Denis Peirce: Serious resources devoted to fish |

Denis Peirce: Serious resources devoted to fish

I believe that we live in the Golden Age of mankind. It is easy to find people who will tell you that the economy is bad, children are not like they used to be, politicians are corrupt and the planet is on the brink of destruction.

Take a step back and look at the long-term view and things are not as bad as they seem at first glance. The example I usually cite is fly fishermen. They will spend prodigious amounts of money for carbon fiber rods, perfectly machined bar stock reels, breathable waders and travel to the far side of the planet. All of this to catch fish that they throw back and don’t eat. Explain that to someone at any other time in history.

Recently there was another example of what we as a society value and the resources we will commit to achieve our ends. Caples Lake is situated near the Sierra crest on the Highway 88 corridor. There are problems with the dam discharge valves and the lake is being drained to allow for the repair to the facility.

Last week a fish-saving effort was undertaken at Caples Lake to catch and relocate the trout population to other nearby lakes. The resources included over 40 Fish and Game personnel, 14 boats, miscellaneous trucks along with 85 volunteers.

From an angler’s point of view, the success of this four-day effort holds some interesting lessons. On day one, during the daytime effort, there were fewer than 100 fish taken. Gill nets, trammel nets and electro-shocking boats were employed. The second effort was undertaken during the nighttime hours. It yielded over 1,700 fish. It seems that during the day the fish were inactive down in the deepest available water. Only after dark did the fish come up near the surface where the electric shock boats are effective. The gill nets had a unacceptable mortality rate, despite being checked every half hour, and were curtailed.

The next night, the count of fish caught went up to 3,000 which was the high. The last night of fishing yielded about 1,600.

Even Fish and Game with all of their fisheries biologists, high-tech boats and no legal restrictions on fishing methods, had a hard time catching fish midday during the dog days of summer. The rest of us should not feel so inadequate after all. The key to their success was to fish at night when summer fish are active.

Other practical information from this exercise included the size of the largest fish in Caples. Multiple mackinaw exceeding 20 pounds and a brown of 14 pounds were the largest recovered. The 6,400 fish transplanted were taken to Silver Lake and Red Lake. All of the brook trout were segregated and planted in Red Lake. The rainbows, browns and macs were sent to Silver Lake.

Caples Lake and dam belong to the El Dorado Irrigation District (EID). They are the entity which will pay the Fish and Game bill for their men and equipment. Just the fuel bill for this operation is measured in five figures. Adding in the costs incurred by media and volunteers, I estimate each fish saved cost between $20 and $25. It says something about how wealthy this society is and what our priorities are. I doubt that in any other age humans would have attempted such a project.

Are we enlightened or are we nuts? It depends on the century when you ask the question.

The most surprising fishing report I have received recently came from Brett Brady (Bare Bones Guide Service). He fished Spaulding last week and did well. He caught 15 fish from 14 to 20 inches in length. He caught them trolling 75 to 95 feet down on a dodger and crawler set up and on a “Cripplure.” The fish were a mix of rainbows and salmon. The lake is very low. The water level is below the concrete road bed of the launch ramp and boat launching is marginal.

The same difficult launch conditions exist at Eagle Lake. There are dredging efforts to keep at least one lane open at all of the launch locations. Take a good look before you commit to putting your vehicles in the water.

Wednesday evening, Sept. 3, will be the next meeting of the Gold Country Fly Fishers. It will be at 7 p.m. in Seaman’s Lodge at Nevada City’s Pioneer Park. The program will include Nancy Folley, head of enforcement for California Department of Fish and Game.

Denis Peirce writes a weekly fishing column for The Union and is host of “The KNCO Fishing & Outdoor Report,” which airs 6-7 p.m. Fridays and 5-6 a.m. Saturdays on 830-AM radio. He may be reached via e-mail at

Red Bluff Diversion Dam salmon count for the last three days:

Aug. 31, 2008 = 129

Aug. 30, 2008 = 42

Aug. 29, 2008 = 113

Year to date 2008 = 4,843

Year to date 2007 = 3,921

Year to date 2006 = 3,758

Year to date 2005 = 8,293

* We are printing the salmon counts at Red Bluff as a indicator of the valley salmon run in general. Salmon fishing on the Sacramento River is closed until November.

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