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Wake up the nightcrawlers for opening day

Amanda Fehd
Nevada Appeal News Service

Anglers are waiting with baited breath for Saturday’s opening day for fishing season.

Fishermen and -women, young and old, are busy preparing for the big day, checking their rods for any cracks, replacing worn lines, tying flies, and buying new bait.

“You wouldn’t believe how many people go out to Hope Valley with worms from last year,” joked Gene St. Dennis, who operates Blue Ribbon Fishing Charters and guides trips on Lake Tahoe.

On Saturday, people will adorn their vests with hooks and flies, don sun hats, apply sunscreen, and haul their bait and tackle to Hope Valley, Sand Harbor, Donner Lake and Glen Alpine Creek above Fallen Leaf Lake.

No matter that the lakes are open all year round; opening day just reminds people it’s time to fish.

“Opening day just puts a spotlight on fishing,” said St. Dennis.

Streams feeding Lake Tahoe will not open until July 1. Those tributaries are closed from 100 yards around their mouth into Lake Tahoe up to the first lake, so an area like Glen Alpine above Fallen Leaf Lake is open range.

South Shore anglers encourage people to obey the regulations, as game wardens are not known to be forgiving.

“I guarantee that there will be people out there on our tributaries, and about 80 percent won’t know they are closed,” said Victor Babbitt of Tahoe Fly Fishing Outfitters. “It’s the responsibility of the fisherman to know what the regulations are. No one should ever take it for granted.”

Babbitt thinks opening the streams longer for catch-and-release fishing could benefit the local economy. But many agree keeping them closed is a good idea.

“They do not plant in the streams in Tahoe. The fish that are spawning in Tahoe are spawning for the future generation of Lake Tahoe,” said Doug Busey. “I like that they have a short season because they are natives.”

Mickey Daniels of Big Mack Charters out of Carnelian Bay pointed out that the tributaries are shorter than in other watersheds, decreasing habitat for spawning. A drought has also exacerbated the problem.

“I’d like to see every stream closed all year ’round coming into the lake. Our reproduction cycle is nil,” Daniels said.

When the streams open, there is a limit of five fish per day, 10 in possession at any given time.

Caples Lake, Red Lake, Silver Lake are still frozen over. Indian Creek Reservoir is open and unfrozen. Blue Lakes Road in Hope Valley is closed. Twin Lakes in Bridgeport and the American River along Highway 50 will be opening.

Above-average snowpack could lead to unpleasantly high waters for fishing, but for now, streams and rivers are doing OK.

“They are not that bad right now. They are moving, but not like if we had 60-65 degrees all week. They’d be blown out completely,” said Busey. “They are very fishable right now.”

Many anglers pointed out the fishing potential at Lake Tahoe is not being fully realized.

“Twenty, 30 years ago, they were taking 15-20 pound browns from our Upper Truckee River, winning regional contests,” said St. Dennis. “Now they brag about six, eight pounds.”

He recalled a story in which an American Indian chief once gave a white visitor a cutthroat from Lake Tahoe exceeding 4 feet.