The storm that moved through Friday and Saturday brought well over 2 inches of rain to some parts of the Mother Lode, and the runoff continued swelling major reservoir levels to 85 percent full and fuller.
By Monday morning people were fishing under bright sunshine or wishing they could fish out at Don Pedro and New Melones reservoirs, two of the state’s top six largest man-made water storage facilities.
Ruben Agamau, of the Don Pedro area, who grew up in Hawaii, described the weekend storm as similar to where he was raised while he fished Monday from near the boat ramp at Moccasin Point.
“It was a steady rain, warm and raining and mild, like Hawaii weather,” said Agamau, who is 80 years old and has been living in the Don Pedro area more than 25 years. He was raised in Honolulu.
“I’ve been fishing here and Pinecrest for years,” Agamau said. “So far the fishing this spring, it’s OK. Biggest trout I caught so far was 15 inches, about 6 pounds, a fat one.”
Agamau said he took that trout home, stuffed it with onions, dusted it with garlic salt, wrapped it in foil and put it on the barbecue.
“On the coals, cook it slow,” Agamau said. “It was good finger food.”
Agamau said storm-related closures on Highway 49 from that previous pineapple express storm in late March now force him to take J-59 La Grange Road to Highway 108 outside Jamestown and then Highway 120 through Chinese Camp.
A California Fish and Wildlife employee backed a truck down the boat ramp near Agamau and dumped a load of baby fish into the reservoir right around noon Monday. The Fish and Wildlife employee said he couldn’t answer any questions.
Rain totals from Thursday, April 5 to Saturday, April 7 reached 2.26 inches in San Andreas, 2.38 inches in Angels Camp, 1.75 inches at New Melones, 2.12 inches at Pinecrest, and 1.72 inches at Moccasin and Groveland, Cory Mueller with the National Weather Service in Sacramento said Monday.
Don Pedro Reservoir was holding 88 percent of its 2,030,000-acre-foot capacity as of Monday, according to state Department of Water Resources data. It looked even fuller from multiple vantage points, including Jacksonville Road, Moccasin Point and Highway 120.
Some people who stopped recently at the Chinese Camp Store have raved about fishing at Don Pedro Reservoir, Richard Beale, the new owner of the store, said Monday.
Richard’s son, Samuel Beale, 11, went fishing with some friends about two weeks ago and he saw his friend’s dad catch a live trout with his hands in a puddle below Moccasin, where that pineapple express storm in late March damaged Moccasin Dam and the state-owned Moccasin Creek fish hatchery.
Samuel said he held the fish and he gutted it.
“It was a trout,” Samuel said Monday outside Chinese Camp Store. “Yellowish, greenish, silver with black dots.”
There were a lot of dead fish floating in ditches and puddles, too, Samuel said. He and his friends didn’t take any of the dead ones. They believe the live fish they caught was a survivor from the damage at the Moccasin hatchery.
Richard Beale said Samuel and his friends took their fish back to Jacob Underwood’s place 2 miles east of Chinese Camp, lit a fire and cooked it in butter, also wrapped in foil.
“It was good,” Samuel said. “Crispy.”
“What we’ve heard from a lot of families is the fishing’s incredible,” Richard Beale said. “They’re very happy, catching good-size fish. Some say it’s because of the hatchery, catching live fish that survived the hatchery damage.”
The Beales, Richard, his wife Add Beale, 46, Samuel, and Samuel’s sister, Amy Beale, 16, have been running Chinese Camp Store since July 2017. They bought it from the previous owner, Michael Read of New Zealand, who had owned it 30 years since 1987.
The Beales, as owners of the sole business at a tourist junction between the Bay Area, Sonora and Yosemite National Park, got plenty questions from travelers over the past weekend, Richard Beale said.
“We had lots of people unaware of the problems on Highway 49,” he said. “I drew maps for eight or 10 people to show them how to get Mariposa or Oakhurst, around the rockslides between Moccasin and Coulterville.”
Richard Beale said he didn’t get questions about Yosemite, where park staff decided to close Yosemite Valley from 5 p.m. Friday to noon Sunday due to flooding on the Merced River that crested at 13.73 feet at Pohono Bridge, about 4 feet above flood stage.
Park communications staff said sections of some Yosemite Valley roads were 2 to 4 feet underwater Saturday afternoon through late Saturday night. The flood receded as of early Sunday morning.
“Some people said they came to go that way but they heard the news and picked other destinations,” Richard Beale said. “Some said they would go to Don Pedro instead.”
What’s coming next
That Friday-Saturday storm was an atmospheric river storm, Mueller with the National Weather Service in Sacramento said. The system came from the west-northwest and it was able to pull in tropical Pacific moisture.
This week there’s a weak system starting Tuesday and it’s expected to bring high snow levels up around 7,000 to 8,000 feet. There might be higher rain totals north of Highway 50.
Then Wednesday into Thursday, another system will be a bit stronger with lower snow levels, Mueller said.
“We will see snow levels between 5,000 and 6,500 feet Wednesday and falling to around 3,000 feet Thursday,” Mueller said.
Hetch Hetchy Regional Water System service, interrupted before that pineapple express storm damaged Moccasin Dam and other Hetch Hetchy infrastructure, was restored to more than 2.7 Bay Area residential, commercial, and industrial customers last Thursday, April 5, Betsy Lauppe Rhodes, regional communications manager with Hetch Hetchy Regional Water System, said Monday.
There was no additional storm damage at Moccasin Reservoir from the rains over this past weekend, Rhodes said. The latest estimate on Hetch Hetchy damages at Moccasin remain at $40 million. No estimate on damage at the state fish hatchery at Moccasin has been provided by California Department of Fish and Wildlife staff.
Caltrans District 10 staff likewise said there was no additional damage to report on Highway 49 between Moccasin and Coulterville, which washed out in the late March storm at multiple locations. The expected opening for the key tourism route is sometime from late April to late May. Rick Estrada with Caltrans said Monday, because this is an emergency job, Caltrans does not yet have an estimate for the construction work.
Contact Guy McCarthy at email@example.com or 588-4585. Follow him on Twitter at @GuyMcCarthy.