Deadline to save fishing at Lake Cahuilla looms

A 50-POUND FLATHEAD catfish hauled from the depths of Lake Cahuilla in La Quinta.
Campaign to keep lake open for recreation needs public firepower

LA QUINTA — When Lake Cahuilla’s 50-year contract with the Coachella Valley Water District (CVWD) expired in March, a one-year extension was granted saving it from being closed to outdoor recreation. It was good news at the time, but it was still just a Band-Aid on an unresolved issue and with March of 2022 right around the corner, it’s once again time to fight for a very important fishery in an area otherwise void of outdoor options for more than just fishing.

Western Outdoor News has been keeping tabs on the issue via updates from Desert Valley Outdoors (DVO) founder Julian Rangel, who has been the primary source of the latest fishing info for reports in WON for years, but he also presides over that club which stands at the forefront of the fight to keep Lake Cahuilla available for recreation. The 135-acre lake is a very popular fishing spot, but it also features a hiking trails, a campground, picnic areas, a swimming pool and equestrian activities.

“If there is no contract in place by March 2022, it shuts down,” said Rangel in a recent interview with WON. “No one is talking about another extension. We need another long- term contract, and it sounds like they want to do a 30-year first, and then take it back to the board for another 20, and that makes sense.”

Even before focusing its efforts on this issue, DVO was tirelessly advocating for other things the county was cutting back, if not eliminating, including but not limited to fishing derbies and stocking. Currently, Cahuilla does receive some trout plants in the cooler months and catfish in summer. The lake is fed by the Colorado River via the aqueduct and also features bass and the occasional flathead catfish and striped bass.


Also muddying the waters – so to speak – was the need for a pricy insurance policy (that has since been taken care of by the Desert Recreation District, the City of La Quinta and Riverside County) and currently, the wait for a test for quagga mussels from an outside agency.

“Quaggas are a big topic,” said Rangel. “Riverside and the water district are back and forth over whether or not quaggas are in there, and it’s hard to get insurance for something you’re trying to prevent. We’re waiting on those tests, so the clock is ticking.”

This latest campaign includes local television spots and stories with local news outlets, which are key for those in favor of keeping Lake Cahuilla open because according to Rangel, there’s not a whole lot of public awareness about the situation. Without that awareness and public engagement, the CVWD and the County of Riverside Department of Parks and Open Spaces would likely shut down the lake and use it only as a “settling reservoir” for the water district with no new contract in place.

Rangel has been present and involved in all meetings relevant to the situation at Lake Cahuilla, and he says it was public involvement along with Desert Valley Outdoors leading

the charge that resulted in the one-year extension last March, and that’s what it’s going to take to get a long-term solution this time around.

The hope is that not only local anglers and outdoor enthusiasts, but anyone in the fishing community will shoot an email to officials involved in this process to maximize the amount of voices heard.

It would really be unfortunate if Lake Cahuilla was shut down in March and other counties followed their lead. “Simple emails go a long way,” added Rangel.

The list of representatives to contact include:

V.Manuel Perez – 4th District Supervisor, Riverside

Riverside County Parks and Open Spaces

Coachella Valley Water District

Desert Recreation District

City of La Quinta City Counsel

U.S. Congressman Raul Ruiz, 36th District
(760) 424-8888