San Bernardino County Parks’ rainbow trout stocking program rivals private lake’s plants
By JIM MATTHEWS www.OutdoorNewsService.com
Believe it or not, a government-run fishing program gives the most famous and heavily-planted private trout waters in Southern California a run for their money is about to kick off its 2014 trout season. The San Bernardino County Regional Parks trout stocking program will start Oct. 24 at four of its regional park lakes -- Prado, Yucaipa, Cucamonga-Guasti, and Mojave Narrows -- and at Glen Helen Regional Park on Oct. 31. The lakes will be planted with 1,000 pounds of rainbow trout weekly this year, and the initial plants will be 2,000 pounds for those opening Oct. 24, and 3,000 pounds for the Glen Helen opener a week later. Trophy trout from three to 10 pounds will be a component of each of the plants. When you compare the size of the most of the county park lakes with the likes of Corona Lake, Santa Ana River Lakes, Irvine Lake, and Laguna Niguel Lake, the amount and size of trout planted per surface acre by San Bernardino County might surpass the private lakes (most which don’t release their stocking information). And when you compare the daily fishing prices, there is no comparison. The basic fishing fee at all of the county park lakes is $8 per person. There is also a vehicle parking fee that is $10 on weekends (or $8 Monday through Friday). So even if you don’t split the parking fee with a fishing buddy or two, the $18 total fee is $5 cheaper than Santa Ana River Lake or Corona Lake, $6 cheaper than Irvine Lake, and $10 less than Laguna Niguel. And unlike the private lakes, all of the county park facilities are also planted by the Department of Fish and Wildlife throughout the season. Usually the DFW plants the five county park lakes every two or three weeks. San Bernardino County also announced its plants will consist of two of the most-popular strains of rainbows the private lakes introduced into this region -- Nebraska Tailwalkers and Ruby Reds. The Ruby Reds come from Jess Ranch in Hesperia, while the Tailwalkers are brought to Southern California all the way from Chaulk Mound Trout Ranch in Bridgeport, Nebraska (not Bridgeport, Calif.). County plants will be on Thursdays at each of the lakes, except during holiday weekends. Trout will be planted the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, and on Tuesday before the Christmas and New Year holidays. Plants will continue through April 16. The dates for this season’s Trout Derby circuit have also been set. The first event will be Dec. 13 at Cucamonga-Guasti, followed by the January 10 derby at Yucaipa Regional Park. Glen Helen will have its derby on Feb. 7, while Prado Park’s event will be a month later on March 7. The last derby of the year will be in the High Desert at Mojave Narrows on April 11. The trout plant before each derby will be 3,000 pounds of fish and it will include more trophy fish from six to 12 pounds than the weekly plants. These plants are also usually the first made in Southern California and mark the beginning of the winter planted trout season in this region. DFW, other county plants, and private stockings will begin in waters from San Diego County to Ventura and Kern counties in the coming weeks. While many have not announced starting dates yet because of the unseasonably warm conditions, Irvine Lake’s trout season will kick off Thursday, Oct. 30, with a special VIP fishing day, followed by the general trout opener the next day. The first plant at Laguna Niguel is tentative set for Nov. 15, while SARL and Corona haven’t announced a start date yet. Most of the San Diego area lakes start the second week of November. [Updated information will be in the weekly fishing report.] Youth quail hunt on Mojave Preserve attracts 43 kids and their families The special drawing-only hunt for the youth quail hunting weekend on the Mojave National Preserve this past weekend (Oct. 4-5) drew 43 young hunters and their families with a total of 91 participants, according to Neal Darby with the National Park Service. Darby said the 43 kids managed to bag seven Gambel’s quail and one jackrabbit during the special hunt. For three of those youths, it was the first time they had ever been hunting and for 19 of the hunters and their families, it was the first time they had visited the national preserve. The hunt was coordinated by the National Park Service and Water for Wildlife, a volunteer group that maintains desert water for all wildlife in the eastern Mojave Desert. There were a total of 30 volunteers who helped guide, cook, and clean up during the hunt. “Everyone had a ball,” said Cliff McDonald, the ramrod behind the Water for Wildlife group. Quail and chukar seasons to open Oct. 18, prospects dim in most areas of the region The statewide quail and chukar hunting season opener will be this coming Saturday, Oct. 14, and after three years in a row of poor late winter rains in most areas of Southern California the prospects are not good. The exceptions to this dim forecast are the eastern portions of the Mojave Desert and the lower Colorado River desert in eastern Riverside and Imperial counties. This area, especially the higher elevations of the Mojave National Preserve, saw a long-term monsoon rain drought snapped the last two summers. With the soil already soaked in the summer, the amount of rain needed in the winter to kick-start bird production was less and quail and chukar broods have been good in these areas. For the rest of the southern half of California, quail and chukar production has been dismal for three years in a row now. There are only remnant pockets of chukar throughout the Sierra Nevada, White, and Inyo mountains, the Red Mountain region (Rands and El Paso mountains), and south in the mountain ranges of the Barstow to Apple Valley region. Chukar hunting is going to be particularly difficult this year with mostly small numbers of mature birds. Quail production, which was so good for years ago in the Carrizo Plain region, was terrible again for the third year in a row. Counts around springs in the Caliente Mountains four years ago that turned up 400 or more birds have dropped to less than 40 birds this year. Those same kind of low quail numbers have also been reported through the southern Sierra from Red Rock Canyon State Park all the way north to the Lone Pine region. Quail numbers are also well below even an “average” years in the transverse mountain ranges from the Frasier Park region all the way through the Angeles and San Bernardino national forests and the foothill hunting areas on the north side of these mountain ranges, which can be very good in high production years. This news will tend to stack up hunters to the eastern deserts in California and send some hunters to Arizona, where production has been good to excellent in most of that state’s desert regions. Neal Darby, with the Mojave National Preserve, said there have been reports of lots of young birds in that part of the east Mojave and even some multiple clutches. He said they were seeing newly-hatched chicks as late as August 1 this year. If there is a drawback to hunting these eastern deserts this year, it is simply that all of the water and green growth have allowed the birds to scatter widely.