I took part in the fish rescue at Caples Lake Fish Rescue the first night (Augst 26th). Unfortunately my work schedule prevented me from being there the whole time. My wife Cindy had accompanied me on the trip to try and take some photos of the rescue, and also to drive home in the morning if I was too tired.
The trip got off to an inauspicious start, due to my forgetting my wallet and having to double back to go pick it up. I managed to make it to the sign in desk only a few minutes late. We drove around to the parking area and I proceeded to get into my waders and boots and walk down to the staging area.
When I arrived at the staging area there were approximately 20 DFG employees being briefed on the night's events. After the briefing was over I was assigned to an electroshocking boat, along with another TU Volunteer and two DFG employees, Robert and Tiffany.
Robert and Tiffany gave us an overview of the boat and the components, discussing how they worked, and who was going to do which tasks. For those who have never seen the boats, they have to arms that rotate around to the front of the boat while in use. These arms have an array of metal conductors that are lowered into the water and serve as the anode. Electrical current, supplied by an on-board generator, is fed down through the anodes, travels back through the water and enters the cathode which is attached to the hull completing the circuit. The anodes are energized by kick-pedals located at the bow of the boat on the elevated platform. There are two pedals that cover the entire bow section separated in the middle. By placing one's foot up against the pedal it activates the anode arrays. The effective range of this anode/cathode array for stunning the fish is about 6 feet down, so most of the electroshocking would take place in less than 8 feet of water. Tiffany stated that the fish can feel the current up to 30' in front of the boat, so staying on the pedal the whole time would push the fish away from the boat. The idea was to shcok for a while, net the fish, then release the pedal, move the boat and repeat the process.
We made our first pass down the shore line by the parking area and across the dam. Since we were in really shallow water, we had to keep a vigilant lookout for the ever present stumps and rocks that could damage the boat and/or motor. This was made even more difficult as the sun got off the water and darkness ensued. After an hour and a half we returned to the net pens, measured and recorded the fish lengths and dropped off 19 fish. The fish were a mixture of Rainbow Trout, Brown Trout and Suckers. We then returned to shore and swapped out with another set of volunteers, so they could get a chance to electroshock.
After an hour delay another electroshocking boat had come back in and was looking for volunteers. I was able to join Kevin and Dan on their excursions for the remainder of the evening. Dan, Kevin and I made four more trips out and back and the results were even better.
We made one trip across the lake past the nets to the opposite shore, hitting some of the quadrants that had not been shocked yet. I think that since it was really dark, it was a reason for the drastic improvement in the numbers of fish we were seeing. Kevin was piloting the boat and Dan and I were busy shocking and netting. On the first trip we almost filled the live well. Most of the fish were brown trout, with a smattering of Rainbow Trout, Brook Trout and a few Suckers. We returned to the net pens and I was tasked with the recording, while Dan and Kevin wresteld, measured, and placed the fish in the pens. The total number of fish on the first pass was 123! Kevin wanted to measure the fish in millimeters and round off.
Another trip was made heading east from the Staging Area along the north shore. We found a mixture of Brown Trout and suckers.
Another trip we headed to the south shore and worked our way to the east side of the lake. We got into some really nice Brown Trout, some RainbowTrout, Brook Trout and Suckers.
The largest fish I saw was a brown that measured 540 mm and felt likt it weighed close to 10 pounds. It was round like a torpedo and was a bugger to lift into the boat with the long-handled net!
At the end of the last trip I looked over the recording sheets on the clipboard. There were four sheets capable of recording 99 fish each that had been filled and I had to make additional rows on the bottom to finish out the last trip. That one boat had brought in 425 fish that night!
They had started with 3 elctroshocking boats and by the end of the night, all three had fallen victim to mecahnical problems. Robert's boat, the first one I was on (the newest one), had developed an oil leak in the generator and it would completely drain all of the oil out of it. That boat ended up out of service awaiting the mechanics in the morning. The second boat had cracked the manifold on the generator and was able to stay in service, but it was very noisy. Kevin's boat had trouble with the generator not wanting to start, then lost all power while we were tied up to the net pens. We killed all the electrical circuits, waited a little bit, and were finally able to start the motor. We were thinking that there might be a problem with the alternator charging the batteries, or possibly that the engine RPMs were not sufficiently charging them. Either way it caused an eerie feeling sitting dead in the water in the dark, wondering if we would have to wait for someone to come tow us back to the staging area...
Unfortunately, the pictures Cindy took did not come out well due to the low light conditions, so I only have my fading memory to hang onto...
All in all it was a fun evening and I would encourage anyone who wants to, to volunteer if something like this ever comes up again.