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Laguna Niguel Lake fishing program is now being run by Orange County Parks


One of the “big three” of Orange County’s urban winter trout waters will continue to be planted with trout this late fall and winter, and the cost to anglers will decline.

Laguna Niguel Park Lake, which had been operated by a concessionaire for the past 20 years, will now be operated by Orange County Parks. In spite of rumors to the contrary: The lake is not closing. Trout plants will continue. Fees are indeed going down.

Yes, you read that right. Instead of anglers paying $28 to fish, the cost is now just the parking fee, which is $5 on weekends and $3 on weekdays. There are no additional fishing fee.

The big change is that anglers fishing at Laguna Niguel will be required to have a state fishing license. In the past, no fishing license was required. There will no rental boats available, at least for now, and float tubes will no longer be allowed to launch. However, special float tube events are tentatively being planned for the future.

Marisa O’Neil with Orange County Parks said the county was hoping to have its stocking permits in place and trout sourced for purchase to kick off the trout fishing season by Thanksgiving weekend. O’Neil said the county plans to stock 2,000 pound of trout every two weeks. Approximately 15 percent of the trout will be fish from three to six pounds with another five percent averaging about six pounds or better. Some trophy trout topping 10 pounds will also be planted.

The lake will also tentatively receive Department of Fish and Wildlife rainbow trout now that a state fishing license is required.

There was concern the popular 44-acre lake would be closed to all fishing or would not be planted with trout once Rick Mendoza and his staff’s lease wasn’t renewed. Last season nearly 40,000 pounds of Nebraska Tailwalker rainbows were planted at Laguna Niguel. If the county plants 2,000 pounds of trout every other week through April, the lake will receive about half the poundage that has been planted in previous years.

The amount planted by the DFW is a wildcard, but with hatchery cutbacks and problems within the state system, allocations for existing waters being planted have been reduced by as much as two-thirds for this season. It was initially hoped the DFW allocation would be around 5,000 pounds, but that number may not be met.

Laguna Niguel Lake has become one of the “big three” urban trout waters in Orange County -- along with Irvine Lake and Santa Ana River Lake -- because of its hefty trout planting program and the high numbers of trophy trout in the stocking mix. Unlike the other two lakes, Laguna Niguel was becoming increasingly popular with fly-fishermen who found that the trout quickly adapted to the natural feed in the lake and discovered it was like a mini-version of Lake Crowley in their own backyards, but most of these anglers fished from rental boats or float tubes.

Will the reductions in trout plants by the county be offset by the dramatic cut in costs to the angler? Will the county remedy the lack of rental boats and ban on float tube fishing? Those are questions that remain to be answered.

But the bottom line is that Laguna Niguel Lake will remain open to fishing and trout plants will kick off soon.

Waterfowl harvest best at

San Jacinto Wildlife Area

The San Jacinto Wildlife Area has had the best waterfowl hunting of the public areas in the southern half of the state this past week, but all of the refuges have seen declines from the opening weekend flurry of exceptional action.

San Jacinto saw bird-per-hunter averages of nearly two birds last Saturday (Oct. 31) and over three birds per hunter on Wednesday (Nov. 4) this past week. On Oct. 31, there were 155 hunters who shot 261 ducks and 40 coots for a 1.94 average, with the bag consisting of 61 cinnamon teal, 59 greenwing teal, 46 ringnecks, 40 northern shoveler, 20 wigeon, 12 gadwall, six ruddies, six pintail, four mallards, four bufflehead, two redheads, and one bluewing teal. On Nov. 4, there were 131 hunters who shot 403 ducks, 14 coots, and one Aleutian Canada goose for a 3.19 average. The duck kill included 153 greenwing teal, 89 cinnamon teal, 57 ringnecks, 33 shovelers, 17 wigeon, 17 gadwall, 13 ruddies, eight pintail, eight redheads, four mallards, two bufflehead, and two bluewing teal.

At the Wister Unit of the Imperial Wildlife Area, there were 145 hunters Oct. 28 who shot 130 ducks, two coots, one white-front goose, and one snow goose for a .92 average. The duck bag was 38 greenwings, 25 pintail, 21 cinnamon teal, 18 mallards, 15 wigeon, six gadwall, three shovelers, two ruddies, one redhead, and one ringneck. On Oct. 31, there were 131 hunters who shot 179 ducks for a 1.37 average. The bag was made up of 43 greenwings, 37 pintail, 29 wigeon, 23 mallards, 17 cinnamons, 15 gadwall, 10 ruddies, three shovelers, one ringneck, and one scaup. On Nov. 1, there were just 54 hunters who shot 39 ducks and six coots for a .83 average. The duck kill consisted of 15 greenwings, seven cinnamons, six wigeon, four mallards, three pintail, three gadwall, and one shoveler.

At the Sonny Bono Wildlife Refuge, managed as part of the Wister Unit, there were only eight hunters the three shoot days from Oct. 28 through Nov. 1, and they did not shoot a bird.

Barrett Lake in San Diego County had 15 hunters Oct. 28 and they shot five mallards and one each on the gadwall, shoveler, and pintail for a .53 average. On Oct. 31, there were 14 hunters who shot 37 ruddies, one gadwall, and one greenwing teal for a 2.79 average.


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