Black As Yer Boot!

January 03, 2017

The dreaded Blackwater is back after that big rain late last week, pouring out of the small creeks into the Goulburn.

The prize for the filthiest water goes to the Pranjip Creek, followed by the Castle, The Boss reckons, and the Sevens isn't much better. 

These creeks and their billabongs were all holding water in pools after the Spring floods and had all gone tannic and black from the accumulated leaf litter and rotting vegetation - the ponds on my bend were pretty skanky, I can tell you - even the ducks had given them away, leaving it to the mossies and the frogs. A self-respecting hound like myself would only be forced to swim in them if a pair of teal dropped in on their way past.

The fact that I never seem to catch a swimming teal is beside the point: you have to live in hope. Sometimes I'll get a sniff of a feather before a teal takes off or ducks undertake water - then I swim furiously swim around, just missing it when it comes up for air. Sometimes straight behind me, the cheeky devils.

Anyway, it's a problem for the fish. The Boss said the blokes from the Catchment Management Authority were onto it straight away, sending out reports early on New Year's Day, and again on Monday.

Mark Turner, the feller who looks after river and wetland health, told The Boss there had been no reported fish deaths on New Year's Day but the big slug of water from the Sevens - which rose to around three metres on Saturday - might cause some downstream.

The Sevens was running around four thousand megs  at one point, with the Goulburn only running one thousand, so it was bound to cause problems.

And it has. Fishermen down Jordan's Bend way, south of Shepparton, say they have seen "hundreds" of dead fish already. It seems to have been caused by one mean slug of blackwater  ringing in the New year.

Here is Mark's photo of the Sevens at minor flood level at the bridge on Mitchell Road:

  Mark sent us a graph showing the levels of dissolved oxygen at the Shepparton Golf Club before the storm, at around 6-7 milligrams per litre, dropping way down to under 1.5 milligrams per litre early on New Year's Day. That low level persisted for just a few hours before drifting up again but its a long wait for a breath, isn't it?

The Boss can't explain to me how fish get oxygen out of the water except they do it with their gills, he tells me. He reckons the carp are a fair bit tougher than the cod, which is why there are so many of the blighters. The yellow belly and the cod seem to succumb well before the carp do.

Mark Turner told The Boss the CMA worked with Goulburn Murray Water early New Year's Day to increase the flow from Goulburn Weir, which will help when it meets some of the flow still coming out of the creeks.

It's a bit of balancing act, The Boss says: they have to be careful with a lot of people camping along the river right now, people who could get caught if the river rises too quickly.

"Who should come first, General?' he asked me, in his philosophical way. "People wanting to camp on a healthy river, or the healthy river itself?"

So how come he didn't mention dogs? 


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