I got wind of the draining of Caples Lake from Mikey Wier and Chris LaScola. I could feel the sadness in their hearts through the words of their emails. Apparently the gates below the lake's dam require repair so the water level needed drastic reduction in order to accomplish the work. Lowering the water level means that winter temperatures will freeze the lake and almost assuredly result in a complete fish kill not to mention what effect it will have on the entomology. Mikey took his friend from Trout Unlimited out there, then took him to the EID meeting in Placerville. They both stood up for the fishery in front of the board. Mikey also contacted California Trout and the Department of Fish and Game. The attempts to stop action were gallant but the drain plug had been pulled. What struck a cord with me about this story was that change was fixed and that it would be a long time before things would get back to the way they were, if ever. Change is something we anglers are facing all around us. Water flows can be changed, climate can be changed, food chains can be changed, what we know today can be changed tomorrow. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that there is a bad guy at fault in the case of Caples Lake. Fish rescue efforts are being attempted. The goal of this post is to encourage all of us to make our voices heard on resource issues......because the times and the waters are changing.
Photos by Chris LaScola
I live in Texas and have a vacation spot in the Northern Sierras. I visit on a regular basis and ski at Kirkwood. I was in the area in Sept 2008 and could not believe what I saw. It was like the surface of the moon. Of course, I noticed Caples Lake everytime I drove over the dam and spillway...but WOW what a shocking and saddening site. I knew of the need to repair the dam; however, had not realized what the scene would look like in person.
It hurts knowing this remote beauty will be decades away from returning to where it took decades to get to.
Thanks for sharing your story Kennedy. I'm hopeful that Caples can return to it's former state but it's going to take time.
This has been a real heart breaker. Caples is now at historic lows. It looks like a moon scape. Many of the animals that hang around there have left. It's a long and dangerous journey for them to get all the way down to the waters edge now just for a drink. The only bright side is that i've been able to see the structure of the bottom and some historic land marks that i have never been able to see in my lifetime and probably will never again. There is an old bridge abutment from where the original bridge from the Mormon Immigrant wagon trail crossed the creek near what used to be twin lakes. You can also see the old rock foundation of Doc Caples cabin that the res was named after. It's kind of cool, but kind of sad too. Chris and i went down to take some photos the other night. We ended up launching my canoe and fishing for the evening. The Fish and Game shocking program relocated over 16,000 fish. The biggest fish tagged during the relocation was an 18 pound brown that didn't survive the process. Turns out they didn't get all of them though. Chris and i caught several nice fish. Rainbow, browns, brookies and even a couple lake trout. I fished dries and he fished streamers and we had equally great results. We released them all even though it's hard to know wether they will survive the winter freeze in that shallow water. There's rumors floating around of a 16 pound brown that was recently caught on bait. Right now it's the best place in the sierra's to catch a lake trout on fly. We're not ready to give up on it yet. A couple more sessions before it freezes.
Mikey Wier posted an interesting follow up story on Caples Lake - http://burlfish.blogspot.com/2009/09/caples-lake.html
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