Missouri River flooding is a disaster for affected property owners.
If there is a silver lining, it is that flooding is mostly beneficial to riverine species, including fish and waterfowl. However, rising waters make the river and surrounding woodlands inaccessible to recreation due to closed roads and boat ramps. For those who find access, the river is particularly swift and dangerous.
Locating safe spots to fish on the riverbank or forage in the nearby woods may be tough. Many roads and ramps are washed out and in many places the main river channel is inaccessible. North of Omaha—in the Tekamah and Decatur areas—is the best bet for shore fishing, as the river is mostly contained in its banks, says Kirk Stevenson, the Missouri River Program Manager. Nevertheless, exercise caution around the river. During flooding, the river channel is particularly deep and fast, he says. “Be safe out there.”
Waterfowl hunting areas associated with the river should be more productive this fall due to residual ponds and sheet water sites in fields, says Stevenson. These pools are attractive to migratory waterfowl. (There are reports that snow geese hunting near Hamburg is phenomenal.) Residual pools attract migratory waterfowl, and due to flooding, the Missouri River basin has plenty of pools. Many of these sheet water areas will be private property, so don’t access them without permission.
There won’t be much woodland hunting available along the river anywhere, as not much vegetation will be left when the water recedes. This year hunters may have better luck elsewhere, away from the river valley.
This fall, foraging the floodplain is equally problematic for the same reasons. It is difficult to predict what next year will bring for foragers. Effects on mushroom hunting next spring are anyone’s guess.
Although the river has been mostly inaccessible to fishing this last summer, fisheries will show greater numbers in coming years. Due to the expanded floodwaters, there is an increased fish population, Stevenson says. Game fish will mature more quickly. Also expect an increase of mature sturgeon and paddlefish and greater spawning numbers in years to come.
It’s not easy to determine how long a flood (and its effects) will last. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers publishes a three-week Regulation Forecast of water released from the Gavin’s Point Dam, which is responsible for Missouri river levels. The Corps also puts out a Missouri River Basin Water Management Bulletin which accounts for tributaries and reservoir levels.
The forecast and bulletins are accessible to the general public and can help plan river-related activities around expected discharge. These resources will be helpful this fall and next spring.
Nobody can say for sure when the flooding will end. One thing is certain: it’s going to be months before the river goes back down to normal flows, Stevenson says. Take advantage of the unique conditions created by the flood now, and hope for no flooding next year.
Visit nwd-mr.usace.army.mil/rcc for reports on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Missouri River Basin water managaement mainstem, Tributary Reservoir Bulletin, and regulation forecast for Gavin’s Point Dam.
This article was printed in the September 2019 edition of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.