopefully, it [the fish population] will explode in the future,” said O’Quinn.

TVA and TWRA said currently, the fish health and population in Boone Lake during the lower water levels are good.

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