Big Adventure to Mostly NorCal
Eunice and I drove our new car northward on a fishing and sightseeing trip, once I was finished with grading duties and ready to go.
On Friday, June 11, we basically drove from Moreno Valley to interstate 5, then northward on I5 until it was time to stop at a motel. We wound up in Yreka, CA, near the Oregon border. Once we got past the Sacramento Valley, the scenery became very beautiful. Shasta Lake, a huge reservoir on the Sacramento River, was virtually full and very beautiful. Eunice didn't recognize the lake, probably because it usually is far below capacity. All the rivers were high and on the verge of bursting their banks, and the mountains and forests looked inviting.
The next day, I was planning to go fishing in southern Oregon. June 12-13 were a free fishing weekend in Oregon, so fishing there that weekend was part of my moneysaving plan. However, Eunice told me "I have never been to Portland before" and was jealous of the fact that I had once, so we were required to go to Portland and check it out. This was the first of numerous itinerary changes during this long, strange trip. We arrived in Portland late afternoon/early evening, after a beautiful drive amongst trees and wildflowers throughout western Oregon. Portland has a really nice atmosphere, so we liked it. In fact, all of Oregon has an eco-friendly, nice atmosphere. Gas station attendants pump gas for people, which I was not used to, yet prices are somewhat lower than in California. In Portland, we drove downtown and stopped at a park there, took pictures and walked around. Then we went to a Motel 6 in nearby Troutdale. (I liked the name of the town.) While on the way, we passed the convention center, which I recognized as the place where I stayed for a Western Psychological Association convention long ago. The walkways between the buildings were easily recognizable, as was the nearby, really large Willamette River, although it is dwarfed in size by the Columbia River.
On June 13, we finally got to go fishing. First, I tried going to a fishing store to get regulations and perhaps a book or booklet about fishing in Oregon. It turned out that the fishing store was more of a snack shop, and the young woman who was working there said that they had run out of regulations and weren't given any more of them. Oh well, I decided to drive toward Mt. Hood and figured that we would see a fishing store on the way. Eventually, Mt. Hood was looming large in front of us, and we found a place along state highway 26 called The Flyfishing Shop. Their answer regarding regulations was something like, "We are not licensed to sell licenses. Therefore, we don't carry regulations." Huh? I guess that is the downside of being in an ecofriendly state. I asked the employees where a good place to catch trout in the area was, without necessarily flyfishing, and they told me Trillium Lake, up the road about 15 miles, was good. I also asked about the trout limit, and they said you could keep 5 of them. They also told me that anyone could fish for free that day, even out-of-staters. Thus, we headed up the road for Trillium Lake (which name my mother informs me is a beautiful type of flower native to that area). We made it to Trillium Lake in good order, and as usual, I got out of the car to check around while Eunice sat in the car and read. The place has a fantastic view of Mt. Hood, which bears a strong resemblance to Mt. Fuji, and was covered in snow and glaciers. There were numerous people fishing, but not catching much except for a few stocker Rainbow Trout. However, I saw some fish surfacing in the lake. As I walked along the dam, I noticed an outlet creek which poured out of the lake over the top of some metal tubes. There was a large pool on the outlet, so I went down there to take a look. Wow! The place was full of fish, albeit small ones, and they had a Cutthroat-like appearance. We started fishing in the lake first, and since fish were surfacing, I tried using a bobber and fly setup. I soon hooked a small fish, which had a reddish, Cutthroat Trout like appearance in the water, but somehow, it got the line stuck in the rocks near shore and broke off. After that, I headed down to the big pool on the creek. Since it was surrounded by trees, I decided to cast a tiny, 1/80 ounce red and white minijig there, on 2 pound line. As soon as I did so, it was attacked by hordes of small fish. Soon, I caught one, which was indeed a Cutthroat Trout. It had red slashes under its throat, red fins, and was heavily spotted on a bronzish background. My first Oregon fish ever was a native Cutthroat -- how cool! After that, I must have caught about 20 more of them, all Cutthroats. I did not take any pictures of these little beauties, but they appeared to be Coastal Cutthroats, even though this was in the mountains. They resemble the picture of coastal Cutthroats in my California fishing regulations booklet, as well as other photos of them, except that they are more reddish in appearance, probably due to their being landlocked. After a while, I invited Eunice to join the fun, and handed the pole to her. She caught her first Cutthroat Trout ever there, and we ended up keeping 4 of the larger ones, which were around 7 inches. (Most of the fish were about 5-6 inches.) Yesterday, I found out that many streams in Oregon have a 2 fish limit, with lures-only regulations. Fortunately, we adhered to those regulations by accident. However, if I broke any Oregon regulations, I apologize to the state of Oregon. It was not through lack of effort that I was not familiar with their regulations; I asked for them in 3 separate places with no luck.
After leaving Trillium Lake, we had a long, beautiful drive southward all the way to Klamath Falls. Eunice cooked the Cutthroats in the electric cooking pan that we brought with us, and they were even more delicious than expected, though on the small side.
The next day, I was planning to go to Crater Lake National Park, sightseeing and fishing, since fishing is free in national parks. However, I remembered that entrance fees were about $20 the last few times we had been to a national park. When I mentioned that to Eunice, she immediately had us turn around to go fishing in California, where we already had fishing licenses. I guess Crater Lake was no big deal to Eunice. At that point, I was a little confused about where to go. I probably should have headed for Medicine Lake, a lake in NorCal which is supposed to have excellent trout fishing, or headed south toward Modoc County and its fishing spots, but all I could think of was that I wanted to go back to Copco Lake, which Eunice and I had fished for Yellow Perch back in the 1990s. Copco Lake and Iron Gate Reservoir, downstream from Copco Lake, are pretty much the only Yellow Perch fisheries in California, and I figured we could use up our old nightcrawlers there and catch lots of fish. It was a long drive to Copco, which involved travelling west on a nearly deserted highway virtually surrounded by wildflowers, but we finally found our way there. Copco Lake was beautiful, rocky and volcanic, but rather forlorn looking. There were numerous private houses by the lake, some with people present, but no open businesses. Even the Copco Lake Store had gone out of business. There was virtually no one fishing or exploring there aside from us. Eventually, I decided to stop near the bridge which crosses the lake near where the Klamath River enters the lake. I had read a couple of articles about fishing in that area in recent years which indicated that the size of the perch had increased, plus there were some large trout in the area which sometimes bit for people who were perch fishing. Before when we were there, the perch grew no larger than about 7 inches or so, but the internet stories I read talked about catching lots of 8-11 inch perch. The truth, at least for us, was somewhat in between. The Yellow Perch were still present in huge numbers, and hungry. We must have caught over 50 of them. Eunice actually caught more of them than I did. She definitely had her perch catching technique working. The larger ones seemed somewhat larger than last time, but not much larger. We caught 5 or 6 of them which were 8 inches long, with the rest smaller. We wound up keeping 11 perch, and released the rest. By the way, we both tried using jigs for the perch, which usually work well for them, but although they kept bumping the jigs, they were not solidly taking them in their mouths, so we were unable to hook any that way. Perhaps they were still a bit sluggish with the cold weather this spring and the cold water from the river which created a noticeable current where we were fishing. They were fairly easy to hook on worms, though. We fished until we ran out of worms. I found a few dead worms in one worm box, but put them on the hook anyway, and we even caught fish on those. No trout bit, though. We forgot to take any pictures there, which is a shame, since it was a really nice place. After fishing, we drove to a Motel 6 in Red Bluff in the northern Sacramento Valley, which was adjacent to our next turnoff, arriving there around 9 p.m.
On Tuesday, we headed east from Red Bluff, with the idea of going to the Lassen area, and spending several days staying in Susanville and fishing around there. When we passed the Lassen National Park turnoff, I asked Eunice whether she wanted to go there, just in case, but again the answer was, if they make you pay to get in, we won't go there. Oh well! I went fishing once in Lassen National Park when I was young, and remembered catching some extremely colorful trout in Kings Creek which must have been a native strain of Redband Rainbow Trout. They looked much like Golden-Rainbow hybrids. Anyway, Kings Creek was out, so we headed for a place east of the park called Silver Lake. Meanwhile, we had no ice in the cooler, since the motel in Red Bluff had run out. No ice, no problem -- we stopped at a snowmobile park, and filled the cooler with snow there, even though it was June 15 and the elevation was only about 5,900 feet -- simply amazing. While on the way to Silver Lake, my eldest brother called on my wife's cell phone. He was inviting us to stay at his house in Davis, CA, but unfortunately, we were not heading that way. He also asked us to help take care of his younger daughter in August when she is scheduled to stay with my parents, a request which we are happy to help with. It was my brother's birthday, but I was so preoccupied with driving at the time, that I forgot about that.
Anyway, when we got to the final turnoff to Silver Lake, to my surprise, it was a dirt road, with that red cinder cone volcanic stuff which is so common in that area, covering the road. By the way, Eunice had already managed to get a nice collection of small, pretty volcanic rocks by that time, mostly in Oregon. Well, weren't thrilled about driving around on dirt roads in our new little Honda Fit, which Eunice calls "good boy" and I call Lenny (based on our license plate). We went anyway, and a few miles later, arrived at a still snowy Silver Lake. As it turns out, we saw a couple of large trout in Silver Lake's outlet stream, but they would not bite. The fish had a bluish appearance with a crimson stripe, which I have noticed in Golden Trout and Golden-Rainbow hybrids. I think these were probably Redband Trout, and probably spawning. In short, we had no bites and saw no other fish. We tried salmon eggs and lures in both the lake and creek. I walked down the creek about 100 yards, and found a beautiful pond of about 1 acre, just the sort of place that Brook Trout and I both love, but the place seemed fishless, and nothing bit there, either. After giving up on the Silver Lake area, we rumbled back down the dirt road, leaving a trail of red dust in our wake, and headed to Susanville. In Susanville, we went to a supermarket called the Grocery Outlet, I think, which was pretty good. Then we bought more worms at the local Wal-Mart. While there, I talked to a young man who recommended fishing at the jetty by the marina of Eagle Lake, using nightcrawlers under a bobber. The only problem was that he said the fish usually only bit for about the first hour of daylight. Nonetheless, I figured they might bite in the evening, too, so we headed for Eagle Lake and its famous strain of Rainbow Trout in the late afternoon. (Eagle Lake is a large, natural, alkaline and somewhat salty lake that only specially adapted fish can survive in.) Well, I casted out nightcrawlers under a bobber as directed with one pole, and a lure with my other pole, for an hour or so, but nothing bit. Discouraged, we decided to stay in Susanville that night, but then head south looking for better fishing the next day. I think the fish in the Lassen area were still in sleepy mode. I don't think this area necessarily has lousy fishing overall.
On wednesday, I decided to try a place called McCoy Flat Reservoir first, which is not far from Susanville, about which I had read really good things. However, when I started heading up the hill out of town, I noticed a warning light go on in my car. This car model is very full of safety features which I am not used to, and has basically been idiot proofed which is a really good thing in my case, but sometimes, it does things which are downright silly. In any case, I was afraid our fears of tire damage from the rough dirt road to Silver Lake had unfortunately been realized. I turned around and went back to town, and found a gas station with free tire air. I filled up the tires with air there until they looked full, then went to Wal-Mart again to buy a tire gauge, since we didn't have one. It turns out that the rear tires were fine, at least after adding air, and the front ones were now overinflated (but they look good to me that way). Meanwhile, the warning light refused to go off. In fact, it is still on, but I have decided that the tires are okay, although I should let some air out of the front tires and remeasure the tire pressure.
After figuring out that my car was being paranoid, I decided to head to McCoy Flat Reservoir once again. This time, we made it there, but found the lake surrounded by a fence in the area we wanted to go fishing. Huh? I thought this was supposed to be a public reservoir open to fishing. Later, we found a small dirt road which appeared to be heading toward the dam area of the lake, but Eunice said that "good boy" didn't want to go on anymore dirt roads, so McCoy Flat Reservoir and its supposedly super fishing was out. I drove a few miles further to check out a creek called Pine Creek, which is actually the main inlet to Eagle Lake. It is open to fishing in that area, which is in its upper reaches, and supposedly full of Brook Trout, but when I found what I think was Pine Creek, it was fishless as far as I could tell. it appeared to bubble from a spring into a nice pool, then flow downstream through a field. The water was beautiful and clean, everything was visible, but no fish could be seen. After that, I decided to really give up on the Susanville area and head south. My new plan was to head to the Gold Lakes Basin, which I had never been to before, then stay at a nearby motel. The Gold Lakes Basin is at the very northern end of the Sierras, and is reputed to have excellent trout fishing. (Everything north of there is part of the Cascades, which is basically a series of volcanoes, whereas the sierras is mostly granitic and results from the buckling of the north American tectonic plate as it gets pressed by both the Pacific Plate, and the smaller plate that lies under much of the western side of California.) We eventually found our way to Gold Lake sometime in the late afternoon. I walked out on the dock by the launch ramp there, and looked down in the water. It appeared to be about 20 feet deep there, and I could clearly see every pebble on the lake's bottom. Wow, is that water ever clear! Unfortunately, I could see no fish. Nonetheless, I tried fishing from the nearby shore for awhile, with no bites. While I was there, I spoke with a man who said he was tying his boat to the dock, and planning to return at 4:30 the next morning to go fishing. I could see trolling equipment in his boat. I was wondering about his sanity a bit, considering how windy, snowy and cold it was there, but I hope he had good fishing.
After leaving Gold Lake, we headed for upper Salmon Lake, mostly to look around and take pictures. It was really snowy there, and I couldn't see anyone fishing there or any signs of fish, but I think it would have good fishing once it warms up a bit. The place I really wanted to go to was Sardine Lakes, anyway, so we headed there next. These lakes are lower down, actually only about 5,800 feet or so, I think, yet are supposed to have good fishing for both Brook Trout and Rainbow Trout. (Usually, Brook Trout are only found much higher up in the Sierras.) In addition to the 2 lakes, I had noticed a pond below the lower lake in studying for the trip, just the sort of place I like to fish. It turns out that the parking lot for Sardine Lakes said something like "Sand Pond Picnic Area," so the pond on the map must be called Sand Pond. I walked about 100 yards over to the pond, saw it had a small inlet from Lower Sardine Lake, and got really happy when I saw dozens of baby Brook Trout scurrying around in the area where the creek enters the pond, which appears to be about 2 acres in size. I went farther on and found that the main branch of Sardine Creek had numerous, nice size Brook Trout visible in it. I went back and got my fishing equipment, headed for the pond, and had a limit of 8-10 plus inch Brook Trout within about 1/2 hour, on worms under a bobber. There were also lots of fish surfacing, so I tried a Black Knat fly, but only had one strike on it. The fish were probably feeding on a specific type of insect, and I didn't know what pattern to use. Anyway, the fishing was so good using worms that I didn't mind. Eunice was sitting in the car reading while I fished, so after I had caught my limit, I went back to the car and told her that it was her turn. With her, we tried Sand Pond briefly, but she was having trouble hooking the fish, so we headed for the main branch of Sardine Creek, where the Brook Trout also turned out to be cooperative on worms, and she "caught her limit" there with some help from me. All 10 Brook Trout were caught between about 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., and no Rainbow Trout were seen. We loved Sardine Lakes, and in my opinion, it was the find of the trip. In addition, Eunice told me she wants to stay at the resort which is next to where we parked, in the future.
By the way, when Eunice got out of the car, the horn started honking for no apparent reason, another one of our car's quirks, apparently. I finally got the car to stop honking by pressing the door unlocking button on my car key. A couple of months ago, I apparently pressed the button to lock the door by accident while still in the car, so I could not open the door until I pressed the unlock button -- how strange. Anyway, Eunice had plans to head farther than I did that evening. She kept changing my route by telling me where to go, and we wound up at King's Beach at the north end of Lake Tahoe after 10 p.m. Unfortunately, most of the motel owners appeared to have already gone to sleep. We finally found one motel employee that was responsive to us, so we rented a room there. We had a dinner of delicious pink-meated Brook Trout, and a breakfast, and another dinner of them, from our trip to Sardine Lakes. The fish we caught there appeared to be wild fish. Although the lakes are stocked with fish, the ones we caught were from below the lakes, where no stocking probably takes place.
On Thursday, we decided to call my other brother, Bruce, who lives at South Lake Tahoe. I had been hoping to stop there on our trip, but Eunice seemed to be against it. She kept saying we should bring gifts, etc., but nonetheless, she eventually called them. Meanwhile, we headed for Donner Lake, basically because it was nearby and I had always wanted to see it. We found a public fishing dock there, and there were a couple of teenagers fishing there already, so Eunice sent me off fishing there while she waited to see if I could catch anything there. As it turns out, when I went back from the dock to the car to get my fishing equipment, one of the teenagers caught a Lake Trout on a worm. It was about 15 inches long, similar in size to the ones I caught 2 years ago in Colorado, and I think it was his first Lake Trout. He was really excited about it and surprised, since he fishes Donner Lake a lot but had only caught Rainbows before. Unfortuantely, that Lake Trout turned out to be the catch of the day, as in the only catch of the day. I tried worms, and the Krocodile Lure that I caught the Lake Trout on in Colorado, to no effect, and no one else had any more bites, either. After a couple of hours fishing there, I gave up, and we headed for South Lake Tahoe. Eunice called my brother while we were on the way there, actually. Bruce said we were welcome to stay there, and his young daughters were eager to go fishing with Uncle Robert and Aunt Eunice again, so we ended up going to their house, having dinner there, and basically hanging around that evening with my brother's family. Bruce and Rosalie's older daughter Branda was talking excitedly about going fishing, and showing us her Ugly Stick fishing pole which resembled ours closely. I also took that chance to call my eldest brother Craig to say, happy birthday, call my parents, and neighbors who were caring for our pets, yard, and house.
Friday, June 18, we had a plan to fish some of the places where Eunice and I had success trout fishing last year without the kids, but this time, bringing the kids to fish with us. After going to K-Mart to buy a Barbie Pole for Bruce and Rosalie's younger daughter, Beverly, the first stop was supposed to be Caples Creek (also called Woods Creek on some maps), below Woods Lake. I was to lead the way there, while Bruce followed with the girls in his car. However, I could not find the sign or turnoff for Woods Lake. Eventually, we figured out that it was a small road with no sign. After turning onto that road, we drove about 1/2 mile with piles of snow lining the road, until there was an SUV parked in the middle of the road in front of us. In front of the SUV was a large pile of snow covering the road, so cars could go no further. This was only about 8,000 feet above sea level -- simply amazing.
After that, we went to Plan B, which was the creek where I caught my personal best trout last year. As it turns out, that creek had been transformed into a raging torrent that was, in my brother's terminology, "ripping." Even with fairly large weights on our lines, the line was being pushed downstream and into snags. Despite this, one of my nieces apparently had a bite, and I think I saw one small fish, but that was it, fishwise. Then it was on to Plan C, which was Caples Lake by the auxilliary dam. Gettin to the fishing involved walking through some snow banks. It was shady there, and the wind was blowing heavily in our faces, so it felt really cold there. Despite this, the fishing was not bad there. We saw several stocker-type Rainbows caught by other fisherpeople, and eventually, I caught a Brown Trout, and Eunice caught a Rainbow there, both on worms, but the girls weren't able to catch any. I so wanted Beverly to catch a fish on her Barbie Pole, too! Eventually, we got so cold that we all decided to leave. Bruce took the kids home, but Eunice and I decided to stop on the main dam at Caples Lake to fish the creek below the lake, where we had good fishing for Brown Trout last year. The stream was fuller this year, but it was still fishable. However, we weren't able to catch anything in the creek this time. Eunice did have 2 bites, however. After we headed back to the car, I noticed one man fishing along the dam had 2 trout, one nice sized Brook Trout, and a small Brown Trout. The weather had gotten calmer by then, too. However, no fish were seen surfacing. Nonetheless, I tried fishing there for awhile with no luck, then we finally went back to my brother's house.
On June 19, we decided to take the girls someplace where we thought they definitely would be able to catch fish. We settled on Bluegill fishing at "Elliot's House" on the Tahoe Keys. Actually, Branda's friend Elliot and his family had already moved out of the house, but the house was unoccupied, and Bruce decided it would be okay to fish from the dock there. At first, I didn't see any fish there, but after a moment, several Bluegills showed up. They almost seemed to be looking at us as though they were expecting us to feed them. Once we obliged, more Bluegills appeared and started swarming the girls' baits. Branda kept saying something like "These Bluegills don't like my worm. They keep biting it but don't get on the hook" -- silly girl! Before long, they started catching Bluegills. Clearly, our efforts last year to rid the keys of these alien fish were unsuccessful. While I rationed the worms to the girls, I casted a small jig into the lake, which soon got clobbered by a better size fish which turned out to be a large Tui Chub. My brother was really happy to see that, since they are a native species, and my brother is involved in protecting native fish in the area. He said that was the largest Tui Chub he had ever seen. It was about 9-10 inches long, but they are usually much smaller. As it turned out, I caught 6 Tui Chubs, all on the jig, and Branda caught a really large one on a piece of nightcrawler, too. We didn't catch any Tui Chub last year at the same spot. We also caught about 12 Bluegills among us. Branda and Beverly caught several fish apiece. Beverly's Barbie Pole worked well there, as did Branda's Ugly Stick. They kept saying stuff like "fishing is fun" while we were there. The male Bluegills were about 7 inces long and in spawning colors, while the females were about 6 inches long and full of eggs. We ended up keeping 10 or 11 Bluegills, which we filleted and fried that afternoon. Eunice also convinced Bruce to let her keep one Tui Chub, which she wanted to try. Did I mention that Eunice is a wee bit eccentric? Anyway, she is Chinese, and the Chinese like eating Carp, so why not Tui Chub?
That evening, Eunice treated all of us to dinner at a local Chinese restaurant for father's day, so we had a relaxing evening and waited for our return trip home. Sunday morning, Branda and Beverly kept asking us to take them fishing again, but we said we really needed to go home. On the way home, we did take one side trip to Virginia Lakes, since I had told Eunice about fishing there, but she had never been there. As it turns out, road turned to dirt for the last little bit to Big Virginia Lake, Eunice said that "good boy" didn't want to go there, but that other, paved road was okay. That other road went to Little Virginia Lake, which is below the bigger lake. We wound up fishing near the boat launch area at Little Virginia Lake for a couple of hours, and fishing was reasonably good there. We lost lots of bites, I kept being preoccupied with snags, tying new lines, etc. but managed to catch two 8-10 inch Brown Trout, and Eunice, one small, 7 inch wild Rainbow, all on worms. I was surprised that we didn't catch any Brook Trout there, though, based on previous reports from there. Strangely, I had never fished Little Virginia Lake before, although I have fished in the Virginia Lakes drainage many times before. I think I will go there again. Anyway, considering how snowy it was at Little Virginia Lake, which is at 9,300 feet I think, the place I had wanted to go at 9,900 feet was probably still snowed in. It has definitely been a wet, snowy year in the western U.S. Bruce told me that it kept snowing in Tahoe until the end of May, which explains the cold, snowy condtions around there.
After leaving Little Virginia Lake, it basically was a long drive home. We even ate leftover food in the car. We finally arrived here at about 10:30 p.m. Sunday evening, where we were glad to see that all was well, including our 3 cats. (The youngest one is just a kitten, a little calico girl which we have only had few a few weeks.)
It was a super trip with my female fishing buddies, although no bragging size fish were caught. Interestingly, although I think I caught over 30 trout during the trip, not a single one was a Rainbow. I usually target other species, and prefer to catch non-stockers over stockers, but usually catch at least a few stockers, holdover or wild Rainbows. Species caught on the trip included: Cutthroat Trout (Coastal variety), Brook Trout, Brown Trout, Rainbow Trout (by my wife), Yellow Perch, Bluegills, Tui Chub, and a little Largemouth Bass by my niece Beverly at Tahoe Keys.
We also got lots of sightseeing and picture taking in. On the way home, Eunice said she had gotten tired of seeing pine trees, mountains and snow, but I never got tired of that. Anyway, we are back to the the hot, brown hillsides and civilization of summer in Moreno Valley now.
Aha Quin with Chuck and Cody Again
Since we didn't have much of a spring break, and Eunice didn't catch any fish when we did get away to Lake Isabella, we decided to go fishing at Aha Quin on the lower Colorado River. Eunice kept asking me to take her there, since we have gone there these past few Aprils and she always does well there. I think it's her favorite fishing spot. We timed the trip for a late afternoon/evening session, leaving Moreno Valley at 2 p.m. After taking a detour to avoid a construction project and major traffic jam on the 60 freeway in Beaumont, we arrived at our Aha Quin fishing spot at 5 p.m. As we got out of the car, I commented, "I'll go down and see if Chuck and Cody are fishing on the dock" semi-seriously. Chuck is the character we met last year at Aha Quin (mentioned on this blog last April) and Cody is his grandson. To my surprise, there they were. Both of them had Bluegills on there lines, there first of the trip. They had just gotten there too. Cody commented that this was there first time at Aha Quin since we saw them last year, amazingly enough, and I said it was the same for us. When I first saw them, I figured that they fished there all the time. I guess it's some sort of fishing ESP.
While Eunice went to the restroom, I started fishing. Cody said there were lots of Bluegills not too far from shore. I put a redworm on my hook, casted out to the right about 15 feet, Cody said, "That's perfect," and within 2 seconds, I had a good size Bluegill on the line. Aha Quin certainly is good to us. Over the next three hours, we caught about 20 fish, about equal numbers for both Eunice and myself. There were 6 really large Redear Sunfish, 1 Bass Eunice caught, and the rest were Bluegills. The Redears at Aha Quin average about 1 pound each, while the Bluegills average about 1/2 pound each. (This has been consistent over the years.) After awhile, I decided to try fishing with a tiny 1/80th ounce, red and white Crappie Jig, and wound up catching most of my fish on it -- 3 Redears, and about 5 Bluegills all on the same jig, which was nearly demolished by the time I retired for the evening. Eunice caught 1 Bluegill on it too. She kept retrieving it a little too steadily and quickly for the fish, so I told her to pause the lure, and sure enough, the Bluegill inhaled it. For me, I think it was a record catch of sorts, the most Redears I have caught on a lure in one day, maybe the most Bluegills, too -- I usually catch Bluegills on flies when I use artificials -- and the biggest volume poundage wise of Redears and Bluegills I have caught on jigs. We were two happy fisherpeople. By the way, there were a group of several Bass about 15 inches long each, that kept going after our fish as we were reeling them in, even though the sunfish we were catching were much too large for the Bass to eat. Eunice's Bass was her personal best, too. She doesn't catch many Bass, since we rarely fish for them. I thought it was a large Redear until she got it near shore. It was thin, but still good sized at 17 inches. The Bass looked like it was starving, and it was the first Largemouth Bass we have caught at Aha Quin. I asked Eunice if she wanted to keep it, and she wanted to keep her biggest catch of the day. When we brought it home and cleaned the fish, it turned out that the Bass had a large hook in its stomach which was preventing it from feeding, so the fish was starving. I think it also had laid eggs recently. Bass around that size are fairly common at Aha Quin (both Largemouth and Smallmouth) but they don't seem to get much bigger than that. The only fish we let go that day was a smaller female Bluegill; most of the Bluegills were colorful males in spawning condition, and all of them were of decent size.
Compared to the previous year, the claims of Chuck, who apparently is the world's greatest fisherman, were relatively lame. He told us about how he and his wife caught 40 large Bass at Lake Isabella in an hour and a half at the marina, after renting a boat and not catching anything -- but Chuck said it was dumb luck this time. He mentioned how he caught 8 large Striped Bass on one Slim Jim (one of those little pieces of dried sausage that gas stations sell). He also mentioned about how his name used to be mentioned in the Friday fishing report "every Friday" mostly with his catches from Vail Lake. That brought back memories, since my father and I used to go fishing there frequently (always from shore). Now, Vail Lake is closed to the public, sadly. Chuck told me one more story, as a former detective, involving Vail Lake. Apparently, on one occasion, there was a customer there who rented a fishing boat, but no fishing permit. He took the boat and parked it by the shore near his car, got a suitcase out of his car, and put it in the boat. One of the lake employees saw this happen, because he was chasing the guy down to ask him to pay $5 for the fishing permit. He got suspicious, and made the guy open the suitcase, since it did not look like it contained fishing equipment. It turned out that the guy's dead wife was in the suitcase, and the man admitted to having killed her. The first thing the employee saw was her lifeless head and red hair when the suitcase was opened. When asked why he did it, the man said he killed his wife because she had spent all of his money. The story about Vail Lake was pretty scintillating (and probably true), but overall, I think maybe Chuck's storytelling is slipping, or perhaps he has realized that there is a limit to how much I can tolerate before my eyes start to roll. But seriously, we had a really good time fishing with Chuck and Cody. Somehow, though, we outfished them by a wide margin that day, although they brought in an occasional fish.
At about 8 p.m., we headed to the Blue Line Motel in Blythe, which is run by the Jia family, originally from mainland China. They treat us like old friends and are highly solicitous of us. Mr. Jia met us and gave us a room with a refrigerator and freezer at a relatively low rate. However, we did not see Mrs. Jia, and the room was not in very good repair. The power frequently and unpredictably went out for a moment, before turning back on. It would have been comical had it not been worrisome. The plug on the air conditioner was too short to reach the electrical outlet, and of course, the room was hot. Temperatures were about 100 degrees in Blythe, although they were only about 80 degrees here in Moreno Valley. To top it off, when I tried to turn on the television, there was no remote control, and nothing showed on the screen. I went to inquire about how to get the television to work, and there was a hispanic man working there, which had never been the case before. It had always been Mr. and Mrs. Jia, with their son managing the place. Anyway, the new employee gave me a remote control, but I was left wondering what had happened to Mrs. Jia. Last year, Eunice told me that Mrs. Jia felt lonely and isolated living in Blythe, so Eunice tried to cheer her up. Now, we were worrying about her. Mr. Jia said that she had gone to bed early -- somehow I doubt that.
After a dinner of various crackers, some of Chef Boy Artie's creations, Gatorade, Powerade, and some of the smaller Bluegills, we went to bed.
After the previous day's success, we decided to head back to Aha Quin. Strangely, when we got to the dock, Chuck and Cody informed us that the fish weren't there, but there were some over by the launch ramp, where Eunice and I had caught some of the fish the previous day (including the Bass). Sure enough, there was a swarm of Bluegills visible 5-10 feet from shore at the launch ramp. Most of them appeared to be males in spawning mode. In fact, I could see several spawning nests just beyond the launch ramp concrete, being guarded by male Bluegills who were chasing other male Bluegills, and some female Bluegills around. It was kind of heartening to see, as a Bluegill lover. With my jig fishing success the day before, I decided to try using only artificial lures this day, while I rationed the few remaining nightcrawlers to Eunice. As it turned out, the fish weren't biting nearly as much on the jigs this day. I did catch 2 Bluegills on the jig at the launch ramp, but only after ditching the bobber I had been using the day before and casting to the fish that were close to shore. Eventually, even they stopped biting on jigs. I guess they got tired of seeing them, but even when I fished different spots, nothing went after the jigs. It was as though someone had flipped a switch to the "off" position. Fortunately for Eunice, the fish continued to bite on nightcrawler pieces. She caught about 9 that way, casting beyond the ones that were visible on the nests. The fish on the nests would not bite, anyway, but the other ones were biting. Most of the fish we caught were male Bluegills, but Eunice did catch one large Redear (female).
While we were by the launch ramp, a tribal-looking guy with a mohawk haircut walked onto the dock and talked to Chuck, who was still fishing there. I heard him say something about how they hadn't been enforcing the regulations before, and it looked like he was making Chuck leave our favorite little fishing dock. This is also a sort of gas station for boats, but previously, the employees always let us fish there as long as we didn't bother the boats. In fact, I think the employees found it entertaining to watch people catch fish there. Chuck remained calm, but obviously miffed. He called Cody, who had been fishing and swimming near us, over and said that they were going to leave. Fortunately, the fishing restriction only applied to the boat dock, not to the rest of Aha Quin.
Eventually, the worms ran out, so we decided to go to a place called Lost Lake Resort which also has good fishing, and a store that sells worms. For some reason, the fish were not much in evidence at Lost Lake, even on fresh nightcrawlers. (I had since given up on having a lures-only fishing day.) I eventually lost one which felt good size, but my hook came off due to a knot defect, apparently. We headed over to the other public area there, where the backwater meets the river, but it was swarming with campers, picnickers, swimmers, and boaters, so we decided not to even try there. Instead, we went to a place called Hidden Valley, which we had never been to before. It also is private, but we found a couple of public places there where we could fish. It seemed like a friendly place, with no "no trespassing" signs or anything of the kind. We stopped by a bridge built especially for golf carts, which are a common form of transportation around the river, and a launch ramp which spanned both sides of a backwater channel about 75 feet wide. There were lots of reeds in the area, and it looked pretty fishy. Sure enough, the moment I casted there with a worm, I hooked something large. It stripped some line off my reel, then headed into the nearby reeds. I thought about giving the line slack and hoping the fish would swim out of the reeds, but decided I had a better chance of landing the fish if I tried to steer it away from the reeds. In any case, my 4 pound leader broke. What a shame. Later, I caught a rather large Bluegill there, with brilliant pink and lavender colors, and Eunice caught a 1 pound Redear in the same spot.
Since Eunice saw another fisherman catch a 4-5 pound Flathead Catfish at Aha Quin the evening before, she wanted to return to Aha Quin around dusk to try for catfish. As it turns out, we saw a group of 3 people catch 2 smaller Channel Catfish, and a typical 1 pound Redear, while I tried in vain to get something to bite my jig, and Eunice once again outfished the rest of us by catching another big Redear and 2 more Bluegills before we called it a day. I guess this was her day. This trip was her Mother's Day present, in a way. We released a smaller female Bluegill I caught on my jig, and kept the other fish. One of the guys who were fishing near us mentioned that he netted a 16 pound Flathead Catfish for Chuck the evening before, after we had left. Chuck had told me that he caught a big Flathead the night before. This time, he wasn't kidding.
Once again, Chef Boy Artie, Gatorade, Powerade, and Bluegills were on the dinner menu, but this time, it was Bluegill sashimi (yum) and Bluegill soup.
We checked out of the motel, unable to find either Mr. or Mrs. Jia. Both of us are under the impression that something happened to Mrs. Jia, since we never saw her. Since we had basically been catching sunfish species, we decided to try some new spots for possible Catfish or Striped Bass, etc. I think we would have been better off, fishing wise, going back to places we know. I ended up trying a bunch of canal spots around Blythe while Eunice sat in the car, avoiding the oppressive heat. I did catch 2 Smallmouth Bass at the first spot I tried, one of them, a pretty 12 incher which gave my rod a good bend. I showed the fish to Eunice, then released it. It is a pretty strange experience catching these cool-water fish in a canal in the searing desert. A while later at another spot where nothing was biting, an official looking truck pulled up behind my car. It was a fish and game Warden. After some awkward introductions, we had a good conversation while he politely inspected our catches and we talked about fishing. His name was Officer Shanley, and he congratulated us on our good catch upon inspecting our cooler full of frozen fish. (I mentioned that we knew about the new combined panfish limit of 25 fish per person in California, and we had about 25 of them in the cooler, which was half of our double limit of 50.) He told us about a fishing place called Goose Flats south of town, so we headed there next. It turned out to be a disappointment. The river bank there is steep, the river swift and hard to fish, not really our type of fishing. I find that the current just sweeps our lines downstream, and nothing bites, in swift water like that, at least in my experience. There was a small -- really small -- branch of the river which ran through a wooded area. There was a pool downstream from the road that was about 20 feet wide and 50 feet long, so we decided to try fishing there. I caught a couple of tiny Bluegills on worms, put them back, then added a bobber to cast farther down the pool. I immediately hooked a Largemouth Bass there, about 12 inches long, but the pool was full of branches and roots, and the fish immediately headed for some branches on the left side of the pool. I tried getting it out of there to no avail, and eventually, my line broke. Oh well! The interesting thing is that another, larger Bass followed the one I had hooked. I am guessing that I hooked the male, and the other one was the lone adult female of the pool. There was also a colorful 7 inch male Redear on a nest just in front of me, another one of those heartening signs. It's probable mate was just to my right. Neither one of them would bite on our offerings, but we didn't want to prevent them from completing their spawning activities, anyway.
After that, Eunice wanted to go to a place called Oxbow Lake where we had fished once before. It turned out that nothing was biting there, surprisingly. We also tried a few more canal spots, but could only manage a few small bites, no fish. We also checked out a place called Cibola Wildlife Refuge, but decided not to fish there when we found out the parking fee was $10 per vehicle, especially since it was about time for us to go home. We finally ran out of time and energy, ate odds and ends in the car around, then drove home. Next time, I guess it will be back to Aha Quin for us, and maybe, Hidden Valley and Lost Lake. Hopefully, the weather will be a bit cooler next time, and the fishing just as hot.
A Crappie Per Day Keeps the Skunk Away
(Explanation of title: Crappies are a type of fish popular with many fisherpeople, and a "skunk" is a fishing term for not catching anything.)
Eunice's and my schedules finally cleared up this weekend, at the very end of spring break. Thus, we quickly assembled ourselves for an overnight trip. We were planning to go to the Colorado River around Blythe, where we had gone the last 3 spring breaks for short trips, but curiosity got the best of us after I read a couple of fishing reports touting the super hot Crappie fishing at Lake Isabella, the lake after which Eunice's daughter named herself in 1993. Thus, we headed for Lake Isabella on Saturday. We left our home in Moreno Valley around 11 a.m. and arrived in Bakersfield around 2:15 p.m. or so. We went to a gas station, where Eunice decided our car needed a good cleaning. We spent about half an hour cleaning the car, during which time a homeless woman begged me for three dollars, and I obliged. About ten minutes later, we were still there, so she asked us for money again. This time, my wife said "no" and the homeless woman gave us a dirty look. Hmm, it's a pityful thing to see so many homeless people, yet not know how much to help or how to help them. (Being asked for money is a common occurence in Moreno Valley, too.)
After the car cleaning, we headed for Lake Isabella, and after a beautiful drive along the surging waters of the lower Kern River, made it there around 4 p.m. We were looking for a place called Kissack Cove, but weren't sure how to get there. We ended up inquiring about a motel room in a town near the lake, and asking the owner how to get to the cove. It turns out that it is an obscure looking dirt road where we had seen a policeman giving someone a ticket, but there were several cars down by the lake in that area. Around 4:30, I started fishing, while Eunice waited to see if the fishing was any good. Lake Isabella seems like one of those places where the wind follows people wherever they go. It was really blowing, and people weren't catching anything, but some of them had a smattering of Trout and Catfish they had caught earlier. I ended up walking all the way to the end of the point at the west end of Kissack Cove, casting randomly with a green jig on 2 pound line on the way. Once I got to the end of the point, it was less windy. (The wind was blowing around both sides of the point and meeting in that area.) I made a cast into the relatively calm water in that area, worked the jig in a stop and go retrieve, and saw the bobber slide under about 10-15 feet from shore. I lifted my rod, and it was definitely a good size fish -- a drag puller on my 2 pound line and loosely set drag. A couple minutes later, I pulled in my first Lake Isabella fish, a really good size Crappie. (I had only fished Isabella beriefly in 1993 and didn't catch any that time. We did mostly creek fishing for trout higher up that time.) As I brought it back to the car, I got oohs and aahs from the fisherpeople; some estimated that the fish weighed 2-3 pounds, but I knew better. It's pretty easy to see how fish sizes get exaggerated after that. I brought the fish to Eunice, which convinced her to try this spot. It measured a bit over 13 inches, and I guess (honestly) about 1 1/4 pounds.
At that point, I had visions of wide open, fish per cast fishing for large Crappie, possible double limits, and the official renaming of the place as Kickass Cove, or at least, Kickass Point. Naturally, the reality was nothing like the fantasy. When we got to the point, nothing else bit. We fished jigs on light line extensively, and worms on jigs, both under bobbers, with zero action. We also tried worms on the bottom, but nothing bit. We did see a couple of guys using live minnows (which are allowed there) catch 3 smaller Crappie, but that was it. We gave up around 6:30 returning to the car in a howling windstorm, and went to a place called French Gulch. Once there, we saw a guy on the far shore catch a Crappie on a live minnow. After that, he gathered his stuff to leave, and offered us his remaining 4 minnows. That saved me from the embarassment of going into a "brother, can you spare a minnow" routine. He even showed us how to hook them, although we had jigs on our lines which were not the proper setup for minnows. He said he had caught about 15 Crappies in his spot on the far shore (only keeping 5 for his and his wife's dinner), but since it was going to get dark soon, I didn't feel like going there. As it turns out, the minnows were bit, even when hooked on the jigs, but we couldn't hook the fish. After Eunice's minnow was eaten by a fish, though, she started getting strikes on her little white jig. She had a good size Crappie almost to shore, and called for the net, but the fish came off before I could get there, even though I was running. I guess I didn't run fast enough. A moment later, Eunice lost another one farther from shore, and dang it, I was ready with the net that time. After that, things slowed down fishing wise, except for a couple of light bites, and it started to get dark, so we settled for the one Crappie, and went to find a Motel.
Having found no Motels around the lake which comported with our strict standards of cheapness, we wound up going back to Bakersfield, where one can always count on cheap motel rooms to be available. As it turns out, we found a really nice motel called Super Easy 8 Motel (or something like that) which had rooms equipped with refrigerators, freezers, microwaves, bathtubs -- everything we wanted -- and the rooms were in good condition with no smell of smoke. I think that motel was the catch of the trip, along with the Crappie I caught that day. After a poor night's rest in a surprisingly warm room which had me sweating until I turned on the cooler, and suffering some sort of probable allergy from pollen, and a leisurely morning, Eunice told me that she didn't sleep well, either. After driving about town a bit, and much discussion, we decided to go back to Isabella, but would take a look at some new places. First, though, we headed back to French Gulch hoping for better success at catching the Crappies there. By the time we got there, it was noontime, and the weather was calm, for a change. So were the fish. We couldn't get a single bite there this time, even from the far shore. A group of four guys showed up while we were there, who had caught about 5 Crappie among them at another marina called North Shore (I think), but they couldn't get a bite on their jigs at French Gulch, either. I guess it was the wrong time of day there. Anyway, we gave up around 2 p.m., and headed for Kernville hoping for some trout action in the Kern River above the lake.
There was a large park at Kernville, with lots of free parking and lots of people. Several of them were trying to fish, but I could see that the river was a murky, raging torrent swollen with spring runoff, and people's lines were getting washed downstream and tangled in brush and logs. So much for that idea. Next, we circled the lake, which is a huge reservoir (over 20,000 acres, I think). When we got to the place where the South Fork of the Kern crosses the road, it looked inviting enough to try. The water was tea-stained color from decaying vegetation, and so high that it was flowing all over the forest in that area. I tried a few casts, but nothing bit. The good news is that the lake's water levels are definitely on the rise, with lots of submerged vegetation, although it still appears about 20 feet below full pool. At one point at French Gulch, I swear I was standing near the shore, when I looked down and my foot was in the water! I hadn't moved, so apparently, it was the water that had moved. I think the water was several inches higher than the day before.
Eventually, we made our way back to Kissack Cove. By the time we got there, the wind was picking up again. One thing my wife doesn't like, is wind, plus she wasn't feeling well, so she sat this one out while I tried this area again. It turns out that the Crappie were biting more than the day before, but not that much more. I quickly lost one I had most of the way in, then missed a hard strike near shore. Finally, I caught my daily Crappie on the next strike. It wasn't as big as the one from the day before, but still, about 10 inches. After that, several other people who had been catching nothing were inspired to use bobber and jig setups. The cool thing is that, the man next to me caught his first 2 Crappies ever. Another man caught a trout on a jig, then a woman did, too. But all in all, there was just a smattering of fish caught once again. Eventually, a couple of guys with minnows showed up, and caught several Crappies. People with the proper minnow fishing technique clearly caught the most fish, although Eunice insisted that jigs work better. I think our jig fishing skill is definitely better than our minnow fishing skill. Besides, I think she feels sorry for the little minnows. Later, I lost a heavier feeling fish close to where our car was parked at the back of the cove, and had one more light strike after that. I wasn't feeling very happy about Eunice sitting in the car reading, plus my back was hurting from a combination of lousy sleep and too much casting and retrieving over two days, so I called it quits around 5:30 p.m. While we were getting ready to leave, a California DFG (fish and game) guy showed up and asked a couple of guys who had just gotten there "How many Crappie have you caught today?" As we left, the DFG guy was still talking to them, so I think he suspected them of doing something wrong (maybe an overlimit of Crappie, although that seemed unlikely given how few fish were being caught) -- either that, or they were just having a really interesting conversation. The DFG guy totally ignored us as we left, in fact, although we were not far away. We could have been using dynamite for bait, and he still wouldn't have noticed us. I wonder if he ended up writing tickets for those guys.
I had a thought of finding a place to fish on the river below the lake, but that did not happen. On the way back, we took a turnoff called Kern Canyon Road, which went back up the canyon on the opposite side of the river from the main road. It turns out that it does not have much river access. The only place it really was close to the river was at a place called Hobo Campground. We stopped there, and a guy immediately came to ask us if we wanted to camp for $18, picnic for $10, or just take a short break for free. We chose the free break. It sounded pretty expensive for a place with that name, if you ask me. Anyway, we could see that the river was pretty much a raging torrent, even below the lake. I think I have read somewhere that this is a good fishing spot, but probably not in such high water conditions.
After that, we basically, followed the poorly maintained, narrow paved road back to Lake Isabella, got back on the highway, and made the long trip home. It was after 11 p.m. by the time we arrived here.
The strange thing about the catch is that, I have caught exactly 1 Crappie each of my last 5 fishing outings. At least one can say I am "regular" in my fishing habits. On the minus side, I caught considerably more fish of other species at familiar Lake Perris where I had been fishing. One the plus side, the size of the Crappies at Isabella was larger than the fish I had been catching at Perris. Actually, the one I caught the first day was the largest one I saw at Isabella (with most others being aroud 9-10 inches and around 1/2 pound), and the largest Crappie I had caught in about a year. I think we learned a lot about fishing at Lake Isabella, too -- like go there in the morning when the weather is calm, plus there are lots of places to fish there which I had never heard of (mostly down dirt roads). I could also say that I learned not to trust fishing reports, but I already knew that. The place was pretty much a disappointment, but not a complete disappointment. I could see how people who were there at the right time in the right place with the right bait, could do very well, but that is mostly a matter of local knowledge. I also think that the relatively lax rules there allowing various types of minnows for bait probably makes it harder to catch the fish on lures such as the Crappie jigs which we were using. Most of the Crappies I saw caught were males, by the way, which approach shore before the females, and vie for spawning territories, but a few were females, including my larger fish.
Eunice actually seemed to like Lake Isabella, even though she didn't catch any fish. She said it was pretty, and she would like to catch some of those good size, yummy Crappies (or Trout or Catfish or whatever is biting) in the future, so hopefully, we will be back there in coming years, and have better fishing success. It might not have been very good fishing, but our trip qualified as a decent, low cost, quick adventure.