Low water level sentries | Kern Valley Sun

The now exposed orchards of yesterday | Jeffrey Walters/Kern Valley Sun

When Lake Isabella experiences a drought, these extremely low water levels reveal a new world normally hidden beneath the waves.

Unfortunately, the Kern River Valley has experienced a longer-than-normal drought these past couple of years. The low water levels in the lake have exposed so much terrain, obstacles both natural and man-made, along with a withered and dead forest. These once-proud trees were planted many years ago in straight rows and are now well exposed above the water line, reaching out their leafless limbs and branchless hulls as if forming a wall of sentries one must pass through.
The water is still deeper than most areas in and around these lifeless guardians and still offers some habitat structure for the remaining fish. Fishing all around these lifeless trees can be rewarding if the angler has the proper tools and the proper amount of information. Drastic weather changes along with lower water levels challenge the angler and how they must adapt to gain success. The larger the predator fish, the larger their hunting area; the same goes for other pelagic types of schooling fish. The fish that travel in schools are the easiest to target since they are naturally prone to keep moving in deeper water all the time. Now, the deeper water is routinely found mixed up in the trees.
Most anglers use trolling or drifting techniques to target targeting fish like crappie, white and striped bass, and trout. All these species, when found in larger bodies of deeper and still water, tend to form the natural schooling instincts where they travel throughout the body of water hunting prey in packs. However, they are forced to adapt to other feeding zones and areas when water levels drop. With the water level so low and exposing the dead forest we see, these fish are now roaming the forest, competing with other more stationary species like largemouth and smallmouth bass.
The compromise between the two types of fishing, both target-based and drifting-based, must form a cohesive alliance so the angler will become more successful. So just how is this done? Since most target- and drifting-based fishing is by boat, the angler depends on the wide use of electronics that can map out the bottom and nearby areas, displaying structure that is not visible from the surface. Here the angler can adapt to using jigs rather than cast-and-retrieve types of lures. They set up a short drift line and slowly troll the outer edges of the forest, sometimes weaving in and out of the forest rows.
Having the skill sets and knowledge will help successful anglers as they adapt to these drastic changes. Knowing how to read the water, incorporating both visuals and electronics, will help guide the boat-bound angler to greater success. So, take some time and stroll through the aquatic forest and become a more successful angler.