COLDWATER Lake Report

Discussion in 'Stillwater' started by Woodcanoeguy, Jul 30, 2011.

  1. chief

    chief Active Member

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    Strike Zone - None of my comments were directed at you personally. This is a public forum and I, like you, am entitled to express my opinion. If I wanted to address you specifically I would have done that (as I am doing now). Also, my reference to "not calling in Dr Frankenstein" was a metaphor for not planting genetically engineered triploid trout in a lake with natural reproducing wild fish. Sorry you took it as name calling.

    My main point was that Coldwater has gone through the "new reservoir" cycle, and is returning to a natural state where it is similar to most other Westside lakes, meaning it has minimal bio mass. The big fish aren't as plentiful as they used to be because there isn't enough food to sustain them. I have always thought that a regulation change might help eliminate some of the smaller fish and protect the larger fish, but when I contacted the biologist in charge of the lake about implementing a slot limit a few years ago, he informed me that the 13-14" fish were sexually mature and responsible for the majority of the recruitment. I'm still not convinced that allowing the take of the largest fish in the lake is the best regulation, but the rule is in alignment with WDFW's plan for the lake. Maintaining a trophy fishery in a mature Westside lake without an artificial stocking program or lining the shore with feeder machines is not likely or even possible. Even with the stocking of triploids, like in Merrill, the fish lose weight after they enter the lake. Our human manipulation of nature is not always the answer.
     
  2. Caveman

    Caveman Member

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    Most lake in High Country are stocked and very few are wild fish.....
     
  3. Strike Zone

    Strike Zone Member

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    Chief:
    Thank you for the reply. I appologize for my misunderstanding ofwhat you were saying about "Frankenstine" My error for sure.
    Anyway, I'm still not sure about Coldwater as to what can be done if anything to bring about a positive change up there. I'm a little sceptictal about a 13-14 inch trout being a mature fish up there when they used to be so much bigger. You might be right in your thinking that nothing can be done, but I'm having a hard time with that. Especially when other lakes have been changed to bring about a positive increase in the size and quality of fish in them.
    So I guess if I want to catch bigger fish I will have to go to a pay to fish lake or go up to BC to one of their quality lakes. It used to be alot closer to go to Canada when we lived up near Sedro Woolley. But now it is a 10-12 hour drive one way for me to get up there anymore and with gas so costly it makes going north pretty much out of the question.
    Wish you and all the best.
    Tight lines
     
  4. FlyfishDan

    FlyfishDan New Member

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    Wow—a ton of debate about the fish up in this marvelous lake known as Coldwater. Here are the facts about CW:

    - The lake was initially stocked with 30,000 under-yearling rainbow trout in 1989, since then, the population has sustained itself naturally.
    - After a survey was taken in 2001, scientist discovered that both westslope and resident coastal cutthroat were present.
    - It was then determined that the westslope’s were inadvertently mixed with the rainbows delivered from the hatchery in 1989.
    - It was also determined that the resident coastal cutthroat that once thrived in North Coldwater Creek in 1979 must have survived the eruption—a truly amazing thing, if I should say so myself.
    - The fish that now inhabit CW are completely self-sustaining and have been since the initial stocking of 1989.

    I have fished this lake since the first ‘permit-only’ anglers could set foot on its pristine shores--way back when it was necessary to hike all the way down from the then newly opened CW Center and I have been fishing it ever since, every year, and every time of year.

    I have had the recent fortune of assisting WDFW with fish studies and took measurements and samples over a three year period. In my opinion, changing this fishery in any way would be a crime; and I think most fly-fishing purists would agree with me. There are plenty of other places to fish for triploids, browns, tigers, or any other ‘stocked’ fishery (not that there is anything wrong with that--it can be a blast to fish!). There are only a select few places in the world that you can fish for trout in an environment like we find at CW Lake—so let’s keep it that way, because it is truly a rare fishing experience. I don’t know anywhere else you can catch a rainbow trout, a westslope cutthroat (rich color with very few spots), and a wild resident coastal cutts (bright colors with tons of spots on the body and head) in the same day, in this type of setting.

    What I have found with my own personal experiences is that the fish go through cycles—I too, have recently found what seems to be an abundance of smaller fish. I also experienced this same smaller sized fishery in 2005 after the lake had been closed for over a year during the most recent dome building eruptions. I believe that every 3-4 years there is a notable ‘shrinking’ period followed by a ‘growing’ period and then back to smaller sizes. Something else I have witnessed is that the fish seem to be larger in summer’s following a mild winter, smaller when following a harsh winter (like this past winter), which may explain the explosion of smaller fish this summer. Whether there is any scientific fact behind what I have seen myself I can’t say for sure, but what I can say is that for the past 16 years that I’ve been fishing this amazing lake, I have witnessed this cycle happen with each passing year. Today, big fish are still there, just a little tougher to find.

    Let's not change anything about this amazing fishery--let's just enjoy it for what it is; perfect.
     
  5. cabezon

    cabezon Sculpin Enterprises

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    Great pictures, Dan. And thank you for the historical perspective. I'm a little surprised that the two cutthroat subspecies have not interbred themselves into oblivion in the last 20+ years. I wonder if they differ in spawning timing or location.

    Your point about cycles (or the stochastic nature of nature) is well taken. There is a long-help public myth that the environment is in balance. As many long-term studies have demonstrated, there is a strong random element (or perhaps better, incompletely / poorly understood elements) to the population dynamics of many species and their communities. We hope for regularity and predictability, but interactions among a range of natural factors driving survival, growth, and reproduction of populations frustrate our expectations. For example, is the current apparent decline in the proportion of "large" fish simply a cycle, or part of the succession of this very young lake?

    Steve
     
  6. Trout Master

    Trout Master Active Member

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    Strike zone, you mention spirit lake a few times, I thought is was still closed to fishing?
     
  7. Strike Zone

    Strike Zone Member

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    Trout Master;
    In regards to Spirit Lake. Yes it is still closed to my knowledge unless you happen to be one of the select few who are allowed to hike into it to do a "test fishery" every so often. What a joke that is in my book! What makes them any better than you or me or anybody else. Those who have been on the "special" list to fish it, have printed in the local paper a couple years ago when it was last done as far as I know, said that the fish are not nearly as big now as they once were. They were averaging 18-19 inches at that time where they had been 5-7 pounds. I'm sure there have been some who have hiked in there and fished it illegally, but I am not one of them. Though sometimes I feel like saying the heck with it and doing it anyway.
     
  8. Woodcanoeguy

    Woodcanoeguy Active Member

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    Well Said Flyfishdan........welcome to the forum and thanks for sharing your wonderful photo's......I too prefer this lake and its fish just as they are. This Sunday morning in the early dawn fog I hooked and landed a dozen nice fish......what a magical place, swirling misty waters with the sun occasionally poking thru.
     
  9. Drifter

    Drifter Active Member

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    FLYFISHDAN what a great post and pics !!! I tip my hat .
     
  10. FlyfishDan

    FlyfishDan New Member

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    Hello Trout Master--

    You are correct, the fishery is closed to the public. With all due respect, those that have been lucky enough to be selected to assist WDFW with genome research is, in my opinion, very necessary. There are several specific reasons why the research needs to be done, they include; how did these fish return to the lake? Were they illegally stocked or could they have possibly survived the blast? (though tough to believe due to the fact the first scientists contracted legionnaires disease form the toxicity of the 93 degree lake after the eruption) Could they have swam up the outlet that was created by the Army Corp of Engineers many years ago or was there some other natural occurrence to explain their existence? If they were illegally planted, where did the fish originate from? So many mysteries to solve, so many unanswered questions; these survey’s are necessary and the only way to discover the answers.

    And yes—I was lucky enough to be asked, and it was a truly a lifetime experience. People spend tens of thousands of dollars and search the ends of the Earth seeking fish like the one’s in our own backyard. These studies have spawned numerous bills in Olympia asking the legislators to open this fishery to the public, most recently in 2009. Even with the most strict proposals, WDFW can’t get past the bureaucracy of the Forestry Department. There is a particular scientist (who shall go unnamed) that works for the Forestry Department, he was tasked in 1980 to studying the lakes return and is leading the charge to keep us out, forever. WDFW has even tried implementing several fishing proposals, most recently in 2009--a 10 anglers per day, guided, 21 weekend season for it only to be shot down in Olympia time and time again—no matter how careful WDFW promises to be with the surrounding wildlife. Humans, according to the Forestry Dept., would be an unnatural element to the biological recovery of the lake. I believe this amazing lake should be able to enjoyed by fishing enthusiasts all over the world and I am confident that those people would take responsibility in preserving the environment just as much as the Forestry Department does and would leave the landscape unscathed. Or at least no worse that the thousands of Elk that tromp around the shoreline every day.

    The rumors about the fish size shrinking I believe is just propaganda to keep our blood-pressure in check regarding the fact we can’t go in and see for ourselves. The fish here are unbelievable both in size, color, and perfection. In 2008, the last study done and the one I had the honor to be involved with, the trout were still ranging from 3 to 10 pounds—most over 24” in length with amazing girth. Even 0X tippet and mouse patterns were no match for the power of these incredible trout, it was an incredible day that should be shared with everyone willing and able to make the trek down to this unbelievable fishery. The lake is huge, larger than CW, and has an amazing abundance of both bugs and giant black tad-poles, a possible fuel for their voracious appetite and subsequent size.

    I would avoid fishing it illegally—the person mentioned above spends over 200 days a year at the lake, right where most of the fish population lives—the pumice plain. If caught—it would be considered poaching and you could lose the vehicle you road in with plus all your gear, not to mention the $1,700 fine. I would invite you to write your state legislators and ask them to open this amazing fishery instead of taking the big risk of fishing it illegally.

    Just my thoughts on the matter, for what it is worth!
     
  11. mgamby

    mgamby Active Member

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    Dan, nice fish.. I got a buddy that did that before... he said it was pretty sweet.

    I think we, as "enthusiasts", should leave Spirit lake alone.

    If it needs to be continually "sampled" than do a "lottery" for interested anglers... I bet you could drum up some serious interest... even make them pay for the opportunity to go there... I would pay.

    if the public gets ahold of this, it will get destroyed, and people will think that, because the rainbows are so big, maybe they should put bass, or browns, or triploids in there... imagine how big those would get? oh, the possibilities.....

    its inevitable..... those arent happy with 19" rainbows.. and will want 21" browns. etc....

    Spirit is an anomaly.. (sp)... lets leave it for science.... not every lake should be destroyed by us.

    that is, unless they need help with the research. :)
     
  12. Trout Master

    Trout Master Active Member

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    I agree with mgamby on the above statement. We should leave it alone. It would get trashed if people were let in there.
     
  13. Peach

    Peach Peach

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    Flyfising Dan, all I have to say is “Wow”. Those pictures of Spirit Lake are breathtaking. What a great experience that day must have been. Also very good commentary on both Spirit and Coldwater Lake. I did find it interesting that you are in favor of opening the lake to fishing. I agree with MGamby. I see Spirit lake as a once in a lifetime event, and it should be studied and left alone. Let the scientist and biologist do their thing and not cave into the pressure. But I am an enthusiast, and if they did open the Spirit lake, I would be the first in line to get up there and wet a line. Kind of hypocritical & selfish I guess, I just hope they don’t give me that choice. I have no ideal if this is true or not (probably a vicious rumor) but I heard somewhere that they opened Spirit lake to limited amount of hiking controlled by guide and only a few groups per year. The very first group of folks that hiked up there had a young boy going with the group. As soon as the this ground breaking group arrived at the lake, the kid ran off and took a piss in the lake. Point being is that peeing in the lake probably had no impact, but these are the type of issues that can occur when the human race gets “introduced”.

    I noted from the pics that you looked like you fished from the bank. Did they allow you to bring a float tube to fish from? Did you have that choice? I have read other debates over allowing fishing in Spirit Lake and one of the concerns was safety in that the large floating logs in the lake and the high winds, they worry about logs trapping a float tuber or separate them from the launch point.

    Another item I read somewhere that one of the reasons why they don’t open Spirit Lake is that Coldwater with it’s special regulations tailored to C&R fishing and selective gear is underutilized. I personally don’t think it is a problem as that is one of the reasons why I enjoy Coldwater so much is the solitude. I have fished CW about 6 or 7 times over the last dozen years or so and I can never really see more than a half dozen folks fishing. Fine by me. But I think that has to more with the wind and it isn’t always the easiest lake to fish. I have just started to have some success within the last couple of years – I have left that lake flustered the first 3-4 times fishing it. But CW has really grown on me and I am beginning to fish it more and more and having more success as of late. I love knowing you are catching 100% wild fish, and sure most of the good fish are in the 11 to 14 inch range, but man do they kick ass for their size and I catch enough 15 inch+ fish to make it interesting. 17 inches is my personal best so far – but I have seen a pictures and talked to others that have caught larger fish than that. Plus that scenery and solitude – makes CW a personal favorite for me.

    I have noticed this year that fish on average are smaller than years past – and I can buy into the lake maybe being overpopulated a bit and maybe showing signs of other high mountain lakes (short season, limited food base, smaller fish, ect). And sure I would like to consistently catch bigger fish and I maybe a bit worried that CW average fish size will stay at 11”-14”. NW Flyfishing Magazine did feature article on Coldwater a few years back. According to the article, the food source just isn’t that abundant and an 18 inch fish is 3-4 years old. I wouldn’t mind if they did increase the limit or implement a slot limit to help, but I don’t see that helping too much anyway. The folks that fish CW to begin with are primarily C&R and how many folks that fish CW on a regular basis is going to keep any more fish? I can count on one hand the amount of fish I have seen being kept. I have only kept one myself so far in all my visits. The fish cleaning station is nice, but not used too much.

    Keep CW as is. No stocking needed. No Rotene needed. They wouldn’t let a Rotene barrel anywhere near the place. I love the fact of that they limit bank access (except when I have to pee). It is a challenging lake and it isn’t for the typical fisherman looking to fill their stringer. Hopefully Flyshing Dan is right and we are just seeing a down cycle, looks like he knows that lake pretty well and I am aligned with his philosophy, I will hitch my band wagon to any of his recommendations.

    Peach
     
  14. Woodcanoeguy

    Woodcanoeguy Active Member

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    Well I am sure glad I started this thread....lots of great information from some passionate anglers on a magical little lake and its fish critters. Thank you all......
     
  15. Strike Zone

    Strike Zone Member

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    Hi Peach:
    Thank you for all your thoughts on CW. It is a very special lake. I have fished it since it was opened and have enjoyed myself immensly up there too over the years.
    I did take my grandson up there a couple weeks ago, and we did catch alot of fish that day which thrilled him greatly even if the fish were only about 11-13 inches. We did see two different sets of people fishing along the bank wherever they wanted to tho, which isn't supposed to happen there. So whoever's supposed to monitor that needs to do a better job.
    I do hope those who think CW is just going thru a temporary downsize in fish are right. For those who have been blessed with catching alot of fish up there that are alot larger in years back, it is tough to see the size go down so dramatically the way they have, even if they are sort of wild fishery. Guess we'll just have to sit back and hope things turn around up there. I won't hold my breath tho.