Plans in works for fish rescue at Caples Lake |

Plans in works for fish rescue at Caples Lake

Tribune and EID reports

The California Department of Fish and Game will conduct a fish rescue operation at Caples Lake later this month.

El Dorado Irrigation District’s need to make emergency repairs to ensure safe operation of the main dam at Caples Lake created concern among anglers that many trophy fish would die as the lake shrinks. EID must draw down the lake to 11 feet by Sept. 20.

It is currently being drawn down at seven inches per day to repair the dam valves and construct the new public boat launch and day-use area on the north side of the lake. As of Thursday, the lake level was 43 feet. The lake level is 62 feet and 22,000 acre feet when full.

CDFG’s rescue effort will consist of netting the fish and placing them in hatchery trucks for transport to nearby Silver Lake.

“This is good news and the first part of a multi-phase attempt to save as many fish as possible during the critical work we are doing to ensure pubic health and safety,” said George Osborne, EID’s board president. “We must replace the slide gates at the dam and fix other problems that were discovered in mid-June during an underwater investigation.

“That means we have to draw down the reservoir so the repair crews are not endangered. As soon as Fish and Game determined the drawdown will have impacts on the reservoir fishery, we began working with Fish and Game, the Forest Service, the California Division of Safety of Dams, and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, as well as our local advisory committee and many other stakeholders in the region, to make the best of this emergency.”

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John Voss, owner of Caples Lake Resort, reports that anglers are adapting to the shrinking lake. People are launching boats in front of the lodge. Voss encourages anglers to catch the trophy fish before they perish during the winter.

“As the lake is drawn down, the fishing for the trophy mackinaw and German browns should become incredible,” he said. “Please come up and catch these magnificent fish, which according to the Department of Fish and Game, will probably not survive the winter freeze and lack of oxygen in the crowded bottom of the lake.”

Rental fishing boats, kayaks and canoes are available. Voss said he intends to have boats available to anglers through October.

Osborne also said that the district has applied to the State Water Resources Control Board for permission to divert some of the water from the drawdown to Jenkinson Lake, the district’s largest water storage reservoir, as a hedge in case 2009 turns out to be another dry year. Due to dry conditions, Jenkinson Lake has not filled completely since 2007.

District staff informed the board that the plan also encompasses construction of a temporary bladder dam behind the main dam to protect the safety of the repair crews, store water for reservoir fish and provide flows for downstream fisheries during the winter. The third step in the plan is short and long-term restocking efforts following recommendations from the Department of Fish and Game, who successfully implemented a similar plan at Lake Davis in 2006.

“We are extremely appreciative of the technical support that Fish and Game has provided in developing a comprehensive plan to rescue the existing fishery and reestablish a trophy fishery at Caples Lake,” said Dan Corcoran, the district’s environmental review manager. “We are working aggressively to ensure that anglers will have a trophy fishery returned immediately after the ice melts and the lake can be accessed next spring.

Staff will bring the plan to the board for formal consideration and funding approval at the Aug. 25 board meeting.