While all of us are celebrating the return of meaningful amounts of rain to our neck of the woods, anglers wonder what to expect when when they get back out on the water. Without the dynamic water level increase through the winters of the drought cycle, fish migration from deep winter holding patterns was gradual and predictable. The nature of the "Pineapple Express" or "Atmospheric River" storms bring a scrambled set of variables and powerful influences to the greater masses of fish populations.
Lets look at some of the changes that come with getting our lakes re-watered. The normal bitter winter cold shift to more temperate spring comfort has been getting a major boost from the warm nature of the storms. Before and after the storms, overnight low temperatures were regularly dipping into the ice cold upper twenty degree section of the freezer, relentlessly chilling the lakes' surface layer. Once the storms showed up, overnight low temperatures shifted into the high forty's and fifties. Warmer water added from the sky and flowing tributaries are like turning up the thermostat on the water heater. Flowing tributaries bring suspended particulates or muddy water. The stuff mixed into the water adds the benefit of something to catch sunshine. Water with more color can warm more quickly than clear water. All of this extra warmth is like the rain on the fields for grasses and wildflowers. Warmth wakes up the lake and brings it to life.
Another look at the benefit of "soup" that flows in with the water is that it can be the building block of photosynthesis for algae and phytoplankton for the foundation of the food chain.
Striped bass at Lake San Antonio and White bass at Nacimiento both need current or running water to suspend their eggs to successfully spawn. The sustained inflows will have them on the move looking to relieve a multi-year drought worth of pent up frustration. Future populations should get a boost.
Extended droughts produce weed, brush, grasses, and small trees on the nutrient rich, dry lake bottom and shoreline. When this growth is flooded as the lake returns, it provides cover habitat and hiding places for the young, vulnerable future generations. Crappie, Blue Gill, and baby Bass really need the protection. Big fish eat little fish. As the softer vegetation decays, it provides another source of nutrients for the food chain. In the early stages of our lakes expanding, fish will be spread over a greater area and in the longer term view of the big picture, we will be experiencing an equivalent to the "new lake effect" and great fishing.
Notes from the lakes: Lake San Antonio- Last year,the Board of Supervisors (B.O.S.) suggested a plan for reopening in April but with the Wildflower Triathlon cancelled due to low water, county officials decided to move the reopening to Memorial Day. resulting in our community missing the highly anticipated spring season. When I chatted with a prominent county official, he suggested that calls to members of the B.O.S. could be effective in reinstating the April opening. The link to their contact info is http://www.co.monterey.ca.us/cob/supervisor.htm. Lopez and Santa Margarita are on the rise, but trailer boat launching will require the expected forecasts of rain to arrive in style.
Cachuma is reporting 9% of capacity, up from 7.5% where it was described as at "dead pool". Nacimiento has more than doubled since January 4, 2017 from 25% to 58% mid-January.
Rapid increases in water levels bring floating debris fields creating a navigational hazard. So heads up, boaters! San Antonio has also more than doubled in the same time frame jumping from the 6% that it spent all of last year to 14%. All of our reservoirs report that tributaries are still running and more rain is on the way.
Photo by Rich