Water Levels are Down, Docks are Available
Mother Nature. She is unpredictable and sometimes, unbelievable. The Lake of the Woods Area experienced record breaking high water this year within inches of the all time high water mark of 1064 feet above sea level set in 1950. With that being said, water levels are down and continue to drop, boat ramps have been, and continue to be available and resort docks are out of the water just in time for fall fishing, thank goodness!
What Created the Flooding?
It was a combination of factors. First, when snow melts and we received spring rains, during a normal spring, some of the water runs into streams and rivers while other water soaks into the earth. This year, we had cold temps, the ground was frozen and all of the water was became runoff into streams and rivers.
Another factor was the thick snowpack combined with abnormally high precipitation. There was above normal precipitation across the region nearly every week from the last two weeks of March through the end of May.
This precipitation fell largely as snow until late April, adding to the winter’s accumulated snowpack. A series of Colorado Lows brought widespread, heavy rainfall, causing a rain-on-snow melt period over frozen ground from late April through much of May. The rapid runoff of the rain and snowmelt led to record flows in many tributary rivers including all major tributaries to Rainy Lake and Namakan Chain of Lakes. The total inflow to the Namakan Chain of Lakes and Rainy Lake set records for the April-May period, far exceeding the outflow capacity of the dams at either lake outlet. This also occurred at natural (undammed) lakes in the watershed, such as Lac La Croix.
These record flows resulted in an extended period of uncontrolled lake level rise for both the Namakan Chain of Lakes and Rainy Lake despite the dams being fully opened by the dam operators well before the lakes rose above the IJC’s “All Gates Open” level. For Namakan Lake, the level has risen to the highest point since 1916, just shy of the record set in that year. For Rainy Lake, a new record was set, 7 cm (2 ¾ in) higher than the previous 1950 record.
How Quickly is the Water Going Down?
In a nutshell, about 4-6 inches per week. This of course affected by local rain events. Overall, it has been fairly dry with a few exceptions. This is good news for dropping the water levels.
Some resorts had floating docks throughout this high water summer. Others built or added docks to allow customers access to both their own boats and charter or guide boats taking them out fishing.
With water levels dropping for consecutive weeks, most docks are now out of the water and once again, welcoming boats to be tied up, batteries to be charged and life to get back to normal again.
How will higher water affect fall fishing?
Well, this is a trick question as only Mother Nature truly knows. There are a few points that make this fall very promising.
First, fishing across the lake this summer has been excellent. Not only common limits of walleyes, but big walleyes and ever as important, lots of small walleyes also.
Second, in the Rainy River which is a very popular fall destination due to the emerald shiners that run attracting large numbers of Lake of the Woods walleyes, fishing has also been good this summer. There have been a good number of walleyes hanging around along with a good amount of bait. This combined with good current has many anglers thinking this fall in the river will be very good.
Finally, up at the NW Angle, fishing has been very consistent. There is nothing to have anglers think that fishing will only get better as the water cools and fish start putting on the feed bag for winter.
It is good news water levels are dropping on Lake of the Woods and the Rainy River. Resorts, some businesses and residents have had to put up with a crazy summer. Crazy in many cases, was very challenging. Things are getting better. Anglers who prefer bringing their own boats and using resort docks are once again looking forward to fall fishing and very simply, life is starting to get back to normal. Sometimes normal is a good thing!