Trout season in Sierra Nevada kicks off this coming Saturday, cuts in trout plants and drought will
By JIM MATTHEWS
Trout fishing season opens this coming Saturday throughout the Sierra Nevada, but there are two dark clouds looming over the fishing season in the region that could make it a gloomy year. First, the Department of Fish and Game has announced it would be reducing trout plants by about 50 percent this year statewide, and impact that will be felt especially hard in the Eastern Sierra Nevada. Second, the multi-year drought may threaten many waters in the Sierra Nevada, especially late in the summer and early fall, as lakes and reservoirs drop to all-time low levels. While worst-case scenarios are only being whispered about, some waters may actually become too low or too warm to support trout.
The Department of Fish and Wildlife completely ignored mentioning the trout stocking reductions in its rosy press release about the opening of trout season and glossed over the impacts of drought. Those kind of blinders are expected from the Inyo and Mono county tourism people (although, even they have all been more candid), but the DFW should be providing anglers with details of how the stocking program is changing in the Sierra, what waters are going to get in way of fish this year, and how the numbers and sizes compare to the past three seasons. The DFW owes it to the angling public to tell them where stocking programs are going to change from plants of catchable trout each week or every two weeks to plants of fingerling (two- to four-inch) or sub-catchable (four- to six-inch) trout that will grow into catchable trout by fall or next spring’s opener.
Know this: trout will be smaller and less poundage will be stocked by the DFW.
But that’s the bad news.
To the DFW’s credit, most roadside waters in the region will be stocked for the opening weekend of the season, and because of the almost non-existent snowpack, that means more waters than normal will probably get trout for this coming weekend. The rainbows may be smaller than normal and plant sizes may be reduced, but there will be plants. (We really don’t know how big or the amount of fish the DFW will be planting because they don’t tell us that, but you can go to the stocking page on the DFW website for a complete list of waters that will get trout – and be sure to look at the plants for the previous two weeks, too, because a number of waters were planted last week or two weeks ago in preparation for the opener.)
If there is good fishing in the Eastern Sierra this year, it is partially because county, business, and private groups in the region have continued to step up to the plate and have purchased trout from private hatcheries or found innovate ways to raise fish to plant for anglers.
In Mono County, the early season fishing should be as good as ever, perhaps even better than normal because so much of the backcountry is snow-free and already accessible, allowing for plants at most waters. All of the popular waters in the region are already ice-free, including the Virginia Lakes located off Highway 395 at Conway Summit. These lakes are frequently covered in ice until Memorial Day weekend.
The reservoirs with flow level and continued water demands, along with some creeks and rivers tapped for domestic and irrigation use, are facing the most challenges this season.
“If you love fishing the Bridgeport Reservoir, Grant Lake Marina or the West Walker, come early this year,” said Jeff Simpson, economic development manager and member of the Mono County Fisheries Commission. “We are stocking these locations heavily in the early part of the season, so the best time to fish will be during the opener and in May, June and July.”
Mono County has an annual stocking budget of approximately $125,000 and will be planting 21 lakes, creeks, and rivers with 26,800 pounds of both trophy and catchable trout. The Town of Mammoth Lakes contributes about 15,000 pounds of trout to waters in the Mammoth Lakes Basin.
The Bridgeport Fish Enhancement Foundation stocked tagged trophy trout in Upper and Lower Twin Lake and Bridgeport Reservoir in March, and these were all six to 10-pound rainbows. Those tags can be redeemed for a $60 prize at Ken’s Sporting Goods in Bridgeport. Lower Twin Lakes Resort also had a grow-out pen that started as 200 pounds of six-inch rainbows. Those fish will be released later this year once they reach the one- to two-pound class.
Crowley Lake, generally the busiest fishery for the trout opener, was stocked by the DFW last fall before the current cutbacks took place, and it should fish as well or better than most openers. The water level is lower than it has been for many years, which concentrates all the fish into a smaller area. Water conditions are excellent at Crowley right now and it should be a hot spot this year. The lake only had a brief period of sheet ice in mid-winter, which means the trout had a long winter growing seasons and should be bigger than normal.
The DFW reports that in previous years, an estimated 10,000 anglers have turned out for the opener at Crowley, and approximately 50,000 trout are caught during the first week of the season. Most years those fish average just under a pound, but with this year’s mild winter, the fish are likely to average a pound or better.
Opening day events include the annual Fishmas Day Celebration at Tom’s Place, the Monster Fish Contest at June Lake Loop, and the Mono Village Fishing Opener Derby at Upper Twin Lakes in Bridgeport. The Round-Up at the Lake Spring Fishing Derby at Convict Lake takes place April 26 through June 12. For a complete list of events in the region this fishing season, go to the county website at this direct link: http://www.monocounty.org/static/index.cfm?contentid=738.
High Desert Friends of NRA
Fundraising dinner April 24
The High Desert Chapter of the Friends of the NRA will have its annual fund-raising dinner and banquet beginning 6 p.m. Friday, April 24, at the Hilton Garden Inn, 12603 Mariposa Rd., Victorville. Dinner tickets start at $75 per person and the event is almost sold out.
The fund-raiser will feature raffles and auctions for firearms, outdoor gear, home decor, and jewelry. But the event has one goal is to raise money to promote the shooting sports. Since 1992 more than 16,000 FNRA events have raised over $230 million for shooting sports projects, with an emphasis on youth and women’s programs.
Those who want to attend should call Mike Davis at 714-368-0451 to reserve tickets at this late date.
Lead fishing gear may
be banned in California
The California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) announced Thursday that lead-based fishing tackle would remain on a list of consumer products marked to undergo a costly and onerous regulatory process. Fishing groups call the move “reckless,” saying it is not based on any science. More importantly, it could ban many common products, increase costs, and accelerate the decline in fishing participation, threaten jobs, and reduce state revenue.
DTSC admitted in public hearings that it has no scientific studies demonstrating that lead poses an environmental problem in California. Yet, DTSC has declared fishing gear to be one of the top seven most significant threats to the environment and to the health of Californians.
“State regulators failed to comply with state law that requires them to conduct an independent analysis before including any product in this regulatory process. The inclusion of fishing tackle will likely harm recreational fishing and the jobs that depend on it,” said David Dickerson, President of the California Sportfishing League. “It appears that politics, rather than science, was the basis for DTSC’s decision. While there are many sources of pollution that pose a serious threat to California’s ocean and streams, anglers are not among them.”
In 2010, the U.S. EPA ruled that lead weights do not pose an unreasonable risk to wildlife, and this past December, President Barack Obama signed a budget bill that prohibits the use of federal dollars to ban lead fishing weights.
Anglers can sign an on-light petition opposing the ban on lead fishing products on the CSL website (http://www.sportfishingconservation.org/).