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Northwest Sportsman Magazine

Photos Of Banks Lake At 31 Feet Below Full Pool

And now for something far more uplifting (work with us here) than the below post about all the poached and wasted Oregon elk: photos of the drawdown at one of the Columbia Basin’s most popular fisheries.

While there are great bathymetric maps of Banks Lake available, the nine images below are also sure to intrigue its walleye, bass and panfish anglers.

Indeed, even as a lack of water is an anathema to the fish we pursue, we also love to get a look at the structure they’re hiding in when the lake (or river) is at its usual levels.

Since work began Aug. 1, Banks has been dropped over 30 feet — the furthest it has ever been drawn down — as crews perform maintenance at the north and south ends’ dams.

They’re also busy improving recreation areas around the 27-mile-long lake, including repairing and improving boat launch, extending docks and improving the Coulee City marina.

For our July issue of Northwest Sportsman, Leroy Ledeboer of Moses Lake, Wash., interviewed a number of sources about the impacts to angling, including Lou Nevsimal of Coulee Playland’s tackle shop:

“… If it stays that low all the way into spring we’re going to see a major die-off of our aquatic vegetation, which really devastates any fishery. The ’93-94 drawdown eradicated miles of this vegetation and about 10,000 acres still hasn’t come back. Consequently we still haven’t seen the quantity or quality of fish we had before that setback.

“You eliminate underwater vegetation and the first thing that happens is recruitment drops drastically. The spawn is minimal, and without cover any juveniles that do emerge get munched. Then, within a year or so, the predator base gets hit hard when its forage base declines.

“Our perch population, our key prey species, has come back somewhat over seven years, but it’s still only a fraction of what it was. And pre-’93 it took a 4 1?2-pound average to be competitive in our bass tourneys. Now 2 1?2 pounds will do it.

“Basically a prolonged drawdown of this magnitude will knock our habitat and consequently our gamefish populations way down essentially forcing both to start all over again.”

Then too, those extremely successful rainbow rearing netpens, one set at the south end, the other the north, will have to be moved out to deeper water and will be put on a one-year hiatus. Obviously that will put another real crimp on angler success, at least for a couple of seasons.

WILL ANYTHING POSITIVE come out of this drawdown for anglers?

Well, at least in the short-term the bass and walleye guys could see a real spike in their catch-rates of quality fish. That’s what happens any time a prey base really crashes. It happened after ’93-94, and with an additional 6-foot drop, this crash could be more intense. The downside to this spike is that a lot of really big fish, primarily females, could be removed unless most anglers exercise some discretion.

Then too some bass and walleye anglers could use this drawdown to get a better perspective of the kind of habitat that’s out there. When Lake Roosevelt was dropped to historic lows a couple springs back, one top walleye guy, Donny Ghramm of Kettle Falls, told me he used that opportunity to hike some of that newly exposed ground to record obvious walleye habitat on his GPS.

Another potential positive is this drawdown should give the Washington Department of Fish &Wildlife at least a somewhat clearer picture of what a more permanent drawdown – that potential long-term 20-footer that’s among the proposals to refill the Odessa Aquifer – could mean.

“Unfortunately we didn’t get any data from the ’93-’94 drawdown,” notes regional fisheries chief Jeff Korth. “We had no predrawdown studies and didn’t get anything afterward. At least this time we have really good pre-drawdown information, so if we can get adequate funding to put some boots-on-the-ground for a solid after-drawdown study, it will mean a lot.

“That Odessa Aquifer drawdown, if it does happen, wouldn’t be this severe, but still we’d have a better picture of what it could mean. And, if nothing else, we’d have a better handle on what to expect when we have to go through another major repair and maintenance drawdown, hopefully not for at least a couple decades.”

WDFW’s Aulin Smith, who lives in Electric City and is in on most of the reservoir’s studies, agrees.

“In July we’ll do a full-lake survey, primarily using electro-shocking, with some vertical gill nets,” he explains. “Then the following spring or maybe a little later, we’ll do another one.

“Plus, we’ll do creel surveys both during the drawdown and post-drawdown. We want to see what the anglers are finding out there.

All this should help us understand what these major projects do to our fishery.” NS

In the meanwhile, with BOR’s work just about wrapped up, spokesman David Walsh provided Northwest Sportsman with the following aerial images taken just this past Tuesday, Nov. 15, as the lake stood at 1,538 feet, 31 feet below full pool. At that point, it only covered 19,600 acres, one-third less than at full pool when it covers 27,693.7 acres.

BANKS LAKE LOOKING NORTH FROM DRY FALLS DAM. U.S. ROUTE 2 RUNS ACROSS THE TOP OF THE DAM; THE TOWN OF COULEE CITY IS OFF THE IMAGE AT RIGHT. (BUREAU OF RECLAMATION)

CLOSE-UP OF THE COULEE CITY MARINA AND SOUTH END OF THE RESERVOIR. (BOR)

 

BANKS LAKE LOOKING NORTH FROM THE WEST SHORELINE JUST NORTH OF COULEE CITY. (BOR)

VIEW LOOKING SOUTHEAST TOWARDS COULEE CITY AND DRY FALLS DAM IN THE DISTANCE. (BOR)

 

VIEW LOOKING NORTHWEST WITH MILLION DOLLAR MILE BOAT LAUNCH VISIBLE IN FOREGROUND. (BOR)

VIEW SOUTHWEST OVER STEAMBOAT ROCK AND STATE PARK WITH NORTHRUP BOAT LAUNCH IN FOREGROUND. (BOR)

 

TWO VIEWS OF OSBORN BAY, BISECTED BY HIGHWAY 155. (BOR)

TWO VIEWS OF OSBORN BAY, BISECTED BY HIGHWAY 155. (BOR)

 

VIEW LOOKING NORTHEAST TOWARD NORTH DAM AND ELECTRIC CITY -- ELECTRIC CITY AIRPORT ON RIGHT. (BOR)

Banks will be refilled by early next year, according to BOR.

If you’re interested in full-size versions of the above shots, email me at andy@nwsportsmanmag.com.

POSTSCRIPT: Reader Eric Braaten sent us several on-the-ground images from Banks:

BRAATEN: "RECENTLY IMPROVED BARKER CANYON BOAT LAUNCH THANKS TO USBOR AND WDFW." (ERIC BRAATEN)

BRAATEN: " HARROW MARKS FROM WHEN WHEAT FARMERS FARMED PRIOR TO THE CREATION OF THE LAKE." (ERIC BRAATEN)

COULEE PLAYLAND LAUNCH, FALL 2011. (ERIC BRAATEN)

For more on-the-ground images, see those in the Wenatchee World’s Flickr pages.

63 comments to Photos Of Banks Lake At 31 Feet Below Full Pool

  • Jim Smith

    Andy,
    I would VERY much appreciate full scale version of all these photos and any others that you may have taken. If there is a charge please let me know.
    Thank you for your promt attention to this matter.

    Smitty

  • Andy Walgamott

    Sent yer way — tell me whether you received them or not.

  • Paula Pennington

    I would very much like a copy of these pictures please

  • Glenn

    Andy – I too would very much appreciate full-sized versions of these photos.

    Thanks!!

  • W. Jon Rappuhn

    Andy if its not too late I would love to have full size shots of these pics. Growing up in the area and fishing it (mostly from shore) as well as working for the State putting in both Northrup Canyon boat launch and building Steamboat Rock State Park, these have a special meaning for me.

    Thanks
    Jon Rappuhn

    Let me know of any charges please.

    • Andy Walgamott

      No charge, these are federal photos, I wouldn’t feel right charging for them — I’m just the conduit.

      AW

  • Marc Marcantonio

    Andy, me too if you don’t mind!! Thanks Bud!

    ciao,
    Marc

  • Mark Beaudry

    Like the others I would appreciate full size versions of the pictures of Banks Lake. Thank you

  • hey, Andy I too would greatly appreciate your photos of Banks Lake. Your the man,, thanks

  • Andy: Could you send me a copy of these also? Thanks a bunch.

  • Dan

    Hi Andy- thanks for allowing people to get access to these, would you mind sending me a copy as well? Thanks again!

    • Andy Walgamott

      Hey, Dan, do you have an alternate email addy? The one I’m trying for you (a certain academic institution) is bouncing back. Hit me up with a good one at andy@nwsportsmanmag.com and I’ll get those shots right over!

      AW
      NWS

  • Mike Sherman

    Hi Andy I have been bass fishing Banks for 45yrs,please send me your great pics.
    Mike

    • Andy Walgamott

      Hey, Mike, I’ll be sending the Bureau of Reclamation’s 10 shots in three seperate emails shortly.

      Enjoy!

      AW
      NWS

  • Marc Babiar

    Hi there

    Would you please send some of the pictures as well. Thx

  • James Sullivan

    Hey there Andy,

    Any chance you could forward the pics to me as well? Grew up swimming at steamboat and would love to put some pics up at my home…

    Thanks,
    James

  • Bonnie Ward

    Hi Andy!

    Just saw the amazing aerial photos of Banks Lake. I, too, would really appreciate it if you could forward the photos.

    Thanks so much!

    Bonnie

  • Ron

    I would like to have a copy of the full size photos as well. Thanks!

    • Andy Walgamott

      Ron, check yer email to make sure you got three sets from me — had some trouble sending them the first time.

      AW
      NWS

  • Rick Sharp

    Andy

    Great shots of the lake during draw down and a good eye to the lay of the land for future fishing prospects, Id appreciate a copy of the prints as well if it’s not to much trouble
    Thanks
    Rick

    • Andy Walgamott

      Yep, David Walsh and the BOR did a great service by taking and sending me these shots — look for ‘em soon in yer inbox!
      AW
      NWS

  • Dean Ogle

    Andy,

    A copy of the prints please? I had the opportunity to get out and do some “underwater” poking around in October, but the aerials provide a much better overall understanding! Thanks.

    Dean

  • Ty Swartout

    Andy, Can you send me the photos. I am heading over to Banks Lake this weekend to check it out.

  • Michael Wright

    Would love a copy as well Andy. Thanks much.

  • Ken Dusterhoft

    Andy if not to late I would love to have copies of those pics. Thank u so much for posting them.

    • Andy Walgamott

      Nope, not too late, still got ‘em in my email — look for them in your shortly!

      AW
      NWS

  • Joel Chang

    Hi Andy,
    Any chance I could get a copy? just saw this email from a buddy of mine. Thanks for the informative article!
    Joel

  • Bill Songstad

    I would also very much like full size copies of those photos if I could. Thank you so much for your legwork in making those available to folks.

  • Jeff McBroom

    Andy,
    Could I get a full size copy as well.
    Thank you

  • Dale

    Andy can I get a copy too please?

  • Steve

    I’d be interested in the copies as well.Thanks

  • Chuck

    Andy,
    Could I get the full size copies as well?
    Some of my fondest memories growing up were do to this Lakes existence.

  • Andy Walgamott

    Should be in yer email, Chuck — hope they bring back good times!

  • Becky

    What is the time frame were looking at until the water level is back up? We were there last summer and it was miserable with the mosquitos. Planning a trip back over the 4th of July. Wondering what to expect at that time? Thanks.

    • Andy Walgamott

      I believe it’s already back up to normal levels, BUT I’d call Coulee Playland: 509-633-2671 to verify that

  • Tom

    Hi Andy,I just saw the article and I too would like the photos if it’s not late. Thanks ahead of time

  • Pat

    Andy I would love to see some Pic also. Many of us have left a bit in this fabulous gift. Sure all have stories, be interesting to hear from or of them. Anyone find boat top parts, anchors etc. wish I could of walked the lake when it was down.

  • Arlene

    Andy,
    Me, too! Me, too! I would be grateful if I could get the full size (or largest size possible) photos, as well. Thank you for providing these, here. They are (as others have said, here) a treasure.

    Best,
    Arlene

  • Mike Hansen

    Andy, I too would appreciate your full size photos. Great views, we drove over at the end of October and walked around the Coulee City Marina, Steamboat Rock and Coulee Playland, it was amazing!

    Thank You!

  • Jim

    Andy, Please send full pic’s, it would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks.

  • Eric mccarthy

    Wow great shots can you send the full size pics my way? Eric

    • Andy Walgamott

      They’re inbound like .. nah, better not jinx things with a N. Korea missile joke.

  • Iain Johnstone

    Hi Andy,great pictures. I live up in Canada but love the fishing Banks has to offer.If you still have access to the full size pictures I would appreciate receiving them.I dropped my good pliers overboard in Osborne Bay a few years back,thought they might show up in the pictures,hahaha
    Regards,
    Iain Johnstone

    • Andy Walgamott

      Was wondering what the odd shape in the bay was!

      Stand by, I’ll send you the great pics that BOR sent me.

      AW
      NWS

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