The following appears in the June issue of California Sportsman:
By Chris Cocoles
All things considered, the Voss family felt relieved that their Sierra resort and lake made it
through a traumatic 2020 relatively unscathed.
The COVID-19 pandemic bankrupted many businesses, but while Caples Lake Resort (209-258- 8888; capleslakeresort.com) had to limit capacity and close its restaurant, Joe Voss is happy to still be standing.
“I definitely did not take those things for granted. We survived and a lot of people didn’t,” says Voss, whose family took over the resort in 1982 (patriarch John Martin Voss passed away in 2016). “And I was appreciative of that; we were able to get open and do some business and stay in business to pay some bills.”
As vaccine rollouts have dramatically improved the state’s restrictions – Gov. Gavin Newsom is expected to fully open California
as early as June 15 – prospects are brighter for Caples’ usually busy summer season. Voss reported his lodge and cabins were fully booked for the Memorial Day holiday weekend.
“Last season we adjusted our lodging – just to put gaps between our reservations. I didn’t rent all my rooms. We had extra cleaning measures in place. We followed the California Hotel Association guidelines in how to keep people safe – my guests and my employees,” Voss says.
“This year we’re kind of doing the same thing, but I’m backing off some of the limits I put on myself as far as having back to back reservations. I’m renting all of my rooms rather than just half of them. So that will help.”
FISHING BOUNCE BACK?
Caples, at just over 7,800 feet high and located near Kirkwood off Highway 88, is known for some outstanding trout fishing. Last summer, while Californians cautiously fled for outdoor escapes during the pandemic, fishing wasn’t as big a priority as usual.
Voss says many visitors to the lodge were content taking socially distanced hikes through the meadows around Carson Pass and just relaxing around the lake. Still, there were anglers who tried their luck.
“Fishing was OK. It seemed like it was really good in June through mid- to late July. And then it just sort of died,” Voss says. “Everything got hot, and that’s pretty typical of our lake.”
But with an early ice melt in late spring – California’s looming drought concerns could also affect Caples going forward – anglers were having success trolling Rapalas and FlatFish for Mackinaw throughout May, action which should continue early in June.
This month should also see some good fishing for rainbow and brown trout. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife stocked the lake with catchable brownies on May 7.
“Most years your typical angler is going to be set up with, if they’re on the shore, PowerBait – either with a bobber or off the bottom drifting a worm,” Voss says. “Or just using your standard cast and retrieve. Last year I sold a gazillion Kastmasters. Mepps and Rooster Tails (are also good options). It’s a high-mountain trout lake and that always seems to work.”
Those who bring their own craft or rent a boat through the resort can score some rainbows and browns toplining worms behind flashers.
“The Macks are a little tougher to get once the lake warms up and they start dropping down a bit,” says Voss, who was happy to report many of the Macks caught so far were released, with many of the fish in the 7- to 12-pound range, topped by a 17-pounder.
“We like to see that,” Voss says of the catch-and-release trend. “Big fish make (more) little fish.”
HIGH SIERRA GETAWAY
Caples’ location offers a chance for visitors to escape the Central Valley heat and the Bay Area crowds (Voss says more and more patrons come from east of the lake in the Reno- Carson City area). It’s also off the less-traveled Carson Pass Highway, in contrast with the busier Highway 50 corridor between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe.
“For me, it’s just a great getaway. It’s a quiet place with epic scenery where you can watch beautiful sunsets,” Voss says. “And then get up in the morning, have a cup of coffee and gear up for the day.”
Those who do book a lodge room or one of the nine fully equipped cabins as the summer season begins will still see a cautious approach to safety protocols. Masks will be
required in the resort’s small store, and plans to reopen the restaurant center on creating an outdoor deli- grill atmosphere with alfresco dining and a beautiful lake view.
“Most of our guests are saying, ‘We’re coming, we’re excited and we’re vaccinated.’ I tell them, ‘Great. So am I.’ And we want to keep it simple,” Voss says. “We did everything we could to stay safe. And this year we’ll continue to do the things that don’t really interrupt our business and aren’t too much of a hassle, but to still be cognizant of trying to keep people safe.”
Voss also hopes for more trout plants this month. He’s been in contact with CDFW and Alpine County’s fish and game division, both of which have stocked trout in the past and could again this season.
The resort might also look into some private stockings, though following a mild winter, the lake level is down and there is concern about future seasons if drought conditions don’t improve.
But for now, Caples Lake Resort is open for business and reservations are filling up fast. There is also a lake full of Macks, ’bows and brownies to catch. And that’s worth celebrating at a time when we all need it.
“We’re hoping more people get out and enjoy the Sierra and the outdoors,” Voss says. “I’m just hoping for as many people to come up, enjoy themselves and have a good fishing experience as possible.” CS
Editor’s note: You can also contact Caples Lake Resort via email (reservations@ capleslakesresort.com).