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Low snowpack pros and cons

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Low snowpack pros and cons

Postby rlowgren » Sun May 19, 2013 5:16 pm

I just finished reading the latest DWR Bulletin 120 http://cdec.water.ca.gov/snow/bulletin120/b120may13.pdf and was feeling a little depressed about this years dismal snowpack (although California never seems to have an "average" year). But then I thought there's gotta be good things that come with a dry year.

Strictly in terms of backpacking outings what do you like and dislike about a small snowpack year? I'm also interested in how the fishing changes. I'll start with the easy ones:

Pro
Can start in the backcountry much earlier in the season
Con
Dried up lakes and streams by July



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Re: Low snowpack pros and cons

Postby jessegooddog » Sun May 19, 2013 5:52 pm

A MUCH longer and more dangerous fire season, and less food and water for the wildlife. I will take 2011 again anytime.
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Re: Low snowpack pros and cons

Postby austex » Sun May 19, 2013 6:35 pm

2x on the fire; may inhibit getting into the bc early if it's burnt where you wanted to go. Found fishing is not as good; less water for spawning? Lower water=warmer water temps; fish go deeper?
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Re: Low snowpack pros and cons

Postby markskor » Sun May 19, 2013 8:36 pm

This current season shapes up similar to last.
Current conditions – early ice out, low snow levels, lots of scary patches of post-hole cheesy snow too close to rock/slabs to travel safe…all this points to a major water scarcity later on but glorious conditions early. Hint…Go in June.

You asked about fishing…just so happened that I had the pleasure of heading out last year late May – all in Yosemite area - and by coincidence had my spinning rod along and a few lures.
Thoughts:
Late May/ Early June, the many Lakes South Yosemite ~9,000 feet elevation produced many hungry surface feeders. My best producers were 3/8 Z-Rays – the red and the white with pink dots. Most fish 8 – 14 inch (‘Bows and Brooks) found were ~ 6 feet deep and cruising 20 – 40 feet off shore…nothing deep.
Givens, Royal Arch, Hoover, Johnson, even the Chains came next and were wide open with good results and amazingly, nobody else was up there. Tried fly–n-bubble too occasionally but nothing worked except the smallest of black anything…FYI, Mike was hooking up using Anderson Gnats size 12 – 14. Anything bigger was subsequently ignored. Lots of big fish seen and caught (except at Breeze) but nothing worked except big spoons deep and minuscule black flies on the rise.

Because of the late winter storms, mosquito swarms all season were less than anticipated…maybe the many late cold waves factored in as most of the early hatches of moseys invariably froze. At Saddlebag at ice off, larger fish could be seen surface feeding just off-shore; camped at the backside…big .tail walks but generally slow. I was going to go over the pass but retreated as the mosquitoes did hit me hard here.

A Spot-pack trip a week later afterwards to Rutherford mid June proved ideal conditions - up high (10,000) was great but he lower lakes like Lillian, and Vandeberg…as you got lower the water heated up in the lakes the fish went deeper…Interesting, not bad mosquito weather.

Later June came and the conditions were already changing. Under 10,000 foot elevation lakes like Matthes, Nelson, Reymond were dead (too warm) during the day but still occasionally produced well evenings and mornings…in truth, sporadic fishing at best.

Upper Townsley, Ireland, and Hanging Basket (those lakes a little higher) opened up late June and being there while the HSC was still closed (tents in pieces) and nobody else was seen anywhere… truly amazing fishing. Too bad you all missed it. BTW, Evelyn always treats me bad.

Late June last year seemed like August…warmer water now and deeper fish…generally slower. Re-visiting Matthes, the fishing there still was active but at Middle Sunrise, Nelson and Reymond - skunked us (where two weeks earlier they were biting pretty good). Bernice gave us tons of cookie-cutter stunted Brookies but Upper and Lower Florence was an eye-opening experience as they held plenty of good cruisers who were active, hungry, and cooperated.
Harriet’s and Edna were OK (maybe an understatement) but the real surprise came at Adair – before a rather easy lake to catch fish at…however, it was now mid July. As the water there was now much warmer, almost too warm, it took serious skill and some blind luck to get what we were after…big lures going deep at dusk… worked.

More July, Washburn, always one of my favorite lakes, but the water level was so far down and warm as almost unfishable. Merced Lake just below held some good hungry browns but they were scattered among an increasingly growing Algae bloom. Merced River was the lowest ever seen but always holds pockets of trout goodness if you work hard at it.
August went back to Saddlebag, Conness area again and experienced better success than when there a month earlier - the lakes up there are higher and cooler – using lures and going deeper than ever worked.
Finally a week-long trip out of North Lake – Muriel, Goethe, Tomahawk, Payne, Packsaddle, and Mesa…a lot of lures were lost as going deep was now the only answer. Still repeatedly got lucky…again.
Mountainman who swims with trout
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Re: Low snowpack pros and cons

Postby John Dittli » Sun May 19, 2013 9:01 pm

fish early, fish high
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Re: Low snowpack pros and cons

Postby SSSdave » Mon May 20, 2013 9:28 am

A low year versus a normal year? I don't see being able to get higher into the backcountry early a pro or con. Whether the snow melts early or late, once the main melt occurs at whatever elevations, it plays out about the same. Now a big El Nino snowpack year is a different subject because some areas will stay frozen late into summer.

2012 had low numbers of mosquitoes. The one pro would be that when higher elevations melt out early causing standing water that mosquitoes start breeding in, it just takes a single late May till mid June jetstream change bringing down a cold trough to kill them all. When snows at high elevations melt in July during normal years, cold troughs rarely visit. Many cons with the worst being wildflowers showings are weak, many meadows become brown early in July, large streams are low and less visual dramatic, small streams dry up quickly, finding water sources in the backcountry can be difficult, by mid summer peaks in my camera frames have too little or no snow, fall aspen leaves are less showy, and September backpacking tends to be unpleasantly dusty, brown, and dry.
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Re: Low snowpack pros and cons

Postby maverick » Mon May 20, 2013 9:47 am

Cons:
SSSdave wrote:
Many cons with the worst being wildflowers showings are weak, many meadows
become brown early in July, large streams are low and less visual dramatic, small
streams dry up quickly, finding water sources in the backcountry can be difficult, by
mid summer peaks in my camera frames have too little or no snow, fall aspen leaves
are less showy, and September backpacking tends to be unpleasantly dusty, brown, and dry.

+1

Big Pro this year: Makes our search for Larry easier.
HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org
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Re: Low snowpack pros and cons

Postby rlowgren » Tue May 21, 2013 5:59 am

Perhaps someone with more fish knowledge can chime in but I think I remember GiantBrookie posting something about big fish getting bigger in dry years since there is less competition for food with the poor spawning conditions.

Nice pro on the mosquitos Dave. Always thought dry years were less buggy simply because of less water around (which I'm sure is still true) but I never knew that a big die off was possible with some late spring cold. Lets keep our fingers crossed for that!
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Re: Low snowpack pros and cons

Postby jmherrell » Tue May 21, 2013 1:06 pm

I remember during the 7 year drought (87-94) that a number of anglers told me the fish in the high lakes were growing much larger due to the longer growing season. Toward the end of the drought I was at Echo Lake (11,600', Sabrina Basin) when some guys pulled in some 20" rainbows.
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Re: Low snowpack pros and cons

Postby Mradford » Tue May 21, 2013 1:36 pm

Pro: The possibility of getting over the passes to some of those basins WAY out there.
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Re: Low snowpack pros and cons

Postby sekihiker » Tue May 21, 2013 5:12 pm

A dry spell on either side of 1990 and similar to the last couple of years allowed me to go over a lot of cross country passes and explore a lot of remote territory.
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Re: Low snowpack pros and cons

Postby Pietro257 » Tue May 21, 2013 6:06 pm

Pros: Easier creek and river crossings. Fewer mosquitos.

Cons: Lack of water in some areas. Fire danger.
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