State attempts – again – to control Lake Davis pike
SACRAMENTO – Fish and game officials are trying again to weed out voracious northern pike in Lake Davis, using practically everything except the poisoning they attempted three years ago.
The effort has cost more than $11 million, including a $9.2 million settlement to area residents whose water supply was disrupted by the 1997 lake poisoning, and the price tag is growing.
Fish and Game Department spokesman Jack Edwards could offer no immediate tally on the cost, but said the department asked for a bigger budget to cover the estimated $1 million needed for this year’s try.
The department this week is crisscrossing the lake with three types of nets, plus boats equipped with shock devices to count and kill as many pike as possible. Test runs last week netted two adult pike.
State officials acknowledge they are unlikely to soon kill off the foreign fish illegally introduced to the lake sometime in the early 1990s.
Their goal now is thinning the pike population and keeping the predatory fish from spreading to other water systems where they could prey on trout and salmon.
They are still trying to determine who put the pike in the lake, and whether more pike were thrown in after the 1997 poisoning. The poisoning killed the lake’s entire fish population and tainted nearby Portola’s water supply, but dozens of pike were found in the lake again last year.
DNA tests on fish from before and after the poisoning have been inconclusive. The department continues to offer a $30,000 reward in the case, Edwards said.
The unsuccessful efforts to eliminate the game fish leave officials in nearby Portola trying to promote their lake as a fishing paradise without hooking anyone on pike.
”We don’t want to encourage people to take the fish from here and put them in another lake closer to home, so to speak,” said Leonard Marsh, chairman of the Save Lake Davis Coalition.
For that reason, Portola officials aren’t sure if they’ll proceed this summer with a proposal for a pike fishing contest, even as they promote their third annual Father’s Day weekend fishing derby with $30,000 in prizes pinned to other fish species.
”Basically they want everyone to fish for them, but they don’t want you to enjoy it,” joked Bob Murphy of Placerville, who writes a weekly Northern California fishing report for the Western Outdoor News. ”They don’t want to create a pike fishery up there.”
Lake Davis, restocked after the poisoning, is again drawing anglers, local residents said. Marsh said he’s seeing more and bigger fish than anytime since he began fishing the lake in 1974.
Meanwhile, Portola officials will seek residents’ comments next month on the possibility of tapping the lake for drinking water for the first time since the poisoning.
The community has relied on wells since the poisoning, but must use the lake if it is to approve four housing developments totaling 700 homes, City Administrator Jim Murphy said. Portola now has about 900 homes.
The proposal comes after state lawmakers approved a $4 million claim fund for residents who suffered financial losses because of the lake poisoning. An additional $2.8 million went to Portola and $2 million to Plumas County.