Friday, December 7, 2007

Sometimes you have to change.

“Lets’ go fishing,” my dad said.

I had never gone fishing before, but at 8 years old, and a middle child from a large family, time with dad was pretty rare.

OK,” I replied, “That sounds like fun”.

There are over a dozen reservoirs within an hour of my hometown but in the mid 70’s, there was only one lake you wanted to fish. It was built in the early 60's by damning a local canyon. It took a few big storms and over three years to fill this huge impoundment. The depth, topography, and newly planted fish were a perfect combination for this new lake. Within five years it became a world class fishery and by its 7th year, it broke the state records for bass, catfish, and bluegill.

The night before our trip, I barely slept. I was so excited about spending the day fishing with my dad. We drove to the lake in the dark, then found our spot as the sunlight hit the horizon. Three hours, and ten fish later, I was hooked ( pun intended ). My experience with my dad that day created a passion that still lives within me today.

My "dream" over the next few years was to get a job, get married, have a few kids, then buy a house at the ”Lake”. Actually, back then, I would have skipped the marriage, kids, and job, and went straight for the lake.

By the early 90’s, my dream came true. I married an incrdible woman, had two wonderful children, achieved some financial success, and then purchased a house above the “Lake”. Many mornings, you could find me down at the lake on my boat casting at the stick-ups and tules. The morning mist in the coves, the song of a bird, the splash of a fish chasing bait, are all absolute heaven to me. The next eight years I caught and released thousands of bass. One spring morning in 1996 I caught a five fish limit that went 31 .3 lbs, late the next year I broke my personal record with a 10lb 2 oz largemouth. As I write this, I can see a reproduction of this trophy hanging on my wall. Yes, I have some incredible memories of my time on the lake.

In 2001 there was a complete change of leadership at our water authority. The focus of the new board shifted away from recreation and focused primarily on water storage and delivery. Sadly, I realized over the next few years that fishing wasn’t even on the list. A new aqueduct was built, the parks & rec. staff cut, and then restrictions were imposed on its recreational usage. While they had the authority to implement these programs, each had a devastating effect on the fishery. Over the next five years, fish counts dropped, the boating facilities went un-kept, and the fishermen started looking elsewhere. The time I spent on the lake was usually by myself and for the most part was unproductive. Out of habit, I would still spend time on the lake casting away, always recalling better days. Some days I would go without a bite for hours, others I would catch nothing at all.

It was frustrating to say the least, but I couldn’t give up, this was my dream…. It was “my lake”. Dozens of letters to the water authority, the lake management, and to the county all fell on deaf ears. It was sad to watch my beloved lake become little more than a muddy pond.

I remember the day that everything changed for me. My youngest daughter asked me If I would teach her to fish. (every fisherman longs for the day that their child asks to go with them) My excitement quickly faded when I realized that she wasn't going to enjoy fishing at my lake. There was a very good chance she would go all day with little or no success. One or two days like that and she may never want to go fishing again. I consider myself sentimental, but I knew something had to change.

It was that day I decided to find another lake. I had to. While I had great memories of my old lake, it was very clear to me that my children’s’ experience would have been much different than my own.

I still live in the same house and see the lake every day. I don’t fish there any more though. It will take a change in management, a restructuring of priorities, and many years for it to recover… if it can recover at all.

We are having a great time at our new lake.
Yes, it's a 45 minute drive, but it has a new launching ramp and dock, has a great management team, and is completely committed to become the top fishery in our state. I can even camp in my RV with my family at the waters’ edge.

I hated to leave the old lake but I am sure glad I did.
Today, my children all love to fish! I even think my six year old son may have a new "dream".....

1 comment:

Jim Pointguard said...

A terrific allegory! Well done!!

I too am looking forward to fishing soon, literally and figuratively.