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Written By: Dan Bacher, March 24, 2014
Location: Folsom Lake,
Folsom. the Capital City’s backyard “fishing hole,” is a lake dear to my angling heart, since I have fished the reservoir since I was 10 years old.
It was where I caught my first bluegill and largemouth bass when I was a child – and I have landed many bluegill, rainbow trout, king salmon, spotted largemouth and spotted bass and channel catfish at this impoundment on the American River in the years since then.
The fishery has seen a number of changes since the reservoir first filled, ranging from the increasing abundance of spotted bass at the lake to the establishment of a unique landlocked king salmon fishery in recent years.
Jay Rowan, California Department of Fish and Wildlife fishery biologist, reported some great news for trout anglers at Folsom Lake – the planting of catchable and subcatchable Eagle Lake Trout in the reservoir this year.
The week of February 17 was the kickoff of the Department’s new program to attempt to bolster the cold water fishery over the long term with the planting of over 40,000 sub-catchable Eagle Lake Trout (ELT) at the reservoir.
The CDFW’s American River Hatchery also recently stocked Folsom Lake with 7,000 lbs of catchable size Eagle Lake Trout (ELT) averaging 1 lb. each. In 2013 Folsom received a total of 13,300 lbs of catchable rainbows – and it is expected to see a total of a similar amount this season.
“If you have ever fished Eagle Lake then you know the ELT’s are a large growing rainbow trout and they are known to switch to a piscivorous, or fish based, diet early on in life,” he noted. “This high protein fish based diet not only facilitates their large growth, but also makes them more likely to go after lures and other trolled offerings than some other rainbow trout strains.”
“It's important to note that the stocking season for Folsom spans the fall through early spring months and stop in the summer when the water temperatures get warm,” said Rowan. “The total poundage of catchables for 2014 will likely be somewhere around the same as last year, but they are split between this spring and next fall.”
Other than them being ELTs, which is a more wild strain that may have a better chance of holding over through the summer, the fish are still part of the normal ‘”put and take”Folsom allotment that are out there for anglers to enjoy now, Rowan stated.
While the catchable fish are ready to be caught and taken home to the dinner table now, the subcatchables are running around 4 to 8 inches and are being put in with the hope that they will find the schools of pond smelt and be all grown up and ready to put up a good fight sometime in the fall and into the future, according to Rowan.
The fish will be concentrated and the catch rates on these subcatchables will likely be fairly high early on, especially around the ramp, as there are going to be so many fish out there and Folsom is still low. “As always, please take care when handling and releasing these fish for the future,” he advised.
“We will again be sending some staff out to perform creel surveys throughout the year to check on the status of the fishery, particularly these sub-catchables, so please continue to help us help you by participating in the surveys and keeping mental notes on approximate sizes and fish condition,” he explained.
The Department will soon release the results of a 10-year-creel study at Folsom. Surprisingly, Rowan said the staff have seen a rise in the catch rates in rainbow trout, as well as king salmon and black bass, over the past few years.
This may be the result of the lake being drawn down to low levels and then filling up again in recent years. When the lake level drops, grass, brush and other vegetation grows on the lake bed.
When the lake is refilled with winter rains and spring snow run-off, the new vegetation provides habitat for fish, as well as invertebrates that the fish feed upon. The habitat also provides some cover for juvenile fish to hide from larger predators, such as bass, salmon and rainbow trout.
All the sub-catchable fish from this plant are marked with a right pelvic fin clip, so please take note of any missing fins if you catch and release a trout.
If you have any questions, contact Jay Rowan via e-mail: Jay.firstname.lastname@example.org.
While the Department of Fish and Wildlife is stocking with both catchable and subcatchable rainbow Eagle Lake rainbow trout this year; the lake also hosts a unique population of naturally spawning Chinooks, the progeny of salmon from the Nimbus Fish Hatchery.
Rowan said the successful salmon spawning was first documented in 2009, when anglers began bringing in some small king salmon that obviously were the progeny of fish spawning in the forks of the American River above the lake, since the lake hadn’t been planted since 2006, due to the presence of IHN virus in eh fish. The Department didn’t want to plant the fish any more with the virus, since the virus would go into the American River water that supplies the hatchery below Nimbus Dam.
The CDFW did both snorkel and electro shocking surveys in 2010 that documented the king salmon going up the South Fork to spawn. “We did a couple of electro fishing surveys on the South Fork and observed gravid females headed upstream to spawn), “ he said. “We also did snorkel surveys and aw around 90 salmon win the stretch from the Salmon Falls Bridge up to Lotus, although we observed only two fish on redds.”
Trollers and bank anglers have both reported success over the past couple of months. For example, Paul Kneeland, Fish Sniffer Publisher, made a trip to the lake with John Brassfield, the owner of Trucksmart, that provided decent action on big holdover rainbows.
“We caught four holdover rainbows in the 14 to 17 inch range while top lining with Cripplures, one on a Krocodile and one on a dodger/worm combination,” he stated.
James Netzel of Fishin’ James Guide Service also reported success on his most recent trip to Folsom. “We landed four rainbows around 16 inches each and lost what looked like a 4 lb. king right at the boat,” said Netzel. “We found the best action while trolling Bikini Glow Cripplures in the main body near the dam at 6 feet deep and 100 feet back from the downrigger.”
The recent storms have brought Folsom up from only 17 percent of capacity in January to 33 percent of capacity and 59 percent of average at press time.
For information on trout and salmon trolling adventures on Folsom, contact: James Netzel, Fishin' James Guide Service; 916-284-3089; http://fishinjames.com.
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