10-1-23: DFW planting around 100,000 trout this fall. Due to the way artificial spawning has gone throughout the drought, we are seeing various sizes of trout being planted. Since eggs have been collected via electro-shocking over a number of weeks, each load of eggs hatch at different times. Since the one hen/one buck fertilization, the trout are in much better shape, grow faster and survive better. When eggs were collected at Pine Creek, the trout were sorted for weeks, then artificially spawned in a couple of days, making all the eggs the same age and same size when planted. With electro-shocking, all the fish from the egg collection are mixed together, this represents about the best “natural” spawn for artificial spawning. Planted fish are planted by the pound. Yes we are seeing some 4” trout, but also some 10” trout. By the pound we can see 2/lb up to 4/per pound. Yep, some will be bait for our bigger fish! We’re just trying to keep the pelicans out of the concentration of planted fish at the ramp.
With reduced trout planting and smaller trout the drought years, the tui chub have explosively reproduced and have pretty much taken over the lake in 2017. Yes, we have caught them in fall and winter months but mostly they are deeper than the trout & we don’t have to get that depth to get to the trout. I am not sure if they are surviving my release. ;-/ It’s going to take a heck of a lot of trout to put a meager dent in the minnow population and the stage two tui chubs are too big and protected by guardian chubs and the trout rarely even target the 5 to 7″ chubs. Fewer and smaller trout in this lake is not the answer. DFW is now increasing our allotment….even though the water levels and quality is the same as it was when they reduced us by 60% in 2015. It was estimated that 100,000 fish were planted in 2022 fall. Pelicans initially got the first several truck loads due to 1) high water temps and low oxygen on the first loads. 2) too shallow for too long of a distance. However, DFW began using a long net to push them out to deeper water and volunteers kept the pelicans scattered & that proved highly beneficial considering the conditions….pelicans got less free food and the lake got more fish. It is a never ending process with the pelicans. We actually saw to pelicans going after a young bald eagle before mom and dad and uncle Eddy from Circus grounds came to the rescue. Kinda upside down predator thing but I do have more respect for pelicans as predators when seeing them go after a bald eagle. Now with improved artificial spawning showing a stronger fish, we should see better growth rates and more eager minnow eaters. We did get some extra trout in 2021 due to other lakes not being able to be planted and hatcheries running out of room…that was a bonus. As with nature, some foods dwindle and others take off in changing conditions of the lake. The trout change their diet, often by choice and availability rather than necessity. The level at which they lay in the heat of the summer as been a necessity the last few years for dissolved oxygen rather than cooler water temps. Since 2017 we’ve had a brief thermocline form up, then just washes out and the trout have come up into 72F water just for enough oxygen. 2022 did the same thing in mid July. Our trout have evolved to sustain warmer water temps which have been natural in this lake in summer months, however, it can also have it’s affect on them after a long battle at the end of the line. Releasing trout in summer has always not been a good idea. DFW posted the catch and keep recommendation in early June, so there’s some issues. Wait until we cool off come fall. I have also caught Tahoe Suckers and Red Sides to 20″ but release these special fish alive, they are a critical part of the lake for cleaning things up. They don’t compete & we need as many vacuums in the pond as possible. The algae has taken it’s toll on the lake the last few years. Eagle Lake Guardians are currently working on that issue. When a problem occurs, generally it’s later in summer. The lake is being extensively watched and monitored this season by the State water board and clean water teams. The only current posting for caution has been Spalding area and bay. If the State finds any issues, we’ll be sure to let you know. At this time the monitoring of the lake will proceed as planned. (Of course it has been supposed to be monitored as per grazing plans by USFS, however that doesn’t appear to be the case) Volunteers now involved and trained….and the State will take the credit. LoL.
Complaints from fin trimming to catching should go to the local department of fish and wildlife biologist in charge of managing this lake. Just because our low number of anglers are catching some fish, it isn’t the masses we would normally see. Gone are the days of 30-50 fish C&R. Paul Divine Biologist: Paul.Divine@wildlife.ca.gov 530 254-6363, Redding office Supervisor: Andrew Jensen Andrew.Jensen@wildlife.ca.gov 530 225-2300 SEE TROUT PLANTING AND MARKINGS FOR YEARS PLANTED HERE. 100% OF THE PLANTED FISH ARE NOW MARKED BY FIN TRIMMING. No contingency plan, over population of tui chub and no plan for those either. God forbid what this year will bring after the chubs spawn. Quite a few fish had no fins at all, just his tail to maneuver. Sad case. We have caught hundreds of these mutilated fish this year in particular. Plus a lot of split tails. Last fall, lots of dorsal fin and 1-3 missing anterior and pelvic fins missing. The dorsal fin trim or mutilation may be a brood stock trim. We have been known to get some old broodstock fish planted in fall as they are from eggs collected here at the lake. We don’t receive the second generation anything or sterilized triploids. If it was anglers marking, there would not be so many and most are all very close to the same size. If it is DFW (see fin trimming note from DFW), I would say they are mostly mutilating these fish now and freeze branding was much better for the fish. If you get a nice one that you may want to have mounted, good luck as it will be somewhat mutilated when it comes to the fins and tails. Not a trophy trout to be proud of, that’s certain. 15 years ago we had a fly fishing group that would trim or notch fins/tails for 3 days of fishing. This group hasn’t been here for a long time. Personally, I don’t know any angler here that mutilates our trout. DFW won’t admit to it but definitely marks fish planted every year. Does one escape marking? On occasion. This is being done so that in the future, a native (native spawn) fish may be fully finned. LoL probably decades from now or not in our lifetime. Cows come before native spawn, lake elevation and water quality issues apparently. In the mean time, the hatchery raised/farmed fish might just swim in circles. LoL. Freeze branding didn’t handicap the fish like cutting off an arm two or their “legs” LoL. But when a fish only has a tail to use, that can prohibit some typical feeding patterns in this lake. Like rock flipping and rooting out the snails from the gravel bars.
Trout come and go with catching and mortality of release during the fishing season as this is a hatchery maintained lake. Adult Tui chub have no predators except pelicans if they can see them in shallower water and the chubs live over 32 years. They stay in the lake regardless and rarely close enough to the surface for the pelicans or eagles and are very wary of the osprey. The young of the year have only pelicans, grebes, loons, seagulls, terns and a few other birds to worry about, but the trout had always kept them in check until the severely reduced planting allotments kicked in. The juvenile chubs have very few predators but the pelicans can get on them during certain times of the year. Pelicans can only reach 3 to 4 ft down, so they have to target shallower fish. The trout mainly only target the hatch of the current year, although only rarely we encounter a 4-5″ chub in the belly of a fish over 5 lbs. Tui chub are now highly concentrated in the lake. They are often found in low dissolved oxygen range in the lake and the bottom of the stacked school is often below 40ft, they aren’t nearly as affected by low DO or algae blooms as the trout are. Our trout are rarely below 40ft even on the warmest of waters. The dissolved oxygen is generally too low to hold them. Chubs don’t need as much as the trout do. Note that chubs are in the super family of carp. That tells ya something right there. And the way they school, they can blacken your scope. They are a protective species of their own, even though they don’t run in the same schools. The adult spawner’s protect the juveniles and the juveniles protect the young of the year and separate again in fall. They appear to be well over populated and Do chubs eat their young even though they go into a protective mode? Yes, when opportunity knocks. But the chubs are not a predator species, have no teeth and smaller mouths, in general, plankton feeders so they can compete with the trout for food sources.
TUI CHUB INSIGHTS: The chubs scope differently than the trout do and are pretty easy to determine on your screen. Generally, they stack up and are very thick in zones of the lake that have dissolved oxygen levels too low to support trout. When spawning in the depths in early summer, they can also form a 5ft thick layer just above the bottom in 30-40+ft of water. Mostly, any large stacked school or blob of fish that the top is at 7ft and the bottom is at 47f+t are NOT trout. We caught some chubs 22″ long in 2016 and again in late July 2017, my biggest in 2018 has been 21″, 2019 20″. Huge monsters for chubs so they are doing very well….maybe too well considering the biomass and fewer trout being planted. With a little more spawning habitat back for the chubs up north, we saw another prolific hatch of chubs up in the northern basins this year. I believe their population density is going to bite us in the ass if it hasn’t already. I see this becoming a very bad problem for this lake now. People don’t come here to catch trophy tui chubs. Catching them will become very prolific in late July and August and quite possibly through Sept. This has happened again 2019. They resist arrest quite well, but you know when you have a chub over a trout pretty quickly. Chub dive deep and fight you under the boat, are tail thusters opposed to head shakers. Chubs don’t stay on top and cross from side to side, stay pretty much in the line straight behind the boat. Trout will stay out and up higher, run side to side, charge the boat after figuring out that peeling out line isn’t working. Then, once at the boat, the battle really begins.
Tui chubs are in 3 separate and distinct schools. Here’s how I classify them. Stage 1: Adult spawner’s. We have two schools. One school spawns in the northern basins and the other doesn’t leave the south basin. During the dry years up north, we had one year of lower spawning rates due to habitat loss & the northern spawner’s not knowing where to go to spawn in the south basin. But the next year they had it figured out and our tui chub spawn took off with a vengeance. We had little to no grebe nesting 2011-2016 so the tui chubs had very few predators to keep the young of the year in check for 4+ years. These are now all in stage 2 juveniles and rarely targeted by trout, too large for a grebe and now very wary to pelicans. Stage 2: The nursery or juvenile population. (Several years worth that are protected by sub adults I call guardians). I have seen these “guardians” rush out of the school and slam a passing trout like a linebacker. Which is pretty brazen for a fish with no teeth, little to nothing protecting their brain, and half the size. But numbers count and generally there is more than one guardian rushing the trout. Stage 3: Young of the year. This is what the trout target. When the adults spawn they can form a thick line protecting the beds before they disperse. Once the young of the year complete the hatching cycle (which can last through August/September and begin in May) we can see the schools of stage 1 and 2 form walls protecting the young of the year minnows. Generally we will see the minnows in closer to the shoreline, the nursery juveniles outside of the young of the year and the adult spawner’s outside of the nursery. It really is something to see. I call it “walling up” and it generally begins around late August/Sept just as there is a hint of fall in the air. It appears to me that the walling up is the chubs way of protecting their species from the trout. If we have chubs in those numbers, the trout either find their way into the young of the year schools, or they move on to a different food source until the chubs disperse and relax. We can literally smell the tui chubs when near massive numbers. As they transpire, they release a gas, especially the young of the year when in dense schools. So follow your nose come late summer and fall. Look for pelicans in large groups as well as a boiling on the surface. Out over the depths, the trout push the minnows up to within reach of the pelicans. So we often follow the birds when we see that. 2017 and 2018, the pelicans are following us.
When fishing, I try to avoid the stacking adult tui chub as well as the nursery chub. Generally the trout will be further away from the chubs or outside and above the chub school. If you’re in the chubs, that’s all you’re going to catch. Easy to determine on your line. Personally, I don’t really care what you do with them, they provide food for the trout for winter, but I think we need more trout to keep the young of the year in check. Once in the juvenile grouping, the trout don’t generally even attempt to eat them. We have a lot of chubs. You’ll see what I mean pretty soon. 2017 and 2018 I could troll 7 miles one direction and catch chubs 4 at a time. A waste of time. We never used to catch them trolling, only on bait under bobbers. So when trolling and catching tui chub 4 at a time? Can’t drag a line for more than a few minutes before a chub is on? Can’t get 4 lines in the water before a chub takes the first two in the water? What does that tell you? LoL. We also have Tahoe suckers (grayish with darker back, small nodes on the lower fins). Seasonally they can be modeled green back with reddish stripe, late summer they can be a little more on the yellowish green back. A treasure and rarely seen by anglers. Please release these in good condition if you catch them as their numbers are low and they are a special species to this lake that don’t complete with the trout. Speckled dace (a minnow that only grows up to remain a minnow). Generally seen taking harbor near the transom of an anchored boat and various sizes from small to 1- 1 1/2 inches at most. Mostly in family units from smaller to larger and 50-100+ individuals is a big bunch.
Various zoo-plankton’s and other microscopic food sources have also become very prolific to the point of fowling lines and down rigger’s…and when thick enough, can plug jet pumps. The biggest change in the fishing occurred in less than one year. From catching and releasing tons (20-40+ per day) of 2-3+ lb fish to being lucky to get one or two was a dramatic shift in Eagle Lake in less than one year. Finding trout in the middle of summer at 17 to 20ft deep at 73F water temps is pretty unnatural but that’s where they were in 2016-2018 when surface temps were above 70F. We may have seen some 4+lb fish but their numbers being caught were few and far between…lots of 2 to 3 ½ lbs as usual. This fall we have seen a handful over 5lb but on average, be happy with a 3 1/2lb. Over 55 years of eating these trout, the best quality of meat comes from a 2-3lb trout. Meat of the bigger trout of 4 +lbs is generally grainy, mealy and softer. Everyone wants to catch a big fish, but the quality of the meat is not nearly as good as smaller fish. I rarely keep a fish over 4lbs for eating myself unless it’s damaged or water quality issues prevent me from wanting to release it. To me, it is a waste if it doesn’t eat as good as a smaller fish but I will smoke it. In warm water months, it’s not unusual to see meat that’s softer in a few fish. Note that under new regulations, one can’t fillet fish on the boat even if bringing back all the carcasses and guts to throw away to avoid long waits at the fish cleaning sink. I’ve been pulling my boat out and filleting in the boat in the parking lot when lines are long or simply come home to clean em. Bypass so to speak. By the way, creel census is completely volunteer. One doesn’t HAVE to have their fish measured or weighed.