Things will be business as usual at South Lake this year. They may start a little later than usual but with the incredible snowpack built up over the winter, getting to any high-elevation lake will be a challenge until the summer thawing.
“We’re going to be ready for the Opener,” said Jared Smith, general manager for Parchers Resort and the South Lake Boat Landing. “The lake should be full just a couple weeks later than usual, and it should be much better than a usual year.”
“Later than usual,” because Southern California Edison is doing work to the South Lake dam and to do so water levels will be reduced. According to a press release, “The South Lake Reservoir upgrade involves the installation of a new geomembrane liner to protect the dam face from current and future leaks. The liner is expected to extend the life span of the dam by up to 30 years.”
But that doesn’t mean fish cannot be stocked at the lake, once Department of Fish and Game vehicles can access the lake. Smith said the bottom level of the dam is higher than much of the lake. The water will be down, but there will still be enough to fish in.
Smith explained that due to the boat dock being so high above the water, a 40-foot hose that attaches to DFG stocking truck hoses so stocking can be done even while the water is low. “Once they can get close enough to the water the fish go in,” Smith said.
Once the trucks can get to the lake, Smith said SCE will plant the first 300 trophy-sized Alpers trout into the lake. When the work is complete, SCE will plant an additional 300 Alpers.
Access to the lake will be open to foot traffic from the gate at Parchers, about a mile from the lake. Foot traffic will be restricted along the dam proper during construction.
Although travel will be tough going with warmer weather turning the snow to thick slush, Smith said the inlet to the lake should offer “phenomenal fishing.” He recommended snowshoes to anyone willing to make the trek.
He explained that DFG stocked in October and November and yet the area was largely “untraveled” last year, meaning “there is still a lot of fish out there.”
Once access to the South Lake parking lot opens, there should be only minor disruptions. Dan Brady, public information officer for SCE, said Tuesday, “Access to the main parking area at South Lake will be allowed by Memorial Day (weather permitting) with possible traffic control to move men and materials across the road to the dam as needed. All areas except the dam itself and the small parking lot immediately adjacent to the dam will be available to the public.”
Dan Golden, SCE’s manager for the Bishop Creek hydro-electric project explained how long the project should take and when the reservoir will should be full again. Golden said, “The reservoir is at its lowest point now and we need to keep it there until the geomembrane is complete which should be done in six to eight weeks, if everything goes right.” He said it will take another four to six weeks to fill the reservoir once the work is complete.
The work on the dam started April 15 and should be complete by late May or June. The lake should be full by early- to mid-July.
Smith said this is close to the normal time the lake is full.
Excess runoff into the lake will transferred down the South Fork of Bishop Creek. Smith said this should make for some “fast spots” along the creek, but he added there are enough holes and secret spots that the creek, and the lake, will be “totally fishable.”
As of April 19, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power was reporting that the South Lake snowpack was at 181 percent of normal.