Fish on – oh yeah – fish on
Lakes and streams are chock-full of hungry fish waiting to bite the bait.
The snow has melted and cleared the way for fishermen to drop their lines in hopes of the big one. The general fishing season opens Saturday.
This is the general opening which means it is still off limits to fish in Lake Tahoe’s tributaries. The tributary opening is July 1. Getting caught by the Fish and Game warden before then will result in a poaching violation.
Friday will be the last day the river banks and lakes will be empty until summer ends.
“You see ’em almost like a fencepost lined up, it’s so busy,” Sal Disalvo, a Gardnerville resident and avid fisherman, said about the East Fork of the Carson River which was amply stocked this week. He spends his time at the Carson River Resort, located a mere stone’s throw from the river.
This is the first year that the stretch of the river from Hangman’s Bridge to the state line has been designated a catch-and-release area. It excites the residents who claim that even county and state stocking can’t always keep a high level of trout in the river.
“Carson is still the best river that I can find,” said the 78-year-old who spends the winter skiing and the summer fishing. Disalvo has fished at the resort for more than 20 years.
Brad Davis, the managing partner at the resort, said he enjoys Disalvo’s company and does everything he can to accommodate him and those who come to fish or raft on the East Fork. Sitting on a 160-acre parcel, the resort’s general store offers bait, tackle, food, beer and wine.
“The hottest item is the fluorescent green night crawlers,” Davis said pointing to the squirming worms which look like they have been dunked in radioactive waste.
“They ought to work like a charm,” Disalvo said, “because (the trout) go after green power bait.”
Even the typical orange power bait has been glamorized this year. Jars of sparkle nugget bait in bright pink and green hues sit on the shelves.
“We try to keep up with the latest innovations,” Davis joked.
Victor Babbitt, 17-year South Shore resident and owner of Tahoe Fly Fishing Outfitters, is also ready for the season to begin.
“(Tahoe) should have a big opening,” Babbitt said, adding that his store does all it can to market the fish season to San Francisco visitors as well as those who live here.
“It’s a great business,” Babbitt said of the job that is more like a hobby to him.
People have been pouring into the store this week, stocking up on fishing equipment and purchasing licenses so they will be prepared when Saturday rolls around.
Babbitt said that the early snowmelt means clear water fishing conditions. “The rivers are in a lot better shape than the previous four or five years,” he said.
He only fishes catch-and-release because he thinks that the wild salmon that survive without the help of stocking, need all the help they can get to procreate. “A place like Tahoe should really be protected,” he said.
The catch-and-release method takes some education and practice to get it right, Babbitt said. The trick is to de-barb the sharp end of fish hooks so the hook can be easily slipped out of the fish’s mouth. He recommends releasing the fish and watching to make sure it swims away because people unknowingly throw dead fish far back into the water.
“If (the fish population) had some pressure taken off of it, it would come back spectacularly,” Babbitt said.
The true fishermen don’t mind getting away from the popular spots, Babbitt said, and they don’t mind catching smaller fish.
“I prefer solitude and being out in the woods,” Babbitt said. “It’s just nice to be in the outdoors.”
Fishing licenses and regulation booklets are available at most grocery and fishing outfitter stores.
To encourage those who have never fished before, the state Department of Fish and Game offers two free fishing days per year. For 2000, California’s free days are June 10 and Sept. 23.
California fish license costs:
– A resident annual license is $28.10.
– A nonresident annual license is $75.85.
– A 10-day nonresident license is $28.10.
– A two-day license is also available for $10.25.
Nevada fish license costs:
– A resident annual license is $26.
– A nonresident annual license is $56.
Fish of the Lake Tahoe Basin, as provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
– Rainbow – The trout gets its name from the rainbow of colors on its side. The fish feed around the clock, but feeding is more intense at dusk.
– Brook – A red, yellow or blue spotted fish that can tolerate colder water than any other regional trout. Feeding takes place primarily in the early morning and evening hours.
– Brown – Identified by its red and black spots along the body. They tend to be more secretive than rainbow trout and less vulnerable to fishing pressures.
– Mackinaw or Lake Trout – Thought to be the catch of Lake Tahoe. Records at Tahoe include fish that were over 3-feet long and weighed in at 20-pounds.
– Lahontan Cutthroat – A native fish to Lake Tahoe that was named for its yellowish to red slashes on the under side of the jaw.
– Golden Trout – One of the prettiest trout, its lower sides are bright gold with splashes of red and yellow. Its back is olive green.
– Kokanee salmon – Accidentally introduced in 1944 when holding ponds by Tahoe City overflowed in a rainstorm, these relatives of the oceanic sockeye salmon turn a deep red color when they reach three years of age.
Alpine County Chamber of Commerce Catch-and-Release tips:
– Keep retrieve time to a minimum. Use stronger tippets and leaders to decrease retrieve time.
– Keep Lahontans in the water to release, gravity can damage a fish’s internal organs
– Hold fish by lower bony jaw with index finger and thumb, do not put fingers in gills. Keep hands wet if handling is necessary.
– Revive exhausted fish until they struggle before releasing.
The state Department of Fish and Game has contracted with Nextlink to give California residents 1-800-ASK-FISH. Calls are limited to five minutes, but provide callers with a wide variety of fishing information.
DFG’s Web site is http://www.dfg.ca.gov
It provides a wealth of information about fishing rules, regulations and frequently asked questions.
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