GONE FISHIN’: A low water fishing season ahead
As I begin to write this column I am looking out over a blanket of snow. It is spring so it will not last too long, but it was quite a surprise this morning nonetheless.
With the snowpack in the neighborhood of 60 percent of normal, water will certainly be a concern this year from a recreation standpoint. I guess that a seventh good winter in a row was not in the cards.
The local lakes and reservoirs are much lower than the same time last year. The prime example is Boca Reservoir at 36,478 acre feet last year compared to only 9,653 acre feet at present. This represents a lake that is approximately 26 percent of last year’s level.
Other lakes are not as extreme as Boca, but all have significantly less water than last year. They range from 63 to 89 percent full.
The prospects for gaining much more this year are not good. In spite of the snowfall we received this past week, the reality is that there is very little runoff to be expected into our reservoirs. Looking at Boca, Prosser and Stampede a couple of weeks ago, the absence of snowfall in the drainage was obvious by looking at the surrounding hills while on an outing to Stampede.
While any precipitation helps, it is pretty certain that we are going to have significantly less water in which to fish this year in our local lakes and reservoirs.
The one potential bright spot might be the Truckee River. Because of the low conditions of the surrounding lakes and reservoirs, it appears that even though Lake Tahoe is down 2.09 feet from last year, this body of water will be relied upon to meet the downstream water needs.
As a result, we should see a fairly consistent release of water out of the Tahoe City dam, which should translate into some good flows to sustain the fishery. Currently there is 196 cubic feet per second being released at the dam. Last year water was being released at 70 cubic feet per second.
Depending on the management scheme, the same could hold on the Little Truckee between Boca and Stampede. It really depends on how the water is managed in Stampede.
As many of you probably know, the Pyramid Lake Tribe and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) are at odds regarding the issue of releasing water to sustain this year’s Cui-ui run. USFWS has decided not to allow them to do it, stating that it would not be prudent in a time of low water to do so and that Cui-ui numbers have rebounded in recent years. Cui-ui can and have gone years without spawning. The Tribe is not happy with this decision and is pursuing this in the courts under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The ESA carries considerable clout as we have recently seen in the news with the farmers in Tule Lake vs. the endangered Salmon run.
Whatever the outcome of the water situation, opening day promises to be as unpredictable as the weather and certainly tied to it. If the weather suddenly turns warm, we may experience some higher run-off. This could lead to higher flows and turbid water conditions. If it stays cool, the opener in the river below Truckee should be fishing about like it did last opener since flows should be very similar if conditions remain the same.
Last year the water was very fishable in the morning hours with some run-off experienced in the afternoon. Fishing will probably be fair for the opener in the river. We have already experienced a fairly slow start to the season in the lakes and reservoirs. In places where and when fish have been typically caught in past years, this year the waters are not producing in the same manner. This could certainly be a function of less water in the lakes and reservoirs.
The Little Truckee River, Truckee River or Martis Lake appears to be the best bet for fly fishermen, and Stampede offers the rest of the angling public the best opportunity for success.
Wherever you plan on fishing on opening day remember to display that license, and follow these tactics for fishing in early spring on moving water: fish the water thoroughly and try to cover as much of it as you can, and fish the edges, eddies, and the quiet water behind rocks or other obstructions in moving water. You will certainly increase your chances for success if you follow this routine.
Opening days are not noted for their stellar fishing, but it is just great to get a chance to get out and welcome in the new year. Have a great opening day and a great season!
Boca – (9,653) ac. ft.) Boca has been fishing fair. Anglers fishing from shore near the inlet are having some success. Anglers near the dam are catching fish. Most anglers use nightcrawlers or Powerbait. Boaters are having some success. Most were using a combination of flashers and a nightcrawler or minnow imitating lure. Kokanee fishing should be improving. Fly fishermen near the inlet have experienced slow action. Very small midge patterns or streamers have accounted for most of the fish caught recently.
Donner Lake – Fishing has been fair. Anglers fishing for rainbows on the west end and near the launch ramp have had limited success. The water is still very cold. Nightcrawlers and Powerbait seem to be the main bait. Trollers using minnow imitating lures have had fair success.
Lake Tahoe – (Elevation 6226.31) Fishing has been good for mackinaw. Most fish are in the 5 to 7 pound range. A guide is highly recommended if you are fishing for mackinaw for the first time. Toplining and shore fishing is slow overall. Remember tributaries to Tahoe are closed to all fishing until July 1 and closes again on Sept. 30. No fishing is also allowed within 300 ft. of these tributaries.
Martis Lake – (Martis is restricted to artificial lures with barbless hooks. Zero fish may be bagged or possessed) The lake is presently at its normal level. Fishing should be fair to good for the opener. Most use nymphs such as the Hares Ear, Pheasant Tail, Damselfly imitations or the A.P. Streamers that imitate small fish, and woolly buggers are also good choices. For surface activity, patterns such as the Quiqley Cripple, Martis Midge, Parachute Adams, and Griffith’s Knat are good choices.
Little Truckee River – (This area between Stampede Reservoir downstream to Boca Reservoir is now subject to artificial barbless lures with a two fish bag limit of fish 14 inches maximum) – (150 cubic feet per second) Fishing here should be fair to good for the opener. Fishing has been slow near the inlet area of the Little Truckee into Boca reservoir. Fly fishermen fishing this stretch between Stampede and Boca concentrate on nymphs and streamers with occasional hatches where a dry fly can work.
Prosser – (9,930 ac. ft.) Prosser has been fishing fair. Fishing here is mostly with nightcrawlers or Powerbait. Flyfishermen near the inlets have taken a few fish mostly on nymphs and streamers.
Stampede – (188,920 ac. ft.) Stampede is fair. Shore anglers are taking a few fish, some very nice size ones. Most use the typical baits, nightcrawlers or Powerbait. Topliners have fair to good success for kokanee salmon. Most used a flasher of some sort and a kokanee bug or wedding ring with a piece of white corn. Look for improvement as the weather warms. Fly fishermen have had it tough during the early season near Stampede’s inlets. It has been hit or miss with a variety of nymphs, streamers and emergers.
Truckee River – The release is at 196 cubic feet per second from the dam at Tahoe City. This translates into 281 cubic feet per second in the Truckee area. The river should be in great shape for the opener as long as it does not get too warm. At this time last year the flow coming out of the dam at Tahoe City was only 70 CFS. The downstream number of 281 CFS compares favorably to last year’s figure of 286 CFS.
Other Waters – Davis and Frenchman lakes are fishing fair to good this past week. Reports indicate that fishing has been spotty. Pyramid Lake is just beginning to see an improvement of the fishing. Look for steady improvement through May.
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On Feb. 4, athletes from Truckee and North Tahoe will walk into Beijing’s National stadium for the 2022 Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony.