Hard Times on New Melones Lake

Hard Times While Fishing Are Still Good Times

August 31 – September 1, 2011

This week’s fishing adventure was a rolling catastrophe, it seemed. Still… I fished and succeeded somewhat, and spent the night on the lake, taking in God’s great outdoors all the while.

TWO! I actually caught two fish this trip!

My troubles began as I pulled up to Glory Hole Sports store just outside Angels Camp, CA to purchase some night crawlers and ice. As I walked toward the store I patted by back pocket, as I am wont to do, and there was no wallet! Now, I am not the sort to lose my wallet, but it was missing and so was my smartphone. Panic set in. I decided that I didn’t need the wallet if the store would accept my credit card number. I explained my situation at the counter, and they allowed me use of their phone. After a couple of phone calls, I got my wife on the line, and she said there was no wallet anywhere. And no phone.  At that point I was in full panic! If they weren’t at home, where were they? I would have to return the 65 miles home at once!

But first I checked the boat in case I had left them there. As I entered the cabin, I remembered that I had put both, along with some clothing and my coins, in the ice chest to save a trip from the house to the boat. Gosh! I miss my memory so much! How could I have forgotten?! Believe me, it’s easy when one’s memory begins to slip.

After buying my worms and ice, I headed to the boat to stow them and head for the ramp. But wait… I’d forgotten the ice in the big ice chest out front of the store. And so it goes.

I launched without further frustration and was excited to see how my new XM antenna, now perched high atop the radar arch would work. I’d been losing signal regularly due to that arch, but I can report that I didn’t miss one second of XM’s Okie music on Willie’s Roadhouse, channel 56! I had also just installed a ControllKing remote throttle for the Tohatsu 8 HP kicker. And I can report that it also worked just fine.

I tried trolling for kokanee, waaaay down at 85+ feet, but couldn’t attract a single fish.  I did manage to get the downrigger weights crossed at that depth, however, and could not get them untangled. They were under the boat, the port weight down sixty some feet, the starboard about a foot below the boat, just out of my reach. It would not budge, and trying to pull the cable with bare hands, I managed a few cuts on my fingers. Having learned the hard way, I grabbed a couple of rags, and finally managed to untangle the weights. After getting everything back on board, I discovered that one downrigger quit working. I imagined that I’d burned out the motor.

The first trout of the trip –  a real beauty!

Even so, I continued to troll with a single downrigger, trying at 20 feet to 40 feet for trout, and trolling the second rod just below the surface. I managed to catch one nice, plump, 16 inch rainbow that was just gorgeous. Into the fishbox he went, and I continued trolling.

I planned to try for one of New Melones’ big catfish during the evening, and at about 1830 I reeled in and began looking for a cove to spend the night. Instead of anchoring, I planned to beach the boat, and be able to bait fish without swinging on the hook. At 1940 I was beached in what I’d describe as a muddy, kinda ugly cove and one that might appeal to catfish. I tossed out a sliding sinker rig baited with night crawlers.

What I would name Ugly Cove. I wasn’t there for long.

The view from Ugly Cove. And no luck with the fishing there, either!

It was another beautiful evening sitting there in the cockpit awaiting the nibble of, perhaps, a 10 pound catfish. I watched the setting sun turn to dusk, and dusk turn to darkness. Stars were brilliant in the dark, moonless sky, and Merle and Dolly and the gang sang wonderfully as I sipped a few Vodka Collins. Life is good, even with sore fingers.

I reeled in at 2200, and not all that pleased with the muddy cove, I idled into a nearby cove to anchor for the night. In spite of the broken downrigger and the cut fingers, it had been a good day. I crawled into the V-berth for the night, but my sleep didn’t last long enough.

At 0300 on Day 2, I awoke to the sound of the anchor dragging.  I noticed that a slight breeze had come up, and anchored on a hard, rocky bottom, the breeze moved the boat and the anchor. I got up and headed for another anchorage.

It was a very dark night, but thanks to GPS, chartplotters and a good spotlight, I motored my way across the lake to the marina area. I anchored in a nearby cove, and at 0430 I crawled back into the V-berth for a fitful sleep. I was up a bit after 0600 and was trolling again by 0645.

Trolling with one downrigger, my fish finder could not find the lake bottom. I’ve had trouble enough with that Raymarine A70D finding the bottom with two downriggers, but usually get it corrected by adjusting the gain. For some reason, with the one downrigger, it just could not  find the lake bottom but showed the downrigger weight as the bottom. Essentially I did not have a depth finder and it was a real handicap to troll. I was very frustrated with that unit and have been too many times.

Trolling as the sun rises on New Melones Lake. No matter the “hard times”, this is the life! 

I did manage another trout, a beautiful 15 incher that  took the same chrome Flatfish that caught the trout on Day 1. This one came at about 35 feet. And I had a third one on a bit later, but taking a flying leap as I tried to net him, he managed a last minute escape.

At 1000 I reeled in and stowed the fishing gear. It had been a good two days of fishing, the downrigger problem and cut fingers notwithstanding. But hard times were not over.

As I retrieved the boat, standing on the trailer tongue and leaning heavily forward to crank the boat further onto the trailer, I slipped. My leg jammed into the sharp corner of aluminum channel that is part of the tower that ties down the bow of the boat. I wound up in two feet of water, standing on the other leg, soaked and hurting like #%$^&@! I couldn’t tell how bad the cut was, but I continued loading the boat ’til it was ready to pull up the ramp. As it turned out, the cut was not deep, but the scrape was huge and a bit bloody. Since then, a big, ugly bruise has developed, but it was nothing serious. Whew.

With the boat finally loaded and secure, I headed home. This trip was a tough one, but how can one complain about a few problems when spending all that time fishing and enjoying the great outdoors?! I got the downrigger fixed already, it was a blown circuit board, and am looking forward to my next adventure – another Oregon trip! I can’t wait…


This pending world record 9.7 Lb. Kokanee was taken by Ron Campbell at Wallowa Lake in Oregon in July. I will soon be fishing that lake, although a bit late for kokanee, I suppose, so we expect to fish for trout and perhaps lake trout. My ol’ high school buddy, Al, will join me. Stay Tuned!



About FishWisher

Over the years I have posted many exciting fishing and boating stories here, but now in my seventies, it was time to sell the boat and find less demanding pastimes. All the fishing stories are still here! I will now post my travels aboard the motorhome and other activities. I hope y'all will still enjoy the fishing and boating adventures and perhaps peek in on my post-boating activities on occasion. Thanks for dropping in and I hope you enjoy your visit.
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