Life at the Lake

a diary of living at a small lowland lake


Early moonrise over Lake Ketchum

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Bufflehead duck of the female persuasion


There have been buffleheads on the lake all winter and into the spring. They are efficient fishers, I take it, diving with a neat upturn of their tails and staying underwater for up to a minute, perhaps longer. Rarely, though, do I see them surface with a fish. But they must, surely, because they look fit and full.

They are presently mating. The males put on a curious display, skittering across the top of the water as though in frenzy. Perhaps they are. The females pretend to ignore them. It is the sexual time of the year for many creatures, including waterfowl.

I admit to seeing nothing particularly sexy in a the female bufflehead (pictured above), but then that is only my point of view. Nor do I wish to dance across the surface on the tips of my toes, my arms (in lieu of wings) flapping, and causing a watery commotion. But it is something to behold.

My wife buzzed me excitedly on the intercom in such a manner as to indicate something unusual was going on on the lake. I rushed to the window, but was too late for the display. Later, when I returned upstairs, I eyed her in my best Groucho Marx fashion and asked, "Give you any ideas?"

"No," she replied, and my hopes (though not sincere) were dashed.

* * *

About two in the afternoon the hatchery truck arrived from outside Arlington and dumped, as I was previously told would happen sometime this week, two thousand legal sized rainbow trout into the lake at the public access, right across the lake from our place, to the South.
"There goes the fishing," I sighed, for up until a couple of days ago it had been excellent for large trout, and the fishing pressure had been, well, almost non-existent.

For this is what happens when a trout plant is made. The confused little devils swim purposelessly around, waiting for attendants to feed them their customary diet of pellets. When none are forthcoming, in a few days or a week or so they begin to poke around hungrily and discover the snails that make up most of the trout's diet.

It is not insects or larvae that cause them to grow so nicely--an inch or two a month. It is snails. And so I must wait, as they must, for the feeding to resume. And then the fishing will start again, as it does every year, but not so excitingly as in the past month or so. And the fish will be tamer, smaller, easier to catch.

The crowd of fishers will follow.

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My lake, in autumn


It was another nice day, so Norma and I hopped in the car and drove to Lost Lake; our dental assistant lives there and had told us it was a private lake with some huge trout that had been bought and stocked by the lakeside residents. Fishing was restricted to property owners.

We were more interested, however, in appraising the lake in terms of its weed problem. Weeds are designated either noxious or nuisance by the EPA, and different permits must be obtained from the state Department of Ecology before any lake can be treated with chemicals to reduce or eliminate the abundance of weeds present.

Lost Lake had a noxious weed problem of some severity. It had milfoil of the Eurasian type, which is serious stuff and spreads like crazy. At my Lake Ketchum we only had nuisance weed problems, namely, duckweed and, in the past, elodea. Both are under control.

At Lost Lake, however, according to Annie, the problem is bad, and there is no mechanism to treat the lake. In summer the lake is purportedly solid with both nuisance weeds (yellow pond lily, duckweed, various pondweeds, etc.) and the noxious stuff.

In the back of my mind I was expecting to see a lake in bad shape and was cheered (and slightly disappointed) to find a lake with only vestiges of lilypads. Of course it is early yet and various pond weeds are just beginning to make their growth starts.

Lost seemed a nice little lake—a series of canals crowded by homes of various price range, ranging from shacks to expensive structures.
We drove on and headed for Sunday Lake, near the interstate; we had seen it from its public access only last year, when it was jammed with yellow pond lily, and the homes around its West shore were all newly built and some of them still for sale.

Those homes were nicely settled in and landscaped. The lake was free of weeds, but then this was the last week in March, and it ought to be still. The lake was more attractive than I had imagined it, more desirable, but it knew that in a few months it would have a dense mat of weeds covering most of it. To see that (and I should not really want to) we'd have to come back, but unless they were permitted to treat it with some herbicide since last year, it would be a mess. And I have a way to find out whether or not they have raised enough community money to pay for doing so.

We drove leisurely home where, before dinner, I caught a couple of fat trout off the dock.

What a beautiful lake ours is. And the fishing has been good.

Fish counts, all released, for four consecutive afternoons last week:
5, 6, 5, 2. Size: 11 to 17 inches. Funny but on the middle two good days, the fish all ran from 13 to 17 inches. The next day, they were all under 13.

Makes no sense, but then fishing often doesn't.

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