14,000cfs tonight; All eyes on Buffalo Bill and tomorrow’s storms


I wish I didn’t have to report this, but we’re getting another increase of 1,000cfs tonight, bringing river releases to 14,000cfs at 8pm.

Its been pretty much record inflows across the board for the Bighorn Basin, and Buffalo Bill is just about out of storage. Keep in mind Buffalo Bill does not have a flood pool, and they are only a few feet from the top of the dam. Keep your fingers crossed that the storms forecast for tonight and tomorrow do not affect inflows appreciably.

Launching and retrieving boats from the launches has become difficult at best and sometimes treacherous at worst. A very experienced guide had a boat sunk during retrieval yesterday. Buddy up with friends or others when possible, and be ready to give assistance. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Conditions and hazards are changing almost by the hour.

Keep calm. Stay frosty.


Boysen dumping water; Bighorn releases to continue up

The Wind River drainage has been receiving record moisture, and Boysen Reservoir’s inflows have been staying steady and plentiful. Boysen is planning increased releases tonight and tomorrow that will amount to an additional 1,000cfs. These releases, of course, translate to additional inflows into Yellowtail, which will require further releases into the Bighorn River in Montana.

Starting tonight at 8pm releases will increase from 12,000cfs to 13,000cfs.

If forecasts come anywhere to close to current predictions, look for an additional increase of another 1,000cfs tomorrow evening.

Higher flows often bring new hazards to the river and launching areas. Stay frosty,. folks.

Bighorn releases to reach 12,000cfs tonight then hold (hopefully)

As many of you know, river releases are not determined by volume of water passing through the Afterbay, but by the stage (elevation) of the river near the Afterbay. This extrapolated value that converts stage to cubic feet per second is affected by the presence (or absence) of algae, which can displace an extraordinary amount of water. The higher releases have done a very effective job of removing the algae (and everything else not glued, bolted or otherwise stuck to the river bottom). All joking aside, the end result is releases have been about 350cfs higher than planned. Additionally, it was anticipated that releases would have to be increased about 500cfs to get to 12,000cfs, so Reclamation has decided to combined tonight’s bump with about 200cfs more. The end result will be that shortly after 8pm tonight, river releases will be at 12,000cfs.

I’ve been in close contact with Reclamation, and I get a real sense that this release should be the peak release providing no other major events occur, and there are no surprises from the upstream reservoir.

I’ve received some comments from the guides who are saying its wise to avoid Bighorn Rapids right now, especially in low-sided boats, and use extreme caution when approaching the lower ramp at Bighorn FAS if there’s a boat or trailer on the ramp. The upper ramp seems to be able to hold four or five boats comfortably at the moment.

Lastly, fishing is absolutely great, and if you have a guided trip planned, you’d be smart to continue your plans and take advantage of the excellent bite and mostly uncrowded waters. Just don’t plan on a lot of wade fishing. If you are inexperienced on the oars, check with one of the shops in Ft. Smith for the most up-to-date advice, or think about hiring a guide to handle the water and point out some wade spots.

Stay frosty and have fun!

Tuesday’s Bighorn releases will hit 10,500cfs


I wish I had better news, but the lake will have risen almost a foot by the end of the day despite the higher releases, and upstream reservoirs continue to dump more and more water. Reclamation has to make more storage available.

Starting tomorrow at 6am, releases will jump another 1,000cfs to 9,575cfs.
Tuesday evening another 1,000cfs will be added for a release of 10,575cfs.

As always, both hazard and fishing reports are welcome and will be passed along to the appropriate agencies. If you’re new to the Bighorn, now is a great time to take a trip with an experienced guide.

Flows at 7,000cfs; Higher flow possible

Apologies for the belated post, but I was on the river guiding (more on that in a moment).

With all the rains throughout the basin, coupled with increased releases from upstream reservoirs and already higher inflows, Reclamation had to move more water. It was decided late Friday afternoon to bump releases up from 6,000cfs to eventually reach 7,000cfs for the weekend.

Additional precipitation was forecast for Saturday and Sunday, so there’s is a very good chance, given that there is just under five feet of storage left in the conservation pool, that we’ll see higher flows as early as Monday. I will report those increases as soon as they are made official, so watch this site and/or monitor your email for updates.

About this weekend… I had the opportunity to guide with a very, very large group, which of course, also involved an incredible number of guides. Conditions were such that most of us were confined to the upper three miles of river because the rest of the river was pretty much unfishable due to algae and discoloration. It is a testament to professionalism of all the regular Bighorn guides that despite the incredible crowding and horrible fishing conditions, that event went off without a hitch. Hats off to you guys, and thanks for all your words of wisdom, your most welcomed advice, and your passion and incredible knowledge of the Bighorn fishery. I can’t imagine a better group of guides anywhere!

Precipitation comes just in time! River releases to increase.


It looks like all our rain dances have paid off. The spring rains have been plentiful, the upstream reservoirs have increased releases, and Bighorn Lake is rapidly filling. In order to control the rate of fill, Reclamation will have to increase releases.

Starting today at 4pm, releases will increase 800cfs from 2,200cfs to 3,000cfs.
On Wednesday, at 6am, releases will increase 500cfs from 3,000cfs to 3,500cfs.
On Wednesday, at 4pm, releases will increase 500cfs from 3,500cfs to 4,000cfs.

Once at 4,000cfs, Reclamation will watch inflows and stay in close contact with the upstream reservoir to evaluate whether additional releases ay be required.

A big thanks to Reclamation for working hard to help us achieve good rainbow recruitment this year, and for working closely with FWP biologists in protecting our fishery.


Anglers still finding gas bubbles on upper three.

Guides and anglers are still finding fish that are showing signs of gas bubble trauma in the upper 3 miles of the river. Reclamation has been notified and is looking into ways to use the gates at Afterbay to minimize the problem.

Hard-working guide Seth Byler sent in this photo yesterday of a brown caught near Red Cliffs.

Hard-working guide Seth Byler sent in this photo yesterday of a brown caught near Red Cliffs.

Nitrogen gas super saturation is a problem common to most tailwaters, and low flows prevent fish from easily escaping it by moving to deeper water. Bighorn fish can typically tolerate fairly high levels of nitrogen. Anglers are encouraged to report dates and locations of fish found with symptoms of gas trauma.

Still in the flood pool, irrigation ends and releases to climb to 4,500cfs

The Bighorn Canal is ending its irrigation season, and the current canal releases will be diverted to the river. In addition, because inflows have stayed up, additional releases will have to take place in order to draft the reservoir and finally get out of the exclusive flood pool.

Starting Thursday at 3pm, releases will increase from 3,900cfs to 4,500cfs.

Here are a couple of important notes to consider this week:

Algae and aquatic vegetation is currently displacing enough water to raise the stage of the river nearly a foot and a quarter in some section of the river.

The turbidity seen in the river is coming from Bighorn Lake, which has been verified by Reclamation personnel.

The work on the Afterbay lake should be completed this week and the Afterbay lake refilled immediately after work is completed.

Lastly, WAPA has requested a decrease in power generation, which will require some water to be released from the dam from an outlet OTHER THAN the turbines. This may (or may not) result in somewhat less turbid water coming from the dam. IMPORTANT: To help with future algae issues, PLEASE let us know what changes you see on the river starting Thursday and through the weekend. That information may be useful down the road in reducing the headaches of future algae problems.

Send your comments to bighornriver.org@gmail.com


A return to micro-managing water

Reclamation just released an water order change indicating once again the need to evacuate storage out of the exclusive flood pool.

On Tuesday, September 2nd at 4pm, river releases will increase from 3,050cfs to 3,300cfs.

Maybe my perspective is a bit shaded after 8 years of this, but with inflows at or above 4,000cfs, river releases at 3,300cfs and the canal at 275cfs, it seems Reclamation is not managing water in acre feet, but in drops and buckets.

These small bumps just drag in the dead debris from the last surge, making the river and banks stink, the fishing lousy and the river experience a real nightmare for both commercial and public interests alike. To paraphrase Rep Elaine Harvey, we haven’t had a river for four weeks!

What the heck is driving this incredibly conservative water management? Is there an unwritten policy at MTAO that all forecasts are considered drought unless proven otherwise? What exactly will it take for us to achieve some semblance of balance with other water interests?

Sorry for the rant. Hang in there, folks. We’ll sort this out in the fall meetings.