Something fishy going on at Atascadero Lake

jtarica@thetribunenews.comSeptember 14, 2013 

Everywhere you look these days, someone’s got a problem with water, but few local cases are more publicly visible than the crisis at Atascadero Lake.

There’s something about guys pitchforking dead carp out of muck the color of pea soup that just drives the point home.

Atascadero may have plenty of wet stuff underground, but its signature above-ground water feature is in bad shape.

The water level, which typically has a maximum depth of 13 feet, is now less than 5 at the deepest point as the edges of the lake continue to recede, day by day.

Watching the lake shrink and expose expanses of muddy shoreline is one thing.

Seeing hundreds of bloated, bottom-feeders float belly-up to the surface is another.

Whether you’re a homeowner with property in the area or one of the many people who enjoy walking, running or biking around the lake, neither image is ideal.

As a result, some residents are asking the city to pump water into the lake to help raise the level and, even though Atascadero doesn’t have the shortages of other North County areas, that would still be absurdly expensive.

Nobody’s going to get behind the idea of dropping a half-million dollars to save a few fish or cure what is basically a temporary cosmetic problem.

Instead, the city, led by Mayor Tom O’Malley, seems inclined to leave the lake as is and take advantage of the situation to dredge the bottom, clear out dead plant material and silt and deepen the lake.

After seeing what’s lurking in those dark waters, I might take that a step further.

I don’t think I’m the only one who was surprised to see the large size of the creatures that were hauled out last week.

I’ve often seen people fishing at Atascadero Lake. Is this what they’re hoping to hook and take home to the family dinner plate?

Was that a carp on the end of that pitchfork or one of those three-eyed mutant fish from “The Simpsons”?

Leave things the way they are, and the next thing we know, maybe those fish are sprouting legs and crawling up on shore.

Maybe the city would be best off draining the lake altogether, scouring the bottom of all the muck and starting over.

Between the algae blooms, goose poop and assorted other yuckiness layered on over the years, it may be reasonable to take these drought conditions as a blessing in disguise.

Then they could restock the lake with fish that don’t look like Admiral Ackbar from “Return of the Jedi.”

Joe Tarica is the presentation editor for The Tribune. Reach him at or on Twitter @joetarica.

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