Yes, folks, the rumors you’ve probably already heard are indeed true: Castaic Lake is being drawn down yet again, and the water release isn’t slated to cease until sometime in July.
“They’re drawing it down because other counties are borrowing water,” remarked lake staffer Scott Lizakowski. “I got my info. from the lifeguards.”
Bass anglers are not surprisingly fearing the worst, especially given the rather delicate time of year to begin such a potentially detrimental draw-down; however, it may not necessarily be all doom and gloom.
One need merely examine the history of the lake for the past few years or so to realize it has endured significant water fluctuations. I can personally recall visiting the fishery in the early-‘90s with a fishin’ buddy to videotape the exposed shoreline created by a 100-foot-plus drop in water levels. In short, such occurrences are nothing new, and while the lake’s fish populations may never grow accustomed to draw-downs, they’ve managed to persist in spite of the environmental impacts of such variations.
“The year before last, in ’06 to ’07, they drew it down for repairs,” Lizakowski noted. “Then the water came back up in ’08, and they dropped it again around this same time last year.”
Now, while most will argue the lake’s heyday has long since passed (and none would necessarily be incorrect in said assertion), the bottom line remains Castaic still kicks out steady numbers of quality largemouth, even while simultaneously playing host to an ever-expanding population of striped bass. That’s not an easy feat for any fishery, as most bass chasers are well aware of the prolific, voracious nature of the stripers. If and when competing for a food source, they will emerge the victor, time and again.
Despite the health of the fishery, however, bass anglers are indeed justified in their concerns over the current draw-down occurring smack-dab in the middle of the spawn. Fortunately, a majority of the lake’s largemouth have already done the deed, however, as Lizakowski points out, “the fish are going to spawn in waves like they normally do.” With that said, the drop in water levels is indeed going to have an impact on the spawn itself.
“It’s a valid concern,” Lizakowski pointed out. “I mean, as it is, there’s only a one to two percent survival rate for the fry. If they’re going to keep doing this [drawing the water down], it’s going to make that one to two [percent] turn into way less. The DWP doesn’t care because they’re making so much on water and so little on patronage.”
According to Lizakowski, however, the draw-down isn’t necessarily all bad news.
“The one good thing about drawing it down, is that the bite tends to improve. Like last year when they were drawing it down… they’d draw it down two days in a row and then they’d stop… then the bite would get good. Now that the points and coves are starting to get more exposed, that’s where the fish are going to be.”
Since Sunday, April 19, the lake’s dropped roughly 4 or 5 feet, and it’s down approximately 15 or 20 feet from where it was just a couple of weeks ago.
As it stands, we, as anglers, have little choice but to grin and bear it, as water rights are a billion-dollar industry in this state. Fortunately, the draw-down is only temporary; and while it couldn’t have come at a worse time (especially in terms of the spawn), the spring and summer months generally produce solid action for Castaic’s bass and stripers anyway, so there will certainly be fish to tap into. How many and to what degree remains to be seen.
“Come July, it shouldn’t take long for the lake to fill right back up again,” Lizakowski concluded.
In the meanwhile, be sure to toss a camera into your tackle bag the next time you hit the fishery. You just might stumble across a bit of structure you’ve neither seen nor metered before; and come next spring, that same spot may prove to be your new “honey hole.” You never know…