The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) are working together to offset effects anglers may experience as a result of dam upgrade work scheduled for the summer of 2020 at Lower Bucks Lake in Plumas County.
The concrete dam at Lower Bucks Lake is owned by PG&E. Since its construction in the late 1920s, the downstream face of the dam has experienced gradual damage from repeated freezing and thawing, enlarging surface cracks in the dam. Although there are no immediate safety concerns, PG&E is going to install a water-resistant membrane on the upstream side of the dam to prevent future damage and will restore the downstream face of the dam.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has approved PG&E's plan. The project is slated to begin in May 2020 and conclude by November 2020. To perform the work, Lower Bucks Lake must be drained and roads, campsites and other public access to the lake will be closed temporarily to ensure public safety. Nearby Bucks Lake will not be impacted and will remain open to the public.
Lower Bucks Lake is located in the Plumas National Forest less than 20 miles from the Plumas County seat of Quincy. The small, 136-acre reservoir sits at an elevation of approximately 5,022 feet and is located downstream from the much larger, 1,850-acre Bucks Lake. The two reservoirs are connected by Bucks Creek.
While Bucks Lake is a major recreation destination offering camping, lodging, RV accommodations, fishing, boat rentals and water sports of all kinds, Lower Bucks Lake provides a quieter, more secluded fishing experience with just seven small public campsites, no formal boat launch and boating restrictions. Although CDFW has not stocked Lower Bucks Lake with fish since 1966, the lake holds small populations of Lake Trout, Brown Trout, Rainbow Trout, Brook Trout and Kokanee Salmon.
To offset lost fishing opportunity in the area due to the project, CDFW and PG&E evaluated several options. A fish rescue will not be feasible during the lake’s drawdown due to steep terrain, safety concerns and limited access.
CDFW and PG&E instead will focus efforts on providing additional fishing opportunity at Bucks Lake during the dam work. Bucks Lake will receive double the number of catchable-sized Rainbow Trout stocked in addition to the normal number of Brown Trout and Brook Trout planted.
Once the upgrade project is complete, CDFW and PG&E will work together to rebuild the fishery at Lower Bucks Lake through substantial fish stocking in 2021 and 2022, which will include the planting of Kokanee Salmon, and Rainbow and Brown Trout.
In addition to catchable, sub-catchable and fingerling-sized fish provided by both CDFW and PG&E, PG&E has committed to stocking trophy-sized Rainbow Trout into Lower Bucks Lake to jump-start the fishery for the 2021 fishing and camping season.
“With the number and size of fish we’ll be planting in Lower Bucks Lake after the project, it should provide a fast-action fishery and a great fishing opportunity for quite a while,” said Amber Mouser, CDFW’s district fisheries biologist for Plumas County.
In the meantime, anglers are encouraged to pay a visit to Lower Bucks Lake this summer and fall, enjoy the setting and – if skilled and lucky enough – a healthy meal of trout or Kokanee Salmon. All fishing regulations, daily bag and possession limits still apply.