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Fishing " For a fee

Emma Garrard/Sierra SunMike Cox of Moraga, Calif., fishes at Sawmill Lake Saturday afternoon. Only clients of Sawmill Lake Flyfishing and Guide Services can fish on the private lake on the Northstar-at-Tahoe property.
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Leo Ortiz has been fishing Homewood Mountain Resort’s Quail Lake since the early 1990s.

He lives in Santa Cruz but makes an effort to enjoy the Sierra Nevada jewel at least a half-dozen times each summer, paying $1,000 for a season pass membership.

The lake is one of Ortiz’ favorite sanctuaries, thanks in part to the fact that it’s run as a private operation by the resort.



“It’s one of the few really pristine, little fishing venues that one can find that’s not overrun by public traffic,” Ortiz said. “As a private lake, it serves that purpose perfectly. It’s designed for flyfisherman who want to flyfish.”

Like Quail Lake, Sawmill Lake in Northstar-at-Tahoe is privately managed and stocked with quality fish. Sawmill Lake Flyfishing and Guide Service’s owner Joe Cerniglia said fishing private lakes is an increasing trend.



“It’s growing in popularity because it gives people an opportunity to go some place and not have to worry about the crowds,” Cerniglia said.

Sawmill Lake promises that no more than four rods will be fishing the lake at a time. The 10-acre reservoir is stocked yearly with hundreds of biting rainbow trout, and is reserved for catch-and-release flyfishing only.

“With all the people fishing the rivers, a lot of people like to go to these [private lakes] because there are not people there,” Cerniglia said. “In my lake there’s the possibility of catching a fish of a lifetime ” there’s fish in there up to 10 pounds.”

Sawmill Lake is stocked with Donaldson rainbow trout and German brown trout. This year 800 pounds of fish went in, averaging in cost around $4.50 per pound.

Tim Rantz, Homewood Mountain Resort human resource and Quail Lake manager, said one of the best things about fishing a private lake is not only the serene surroundings, but the ease of catching a trophy fish.

“You can put a 30-inch trout in your boat and take a picture with it. It’s really easy to catch a fish here. You don’t have to be a pro fisherman ” that’s one of its attractions,” Rantz said.

Quail Lake is stocked yearly based on the survival rate of the fish remaining from the winter. This year the lake was stocked in June with 1,500 pounds of fish from the Mt. Lassen Trout Farm, ranging in size from 1 to 11 pounds.

Homewood limits season fishing pass sales to 20, but encourages members to bring along children for education.

The West Shore resort has been managing the lake privately since 1992, but with a looming U.S. Forest Service purchase, Quail Lake may soon be publicly accessed.

Ortiz said if Quail Lake does become public recreation land, the “jewel would be squashed.

“Many of the fishing venues in the Sierra Nevada have simply been overrun by public fishing pressure. This is the kind of viewpoint you have to look at as a conservation effort,” he said. “We stock it and maintain it as a very pristine area, so it’s very private and very pristine. And that’s the way we like to conserve it to make sure it remains that way for future generations.”

Cerniglia agrees that because other lakes and streams receive a high volume of traffic, private fishing is a great way to preserve not only the peace and solitude associated with flyfishing, but the ecology, too.

“It’s been growing over the years because we’re losing a lot of our waters,” Cerniglia said.

Ortiz added: “As long as we preserve a reasonable number on nonpublic or limited public places, so that some semblance of the pristine status is maintained. Otherwise, we might as well have amusement parks.”


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