After 25 Years, Silverwood Is Revealing Its Deep Past

While hundreds in Northern California wait for flood waters to recede so they can see what is left of their homes, here in Southern California only a few are turning out at Silverwood Lake State Recreation Area to see what is left of theirs.

Their flood occurred 25 years ago, when the vast San Bernardino County reservoir was created as part of the State Water Project.

The small community of Cedar Springs was swallowed up, its residents paid market value for their homes and forced to move.

"They sent appraisers in there and, well . . . I got what I thought was fair," said Ward Parker, 75, who had lived in Cedar Springs since 1936 and now lives in nearby Summit Valley. "You can't fight the state, anyway, so there was nothing I could have done."

In the next 25 years Silverwood Lake, located off California 138 about 11 miles from Interstate 215 near Crestline, became a popular wilderness campground and one of the best striped bass fisheries in the Southland.

But now the 1,000-acre lake is more like a giant pond, having been lowered in recent weeks by about 90 feet so construction crews can retrofit the outflow towers to meet earthquake standards.

And Cedar Springs has temporarily been put back on the map. Sort of. Not much of it is exposed and only road signs, concrete foundations and an old bridge are visible through the murky water.

"I can make out where I used to live and where my wife's brother lived," Parker said. "Most of the buildings are gone, but I can see the foundations. It was quite a little community. They used to raise strawberries in the hills here. We had a strawberry festival once a year."

Lisa Lay, a ranger at Silverwood, said boats will not be allowed back on the lake until spring and that fishermen are restricted to certain areas along the lake's shores, thus there aren't many around.

But the drawing down of the reservoir is generating excitement nonetheless, because as the water drops--the lake will be taken down about six more feet--all sorts of weird things are coming into view. A single-engine airplane that plunged into the reservoir years ago was discovered a few weeks ago, and five boats that had sunk and settled on the muddy bottom were located.

"One of the boats was completely exposed, so we called the person who owned it and he came down and he found his wife's purse and his wallet, along with a set of tools," Lay said. "He was pleased."

Lay added that scavengers are out in force on weekends, "finding everything from watches and rings, to umbrellas, engines from boats, anchors and, most of all, fishing poles."

The lowering of the lake will eventually benefit the Silverwood fishery; crews from the California Conservation Corps have been installing artificially constructed fish habitat along much of the shoreline, which eventually will be submerged again.

Meanwhile, bald eagles, not striped bass, are the main attraction, having migrated into the region for the winter. Though their favorite tree, a towering pine amid a stand of smaller pines, was toppled by recent winds, eagles can still be seen soaring over the lake, hunting for fish and ducks, perching on branches and landing atop shoreline rocks.

"We're seeing a lot of them around," Lay said, adding that spotting scopes are available and wildlife experts are on hand Saturdays and Sundays from 9 a.m.-noon.

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Among the victims of last week's deluge up north are thousands of steelhead raised at Nimbus Hatchery on the American River near Sacramento and thousands of trout from the San Joaquin Hatchery on the San Joaquin River near Fresno.

At Nimbus, debris flowing downstream from Folsom Dam clogged screens leading into the hatchery and cut off flows. The screens were removed to allow a flow, but the water coming in was so turbid and full of silt that the fish began to suffocate.

Hatchery workers were forced to release those fish still alive--about 290,000 yearling steelhead--directly into the river to increase their chances of survival. The steelhead--raised as mitigation for the building of Folsom Dam, which blocks access to historic steelhead breeding grounds--are normally released in mid-January near the confluence of the American and Sacramento rivers.

At the San Joaquin Hatchery, both the ponds and hatchery buildings were flooded, forcing employees to evacuate. According to Department of Fish and Game spokesman Paul Wertz, between 1 million and 2 million catchable and sub-catchable trout were flooded out of the hatchery and into the river. Some choked to death, but as of Thursday morning DFG biologists were working with nets to rescue what fish they could and return them to aerated ponds.

Also of concern, according to the DFG, is the effect of high water on recovering trout populations--such as that on the upper Sacramento River--and on incubating eggs from the fall run of king salmon on such rivers and tributaries of the Sacramento, Feather and Eel. The eggs are in stages ranging from incubating to hatching; some already have hatched, depositing fry into raging torrents of muddy water.

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Baja bite: It's shaping up to be a banner month for striped marlin in the Cabo San Lucas area, but next month should be fantastic, that is if last year was any indication.

The Gaviota fleet, one of the largest and most popular at Land's End, has compiled year-end totals for 1996, and 308 striped marlin were caught in February, 245 of which were released. March was nearly as productive, with 275 stripers being brought to leader. June was the best month, however, with 324 stripers caught by Gaviota anglers.

Without marlin, Cabo San Lucas would not have developed into the resort city it is. Realizing this, Gaviota and other fleets, some to a lesser extent than others, are letting the billfish go and keeping only smaller and tastier game such as tuna and dorado.

In all, the Gaviota fleet reported 2,118 striped marlin caught, 1,699 of which were set free, an impressive 80% release rate.

Unfortunately, not all skippers or fleet operators can boast such high rates of release--a dead marlin on the swim step of a boat returning from a day at sea has long been considered an effective advertising tool by some. And there are still some customers who insist on killing marlin merely to get their pictures taken beside their hanging catches. But the catch-and-release movement is slowly catching on.

Dorado aren't so fortunate, being both acrobatic and delectable. Known as mahi-mahi in Hawaii and dolphin on the East Coast, only the babies of this species are released, and not always then.

Fortunately, dorado reproduce like rabbits and grow like weeds and thus always seem to remain in good supply. The best month? Last year it was November, when 1,236 were caught by Gaviota anglers. October and December were nearly as good.

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Miscellany: Prospective hunters can obtain their mandatory safety certificates by attending a 10-hour course Saturday beginning at 6:30 a.m. at Mike Raahauge Shooting Enterprises in Corona. Cost is $35. Details: (800) 773-4868.

FRESHWATER REPORT

CASTAIC LAKE--Top largemouth bass catches all from lower lake. Vince Lopez, Bakersfield, with guide Gary Harrison, 16-pound 8-ounce bass, on water dog at 20 feet. Brian Uyema, West Hills, 10-12 bass, on trout-like lure. Pat Buckley, Castaic, 9-4 bass, on Optimum Swimbait. Greg Glogow, Valencia, 7-2, on mudsucker. Lots of smaller largemouths caught in upper lake. Striped bass also active in upper lake. Allan Cole, Lancaster, 19-pound striper, on AC Plug. His son, Eric, caught a 17-pounder.

LAKE PIRU--Most species active. Largemouth bass taking plastic worms fished at San Felicia and Reasoner coves. Bob Middleton, Sunland, five trout totaling 9-8, on Needlefish lures trolled near dam. Pete Cervantez, Fillmore, five catfish totaling 59 pounds, on mackerel at north end.

PYRAMID LAKE--Striped bass and largemouth bass best bets, but fishing is fair at best. An unidentified angler reported catching a 10-pound striper and eight largemouths at south end. Night crawlers best bets for largemouths. Anchovies and plugs best for stripers. Some crappies biting near marina.

LAKE CACHUMA--Trout from Idaho hatchery planted Monday and bite is fair off E Point. Trollers getting some on Needlefish pulled from marina to Cachuma Bay. Some largemouth bass taking plastic worms. Some red-ear perch biting on night crawlers at 30 feet.

LAKE CASITAS--Largemouth bass fishing picking up. Marlin Spencer, Santa Barbara, 11-pound bass, on homemade lure. Voris Meeks, Los Angeles, 10-8 bass, on night crawler. Lots of fish in nine-pound range, biting on crawdads and big rubber lures. Trout from Idaho hatchery stocked Monday at Santa Ana Ramp. Power Bait, Kastmasters and Roostertails all working. Catfish good on mackerel.

CORONA LAKE--Top catches, 13- and six-pound trout by Vernon Weekly, West Covina, while trolling a silver Kastmaster. Others weighed in include one 11-7 (red Roostertail), another 11 pounds ((black Panther Martin), and one 10-6 (night crawler).

SANTA ANA RIVER LAKES--As if enough huge trout haven't been caught in recent weeks, thousands more fish weighing 10-20 pounds are scheduled to be stocked in time for coming promotions, such as the annual trout championship tournament Jan. 18, with $500 in prize money. Meanwhile, it's elbow-room only at a couple of freeway-side ponds that have received of publicity in recent weeks.

IRVINE LAKE--A 12-pound trout was caught by Ken Huss of Huntington Beach. Huss was using rainbow Power Bait at Sierra Cove. The rest were sub-7-pounders and there were some limits of much smaller fish. Float-tube clinic scheduled Saturday and Sunday. Details: (714) 649-9111.

LAGUNA NIGUEL LAKE--Bite improving as murky water clears. Some limits of trout, though they are not easy to come by. A 7-8 trout was landed by Nate Schupbach, Laguna Niguel, on a salmon egg near inlet. Catfish don't mind the murk; the bite is good on mackerel and night crawlers fished at dam.

LAKE SKINNER--Largest striped bass, an 18-2 by Robert Petroff, Temecula, on unknown lure at Ramp 1. Largemouth bass fair at marina point on plastics, night crawlers and spoons. Crappies biting at east end. Trout action fair at Ramp 2 and east end.

LAKE PERRIS--Largemouth bass fairly deep, biting mostly on night crawlers, plastics and spoons. Trout scattered since last plant at Ramp 5, but some limits are being filled with Power Bait, salmon eggs and marshmallows.

SAN DIEGO CITY LAKES--Miramar and Murray producing little else but trout, with stringers being filled by the usual stuff--Power Bait, Sierra Gold and small spinners. Some catfish and an occasional largemouth bass.

LAKE CUYAMACA--Trout bite picking up for those using inflated night crawlers fished just off the bottom. Lone Pine and fishing float best bets. Best catch wasn't a trout but a 14-inch smallmouth bass by Richard Camp, Ramona, on a Trout Teaser lure. Free fishing class Saturdays at 10 a.m.

SALTWATER REPORT

MORRO BAY (Virg's Landing)--14 anglers (1 boat): 105 red rock cod, 105 rock cod. (Bob's Sportfishing)--7 anglers (1 boat): 1 ling cod, 75 red rock cod, 30 assorted bass.

AVILA BAY (Avila Beach)--6 anglers (1 boat):25 assorted rockfish, 65 red rockfish.

SANTA BARBARA (Sea Landing)--20 anglers (2 boats): 92 calico bass, 9 sand bass, 2 halibut, 1 sculpin, 10 rockfish, 2 sheephead.

VENTURA--10 anglers (1 boat): 65 rockfish, 19 sculpin, 1 sheephead, 1 ling cod. (Harbor Village)--23 anglers (2 boats): 21 ling cod, 60 red snapper, 248 rockfish, 122 whitefish, 4 sculpin, 4 sheephead.

OXNARD (Cisco's)--34 anglers (3 boats): 55 calico bass, 25 sand bass, 6 blue perch, 3 halibut, 1 ling cod, 199 rockfish, 7 sculpin, 12 sheephead, 33 whitefish, 1 cabezon.

MARINA DEL REY--38 anglers (4 boats): 2 halibut, 44 sand bass, 2 calico bass, 83 sculpin, 40 rock cod, 10 perch, 1 sole, 1 sheephead, 350 mackerel, 3 black sea bass (released).

REDONDO BEACH--67 anglers (3 boats): 7 calico bass, 75 sand bass, 1 halibut, 100 blue perch, 23 whitefish, 2 sheephead, 2 sculpin.

SAN PEDRO (L.A. Harbor Sportfishing)--46 anglers (3 boats): 180 rock cod, 3 lingcod, 20 sand bass, 9 calico bass, 7 sculpin, 65 perch, 35 rockfish, 10 whitefish, 3 sheephead, 1 halibut, 1 cabezon. (22nd St. Landing)--15 anglers (1 boat): 7 calico bass, 1 halibut, 10 sand bass, 105 sculpin, 15 whitefish, 10 sheephead, 60 rockfish.

LONG BEACH--43 anglers (4 boats): 18 calico bass, 72 sand bass, 2 white sea bass, 28 whitefish, 152, perch, 3 cow cod, 140 rock cod, 3 cabezon.

SEAL BEACH--14 anglers (1 boat): 5 sheephead, 150 perch, 23 sculpin, 215 rockfish, 1 cabezon.

NEWPORT BEACH (Davey's Locker)--11 anglers (1 boat):1 calico bass, 8 sand bass, 45 sculpin, 2 sheephead, 12 perch.

DANA WHARF--16 anglers (1 boat): 8 calico bass, 14 sand bass, 7 mackerel, 1 rockfish, 7 sculpin, 12 sheephead.

OCEANSIDE--21 anglers (2 boats): 2 calico bass, 32 sand bass, 1 halibut, 139 sculpin, 11 sheephead, 23 rockfish, 132 mackerel.

PORT HUENEME--10 anglers (1 boat): 103 rock cod, 12 whitefish, 2 sculpin, 2 halibut, 3 calico bass.

SAN DIEGO (Seaforth)--22 anglers (3 boats): 3 calico bass, 3 sand bass, 160 rockfish, 117 mackerel, 4 sheephead, 29 sculpin. (Islandia)--32 anglers (2 boats): 1 ling cod, 68 rock cod, 8 sculpin, 65 rockfish, 100 mackerel.

TROUT PLANTS

LOS ANGELES COUNTY--Belvedere Park Lake, Cerritos Park Lake, Crystal Park Lake, Downey Wilderness Park Lake, Echo Park Lake, El Dorado Park Lake, Kenneth Hahn Park Lake, La Mirada Park Lake, Legg Lake, Lincoln Park Lake, MacArthur Park Lake, Peck Road Park Lake, Puddingstone Reservoir, San Gabriel River (East, West and North forks), Santa Fe Reservoir, Willowbrook Lake.

ORANGE--Centennial Park Lake, Mile Square Park Lake, Ralph Clark Park Lake, Tri-City Park Lake.

RIVERSIDE--Cahuilla Park Lake, Evans Lake, Rancho Jurupa Park Lake.

SAN BERNARDINO--Prado "Park Lake, Yucaipa Park Lake.

SAN DIEGO--Chollas Park Lake, Lake Murray.

KERN--Hart Park Lake, Kern River (Live Oak picnic area to Democrat Beach), Lake Isabella, Ming Lake, Woollomes Lake.

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