Summary: Snowpack in the Upper Henry's Fork Watershed is Below Average
Half-way through the snow accumulation season, the amount of water in the snowpack (snow-water-equivalent or SWE) in the upper Henry's Fork watershed is only 91% of the 30-year median. As a result, we are anticipating another year of below-average streamflow in the Henry's Fork watershed upstream of Ashton. The upper Henry's Fork is the only watershed in the entire upper Snake River basin to have received below-average SWE so far this winter. Even the watersheds immediately to the south--Fall River and the Teton River--have received above-average snowfall. When these sub-watersheds are averaged in with the upper Henry's Fork, as is done all of the map-based and tabular products distributed by water-management agencies, the outlook for the Henry's Fork watershed as a whole appears much better than it is in the upper watershed, which is the most relevant to management of Island Park Reservoir and streamflows between Island Park and Ashton.
For the past two years, HFF has ended the year by taking a look back at our "Top-10" accomplishments. This year, we're keeping that tradition going with HFF's Top-10 list for 2016. Before you dive in, you can also take a look back at 2014 and 2015.
Last year at this time, I reported on year one of my resurrection of “fish of the month,” a tradition that Henry’s Fork Anglers guide Tom Grimes and I started many years ago. The goal is to catch at least one wild trout every month of the year, on a fly, in our local Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming waters. My longest fish-of-the-month streak lasted 55 months, from July 2004 through January 2009. On Thursday December 15, 2016, I successfully added month 24 to the current streak.
This fall HFF initiated a new water-quality monitoring study designed to answer the following question: How far downstream of Island Park Dam (IP Dam) do high turbidity levels persist? I introduced this study in my blog post made on September 9, 2016. Please find details of the background and motivation for this study, as well as a map of the sampling sites, in the previous blog post. The current blog post summarizes what we found during our 2016 data collection season.
Aquatic macroinvertebrates—insects and other creatures that live in the stream bottom—feed trout and are the basis of fly-fishing on the Henry’s Fork, but they are also important indicators of aquatic habitat quality.
HFF is two years into a long-term program of monitoring aquatic macroinvertebrates at Flatrock, Last Chance, Osborne Bridge, Ashton, and St. Anthony.
Primary conclusions from comparison of 2015 and 2016 data are:
Abundance of macroinvertebrates averages about 47,000 individuals per square meter of stream bottom across all sites.
Mayflies, stoneflies and caddisflies dominate the invertebrate assemblage at Flatrock, Last Chance, and Ashton, but are outnumbered by other organisms at Osborne and St. Anthony.
Aquatic habitat quality ranges from excellent at Flatrock to good at St. Anthony, decreasing with distance downstream from the headwaters.
The only statistically significant differences between 2015 and 2016 occurred at Osborne Bridge, where total abundance of invertebrates decreased—primarily because of a decrease in non-insects—and where habitat-quality index increased, reflecting an increase in percentage of mayflies, stoneflies, and caddisflies.
Most of the mayflies and stoneflies important to fly anglers were found at all five sites. These were pale morning dun, flav, blue-winged olive, green drake, trico, brown drake, and yellow sally.