Information Central (c) Larry Larsen
Drought and High Water in the Amazon
A few years ago, many of the news headlines screemed "Drought" in mid October when the Madeira and upper Amazon rivers were at their
lowest levels in many years. Some news items stated "the worst drought in more than 40 years is damaging the world's
biggest rainforest, plaguing the Amazon basin with wildfires, sickening river dwellers with tainted drinking water, and killing fish by the
millions as streams dry up." The Peacock Bass Association had calls and emails as did many of their Supporting Member operators. The truth is that the Amazon is a huge
place (the size of Alaska) and the rainy season varies greatly over the rainforest there.
If a drought affects Georgia, do you put off your fishing trip to Florida or North Carolina? I don't think so. When
Maine and Louisiana is flooding, can you still fish in Arkansas or West Virginia? I think so. Headlines scare people, and that's how many newspapers get people to
read their articles. The drought can affect the Madeira watershed and the fishing season there is completed. It can also affect the Amazon headwaters (called the
Solimoes River in Brazil before it meets up with the Rio Negro to form the Brazilian Amazon River) in Peru
downstream to Manaus; it was at the lowest level in Peru in 36 years back then, but those conditions there don't
necessarily affect the northern Amazon's Rio Negro watershed. PBA Supporting Member outfitters or destinations that are
either mobile or are are located on watersheds that are not easily impacted may not be affected at all.
High Water In "Drought Conditions"
Even when the peacock bass fishing waters in one area of the Amazon
Region have been affected by the drought conditions, others in fact, may have perfect water conditions or even too high a water level at the same
time. The Peacock Bass Association generally keeps an eye on the water conditions and reports the status as changes occur.
I get numerous letters from PBA members and phone calls and emails from
other anglers pertaining to the high water reports that may or may not have operators curtailing their trips. Here's
one who wrote, "Hi Larry: I received a fax from my lodge outfitter just a few days before leaving. He
said that the water levels were very high then and suggested that I reschedule my trip for March. I have always fished for peacocks in January
. Have you ever fished in March? I was supposed to leave January 5 so I had lots of airline flight rescheduling to do."
"Also, my Brazilian visa that I had just bought in November would not be
valid. I would have to pay another $100 for a new one. At the Chicago consulate, they would only give me a 90 day visa. I had no problem
getting my flights switched around for March 11. Hopefully other owner/operators are offering to allow the anglers to switch dates like mine
did. I am looking forward to March and will probably enjoy myself much more than if I would have gone down in early January. I'm glad that my
lodge owner is honest and informed me about the water levels, even though I had lots of unpacking to do."
Rescheduling & Impacts on Everyone
I answered him and others who had similar excellent questions and comments as follows:
March can be a great month if the waters are down, and they often are. They may be high
in some areas and coming down fast in a few tributaries. Things do change from week to
week though. A couple of years ago, the water levels were down to very low levels in April
even, and the fishing was great for the very few anglers that were able to fish them then.
Rescheduling your air flights is usually better than fishing for a couple of bites a day. I
have had great trips and poor trips in the same month of the year. I have had a few trips
(thankfully) postponed. I always hate to see newcomers to peacock bass fishing have a bad
first (or even a second bad) trip, because they might not be interested in chasing the fish any further. They don't know the potential of the fish or fishery.
High waters can
hurt the industry significantly. Operators and outfitters that have to
reschedule trips take a financial beating, particularly when it involves several weeks' cancellations in a row. Some staff payments
and costs go on whether there are anglers at the lodge or on the yacht that week or not. Travel agents have to make changes without
additional fees for themselves and airlines are hurt when they have to fly partially empty planes on routes that typically have lots of anglers.
Anglers that cancel have to absorb costs as the writer pointed out, and those that do go in
bad water conditions and have a poor trip (in their eyes) may never rebook with the same
operator or even go back with a different operator to try again, no matter how good the
incentives. The whole thing is very unfortunate. But it something we all have to put up with.
Editor's Note: Tips reprinted with permission from PBA's "The World of Peacock Bass" monthly eZine