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Chitown-Angler

Joined: 07:33am - Feb 15,03
Posts: 1593
Location: Yorkville

Post Posted: 05:08pm - Mar 8,03 
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A warning to those that will be fishing near the South Batavia Dam soon.

By April, the ice will finally be off the Fox River and everyone that has been sitting around over the winter, gaining a few pounds in the process, will finally be getting out on the water to try to tie into an early spring bite. For those of you who do this in the area of the South Batavia dam, you need to heed some of the following advice. Things have changed there in the past six months and if you aren't careful, it could result in taking a good dunking in the river, or worse. I recently wrote most of the following after a day out exploring the area below the South Batavia dam. I've added things to relate to what to expect come April.

Though I've only been fishing the Fox for almost 7 years, I fish it on average 100 times a year. Some areas I can walk through in the dark, I've done it. South Batavia is one of those areas. I've combed every foot of this stretch from the dam down for almost 3 miles. The river is lower than I have seen it in those 7 years. On March 1st I came to the South Batavia area because I had heard that there was no water coming over either side of the dam and I wanted to get some pictures of this. I already knew that the breach in the island between the dams had expanded to almost 20 feet wide. I was stunned by what I saw. All the water of the river was coming through the breach and not a single drop was coming over the east or west side dams. This was dramatically changing not only how the water flows throughout this whole area, but it was dramatically changing the river bottom.

The deep hole directly behind the island between the two dams, normally almost chest deep, had filled in with all of the rock debris that was displaced when the island collapsed and the breach was created. Now I was walking in water less than knee deep. Luckily the water was clear and I could see where I was walking. There were deeper holes where there had been none before. I started walking through one that I remember being no more than waist deep. The river bottom beneath my feet was soft rather than hard and packed down. It began to slide away and I was able to stop myself when I got in up to my chest. This was not good.

There is an island in the middle of the river just below the dam. The west side has holes that are slowly filling in with the debris from the breach. At the same time other holes are forming along the island where the current of the river has been redirected and scour holes are forming. The west side is now the easy side to walk on, as far as current goes. Most of the water is now flowing down the east side of the island. As far as I can tell this isn't creating any new holes on the east side, it has always been made up of pretty solid rock. But even at low water the east side seems just a few inches higher than normal. Plus the current now pushes hard where it was always pretty much a cake walk on this side of the river in the past.

Now imagine it's April and the water has come up a foot from recent rains and has the clarity of pea soup. Normally I would be out here wandering around. A foot higher than this is no big deal. But this year, it could be. The area directly below the breach, already different from just 6 months earlier, can change again. The bottom is soft and unstable and will easily move with the increased stream flow. The water pressure coming through the breach was hard to deal with at low water. Another foot could knock you on your butt. At the moment there is a big tree laying across the opening of the breach, acting as a natural dam. If at high water this tree were to go away, then even at high water it looks like all the water of the river will be coming through this breach and not over the two dams. That scenario scares me.

The east side of the river will have such an increased water flow, with or without the tree blocking the breach, that making it across the river at that point could be treacherous. Having your feet knocked out from under you is a distinct possibility. I highly recommend that you bring some kind of wading staff with you if you will be fishing this area any time soon. It couldn't hurt.

I know I'm making this seem alarming, but I go out wading all the time, even at record high flood stages and think nothing of it. I blunder about the river on any given day giving absolutely no thought to my own safety mainly because almost all my trips to the river have proven to me that there is nothing for me to worry about. For me to be concerned then, means something.

One of the unique things about water is that it returns to normal as quickly as it can. By the time all this water gets to Glenwood Park, almost 100 yards past the southernmost tip of the big island in the middle of the river, everything returns to the way it has always been. I haven't noticed any change in the river beyond this point.

All this being said, I doubt I will heed my own advice. Even though I normally don't like to fish near the dams in the spring, I'm sure I will be out there at higher water exploring all the new holes and getting knocked down for my troubles. I've been knocked down numerous times and though I don't like it, I always live through it. Someone has to go figure this out and I'm too stupid to say no. I'll write about what I find, so keep any eye out for the details.

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