Text Message 530-249-1430
THERE HAS BEEN MORE THEFTS FROM BOATS AT MERRILL CAMPGROUND. DON’T LEAVE YOUR GEAR IN YOUR BOAT! MOSTLY WHAT IS BEING STOLEN IS REELS OFF RODS. LINE IS CUT AND REEL IS GONE. BEWARE!
Current Lake Elevations (scroll down page for current elevations & back to 2010)
LOW WATER RAMP AT GALLATIN: We are doing just fine launching this season. The low water ramp at Gallatin is doing great. There’s about 5-6ft of water at the end of the dock with a few feet of weeds. Hasn’t been a problem launching or getting in and out. Plenty of cement left. I usually get down to the end of the dock before starting up my motor and backing out. No problem, nice dock & good for the duration of the season. It’s the time of year we can see frost and ice on the dock in the mornings. Be careful. Be very careful on the rocks to the dock. The walkway to the dock extends to uneven rocky ground. We’ll start seeing some frosty mornings and can see ice for on the dock. Be careful, it’s that time of year. The dock can be pulled any time after Thanksgiving. It depends on how much snow falls (yes please) and the temperatures.
When the wind comes up, I always let small boats go in first as my big boat can handle bigger waves. It’s all about courtesy and safety. Smaller boats, to me, have the right of way to get off the water first when this lake whips up. I might not like waiting, but my boat can handle it better than a small boat. Any boat under tow (we have had a few) ALWAYS has the right of way at the dock. As a note when it is really windy, back your trailer in close to the dock, it makes for easier loading when you can have control. Further from the dock the wind can blow your boat away from the trailer, even if you have a rope on it, it can be harder to get back on the trailer straight. The dock can get icy or frosty on cold mornings so take caution as we head deeper into fall and winter.
KAYAKS: Kayaks can use the ramp. Gallatin Beach is a great launch but for those who have asked about keeping the gate open for fall for safe launching, you’re outta luck. This will not be left open for use. Designated as a picnic site and only allowed to be open 150 days per year. Plus, garbage from folks can’t be easily removed all the time and household garbage has been a seasonal problem for operators. It’s understandable but would be a great area and promote user friendly kayak access to good fishing and much safer water for late fall/winter use. Access is the ramp, Aspen old high water ramp (difficult to get through the tall grass), Christie Day Use (long haul) or drive into Wildcat Pt which we’ll see how that road fared after the equipment and work is completed on the tree removal later this month. Timber is being removed ASAP so the eagles can nest. Eagles generally begin their courtship ritual in Jan/Feb so it’s critical that work be completed after the fire destroyed some resident nests. We’ll give everyone working on this as well as the eagles a break for now. We can access that area via kayak from Christie by paddle. Tubers: Don’t get caught in the wind there. It might only take an hour to paddle from Christie to Wildcat on flat water, but getting back against the wind can take 3 to 4 hours so take heed. This is not a kayak or float tube friendly lake folks. It can be done but access is quite limited and difficult.
I advise all CA boaters to take the CA boat operators test and get certified. You’ll be amazed at what you don’t know after all the decades you have been boating. Those of us that have certified, we can tell in an instant when one is not. From the way you handle your boat at the dock to how your trailer is hooked up as well as manors on the water. Do it in your spare time. Take the course, the mini tests and get it done. Do not take the test thinking you know everything, take the course. You will need to know about sailing, PWC, Kayaks, Military vessels, buoys at inlets, ocean, distance from swimmers (including manual powered crafts) and much more. Trust me, no matter how long you have operated boats on a lake, you probably won’t pass the test without taking the course. Gotta pass by no less than 80% correct.
Note that USFS put up signage warning of possible impacts of the lake water on pets and possible swimmers. Take caution. See photo of sign in ramp conditions album.
NOTE: In the dark of the morning, turn your headlights off or use parking lights when backing down the ramp. Headlights blind everyone else waiting to launch or walking down the ramp to their boats. IF UNLOADING gear for a rental or boat, be sure to stay to the left where there is a slight turn out. Doing so allows big rigs enough room to turn around to launch or load their boats. It’s all about keeping things moving. Kayaks, stand-ups (paddle boards) and such have just as much right to use the ramp as other boats. I just advise to move them off to the side so boats can still get in while you’re getting everything ready to go out. There is not a parking place to leave your vehicle on the ramp. I can guarantee that if you do, it won’t be there when you get back. Parking is up in the parking lot. This single lane ramp is not the place to unsecure or secure your boat or to stop and load gear. Boats are coming in and going out. One person can screw things up for everyone.
Not very handicap accessible for fishing, parking or getting down to the dock so wheeler’s might need some assistance. Note that this is not a fishing dock, however, handicap folks have no other options so when we have some folks in wheel chairs fishing there we try to do our best to get in and out as fast as possible.
WARNING: Gallatin Road from the last left bend past Eagle Campground entrance to the marina has nasty humps and bumps on both sides of the roadway that you can’t see unless you know where to be looking. Guessing that roots from the pine tree’s have uplifted the pavement over the years and has not been repaired going on at least 10years and only getting worse. Slow down. These are not marked or indicated by any signage (if you look hard you’ll see some flagging on the trees beside the road). If you hit these bad spots at the speed limit of 35mph towing a boat you will get a very big surprise. Folks have lost boats off trailers, motors off transoms, motor cowlings, gear, downriggers and it can also stress damage your boat trailer if moving too fast. Check your trailer bunks for loose bolts and screws periodically. I had to rebuild my trailer after towing from Spalding for years over the expansion cracks and bumps, it takes a toll. We have seen ice chests, floor jacks, chains, tools/boxes, trolling motors, nets, rods and all sorts of things along side of the road. If the owner doesn’t discover they are missing, we return things to and notify the marina folks just in case. The rest of the road to the marina and to the ramp also has some issues so it’s best just to take it slow from that point on to the ramp. The trench at the gas pump has been filled in so that dip has been removed but the turn from the main road in to the low water ramp has a good bump.
SPALDING SOUTH RAMP: There’s now less than 2ft of water at the end of the cement. Beyond the cement I could get my boat off the trailer but I don’t advise it. No way could I get my boat and 115 or 9.9 motor through the channel. The channel is shallower and weedy. We are about 11.3 inches shallower than last year at the same time of year. I wouldn’t advise big boats to attempt to launch and expect to get out of the channel, nor would I advise smaller boats to try. See lake conditions page for temps and elevation. We are all going south to launch. Hope for a good winter folks & we will be back in business.
STONES LANDING: Nope. Kayaks can launch just about anywhere off the beach near the ramp, but boats won’t be getting in. Less water this year than last year so even private gravel bars may have some problems. I see no reason since the fish haven’t been imprinted up north for many years and the drought dried up most of the north basin which covered a lot of cow crap & the water is pretty nasty up there.
ROCKY POINT: East side BLM. Small car-top boats might make it. Kayaks can make it. Still very shallow but deeper water starts about 1/2 mile south of Rocky Pt. West side: Weeds and tules & quite shallow now for a small motor, but a car topper could probably get in further down the point where the road ends but you’ll be fighting weeds for quite a ways. Personally, I wouldn’t bother.
KAYAKS AND FLOAT TUBES: Can launch several places. Getting down to the lake isn’t the hard part, getting back up is. However, the muddy shores along Merrill, West Eagle Group Camp, Eagle Campground and Aspen Campground are tough for tubers. Find a firmer gravel bar. Off Aspen’s high and dry ramp it is soft, but it firms up near the rock pile to the east & it isn’t that far to walk down a kayak on wheels once you are down there, but tough getting through the tall grass and scattered boulders to get to the lake. It’s sand and decomposed granite off Camp Ronald McD and towards The Springs but a long haul. Eagle’s Nest is also a good launch with firm bottom but Gallatin Road is a mess to get there. Just about anywhere off Pike’s Pt is decent for tube launching off gravel. The Circus Grounds also has a good stretch of gravel bar, steeper trek down from the road. Off Christie its better for tubes to launch to the west towards the point and gravel bar, you don’t have to reach the rock point. Gravel starts before that. Kayaks can pull themselves out and in down from the parking lot. Wildcat Pt south road is still experiencing some work from tree felling before the eagle breeding time which generally begins Jan/Feb. So that’s critical for us to stay out of the way for now. North road will probably be accessible before long but being used for logging trucks at this time and the trenching cut through the asphalt apron so that’s a hazard. It’s 45 minutes and is generally in better shape. Osprey Management and Wildlife Area: Currently logging operations before eagle nesting season so let’s give everyone and the eagles a break. The eagles suffered from nests burning up from the Whaleback Fire so it’s important to get the area cleaned up for their benefit right now. We still have a lot of new tule’s and marsh grasses in the water near the shore. The fire burned hot through the lava beds but didn’t burn much below the tree line. Most of the shoreline fared well throughout the fire. The Youth Camp has a few fish right now. Road improved from highway 139 so shouldn’t be a problem for access. Good gravel bars, deeper holes and good water. Should be great fishing this fall. Rocky Pt will be ok for tubes and kayaks but the fish might be a lot further away than you think. The gravel point north of the airstrip in Spalding is firmer too. Just might not be many of fish up here until we see more water. Last fall they didn’t go too far above Peli.
NOTE: Making it easier is the main goal here. Launching at the low water ramp leaves one with a limited area to fish. Our only kayak launching availability at this time is the low water ramp, Christie Day Use, Circus Grounds (steep) & Aspen and the Youth Camp. Getting down to the lake near Camp Ronald McDonald is quite a chore…not so much getting down, but getting back up. Kayak: I use a 25ft long rope strung through my wheel frame on both sides which I thread through my grab handle from opposite sides and can put over my shoulders. This allows me to use my body and legs to get the yak up over humps and bumps and inclines rather than just my arm. Also, note that when putting the yak on the wheels it is critical to have just a little weight forward. This keeps the yak from tipping backwards all the time. Generally the balance point is under the seat but you’ll have to adjust it for your yak and gear weight. Don’t use bungee cords, use ratchet straps and tightly secure the yak to the wheels. Bungee’s pop off, stretch and are sloppy when transporting. Generally your yak pulls off the wheels with bungee’s. With ratchet straps that doesn’t happen. I looped one side so the straps stay with the cart which makes it easier to strap down. When getting in the water you can get in the yak on land (I put the bow in the water, back on land), use your broken down paddle as crutches, use your butt and weight to help push yourself into the water. Same thing getting back in. Keeps your feet dry and gives you a stable platform to get in and out. I also have a rope attached to the bow handle with a nice knot and loop in it…just the right length. This gives me something to pull myself up over my feet to the standing position to get out. That’s the certified gimp way of doing things & staying dry. LoL. With little to no handicap accessibility around the lake for fishing we have to improvise. And no I don’t really give a hoot about walking on the vegetation, if the USFS wants people to stay off the vegetation they could maintain the dilapidated accesses.
NO HANDICAP FISHING OR BEACH ACCESS: Handicap parking at the launch ramp is further away than it was last year and not clearly marked by ADA requirements, cinder gravel for carts and wheelchairs is not compliance to ADA requirements and actually quite difficult to even walk on. Christie Day Use handicap access is a disaster waiting to happen. Stay off the plastic walkway grate panels that have multiple trip hazards of 1 to 3″ in difference and missing panels and walk on the vegetation to the water and the point as there are fewer hazards and better trails. Better to be safe than doing a face plant right off the bat. Been there, done that. It is an accident waiting to happen for just about anyone, handicapped or not. Several panels are missing…folks using them to be able to launch yaks and tubes without getting knee deep in the muck. LNF refuses to do any repairs or extensions of existing handicap accesses so if you are mobility impaired, take your chances. The guys in wheelchairs can only fish from the courtesy dock at the ramp, they have NO other choice for fishing OR swimming so we try to do our best at getting our boats in and out and we know they have no other choice and I would rather see them trying to fish than not fishing at all. The responsibility for maintaining previously established accesses lies solely with the USFS, not the marina concessionaires who are wonderful folks.
©Valerie Aubrey, 2018 EagleLakeFishing.net