Turns out there’s no fix for Eagle Lake — for now

By: George deVilbiss/Special to Gold Country News Service
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Two years ago, the Bureau of Land Management held hearings about the possibility of closing a source of water drain from Eagle Lake, a large section of pipe called the Bly Tunnel.

Eagle Lake is completely dependent upon snowmelt for water. There’s drainage through Bly Tunnel 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The reality is more water exits the lake than what enters through spring snowmelt.

The bottom line is the lake level is continuously dropping, more and more each year.

The final determination in the BLM hearings was that downstream water users — ranchers — were more important than the net effects to the environment and fishery.

That decision wasn’t acceptable to anglers and those who live around this popular Lassen County lake.

A group was formed called The Guardians of Eagle Lake. The group knew it wasn’t going to put a dent in the thinking of the BLM, so it enlisted the support of the California Department of Water Resources. Additionally, after studying the issues, the California Department of Fish and Game weighed in with the result being the continually lowering water level is and would continue to adversely affect the lake’s infamous fishery.

The DWR held hearings and determined the Bly Tunnel pipe needed to be permanently shut down. The recommendation was to be made to the Lassen County Board of Supervisors to direct the BLM to permanently shut down water flow out of Eagle Lake.

And then, the unexpected happened. The person responsible with the DWR retired. The letter he forwarded to supporters at Eagle Lake reported his replacement-counterpart was swamped with other issues and it would be doubtful any action by the DWR would be taken anytime soon.

George Walker, co-owner of the Eagle Lake General Store in Spaulding Tract, is a main force and proponent for the Bly Tunnel to be closed. She tells me that even though a letter was supposed to be sent to the Lassen County Board of Supervisors, one of the main persons on this board also happens to be a rancher that utilizes the water that comes from Eagle Lake.

Can you say, “Conflict of interest?” Care to guess how he would lobby the Board of Supervisors to act and vote on this issue?

All proponents agree it appears the only hope they have of being successful now is through court action.

For now, though, water continues to flow out of Eagle Lake.

Current fishing

Bodega Bay: With storms coming in, however well spaced for now, the open water of the Pacific can get bouncy. If you have any concerns about how you might ride these waters, call ahead and watch the forecasts closely. For the most part, if the water is too bouncy, the only real effect is not being able to adequately bounce bottom for the favored ling cod because by the time you feel bottom, it’s generally too late and you lose your gear. The bottomfish catching is utterly outstanding with limits the rule and, as an added bonus, you can definitely expect a limit of six market-sized crabs.

San Pablo Bay: Great tides are happening this week. We haven’t had enough storms to raise river levels with enough fresh water to flush the bay waters of their salinity. If the tides are slow, there’s been a real problem with crabs wanting to walk away with your expensive baits, a problem somewhat solved with a good moving tide. However, you can still be troubled with unwanted critters such as starry flounder, kingfish and small bat rays. Get through those and the sturgeon bite has actually been decent. Hit the Pumphouse Flats. I’ve always done well between Rat Rock and MacNear Pier off China Camp in about 12 feet of water.

San Francisco fleet: The best news is that the commercial fishing fleet has so far rejected the price offer for crab so it’s staying tied up in the ports. That bodes well for the sport fisher. Without commercial pots soaking in the same region, that means more and better-quality crab for those on party boats. My favorite skipper, James Smith of the California Dawn, has limited on big crab and quality rock cod.

Suisun Bay: Soak bullheads and the striper fishing is outstanding. Soak any favored sturgeon baits along with French fry-size strips of eel, and the sturgeon fishery has been good. Some of the top striper fishing has been going on around McAvoy’s Boat Harbor and the Firing Line. Along with bullheads, pile and blood worms are taking their share. Some of the best sturgeon catching has been happening in shallow water.

Lake Oroville: The lake remains considerably higher than what it’s been in past years this time of year — more than 80 percent. Coho, or silver salmon, generally are on a decent bite, but fishing for these small landlocked salmon has been tough. The few being caught are only hitting to 15 inches, and those dipping nets are around the dam and green bridge. Drifting a live minnow as deep as 60 feet should get you bit.

Bass, however, are just about everywhere, and the spotted bass fishery is the strongest. You can find them from the surface to 60 feet down. Surface gear such as a Zara Spook will get you bit. Go deeper and drop shot with dart-headed plastics or Robo Worms.

New Melones: This lake is well known for excellent winter trout fishing. Stringers of one-pounders are taken daily, and many lunkers in the five-pound class are nailed by boaters and shore anglers. The best fishing starts when the lake turns over, and if it hasn’t already, it should in the next few days.

Trout fishing is good and getting better. To enhance the fishery, the lake is being planted weekly by the Department of Fish and Game. There also are holdovers up to three pounds being netted. Those casting from shore have been hammering fish in shallow water in the backs of Angels and Glory Hole coves. Cast-retrieve spoons or soak Power Bait or Pautske’s Red Label salmon eggs off a sliding sinker. Trollers have been doing the best fishing over the main river channel from upriver under the bridges into the main body of the lake, especially around the spillway and dam region. Trout are being found as much as 20 feet down, and they’re attacking a shad-imitating lure, so swap lures until you get steadily bit.

Contact George deVilbiss at