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River Valley Times

CDFW Conducts First Electrofishing Survey at Clementia Lake

Apr 15, 2024 04:44PM ● By Gail Bullen, River Valley Times Reporter, photos by Gail Bullen
Ben Ewing weighs a bass at the swimming dock.

RANCHO MURIETA, CA (MPG) - The large-mouth bass populating Lake Clementia might be smaller than their relatives in larger lakes but they still comprise a “solid fishery.”

That was the initial conclusion after two biologists from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) conducted an electrofishing survey at Clementia on March 25.

Electrofishing uses a mild electrical current to stun the fish, which are then collected and measured before being released. California Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists use electrofishing to survey fish populations in streams, rivers and lakes.

The Rancho Murieta Fishing Club, particularly President Jim Monical, was able to arrange the first-time survey by California Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists Ben Ewing and Max Fish. Monical also had to get permission from the Rancho Murieta Community Services District (CSD), which manages the water in the lakes. Ewing told the Improvements Committee that the survey would result in a written report providing a percentage of each species in the lake, along with the length, weight and age ranges.

 “The big one is the length to weight ratio because that gives you an idea of how they are doing,” he said.

Ben Ewing lake

 Ben Ewing prepares to net a fish in the reeds on north side of the lake.

Expressing their enthusiasm, the committee approved the survey.

After being twice delayed by bad weather, the survey got a late start on March 25 because of a problem with the generator needed to stun the fish. However, the Rancho Murieta Association Maintenance Department came to the rescue.

“It was a team effort,” Ewing said. “They had all the tools.”

Because the Rancho Murieta Community Services District doesn’t allow gasoline engines on the three reservoirs, the biologists lifted theirs out of the water and wrapped it inside a bag. To navigate, they used an electric motor supplied by Monical.

Ewing told the fishing club members that they were only conducting a preliminary survey of Clementia because they didn’t have time to survey the entire shoreline. They began by collecting fish near the dam and then bringing them to the swimming dock to measure their lengths and weights. They next surveyed the reedy shoreline on the lake’s north side near the dam before returning to the boat dock.

Clementia Lake Max Fish

 Ben Ewing measures an open-mouth bass on the Clementia Lake dock as Max Fish records the results.

At both survey locations, Ewing placed the netted fish into a live well, actually an ice chest, to keep them viable until they could be measured. Once the second biologist tabulated the measurements, Ewing tossed the fish overboard.

Ewing netted 16 bass during the survey. As he was measuring them near the dam, Ewing told the occupants in a nearby boat that a couple of them were a little “snaky,” that is thinner than they should be.

When he surveys ponds and lakes with catch and release regulations, Ewing said, he often sees very snaky fish with big heads and long bodies.

“A lot of times, when there is no harvest, you get a stunted population,” he said. “It’s like giving a bunch of people one cheeseburger.”

Ewing said that wasn’t the case at Clementia, which is catch and release, even though the bass are smaller than in lakes like New Hogan Reservoir or Clear Lake.

“That’s because there is so much bait fish in here. We are seeing no shortage of golden shiners,” he said. “So that is going to be really helpful.”

Nick Kanemoto, a professional bass fisherman, told the biologist that the bass in Lake Calero are in even better shape.

“The fish in there are really healthy,” Kanemoto said. “The average size is a lot bigger than the biggest one you have got there.”

Fishing club member Jay Solomon explained why the bass in Calero have an advantage. “That’s because it has been stocked three years in a row with blackfish,” Solomon said.

After returning to the board dock, Ewing was asked his initial assessment of Clementia.  “It’s still a solid fishery,” he told the onlookers.

After Soloman and others urged CDFW to come back again, Ewing told them they would consider it.

The fishing club organized the most recent fish stocking at Lake Calero on Feb. 20. The Freshwater Fish Company of Wilton dispersed 300 adult blackfish that will be forage fish for the bass. Monical said a total of $4,500 was donated to cover the cost: $3,000 from the Rancho Murieta Association, $500 from the River Valley Garden Club, $700 from fishing club members and $300 from Bill Kenney.

Department of Fish and Wildlife Max Fish Ben Ewing Clementia Lake

 California Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist Max Fish, left, and Ben Ewing begin a fish survey at Clementia Lake on March 25. The cords hanging from the dropper in front of the board emit currents that shock the fish so they can easily be netted and measured.

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