River water levels reaching record lows

The drought is leaving its mark on rivers and lakes across Michiana. Lack of rain and high temperatures have created a troubling combination for waterways, according to a representative from the Department of Natural Resources.

"The severity and duration of this year's drought is worse than anything in recent memory," said Neil Ledet, a district fisheries biologist with DNR. "Truthfully, it could be a long, drawn-out situation."

Those that frequent the St. Joseph River to fish said the drought has made them change their strategy.

"Fish try finding places where it is not wide open and one foot deep," Bradley Belschner said.

Belschner was able to be knee-deep in the middle of the St. Joseph River in Bristol Wednesday. But, each time he reeled in his line, there was nothing on the other end.

"Fish are going to seek a comfortable spot," Ledet said. " They will be looking for deeper water, cooler water and shaded areas. So, people are going to have to adjust."

The drought conditions could also mean troubled waters for boaters.

"It would be very possible to get stuck on one of the gravel or sand bars and have a lot of problems," Ledet said.

Some residents along the Elkhart River said they have had to relocate their boats because the water is too shallow. There are sand bars in sections of the waterway along the River Walk.

"We had two other boats out here and we had to sell the boats because you can't get them in the water," Kenneth Ferguson said.

And, there is no instant fix for this issue. Sporadic rain showers will not be able to bring the rivers back to regular levels overnight. River flows are currently a third of what they would normally be, according to Ledet.

"until the lakes return to normal, and then water levels begin to flow out of their streams, we are not going to see a lot of relief for the St. Joe River," he said.


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