Eagle Lake Update

Eagle Lake - Susanville, CA (Lassen County)

by Val and Randy Aubrey

Lake conditions; Temp mid 40's. We have seen negative temperatures the last few days. The colder temps can cause a "flash freeze" on the lake surface as the sun rises. If in a tube or kayak, don't fight it. It will melt out soon and it deserves your respect. It is a mazing how powerful the skim ice can be when it covers a large section of a body of water. It really doesn't take that much to cause problems for anyone wading, tubing or in a small boat. If you are wading, great, just get out of the water. Tubes will get pushed around and a rocking motion generally breaks up the edges. Kayaks....at the mercy of the ice and easily tipped by skim ice if one is not concentrating on staying upright. Just understand that the skim ice is more powerful than one might give it credit. Been there, done that.

We still have just about an inch of snow on the ground. The storm didn't leave much behind at lake level. Cold temps of -4F for lows to 25 to 33F for high temps since so nothing has really melted back. Foggy conditions prevail after any moisture that hits the ground and a cold AM temp will keep it on the pond for hours. Your best friend out there is NOT your GPS. It's an old fashioned compass. Some smartphones have a built in compass...learn how to use it. GPS is only good to show you your position on the water, but too slow of a relay when going slow. A big fish can take a float tuber or kayaker away from sight of the shore line when it's foggy and it's easy to get directions screwed up to get back towards shore. So get a bead on your direction back to shore or you might end up out in the middle of the lake by the time the wind comes up or the fog lifts.

As a note for fly fishermen/women walking the shoreline and wading: First, fish the water before you walk in it. I pulled two nice trout out of a shallow gravel bar 5 ft from shore 5 minutes after a guy walked right by them getting to a better point. Second: With cold temps and snow on the ground, felt soles on your boots or waders are not ideal to walk in. Once the felt is wet, every step in the snow begins to build up layer upon layer of ice which can easily end up over 3 inches and can cause twisted ankles and falling down. Felt soles are great in the water but not in snowy conditions. I have found that ice cleats on my lug sole boots work great for sticking to slippery rocks as well as walking to the water.

It isn't unusual to find fish deeper in the water column any time of the year on the east side, especially once the bite slows down on top. However, I always run a topline & it really, never fails when the fish are active. We are still finding great topline action 4-8ft deep using brown, cinnamon leech and tui chub minnow trolling flies. Brown and pumpkinseed grubs are doing well too. Some folks are even running a couple feet deep successfully. All in all, toplining rules the water in December, even though we can always catch a few much deeper.

We can expect to see the courtesy dock to be removed early this week. It is by law of Boating and Waterways. Only small boats now should even consider launching.

Trolling speeds have been pretty fast at 2.8 to 3+ mph and generally stay fast though the end of the season. The east side up off Eagles Nest and Black Mt has been fishing pretty well for trollers. But there are fish being caught closer. Pikes Pt has been fishing well in 20 to 37 ft of water (topline). Christie Bay towards Wildcat Pt was holding nice trout, mostly topline and over water 15 to 35ft deep and good from shore too. Just south of Wildcat Pt we had several patches of weeds to tend with. Lake of the Woods to Shrimp Island, fish had moved in to the second ledge 15 to 35ft of water most of the morning. Trolling nightcrawlers has also done the trick, slower trolling speeds for crawlers. Don't try to split the difference between using a fast running lure on one rod and a worm on the other or neither will be working at its best. This is the time of year that you have to prevent your worms from freezing. Don't put them in the ice chest in the boat & tow it up or put them in the back of the truck, they will be frozen.

Cold temps will bring more fish back to foraging the shoreline on a regular basis and we will pretty much be limited now that the dock will be removed. The fly fishing for those wading this week has been up and down but getting better as the surface temps drop into the mid 40's. One day we might hook up & release 15 to 20, the next day lucky to release 4 to 6. For fly fishing this week, small brown leech patterns and minnow patterns have bought us the most strikes. Nothing real fancy. I use a brown wiggle dubbin nymph that is my best fly over the rocky points and shallow gravel bars that has bought me the most fish.

The thermalcline that was suspending the shrimp is loosening its grip, so the concentrations are thinning down. The trout are still chasing minnows too.

The fish foraging along the shoreline have been feeding on a plethora of different critters. Mostly shrimp, scuds, snails, toe biters and small leeches on the west side, scuds, minnow and leeches on the east side. Trollers still hitting limits on top, but we have also see some fish caught a little deeper (12 to 15ft). Cover the bases but our most active bite remains in the upper 10ft of the water column, I cover 4 to 7 ft deep and have no less than 100ft of line behind the boat. When that bite slows down, I drop a few lines, but not all of them.

As we head into the end of the fishing season, the trout will continue to hit minnow patterns, leech patterns and florescent orange lures. From shore, jigs really start picking up. Wild turkey, brown, olive, black and often yellow is the ticket. For bait: Good old nightcrawlers, powerbait (beige garlic, orange, green, yellow and sometimes red or pink). Rainbow can cover several color options.

Structure is everywhere on the west side, including up to ½ mile out from shore in some places. One can be in 40ft of water one minute and 2 ft of water the next on the west side. When skies are overcast, brighten up and/or darken down for lures and trolling flies. Heavy winds can bring them up or drop them down even deeper if the waves hit 3 to 5 ft in height (of which this is not the time of year to be out there if it's that rough). The clarity of the water is still not prime (even though the clarity is as good as it’s going to get right now) but after two calm flat days, I could see bottom clearly at 6 ft. Contrast is the key and a scent trail won’t hurt. We often find yellow a good color when the standards don’t work but on a clear day, that doesn’t always pay off.

Shore fishing has been very good for bait fishing. Slowed down a bit during the calm days but well worth the effort for most folks to take home limits. Location will now depend on any winds that blow. The trout are still pounding tui chub minnows but zoo-plankton has also kicked into gear over the depths. The Jetty is difficult to access the water is very shallow there now. Christie Day Use (the rocky gravel bar and point to the left of the parking lot) has been fishing pretty well. Just like any shore fishing though, it's often just a matter of waiting out the fish. Pikes Pt has been fishing OK. The ledge north of Camp Ronald McD has been fishing good from shore as has the area just south of Eagle’s Nest. There is one section of Pikes Pt that a person can easily cast to 30ft of water. That’s the rocky points defining Pikes Cove from Pikes Pt. The gravel bar that begins north of Camp Ronald McDonald and runs to Eagle’s Nest has an awesome ledge that is barely 15 to 20ft from shore now in most locations…a hefty cast will land over 40ft of water pretty easily. The ledge is loaded with hydrilla and steep rocky structure where the trout like to hold until wave action drives them out. It’s called The Springs area for a reason and in some places the current is pretty strong. Wind from the south, west and both can make the east side unfishable when waves begin breaking in. One can drive into Eagle’s Nest and access the shoreline there. I don’t recommend towing anything. It’s a pretty steep climb coming out and once it’s icy, you may need chains on your 4x4. There is a user made road that people have driven down to the lake however I don’t recommend driving to the lake shore outside of Eagle’s Nest immediate area. It is illegal regardless of no signage and low lake elevation. If you do drive to the water anywhere on the lake outside the legal launch ramp, be prepared that you may receive a citation & it could arrive in the USPS mail.

Ice has incroached towards the Youth Camp now.

Fly fishing via wading has been excellent and on a tough day of fishing one can still release 4 to 6 in the morning, on a good day 20-30 and depending on how long you fish, releasing 40-50+ is possible from a tube or kayak covering some territory. Take the good with the not so bad. Being able to cover the territory has been critical on the tough days when the fish are scattered and the masses are pounding suspended shrimp plankton over the deeper water.

Be prepared for icy road conditions to get here from highway 36. It is doable but be sure you have 4X4 and carry chains. Often it's the vehicle in front of you that makes you lose traction....getting traction back on a climb is the hard part.

It is nice to have a heat source this time of year. A propane heater can work wonders until the winds come up. Camp fires make it quite comfortable but you have to pack in your own wood. Chemical hand-warmers are a plus but have become the #1 litter we pick up along the shoreline next to water bottles and fishing line. The larger pouch warmers produce more heat & last longer. If you are wading, be sure to have a dry set of clothing packed in the car/truck. It only takes one slip on a rock to end up in the water. Been there, done that….had dry clothes or would have gotten hypothermia. The elements this time of year can easily kill you if you aren’t prepared. and with high temps in the 20's, getting wet isn't the best thing you can do. If nothing else, make your trip miserable rather than fun and memorable. But it is a great time of year for fishing without having to launch a boat. There is no handicap accessibility to shore fishing any more. They were lacking to begin with but with low water levels, nothing has been done to fix it. Count on a long walk to the water in the areas where the fishing is best.

DO NOT DRIVE TO THE WATER ON THE WEST SIDE. DUE TO LOW WATER LEVELS, PEOPLE ARE DRIVING OUT ILLEGALLY TO HAVE EASIER ACCESS TO THE WATER. DOING SO WILL COST YOU A TICKET. BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING WITHOUT BEING VISIBLE. CAMERA’S IN THE WOODS & PATROLLING ON BICYCLES. THE OSPREY MANAGEMENT AREA SIGNAGE GENERALLY LEAVES A LOT TO BE DESIRED, HOWEVER IGNORANCE OF THE LAWS IN A WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT AREA IS NOT AN EXCUSE. COST WILL BE BETWEEN $300-$400 FOR YOUR TICKET THAT YOU MAY RECEIVE IN THE MAIL VIA DMV. Yes, the osprey are now gone, however other large birds of prey such as anti-social bald eagles (mostly all residents) still inhabit the area. People do break the law often, some are repeat offenders. If accessibility was improved in one or two sections, violations and violators would be reduced. There has never been any easy land access on the west side. One must be able to pack their gear well over ½ mile from the upper road across rocky terrain to get to the water. Only Wildcat Pt is outside the wildlife area, access isn’t ideal and during warm rainy storms, the roads in consist of 6” of mud but basically only a little over 100 yards to the water’s edge when legally parked. 4X4 with high clearance is the only way to get in besides using ATV or UTV’s….however, user made roads do exist below the tree line, but that doesn’t mean they are legal roads to use. Signage is usually not up or visible….mostly vandalized as soon as the USFS puts them up….often by rookies who put them everywhere, including the primitive campsites that have historically been available & used by many. Historically, people use to tow in small boats (not easy in itself) and launch off the gravel bar….USFS posted the road down last fall but a few folks still continue to drive down to launch kayaks. Just know that you are breaking the law & won’t see the camera that catches your license plate or the “recreational bicycle rider” writing down your license number. Those of us that are mobility impaired or the walking disabled have little to no access ANYWHERE along the lake for fishing and where old closed roads still exist, vehicular access remains restricted. If the USFS actually improved access to Wildcat Pt and one other area close to Shrimp Island after Sept 15th, there would be less damage to the shoreline, less litter & more money in our local economy without causing any harm to the gravel roads or resident and migrating wildlife. By December, the Brockman Lava Beds harbor snowshoe hares, Jack rabbits, cotton tails, mountain lions, bobcats and grey fox. Birds of prey are mostly bald eagles, various hawks and various owls. None of which are endangered, nesting or rearing young this time of year. The protected area is mainly for Osprey nesting in spring and summer, hence “Osprey Management Area”. Signage closing the area to all foot traffic between March 15 and Sept 15 is rarely maintained but has been on a map for decades….signage, whether it’s there or not, isn’t an excuse. Although, access by boat cannot be restricted. After Sept 15, one is allowed to only walk through the area, no motorized vehicles (including electric carts or wheelchairs) are allowed at any time. Only bicycles, foot traffic or horseback is allowed regardless of what vehicles one might see breaking the law.

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