Gone Fishin’: How the Martis Fire will affect local fishing
The Martis fire that is scheduled for complete containment this week has blackened thousands of acres of forest lands. The lost trees, which provide habitat for many forms of wildlife, will certainly have an adverse impact on the Truckee River below Juniper Creek.
It was very fortunate that minimal property damage and no lives were lost during this first major fire of the season. With the unusually warm May that occurred following an extremely dry winter, the forest and open range is extremely dry. One only has to look at the completeness of the burned timber to come to that realization.
I have been asked by a number of people what impact the fire will have on the local fishery. The main concern for the river will be the added sediment load that will run into the river this next season. The problem with heavy silt is that it covers the gravel in which aquatic insects inhabit and the fish spawn. If it is heavy enough it can also cause a filling in of the river in certain areas which can lead to an increase in temperatures in those areas.
With a stream that has warmed or one with a lack of insects, the prognosis for the trout that inhabit that river are also bleak. Prior to the flood of 1997 a human error impacted the area below the old dam at Floriston. The result of the siltation that occurred from the event caused the stretch below this dam to become totally unproductive waters.
We had fished this stretch early in the season and caught many nice fish. After this incident, the river yielded little more than casting practice. The flood of 1997 actually breathed life back into this section of the river since it flushed all the sediment out.
This is what will most likely happen to the area from Juniper Creek on down in the coming year. Anyone that has driven down the I-80 corridor during one of our heavy thunderstorms has undoubtedly noticed the chocolate brown waters flowing out of Gray Creek and Bronco Creek. The logging that occurred years ago and the subsequent erosion that has been ongoing brought on this condition.
The post-fire situation will only be worse, perhaps expanding this heavy erosion to the Juniper Creek drainage as well. The creeks themselves that empty into the Truckee River will experience the same sediment loading.
They have also lost much of the shade that the trees, in the form of a canopy, provide the fish. Without this canopy, the water can warm into uninhabitable conditions. The immediate future of these waters does not look good. The burned area needs to be re-seeded to establish some groundcover to hold the soil. After the soil is stabilized, Mother Nature will undoubtedly provide us with another system flushing event.
In recent times they seem to occur between every 10 to 15 years. The phrase “time heals all wounds” is most appropriate when it comes to the impact that this devastating fire will have on our fishery. For the short-term the area affected by the fire will most likely be very unproductive water.
Boca – (15,253) ac. ft.) Boca has been fishing fair and is dropping rapidly. Water is being released at 203 CFS and only 98 CFS is coming into the lake. It looks very bleak for Boca for the rest of the season. Anglers fishing from shore near the inlet are having some success. Anglers near the dam are still 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 is still good for those experienced anglers. Flyfishermen near the inlet have experienced fair to good action early and late. Nymphs and streamers have accounted for most of the fish caught recently. When it calms down, midges are very productive.
Donner Lake – Fishing has been fair to good. Anglers fishing for rainbows on the west end and near the launch ramp have had fair to good success. Nightcrawlers and Powerbait seem to be the main bait. Trollers using minnow imitating lures have had fair success.
Lake Tahoe – (Elevation 6226.27) Fishing has been good for mackinaw. Most fish are in the five to seven pound range. A guide is highly recommended if you are fishing for mackinaw for the first time. Toplining and shore fishing is fair 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) Fishing has been fair to good. Most activity has been early and late with blood midges and callibaetis imitations. Most anglers are using 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 Quigley 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) – (98 cubic feet per second) Fishing here has been tapering off a bit as the flows have been reduced. Fishing has been fair near the inlet area of the Little Truckee into Boca reservoir. Flyfishermen fishing this stretch between Stampede and Boca are experiencing frequent hatches where dry flies and emergers have been productive. Nymphs and streamers are still first choice if there are no fish on the surface.
Prosser – (12,123 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 – (182,506 ac. ft.) Stampede is fair to good. Shore anglers are catching a few more fish. Most use the typical baits, nightcrawlers or Powerbait. Topliners have fair to good success for kokanee salmon. Most use 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 fishing has really taken off. Most inlet areas and coves seem to have working fish. Most action is still subsurface with nymphs such as the pheasant tail and the bird’s nest. Streamers are also working. Hatches are increasing and the fish are very active at times.
Truckee River – The release from the dam at Tahoe City has been raised to 338 cubic feet per second. In the Truckee area it is running at 345 cubic feet per second. Fishing has been fair to good throughout the river. Seasoned anglers have been doing very well. Prince nymphs, Bird’s nests and pheasant tail nymphs have produced some fish as well as streamers. Because of the increasing hatches dry flies are now working as well. Try an elk hair caddis, hares ear parachute or an E/C caddis.
Other Waters – Jackson Meadows has been fishing well. Davis and Frenchman lakes are fishing fair this past week. The damselfly hatch is winding down at Davis. Pyramid Lake has slowed for the shore anglers. Boaters are still having pretty good luck going deep. The season closes this Saturday, June 30.
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As seniors from North Tahoe collected diplomas this week, a group of Lakers continued another local tradition — capturing first place at the boys’ regional golf championship.