Abalone fishery now officially closed in Sonoma County

By: George deVilbiss/Special to Gold Country News Service
-A +A

The dying off of abalone since August throughout the diving areas of Sonoma County has been reported here.

It was attributed to a red tide, bacteria-laden water so called because it turns the water a red hue. It can have a devastating effect, such as the occurrence in August, when the ocean is so calm the sea can’t break up the massive bacteria swarms.

Divers encountered dead or dying abalone throughout the Sonoma County coastal diving areas, and other sea creatures were affected, including such shellfish as mussels.

The California Fish and Game Commission on Sept. 15 voted to close the abalone fishery, and the Office of Administrative Law on Oct. 4 approved the emergency regulations for an abalone closure on the Sonoma County coast.

Abalone take years to mature, and the die-off of a large population of the shellfish could take many years to rebuild. There was no word when the abalone fishery might reopen.

Eagle Lake is finally fixed

A couple of years ago, there was an outcry about the dropping water level at Lassen County’s Eagle Lake, something heavily attributed to the Bly Tunnel that allowed water to flow from the lake. The water has been utilized — by downstream flows in Willow Creek — by farmers and ranchers.

The Bureau of Land Management has control over the region, including the lake. The Bly Tunnel was its responsibility.

With the outcry, the BLM held hearings regarding the Bly Tunnel. Experts testified about the devastating effects the tunnel was having on Eagle Lake. More water was leaving the lake than entering.

Those who visited the lake over the years could testify to dropping water levels. At Spaulding Tract, it became a longer walk each year to get to the docks. There are two boat launching ramps at Spaulding Tract, but only one was useable and at times, that one was questionable.

The outcry continued after the bureau’s original decision to leave Bly Tunnel as it was. This time, instead of only concerned citizens, including a scientist or two, the aid of Senator Ted Gaines was enlisted.

And finally, the BLM reversed its decision and the Bly Tunnel will be shut down. The BLM will shut off the valve in the pipe, cut it and then weld it so no one can turn it back on.

It will take years to reverse the effects of the Bly Tunnel pipeline. There is one stream feeding the lake — Pine Creek — and flows are wholly dependent on snowmelt. Hopefully, the lake level again will rise considerably higher than its level today.

Current fishing

Eagle Lake: With the temperature dropping, it’s the time of year when trout start migrating from their deeper water haunts at the southern end of the lake. More and more can be found roaming around the shallower water of the big tulle patches around Spaulding Tract. You can nail a limit of trout simply flipping an unweighted night crawler, letting it sink on its own, and slowly jig it back. Or, drop anchor and float a crawler in the tulles. Between now and the lake’s annual closure at the end of the day on Dec. 31, some big trout are historically taken.

American River: Anybody who’s fished the river over the years knows how much algae growth has covered the gravel beds of the river. That alone isn’t conducive to good spawning grounds for salmon. Over the past few months, hundreds of yards of fresh gravel have been placed in the river, which hopefully will make for better areas for the incoming salmon to lay their eggs. Time will tell.

In the meantime, the salmon fishery throughout the American River has been good and anglers are tallying good numbers of fresh-run Chinooks. Trolling or sitting at anchor with the lure being worked by the surface are working. The Nimbus Basin, Sailor Bar and deeper water holes are yielding salmon, and steelhead traditionally move in right behind the salmon, as they just love to munch on salmon eggs. There aren’t big numbers now, but you can still put a steelie up to five pounds on a stringer. Just remember to have your Steelhead Report Card.

Lake Amador: The winter trout planting is hugely awaited by anglers. They raise a strain of Cutthroat-Rainbow known as Donaldson Trout. While they plant huge numbers in the catchable class of two pounds, they also put in large numbers of trophy-sized 5- to 10-pounders. It’s pay to play, and it’s a fishery you can be successful at without a boat. Most successful fishing is done on shore, in the cove by the boat launch, and from the rocky areas of the dam to the spillway. The planting program should start this week.

New Hogan Reservoir: This lake is best known for its big population of stripers. Because of the cooling weather, the recreational boating traffic has largely decreased and striper boils are more common. Find a boil, toss topwater gear, and you can get downright hammered. Poppers and Zara Spooks always work well.

New Melones: Trophy trout are the winter rule, and big trout already are showing up. Some German browns are easily hitting five pounds. Limits of trout are common. Brown trout aren’t being caught in big numbers, but when you get bit, you’re going to get a big one. The Glory Hole region has been a good trolling area. Just haul a shad-colored lure.

Camp Far West: Not much recreational boating traffic, and launching can still be accomplished at the North Shore. The Rock Creek arm has been producing pretty good numbers of bass. Drop shot for them.

Folsom Lake: Nobody can explain it, but bass fishing is still tough despite the cooling air and water temperature. You’ll make several casts before you can convince a bass to bite. Best bet will be finding rock piles and slowly work plastics on a drop-shot rig or darthead. Those being caught are mostly down to 20 feet.

Contact George deVilbiss at