Lake Skinner trout plants resume after two-plus-year hiatus


By JIM MATTHEWS

www.OutdoorNewsService.com

Trout plants will resume at Lake Skinner after two-plus years without being stocked by either the Department of Fish and Wildlife or the Riverside County Parks and Open Space District. This popular fishing reservoir once drew large crowds during the winter months to fish for trout.

But that was before the plants were stopped by the DFW until the state agency could document the trout posed no threat to native steelhead trout that might exist in the watershed.

The DFW’s scientific staff was finally able to convince the federal biologists with National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) that it would be an impossibility for the hatchery rainbow trout they now plant to hybridize with native steelhead even on the one-in-a-gazillion chance the two fish actually ended up in the same pool of water in a river that is dry 99 percent of the time. The trout the DFW now plants are sterile.

The first plant will come sometime this week, but the DFW never divulges what day the truck will arrive.

“When we first heard the lake was going to be planted, we posted it on Facebook and in our fishing report, and people got crazy,” said Candy Grajczyk, the manager of the marina-store concession at Skinner. “The phone calls, the e-mails -- people wanted to know when the plant was coming.”

Grajczyk said they heard plants were likely to resume this winter back in December. It was hoped the plants would resume in January, but the DFW had some final paperwork to complete. Grajczyk said they finally got word the plants would arrive sometime this week.

In addition to state trout plants, county parks have also planted trout in the past. Those plants may not resume this season, but it is almost certain the county will also add fish next winter.

“Absolutely we will resume stocking as soon as possible,” said Scott Bangle, general manager of county parks Friday. “I need to check with my folks to see the status, but I imagine we may have supply challenges for this season.”

The resumption of plants at Skinner comes at a difficult time for the DFW, which was forced to cut its stocking program by 50 percent this year because of a projected budget shortfall for the trout hatchery program. Those cuts are already being implemented across the state.

Whether or not the wildlife agency will need to keep those cuts in place depends on whether or not the legislature gives the DFW access to money that is put into a hatchery fund each year. In 2012, the legislature had granted the DFW access to this fund for a three-year period. Prior to that, it sometimes didn’t allow the agency to spend the money under the guise of saving money, even though it was a “paper” savings. The money was still allocated each year by law, so there was no real savings. The legislature must decide by late spring if the DFW will get the funds for this coming fiscal year, and then the DFW could ramp back up its trout production and stocking levels.

Bakersfield area trout plants

reduced dramatically by budget

The Department of Fish and Wildlife 2015 cuts in trout stocking are already starting to show up in dramatic fashion, especially in the Bakersfield region.

Greg Kollenborn, senior hatchery supervisor for Region 4, said the decline was due to “reduced statewide fish production and distribution… due to budget shortfalls.”

Kollenborn said “lakes in the Bakersfield area are being stocked every two weeks or so, but with less fish than normal. River Walk (Park) and Ming lakes, which are the most popular, are receiving about 400 to 600 fish per plant. Truxton and Hart Park lakes receive about 200 to 300 fish per plant.”

The DFW had hoped it would be able to maintain catchable trout stocking in urban lakes at the same levels this year -- both in size and number of fish -- as the previous three years, but that has obviously not happened in the Bakersfield region.

The original plan was for the DFW to reduce the poundage of fish planted in larger reservoir (which can support trout year around), but plant more small fish which could grow into catchable size in those lakes. By doing this, the agency staff said it felt it could maintain the catchable program in urban waters at levels similar to the past three years. It looks like that part of the “plan” was overly optimistic now that reality is setting in.

Feinstein’s ‘Desert Protection Act II’

has something for everyone to hate

Early this past week, Sen. Dianne Feinstein introduced the Desert Conservation and Recreation Act of 2015, an adjunct to the act passed in 1992 that created the Mojave National Preserve. The new bill’s main goals are the creation of two new National Monuments, a 965,000-acre Mojave Trails National Monument and the 135,000-acre Sand to Snow National Monument.

But the monumental bill (over 100 pages long) has something for everyone to hate and some things to thrill the hearts of special interests on both sides of the political spectrum.

Overall, it results in net losses for anyone and everyone who believes in “use” of the desert, especially hunters and OHVers. Some areas are given greater wilderness protection while other areas are sacrificed to supposed “green energy” development.

The bill is too big with too much in it for the public and legislators to rationally evaluate. It is a bill written in pieces for special interests. The addition of thousands of acres to both Death Valley and Joshua Tree national parks is a net loss for hunters, and the creation of 10s of thousands of acres of “new” wilderness eliminates a number of existing OHV roads and routes.

Both groups won’t buy into another act that knifes them in the back.

Stupid Meter: BATFE proposes a

ban on common AR-15 ammunition

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE) announced on Friday that it intends to ban a common .223 ammunition (M855 ball ammunition for those of you who understand the term) as “armor piercing ammunition,” even though the ammunition clearly doesn’t fit the definition under the agencies’ governing law on the issue.

According to the National Rifle Association -- and they seem to have their finger right on the pulse of this one -- is calling this “a move clearly intended by the Obama Administration to suppress the acquisition, ownership, and use of AR-15s and other .223 caliber general purpose rifles.”

The NRA says this is the third major executive action in February by the BATFE, under Obama administration direction, that change long-standing regulations and law.

First, it was a major change to what activities constitute regulated “manufacturing” of firearms. Next, BATFE reversed a less-than-year-old position on firing a shouldered “pistol.” This past week they are trying to rewrite the legal framework for determining whether or not projectiles are “intended for sporting purposes.” The change would make M855 (commonly known as “green tip”) ammunition illegal.

The move effectively rewrites the 1986 law that clearly defines “armor piercing” ammunition and exemptions. So, it seems to some of us that the BATFE is violating the law by overstepping its authority and re-writing a law. Writing laws is the sole jurisdiction of the Congress, according to that antique document called the Constitution. For those of us who still care about such things, this seems to peg the stupid meter.

END

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