Reading a river

Talk about anything that floats your boat (no pun intended). This is general talk about anything not related to boating/fishing.
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Joined: 06 Mar 2015, 23:32
Location: Lebanon Co., PA

Reading a river

Post by duckfish » 24 Jul 2016, 14:39

The Susquehanna River is my home river. I would guess that you will not have the same rock/boulder issues we have so it simplifies things somewhat for you. This picture is an example of what we deal with. Taken on a low water level, so imagine boating thru/over all this mess when the water is running with 2" - 3" of water over them. That's what many parts of our river are. At any water level. There's always some "boat eaters" out there, just lurking under the surface.


A lot of good suggestions have already been made but a few that haven't so far:

- In general, when running a river and you see a V shaped disturbance in the flow on the surface, if the V points downstream, it is channeling water between 2 obstructions and will be the deeper water and safer pass. If the V points upstream, that is from a subsurface obstruction and you want to go around/avoid it.

- Until you get to know a section of the river nearly as well as you know the layout of the furniture in your own house: Wear a PFD and your kill lanyard like it's religion and only go as fast as you are willing to smash your boat into something, potentially sinking/destroying it.

- Find the closest on-line stream gauging station to where you will be running and check it all the time. Link: also this one since it gives predictive levels that help you plan ahead:
Make notes of the river levels every time you go out and you eventually get a feel for what is safe water levels, when you can get into certain areas, when to stay away, etc.

- Always be watchful for logs, trees, barrels, you name it floating down the river. Can be just as dangerous as a solid boulder under the surface.

- Be vigilant, but relax and have fun. I know I find the more I relax and have measured confidence, the better decisions I make when encountering something out of the ordinary. It's just like driving the highway, certainly can be dangerous, but no reason to be a stressed out wreck about it. Enjoy the ride.

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Reading a river

Post by onthewater102 » 25 Jul 2016, 10:18

Unfortunately, these are the best smallmouth fisheries and once you have a taste of one staying away would eventually bring on withdrawal symptoms that won't subside until you get back out there. The Housatonic here in western CT is a scaled down version of the Susquehanna with all it's delightful navigational entanglements and fantastic smallmouth fishery. I watch videos of the jet-jon guys running upstream in waters with half the flow I'm seeing on a given day in total disbelieve that there is nothing under the surface lurking to kill their boat/motor.

Logs are the worst - they float but are almost or entirely submerged right at the surface. I damn near tore my thru-hull fishfinder sensor through my hull when I hit a 6~8" log that t-boned me in 8' of water doing <12 mph as I was slowing to enter a no wake zone. Thankfully motor bounced off it harmlessly but that was on the slow deep water at the north end of the reservoir behind the dam - not in the fast rocky water upstream from there.

Take it slow & get to know where the hard obstructions are. Best bet is to get out there while the water is really low (probably now) so you know where some of the sub-surface obstacles will be when the water is higher.
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Location: Mississippi

Reading a river

Post by Lowe 2070 CC » 25 Jul 2016, 16:05

The Lower Mississippi between Greenville and Natchez, MS is a whole other animal from the upper Mississippi. Barge traffic keeps the water churning constantly the USACE keeps a minimum 11' deep navigable channel marked by bouys, but outside the channel the depth varies widely.

Add in rock dikes, revetment, sandbars and the rise and fall of the river and you quickly learn that it's not a place to be careless.

Guage "0" at Vicksburg is 46.23' above mean sea level. this means the surface of the water is 46.23' at a "0" stage. Todays stage is 20.5', or 20.5 + 46.23' = 67.73' above Mean Sea Level.

The record high set in May of 2011 was 57.1', or 46.23' + 57.1' = 103.33' above msl, the record low set in 1940 was -7.00' or 46.23'-7.00' = 39.23' above msl (-2.00 is the lowest in my lifetime).

What you see is a river that can vary by as much as 60'+/- in elevation and spread out into any number of backwater channels and oxbow lakes. These oxbows are great fishing and nursery/spawning areas. White bass and stripers gather in the current behind rock dikes, flatheads like the holes where eddys swirl in the bends, blue cats hunt the sandbars, but all of these turn on and off with a rising or falling river at any given stage.

Go out with someone experienced and learn from them is the best advice I can give.

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