Catches abound in area pay lakes
With local trout waters becoming more frequented these days, there has been an increase in what some refer to as the “pay for play” lakes and streams. Anglers pay a fee to access an area to fish for a specified time. Most are strictly catch and release waters that tend to be oriented toward the fly fishing community.
These waters are stocked with very nice trout and provide excellent sport for the angler who wants a certain amount of solitude and an improved chance at success. Two such waters are Quail Lake and Sawmill Lake operated by an outfit called Mountaintop Management. Owners Jaime and Donna Maddox have roots in this area, having lived, worked and played here for 14 years before moving to the Delta area.
Quail Lake is located in the back reaches of Homewood Mountain Resort on Tahoe’s West Shore. This is a beautiful lake nestled at the base of some steep mountains. The east end of the lake looks more like Florida bass habitat with its abundance of lily pads, offering both cover and feeding opportunities for the lake’s large trout.
The access road is fairly rugged to get to this lake and a four-wheel drive vehicle is recommended.
Fishing this lake requires that the angler get out on the water in some sort of craft such as a float tube, pontoon boat, or small pram. There is a very limited area in which an angler can try casting from shore, but vegetation and shoreline steepness make the rest fishermen unfriendly.
Picturesque Quail Lake is approximately 16 acres. I was struck by the quality of fish that were introduced into this lake, so I asked about them. According to Maddox, after experimenting with many other types of fish, they settled on this type because of its steelhead lineage. They really provide some acrobatics when hooked.
Sawmill Lake is located on Northstar-at-Tahoe’s property. Also excellent, Sawmill is about 10 acres.
I am told by others who fished it and by Maddox that this lake not only has a different setting, but fishes very differently than Quail. This lake is nestled in a forested area and provides a great setting.
Quail is a relatively sterile lake and as a result does not have a large aquatic insect population. The only consistent insects appear to be in the form of midges. There are hoards of these small flies. The other source of food in Quail are minnows. Sawmill is more classic trout water and provides mayflies, midges and caddis, without any minnows.
When asked about managing these lakes, Maddox said he’s operated Quail Lake for about seven years, and Sawmill since 1998.
Having once lived on the West Shore of Lake Tahoe for more than 10 years before moving to Truckee, I can only imagine how difficult it would be to effectively manage such an operation. The winters can be very severe and the potential for winter kill in Quail Lake is very high. In fact, Maddox pointed out that annual plants and a periodic planting in mid-season are necessary to maintain the quality of the fishing.
Sawmill Lake actually survives the winters much more effectively and the fish have done extremely well, he said. Plants are utilized here to augment a pretty good holdover population.
One other major management problem comes in the form of poaching. Keep in mind that all of these fish have been put into the system and taking any out means angler success will decline. Poachers will be prosecuted and actually have been. This aggressive policy appeares to have slowed the tide of this problem.
You can expect to catch fish in the one- to eight-pound plus range, but most fish will be in the two- to three-pound size. Fishing is best as soon as the lakes open up through July and again from September until closing. The closing part depends on Mother Nature, of course. If you get the opportunity to fish one of these lakes, please do so. While not inexpensive, it costs less than a round of golf at some of the better courses in our area.
Among private lakes, these are well managed by Mountaintop Management in Association with Homewood Mountain Resort and Northstar-at-Tahoe. Mountaintop Management has a great reputation in the flyfishing community.
Call Mountaintop Management at (925) 516-9722 or write 91 Discovery Bay Blvd., Discovery Bay, CA 94514 for rates and reservations.
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