Making Spring Time Lemonade Out Of Lemons
Special to Fishing The California Alps: Bryan Roccucci
In years past it was common place to include Lake Davis at the top of the list of Northern California’s trophy trout fisheries. Recently Lake Davis has been making headlines for reasons other than its large aggressive Rainbows, and unless you are new to the area or have just crawled out from under a rock, you have undoubtedly heard about the problem of the Northern Pike. The lake has deserved most of the press coverage it has gotten of late, as various groups and agencies theorize and strategize about how to solve this problem but Lake Davis also deserves some kudos for still kicking out some quality trout in the midst of all the turmoil.
Some background; In 1994, shortly after dealing with a Pike problem at nearby Frenchman Reservoir, a fisherman caught a large Northern Pike at Lake Davis. California Department of Fish and Game began work on a number of projects to determine the extent of the problem. With out any natural enemies, the Northern Pike population in the lake soared and with their predatory nature really took a toll on the trout population. But the problem of the Northern Pike was not limited to just Lake Davis and its popular trout-fishing waters. According to the California Department of Fish and Game, if Northern Pike traveled down stream into the state’s delta system it would lead to an ecological disaster. Lake Davis was chemically treated in October of 1997 to eradicate the Northern Pike from the Lake, and in July of 1998, DFG began restocking Lake Davis with over a million trout including hundreds of trophy sized rainbow trout in an effort to rebuild the fish population. Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, the eradication effort was unsuccessful. The Department of Fish and Game then launched an effort to try and manage the Pike population in the lake by various means including trapping, electrofishing, and the use of explosives to kill the fish. Despite removing thousands of Pike from the lake the population numbers were still on the rise. On January 23 2007 the California Department of Fish and Game announced that they will again treat the waters of Lake Davis to eradicate the population of Northern Pike. Armed with information learned from the 1997 treatment, all expectations are that this time it will be successful. The treatment is scheduled for some time shortly after Labor Day weekend 2007.
So where does that leave us now? Lake Davis has always been known for a phenomenal Spring bite, and this year will be no different. The Rainbows come out of spawning mode and back into the lake hungry and ready to bite. The Northern Pike will be there also and if the plans are successful this will be your last chance to catch one in California. The Pike have no problem attacking trolled trout baits especially if you are working the coves on the West side of the lake. These fish hit with an unbelievable amount of power and put up quite a display of defiance especially as they near the boat. Once you have landed a Pike don’t be afraid, yeah they are ugly with big teeth, but these fish can’t hurt you unless you try to retrieve your lure without a good set of pliers. You now need to be sure you do things by the book. The California Department of Fish and Game has very strict laws about what you do with a Northern Pike you have caught. The following is taken directly from Fish and Game’s web page.
If you have caught a northern pike, please kill the fish and contact the Department of Fish and Game Portola office at (530) 832-4067. During normal business hours you may also contact our Regional office in Rancho Cordova at (916) 358-2900. You may also drop fish that you have caught at the Grizzly Store, Dollard’s Market, or the Fish and Game office in Portola, or you may surrender the fish to any DFG or USFS personnel. It is critical that you know that it is illegal to transport live fish in the State of California. Thank you for your help in protecting California’s natural resources. (See regulation excerpts below.)
5.51. Northern Pike. No northern pike, dead or alive, may be released into any water at any time. All northern pike taken shall be killed immediately by removing the head and shall be retained by the angler. The angler shall notify the Department that he/she has taken and possesses a northern pike by calling the Department's CalTip telephone number (1-888-DFG-CALTIP) as soon as possible, but not more than 24 hours after taking the northern pike. The angler shall maintain the head and body of the fish in a refrigerated or frozen condition, whenever possible, until the Department collects the northern pike.
Now that we have got that out of the way lets get back to fishing. As I mentioned earlier Spring is a great time to fish Lake Davis and is my favorite. Early in the season believe it or not shore based anglers, both fly and bait, really have the advantage as the ‘Bows cruise the shore lines preparing to spawn. And while you are able to catch fish I like to give it some time. Generally by the first of May the fish have had a chance to recover from their foray up the creeks and are eager to hit.
As far as trolling for these fish (my specialty) goes the lake is basically fishing very similar to years past. Many of the larger trout tend to populate the lakes shallower waters of the West shore and areas at the North end. The shallow water is the first to warm during Spring and tends to hold an abundant food supply. In years such as 2006 with the water level being as high as it has ever been since the Pike development, anglers including myself could troll patterns well out into the lake and just clipping the ends of the many points from Camp 5 to Mosquito Slough. Most of the action happens as the lures pass fish staging on either side of these points waiting to ambush prey. In years where the water level is lower and many of these points are “high and dry” you will find much better success running parallel to the points keeping your baits close to the bottom. During late Spring and early Summer the trout can often be found cruising the rolling bottom of the lake North of the island. This area offers an un-even bottom covered in grass beds with lots of nooks and crannies that hold a tremendous amount of food as well as a place for trout to seek respite from the warm waters of the shallows.
Many of the top producing lures at Lake Davis have been connecting with the trout for many years and as the saying goes “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. Spoons in copper and red, fire tiger, and frog patterns are favorites for the hardware guys, while wooly buggers in either an olive or cinnamon pattern can be deadly. When flies are the ticket, I have found the more beat up the fly gets the better it produces, in fact I refuse to tie on a new one until the last strands of thread and feathers have been stripped off the bare hook. The use of scents on your lures, as on most lakes, will improve your success on Lake Davis.
Put Lake Davis on your list of Spring time stops, catch some quality trout, a few Northern Pike and make a little Lemonade.
About the author:
Bryan Roccucci is a full time professional fishing guide and operator of Big Daddy’s Guide Service. Bryan specializes in year round trophy trout fishing while emphasizing light tackle fishing techniques on Lake Almanor (Jan.-May), Lake Davis (May - June), Bucks Lake (June – Sept.), Eagle Lake (Sept. – Dec.) To book a Spring trip on Lake Davis or any of the other waters fished by Bryan or for more information please visit www.bigdaddyfishing.com or call (530) 283-4103.
Copyright © 2007 Bryan Roccucci All Rights Reserved