Sunday, March 06, 2016

RODMAN DRAWDOWN PART 2: Life Among The Dead.

So, if I remember correctly, the last time we chatted here, we were kayaking around Rodman Reservoir during the most recent drawdown.
This photo is what drawdowns are all about ... exposing the mucky bottom to the air and Sun to reduce the black, gooey, organic muck that builds up in lakes over time. 
The lake bottom above will soon be under about 7 feet of water when the drawdown is over and Rodman is allowed to refill.

Flat featureless lake bottom is not all that interesting or rich in critters of the macro kind, so I turned my kayak towards the dead forest. The water here was alive with small fish, the logs loaded with birds, and the shallow depth and submerged logs kept the high powered bass boats out in the old barge channel and beyond.

Pretty kayakalicious.

These ibis found one of the gajillion log islands a good place for a preen in the warm sun. The strip of blue water in the right background is the barge canal. The water where I am at that moment is about 1 foot deep or less and clogged with logs.
Sort of a log-clog.

If the lake has been drawn down the full 7 feet described on the FWC website, a lot of these stumps would be almost fully submerged at full pool... a fact that makes Rodman a pretty robust largemouth bass fishery.

The excellent fishing available at Rodman is one of the arguments for keeping the dam and the reservoir.

I love fishing, but I disagree with this viewpoint.
I don't think that fact trumps outweighs the value of restoring a wild river and the original ecosystem of the Oklawaha.
There will still be fish.

This kayak voyage and this dead forest was very nostalgic for me.
Back in 1975, as a 17 year old, my buddy Kevin and I replicated a canoe trip that my big brother Terry had done a few years before.
Our goal was to paddle the Oklawaha from its headwaters to its mouth at the St. Johns River. I posted about this on Pure Florida in 2008, but a bunch of you weren't paying attention back then.

In 1975, Rodman Dam and the reservoir were only about 7 years old and these cypress stumps and broken trunks that appear in this post were still very tall, mostly intact dead trees.
I remember their height distinctly thanks to the terrific lightning storm that was exploding around Kevin and I as we semi-desperately paddled our asses off in the submerged Oklawaha channel. It was the tall, dead, lightning-hungry forest on either side of us that kept us in the river and not lost among the drowned forest.

Somehow that evening, the lightning chose trees away from our immediate location ... or maybe we were just paddling lightning fast via the power of adrenalin.

Now, decades of Florida weather have shortened these trees to nothing more than tall stumps.

Stumps that offer pretty good hunting grounds for wading birds of all kinds.

A Snowy Egret hunting Gambusia minnows among the logs. Gambusia were everywhere in these shallows.

Not the world's greatest Gambusia (aka "Mosquito Fish") photograph, but I did snag one of the mutant males in the shot. These black and white fish were easy to spot and there were a lot of them. It's a mutation that only shows in the males. One study I read showed a slight survival advantage for the speckled males over the silver "normal" males when faced with their usual predators such as bass, crayfish, and dragonfly nymphs.
They seem like a beacon to wading birds to me though.

 Ibis among the dead.
The wading birds also walk around on the mats of green vegetation (hyacinths, pennywort, hydrilla) while they hunt.
You would think there would be an alligator around every corner, but I only saw 2 the entire day.
Of course it was a warm spring day, and a work day, not a basking day for gators.

This little blue let me get only so close before launching.

This stump was one of the giants that were sprinkled among the other tree skeletons. I realize there's no size reference here, but if you look at the big groove on the left side, between the buttresses ... I fit in there.
I know this, because I pulled the kayak up as close as I could and log hopped to that stump ...and then I climbed up the side and look into it's hollow interior.
Yes I did!
I have the GoPro video to prove it.

Maybe it's the teenage rebel in me, but when I look at this stump, I see the forest giving the finger to the Army Corps of Engineers and the Barge Canal project.

Next Rodman episode: "Big Charlie The Tree Crusher"


kevin said...

I just reread your post on the Oklawaha trip. That's just about exactly as i remember it. It was great trip and even better story. I've driven over that bridge several times and always thought of our breakfast and the canoe trip.

I also remember I didn't have a poncho, I had a raincoat with no hood. I crammed as much of me as possible inside but the top of my head was poking through. It was like some Chinese water torture thing, it made for miserable night. I was glad you decided to make the walk to Salt Springs...

Julie Zickefoose said...

Oh delicious. So delighted you're blogging this epic trip. Now to go tripping back to 2008 to read about the lightning escapade!

robin andrea said...

These photos are so beautiful. What a journey. I'm heading over to read the old post, but want to say before I go, yes that tree is definitely giving the finger to the Army Corps of Engineers and the Barge Canal. And, if you could see me, I'm doing it too! Hah!

threecollie said...

I am so glad you revisited the 1975 story. I read it when you wrote it, but it is too good not to read again. This is a great interesting about the minnows.

Pablo said...

You know how I love to hear tales of your misspent youth!

Ansley said...

That stump is incredible. The view from a kayak can be amazing.

Misti said...

Those cypress trees. Man.

We came across a rather large one here in east Texas a few weeks ago. Not quite that big but definitely a stunner. It managed to evade logging.

Luke said...

I love all your pictures and will try kayaking with my son.

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