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Home > Natural Resources > Water Strategies to Preserve Natural Resource Supplies and Quality

Sustaiable Fishery Developed at Diamond Lake

Land management for water and wildlife biodiversity comes together in the largest lake project in recent history for California - Diamond Valley Lake in Hemet, CA

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Diamond Valley Lake is the perfect spot for millions of fish expected to grow and flourish. Building the perfect home for large, healthy freshwater fish such as bass was a labor of love, research and history lessons.

Mike Giusti, Fish Biologist and Sustainable Fishery Designer

The labor of love came from Mike Giusti, a fish biologist for the California Department of Fish and Games Eastern Sierra-Inland Desert Region, who has been there from the beginning. He planned the nursery, built it and is in charge of thousands of bass, bluegill, trout and catfish who call the new Diamond Lake home.

Diamond Valley Lake was the first lake built in 30 years in California.

In creating a nursery literally from the ground up, Metropolitan and the California Department of Fish and Game had the unique opportunity to plan what they wanted in a fishery, and to build it to suit them—and the fish. That meant creating rock reefs, PVC pipe caves, citrus brush piles—whatever it took—to create a nurturing environment for the fledgling fish that would be introduced long before the lake opened for recreation.

Designing a Self-sustaining Fishery

"We tried to establish a self-sustaining fishery," Giusti said of the $550,000 project financed by Metropolitan. "We wanted the fish to be able to reproduce and survive on their own (except for the trout)." But the success of the fishery isn’t a done deal, Giusti said. "It’s an unknown," he said recently, while trolling for bass on the lake.

Catfish, he said, were the only ones he really worried about thriving. But apparently they did: they only stocked a few hundred, and it looks like they spawned this year.

Planning a fishery is surprisingly high tech. Giusti used computer models and global positioning systems to design a dozen areas within the lake that would be attractive to growing fish while keeping out their larger predators.

The plan included an 80-acre rearing pond at the bottom of the reservoir, which was stocked in 1998 with largemouth bass, northern bluegill, southeastern bluegill and redear sunfish. By the time the pumps began pouring water into the lake, there were 50,000 fish already there.

Once construction was completed, Giusti used map-making technology to produce a map of the completed work so there would be a reference and record once 800,00 acre-feet of water hid his handiwork.

He continues to monitor the water quality in terms of how it affects the fish, and tracks the size, health and balance of the fish species. Giusti estimates that there are about 18,000 large mouth bass in the lake that are large than 12-inches.

Diamond Lake's Multiple Conservation and Water Supply Roles

First and foremost, Diamond Valley Lake is a lifeline for Southern California in times of drought. The lake holds enough water to meet the area’s emergency and drought needs for six months and is an important component in Metropolitan’s plan to provide a reliable supply of water to the 18 million people in Southern California who count on us.

Diamond Valley Lake is creating a substantial trail system that will allow visitors to hike and ride around the hill surrounding the reservoir. The first set of trails are along the north hills overlooking the lake, and another circles the lake.

Other amenities at the east dam area, including Metropolitan's partnership with the Valley-Wide Recreation and Park District to develop a positive recreational environment. This includes a swimming pool, soccer and other fields and more.

Diamond Valley Lake
Hemet, CA
Rules for Using the Diamond Valley Lake

Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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