Caples Lake comeback | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Caples Lake comeback

Adam Jensen / Tahoe Daily Tribune

Adam Jensen / Tahoe Daily TribuneA fisherman casts from the western side of Caples Lake last month.

It’s the dam at Caples Lake that creates the popular spot for anglers about 30 minutes from South Lake Tahoe on Highway 88.

It’s that same dam that has also posed a threat for more than a year to fishing at the lake – one of four high alpine reservoirs in the El Dorado Irrigation District’s electricity generation system.

An emergency repair to the outlet works at the main dam required a drawdown at the lake last summer that left only 3 percent of the lake’s 22,340 acre-feet storage capacity.

Fisherman and nearby business owners feared the worst from the drawdown: That the low lake levels would kill the trophy trout known to live in the lake, and on-going drought conditions would keep the lake from filling completely for years to come, diminishing the lake’s recreational opportunities.

A fisheries management plan for the drawdown from August 2008 bluntly stated the likely future for the Caples Lake fishery.

“The fishery will most likely not survive or at a minimum be severely impacted,” according to the plan.

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But, so far, the worst-case scenario hasn’t been realized, and the fish tales coming from Caples read like whoppers.

Despite a lackluster amount of snow this winter to replenish water in the lake, the irrigation district was able to release less water from Caples in the winter and summer than typically required by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, said John Voss, the owner of Caples Lake Resort. The move came following a recommendation by an Ecological Resources Committee for the project, Voss said.

The extra water, combined with an aggressive fish stocking plan by the irrigation district and the California Department of Fish and Game, has kept the fish biting, Voss said.

So far this summer, more than 80,000 brown, rainbow and brook trout, 140,000 rainbow fingerlings and 80,000 mackinaw fingerlings have been planted in Caples, Voss said.

And people continue to catch the five- to 15-pound trophy trout stocked by the irrigation district at the end of June, Voss said.

“Last year the district’s board committed to fund a 10-year fish restocking program approved by Fish and Game. The program, which began in late May, included the release of 9,000 pounds of trophy-size rainbow trout on June 24,” El Dorado Irrigation District spokeswoman Deanne Kloepfer said in a statement earlier this month. “Releases of catchable brown, rainbow, brook, and fingerling lake trout will continue through September.”

An 11-pound rainbow trout has been the latest catch from that plant, Voss said.

Although an annual August drawdown remains a concern to Voss, who said the timing of the drawdown affects recreation at Caples, the predictions of doomed fishing at the lake appear to have dissipated.

But a misconception that the lake is still at last summer’s levels remains among some, Voss said, something Kloepfer also commented on.

“Visitors will find the full array of outdoor recreation activities – hiking, camping, fishing, photography, wildlife viewing, and more – that they are used to at the lake and in the surrounding area,” Kloepfer said.

Fore more information on conditions at Caples Lake visit: http://capleslakeresort.wordpress.com/