New path keeps fish healthy, anglers happy on Nowood River

On the Nowood River, some recent changes to the water’s path will help keep the fish healthy, vibrant and diverse, in turn offering anglers more opportunity to catch a variety of sportfish.

5/21/2018 10:50:14 AM

Cheyenne - Sometimes all fish need is a little direction to keep swimming where they need to go. On the Nowood River, some recent changes to the water’s path will help keep the fish healthy, vibrant and diverse, in turn offering anglers more opportunity to catch a variety of sportfish.

Fish passage biologists with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department recently finished construction on a new headgate and fish screens and removed a diversion for the Harmony Ditch Diversion on the Nowood River. The project improves stream function, reduces annual maintenance for the ditch irrigator and save thousands of fish from being lost annually.

The loss was from “entrainment” — when fish follow a diversion of water to a location that isn’t ideal for survival. It’s one of the major causes of fish loss in Wyoming and around the country.

Game and Fish started studying the issue on the Nowood River in 2005 and identified 16 different fish species moving out of the river into the Harmony irrigation ditch — 13 native and three non-native species.

“Four of those species are designated in Wyoming as Species of Greatest Conservation Need: burbot, flathead chub, mountain sucker and sauger,” said Erin Leonetti, fish passage biologist for the Bighorn Basin.

Game and Fish staff knew the entrainment had to be addressed and originally planned to make a fish ladder. But one species, the shovelnose sturgeon, wouldn’t be able to use it. With a little creativity, a newly designed plan changed the point of diversion upstream and included fish screen cones.

“We moved the headgate up the river and installed two fine, metal mesh cone screens 8 feet in diameter and 4 feet tall,” Leonetti said. “The screens stay free of debris with brushes that rotate clockwise and counter-clockwise. This allows irrigation water to pass through, but keeps the fish in the Nowood River.”   

Anglers will soon see the results of the work, which took extensive coordination and partnerships with water users, Wyoming Wildlife Natural Resource Trust, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Wyoming Department of Transportation, State Engineer's Office and multiple consultants.

“There is a walk-in fishing area at the Nowood bridge, and anglers can expect to catch sportfish like sauger, burbot, catfish, smallmouth bass, shovelnose sturgeon and brown trout,” Leonetti said.

Get to the Big Horn Walk-in Fishing Area 12 on the Nowood River via U.S. Highway 16, just west of Ten Sleep. Maps and walk-in area rules are available on the Game and Fish website.

(Sara DiRienzo (307-777-4540))

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