My lake is turning into a meadow

IveofIone

WFF Supporter
When I moved to the tundra in 2001 my home lake became Big Meadow Lake which is about 9 miles and 23 minutes away. Back then the lake fished extremely well and being the only fly fisherman within about 50 miles I had it mostly to myself. 16'' fish were common but most were in the 14-15'' range with my biggest ever being 22''. It was a quality resource that was close by and produced fish by almost any method. In the fall the fish were hungry and the lake just beautiful when the leaves turned. After the hatches ended chironomid fishing was just excellent right up to closing day. On summer days calibaetis erupted and fish took imitations willingly. On the warm evenings fish took caddis and casting to rises was a real rush. And just after the opener in spring fish took just about anything that was put in front of them.

Then the weeds came and increased exponentially over the years. Last year it was difficult to launch and then get through the weeds to the open water, probably not even possible in a float tube. The areas that were free of weeds were greatly diminished although there were still a lot of good fish in what little open water I could find. I always preferred the shallow end of the lake because the dry fly fishing was better and it was easy to chironomid fish back there. There is still some deep water in the center of the lake but even that area is really being squeezed by weed growth.

This spring I tried again launching my new pram in an effort to skim over the weeds and reach some of my favorite water. But the fish weren't there and I took the first skunking ever on the lake. Today I drove up to see if I could launch my pontoon at the shallow end of the lake but about 100yds of floating salad made it look more like work than recreation. I deferred and will try a more accessible lake later this evening. The weed growth has prevented heavy fishing of any kind and the fish were in good shape the last time I caught some. With lots of cover near by the bigger fish would quickly get into the weeds and escape or break off. Won't all of those weeds decaying under the ice this winter impact fish survival?

So in under 2 decades I have watched a really good lake turn into one that is weed choked and difficult to fish. The fish might still be in there but I will never know-I'm not going back. Big Meadow Lake is getting smaller, Big Meadow meadow is getting larger.
 

Rocking Chair Fan

No more hot spotting
The good news is that you had 17+ years of fishing a 'private' lake with some great fishing memories. A true treasure for sure. Just think about how many lakes one can name that measures up to that nowadays...

Keep those memories and enjoy trying to find another lake like that.
 

Josh

dead in the water
WFF Moderator
The good news is that you had 17+ years of fishing a 'private' lake with some great fishing memories.

I mean, I hear what you are saying. But I think it's pretty legit to be bummed about bad resource management, weather/climate change, plain bad luck or whatever caused a previously good lake to go to crap. Otherwise we could say that about virtually any resource that was once good and no longer is. "Yeah, I know there are no steelhead now, but at least you caught some 30 years ago, right?"

It's a fair question to ask "Why did this happen? Can it be fixed? And is there anything we can do to prevent it happening to other lakes in the future?"
 

Replicant

Active Member
Bear with me if I don't have my facts straight, but over the years, I have been watching the lower Yakima get weedier and weedier. Was talking to a couple of guys that I occasionally work with at the Department of Ecology and they said that this is a result of a) an invasive species. They called it star grass (not Millfoil) and b) the river getting cleaner. The theory being that the cleaner the water, the more sun light getting to the plant and more vigorous the growth. So, I asked what can be done about it? They said it just needs to be pulled out. Impossible, I thought to myself. Fast forward a few years later when I read of an experiment conducted in the same area that I had previously complained about. A researcher had cordoned off an area and counted the 'Redd's' (SP?) Salmon nests? In that area and then proposed an experiment of enlisting local kids to literally wet wade in this area and pull up grass, remove it entirely from the river and wait and see. Following season and the increase in Redd's was substantial. So, maybe there is something to be said about cleaning up the messes that we create? Again, not sure if I have my facts straight, but i'm sure there is a kernel of truth in there somewhere.
 

IveofIone

WFF Supporter
I think even lakes are subject to Darwin's observations of evolution. Many shallow lakes have or will evolve into meadows at some point, I see evidence of it many places I go. A smallish lake at the lower side of a broad flat area that was obviously once a much bigger lake. Having backpacked extensively in heavily glaciated terrain the progression of lake to meadow is obvious everywhere. However, the speed with which Big Meadow went from sweet to bitter surprised me.
.
 

Vladimir Steblina

Retired Forester...now fishing instead of working
You were lucky to have even fished Big Meadow Lake.

Just as I was transferring off the Colville the Forest Service was acquiring the lake and private property surrounding it. No controversy about acquiring the land, but the Regional Office wanted the dam removed ASAP. They didn't want the liability that goes with owning a "dam" and the required inspections and repair costs. It was a pretty heated argument and finally the Forest won it and the dam stayed. So you got to fish the lake for quite a few years....unlike me who left before it became public and have always wanted to fish it and never made it back!!!

You can try talking to the local state fish biologist about rehabbing the lake. The Forest Service probably prefers that it continue transitioning into meadow. You know, natural processes and all that stuff. If there are local businesses that are dependent on fishing tourism that would also be helpful to convince the Forest Service to allow the rehab. It would cost a significant sum of money. Nice spot.

It is very doubtful, that you could convince the Forest Service to do it on their own.....
 

bakerite

Active Member
Sorry to hear it Ive. That is a special place. Same thing happened to one of my favorite Grant County lakes, the one you used to have to climb steel ladders down to. No longer on the stoking list and it had great dry fly fishing in March. On a brighter note we have had a good water year in NEO and the reservoirs may over winter more fish than for many years.
 

Krusty

Outta Here
Any lake, given enough time (in the absence of other interceding impacts, such as glaciation or climate change) continues to accumulate nutrients and becomes eutrophic....roughly the initial stage of becoming finally a meadow. Oligotrophic (Lake Chelan) - > Mesotrophic (Loon Lake) -> Eutrophic (Eloika Lake). Usually these transitions take a long time unless human land use accelerates the process through the introduction of nutrients (typically the growth-rate limiting nutrient phosphorus).

There are actually lakes that are so nutrient poor...so phosphorus deficient....that it has been introduced so sufficient biological mass can be developed to sustain a fishery.

Rehabilitation of a phosphorus rich lake generally involves massive dosing with metal salts (such as aluminum sulfate) so that it can be precipitated into a an insoluble sludge...and unavailable for plant growth.

It's a very expensive process, and unlikely to occur unless the lake is of significant urban/suburban interest. Liberty Lake Washington is an example of a rehabbed waterbody (which also included the elimination of septic systems surrounding its densely populated shoreline). Obviously, Big Meadow ain't that sort of lake.

I'm kind of at a loss why Big Meadow, a moderately deep and remote little lake subject to no septic tank leachate or significant adjacent human activity, experienced such a major transition in about 20 years. Perhaps we arrived when the lake was 'on the cusp' of eutrophication....having built its 'bank' of nutrients up so it could enjoy its last hurrah. It's certainly not a linear process.

My daughter-in-law has a plaque on the wall that reads, "Don't be sad it ended, just be grateful it happened at all". A worthy sentiment, though being an old fart I most often struggle with its actual implementation.
 
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Bruce Baker

Active Member
Don't let the game dept. do what they did to Lone lake.....too many grass carp
I do not have all the facts, but I am pretty sure the homeowners were the ones that stocked the lake with grass carp, not WDFW. I do not know how the number of fish that were stocked in the lake was derived.
 

Buzzy

Active Member
Sorry to hear it Ive. That is a special place. Same thing happened to one of my favorite Grant County lakes, the one you used to have to climb steel ladders down to. No longer on the stoking list and it had great dry fly fishing in March. On a brighter note we have had a good water year in NEO and the reservoirs may over winter more fish than for many years.
Jeff - if Google Earth images are accurate, this little lake is rapidly becoming a meadow. It was quite a fishery "back in the good old days" and well worth the risk of inching your way back down those rebar rungs........
 

P-FITZ98

Active Member
First time I was ever in a float tube was Big Meadow, I think I was 10, so almost 40 years ago. I took my son there about 5 years ago and it was awfully choked with vegetation. I can honestly say that lake and my cousin John warped me for life.
 

Trout Master

Active Member
Sorry to hear it Ive. That is a special place. Same thing happened to one of my favorite Grant County lakes, the one you used to have to climb steel ladders down to. No longer on the stoking list and it had great dry fly fishing in March. On a brighter note we have had a good water year in NEO and the reservoirs may over winter more fish than for many years.
I also remember climbing down the steel ladders fixed to the basalt. Fishing was great. I went there last year just to take a look. It’s bone dry.
 

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