Knee Deep: ‘Over the Line!’

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THE NEW BUOY LINE at Dixon Lake that will keep boats from plugging up Whisker Bay.
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BY MIKE STEVENS

Prior to the trout opener at Dixon Lake, the ranger staff announced the implementation of two new buoy lines that will restrict access to areas favored by anglers on stock days in an effort to put an end to problems that have become more frequent in recent years. Fish snagging, over limits, fishing without a permit and the occasional fistfight were at the top of the list, and as ridiculous as that sounds on its own, some of the reactions to this tyranny (I just laughed out loud as I typed that) are just as bad, only funnier.

First let me say, I give anglers in this particular demographic (call it age 15 to 21, give or take) a lot of slack when it comes to how they go about navigating their own fishing playbooks. No matter what they do, it always tends to come back to, “well, at least they’re fishing” and just like that whatever the issue was is in the rear-view. I actually try not to be the disapproving old guy in most cases, especially when the disapproval is based on little more than that – me being old – but the issues causing the changes at Dixon Lake were reaching a level of absurdity that even anglers of in the same age bracket were calling out the violators and praising these changes.

I’m using Dixon Lake as an example for a few reasons starting with the fact I consider it my home lake, so I know the lay of the land. In my early high-school years, my buddy and I would get dropped off by his mom when the gate opened and picked up by mine when it closed. Before we could drive, we’d have to hoof it wherever we wanted to fish (Oh my… I just did the “walk to school uphill in the snow” thing didn’t I?). The routine was buy a permit at the concession, walk to Trout Cove and fish there and maybe neighboring Jack Creek Cove if it looked more promising.

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When we fished Dixon, we had little or no idea when it was being stocked. Once we arrived, the recent stock date was posted on a bulletin board, or maybe we’d hear someone mention it down in Trout Cove. We’d get pumped to hear it was stocked within the last few days or maybe it was going to go down later that day, but it certainly didn’t factor in to whether or not we hit the lake on a given day. We just fished when we could.

Occasionally, if that end of the lake wasn’t producing, we made the call to hike all the way to Whisker Bay knowing it was a top option within a few days of a trout plant, but that was a huge call to make. Walking from Trout Cove to Whisker Bay was not only hiking to almost polar-opposite ends of the lake, but to get back to the end-of-the-day pickup point (the parking lot by Boat Dock Cove), we’d have to walk all the way back and well past Trout Cove which was almost orbiting the entire lake. It was a heck of a commitment, losing all that fishing time to prospect a new location, and it didn’t always pay off.

My point here is not to suggest that way was the right way and whippersnappers these days have it all wrong, but I am saying it was more of a level playing field when I was coming up.

If these guys want to fish shoulder-to-shoulder and three heads deep on a tiny chunk of shore, I’ve got no problem with it, even if it has lead to them actually wading in a non-water-contact lake just to crowbar themselves into casting position. The occasional shoreline donnybrook might be entertaining, and even watching these guys try and out-Instagram each other complete with accusations of fish-snagging after a day on the water is usually worthy of an out-loud chuckle.

What I do take issue with, is how “stock truck chasers” hammer dazed trout hours if not minutes after they’re dumped into the lake and pounding the schools into oblivion before they can circulate throughout the lake and maybe get caught by someone not fishing on stock day, or wearing a homemade fishing jersey for that matter. The measures taken at Dixon Lake won’t completely eliminate the angler-gauntlet factor, but it will put the screws to it quite a bit.

Clearly each member of the truck-trout nation considers themselves ranked near the top of the unofficial stocker-trout power rankings, for whatever that’s worth. Many are packing $250-plus rods and high-end reels only available direct from Japan and “earning” the rank of “pro staff” is held in the highest regard.

If they’re the cream of the crop, why the need to shoot fish in the stock day barrel?

When Dixon made the announcement via social media, there was actually a respectable mix between support of the new rules by regulars on the SoCal trout scene and raw panic just short of that brought on by the Hindenberg disaster.

One supporter responded with, “that’s like 3 percent of the lake” to which a disapprover replied, “Yea! The only 3 percent with trout in it!”

Oh the humanity.

It’s hard to say how the Minijig Mafia is going to respond to having to find biters elsewhere on Dixon Lake. It’s likely some will try to venture back into the demilitarized zones, others might just not return to Dixon. Hopefully, even if it just a few of them taking this route, others branch out and expand the ol’ truck-trout playbook.

The fishing version of taking your damn training wheels off.

THE EXTENSION that forks off of the main Buoy Line at Dixon Lake will keep stock-day anglers from decimating freshly planted trout close to the stocking location.