It is the first week of June and to our surprise, there is still an abundance of patchy green grass lining the water’s edge on New Melones Reservoir. Usually by this point in the year, we are seeing falling water levels, bone-dry plant life and rocky brown shorelines. However, the water level continues to rise each day and the vegetation is starting to become flooded.
With the recent dose of rainfall, it feels as if we are getting a second shot at spring. The most telling thing about these conditions is all of Mother Nature’s creatures seem to be thriving with this rare occurrence.
The lake is currently 86% full and we are all hoping to see it reach maximum capacity, which is not common. Since the construction of the dam finished around 1980, the lake has only reached an almost-completely full level a handful of times. With the snowpack that lies in the Sierra, we are on track to witness a full pool in the next couple of months.
This unique set of circumstances makes for some amazing fishing opportunities. The bass will move into the recently flooded terrain to feed on anything that has been caught off guard by the rising water. Plus, they will use any new structures and vegetation as cover to ambush their prey. The crappie and sunfish will have debris pockets, flooded willows and shade to seek refuge from predators and gain comfort during the scorching summer months. Many of the native trout and remaining holdovers should have a steady flow of incoming water to spawn in the fall months. And, the decomposing vegetation will increase the amount of plankton for the shad and kokanee to feed on.
The health of the lake is going to be at its height for a few years, and all the animals that rely on this magnificent resource will be abundant. We are seeing an amazing amount of predation birds, including bald eagles and ospreys. The fish-eating birds, including herons, mergansers and grebes, are plentiful and can be found all around the lake feeding near the shoreline.
If the conditions remain, we will find ourselves set up for a great summer. With the water’s surface being what it is, it will make for a pleasurable boating experience for all. The creek arms, coves and pockets will extend as far back as possible, making for an almost endless amount of fishing opportunities. For those on foot, who hike, fish and ride bikes, the lake will be right below their feet on the many wonderful trails that wrap around the water.
So, as we are anticipating this greatness, we can only hope and keep our fingers crossed that our beloved resource will not fall victim to mismanagement. With the dreaded drought in our near past, we are hopeful that the conservation of water is still in the minds of those making decisions.
John Liechty is the owner of Xperience Fishing Guide Service in Angels Camp. Contact John at 743-9932 or xperiencefishing.net.