BYRON -- Although the fish weren't biting on a recent mild fall morning at Los Vaqueros Reservoir, faithful anglers at the popular fishery didn't seem to mind as they admired the new fishing facilities from one of the main docks.
Danville resident Barry Zorpahl frequents the reservoir, and it was one of the first times he had been back since it had been closed for about one year to expand the reservoir and enhance the facilities. Although the staff had planted 8,400 pounds of fish in the past six weeks, Zorpahl said it will take time for the fish to become accustomed to the new terrain and set up bedding areas.
"It is beautiful," he said. "They need to put more fish in the lake, but it is going to take some time to get it well populated. People are waiting to see what is happening with the lake."
The Los Vaqueros Reservoir's south side reopened Oct. 15 with a relocated marina, new boat docks, fishing piers and hiking trails. The Contra Costa Water District property near Brentwood and Byron off Vasco Road offers boat rentals, and its fleet has been updated.
"During construction to expand the reservoir, fishing remained available along the shoreline and proved to be very popular. But now we can offer much more, and we're pleased to see boats back in the water," Contra Costa Water District board President Joe Campbell said.
Water district officials said the reservoir holds 100,000 acre-feet of water, or the former maximum reservoir capacity, but it can now accommodate up to 160,000 acre-feet of water. This winter, they anticipate filling it to a higher level based on rain and water quality in the Delta.
Although Los Vaqueros is also a hiking and picnic destination, 75 percent of its users are anglers, according to district officials. On the weekends, concessions manager Chris Senti said that there are about 200 users.
"It is a nice fishery," Senti said. "Although we have been planting fish, they spread out pretty fast."
Danville resident Mike McNutt said that the reservoir is where his children learned how to fish, and he has done well fishing on the docks, rock walls surrounding the reservoir and on rental boats. He caught a striper that was not large enough to take home that morning.
"The two best reservoirs for fishing are here and Del Valle (Regional Park)," McNutt explained as he organized his fishing gear.
Avid anglers at Los Vaqueros can often be heard sharing "fish stories" of 24-pound catfish and 40-pound stripers caught there. Even during construction, Senti said anglers were catching stripers, catfish, trout, carp and some largemouth bass.
There are souvenir glass mugs distributed to those top anglers in the Whopper Club for the larger fish and a pin handed out to the Limit Club members. Beginners can take advantage of the loaner rod program, and family fishing days are held a handful of times annually.
"We are very user friendly," Senti said.
Jennifer Allen, director of public affairs, noted that the picnic area is larger, and there is more shade and shelter from the elements.
"It is a much better layout now," she said.
The north side of the reservoir reopened in July to 300 visitors, Allen noted. According to Watershed Resources Superintendent Cary Richardson Merkle, the 55 miles of scenic trails there have become a haven for bird watchers, nature lovers and photographers.
"A lot of people don't know we are here," she said. "It is still kind of a hidden jewel."
Reach Paula King at 925-779-7174 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Los Vaqueros is open daily from 7 a.m.-6 p.m. It is at 9990 Los Vaqueros Road, Byron. For details, call 925-371-2628 or go to www.ccwater.com.