Maintenance work to close Mojave hatchery, but local waters are getting extra plants of rainbow trou
By JIM MATTHEWS
The Mojave River Hatchery, a trout-rearing facility run by the Department of Fish and Wildlife in Victorville, will close to the public temporarily starting Monday (May 1) so the agency can perform long-overdue maintenance on the facility. Over the coming two weeks all of the remaining trout at the hatchery will be planted in area waters, and the water will be drained from all the raceways and ponds so the work can begin, according to Gary Williams, the DFW Region 5 and 6 senior hatchery supervisor.
Williams said most of the work will focus on cleaning and upgrading the main settling pond that is nearly filled with sediment. All the work should be completed by the end of summer, and he said the visitor center should reopen in about a month.
Trout from the Mojave River Hatchery are planted in 66 different waters across Southern California over the course of the year, and Williams said none of the scheduled plants will be impacted by the maintenance project. The Fillmore Hatchery is holding and rearing the extra trout needed for the coming months. Williams said he expected trout to be back in the Mojave hatchery by September, and plants will resume in late winter as the fish reach catchable size. In the interim, all scheduled plants will be made out of Fillmore.
There has been an unexpected bonus for local anglers. Over the the past two months, hatchery staff began the process of stocking out all of the fish currently in the facility, including the large trout held in the four viewing ponds near the visitor center.
“Normally, these large fish are only used for stocking at special events,” said Williams. “Since early this year, all of our plants have had these trophy fish.”
Williams said that while 90 percent of most plants were the normal catchable-sized rainbows, about 10 percent of the fish were trophies from these ponds, some weighing five or six pounds.
The DFW had hoped to have all of the trout out of the facility by the end of April, but it will take about another two weeks to plant out all the trout, and many waters have been getting more than their normal allotments. For example, over the past three weeks, Lake Silverwood was planted six times, at least three times the normal amount, and it is likely to get even more trout in the coming weeks because of its proximity to the hatchery. Other waters in the San Bernardino Mountains have also received extra fish.
“The only ‘ouch’ for me was the closure to the public. The hatchery is our desert oasis and a lot of people come here to visit,” said Williams. He said it was a popular place to watch birds, picnic, and walk.
Williams also said water from the hatchery would continue to flow to the wetlands on the Victor Valley Community College campus and to other facilities downstream that use water from the hatchery. It will be moved around the hatchery through a diversion channel.
Lake Gregory water level
is down for dam repairs
There is no truth to the rumor that Lake Gregory is being drained.
The lake’s water level has been drawn down 10 feet since the first of the year, and it will remain at this level (or slightly lower due to evaporation) for the next 18 months while the earthen dam is reinforced to meet earthquake standards. While on a smaller scale, this is similar to the on-going project at Lake Perris. Both dams were targeted for the repairs after a study in the 1980s on dam safety.
“We’re not looking at it as a lower lake, we’re looking at it as expanded beaches,” said Chris Freeman, general manager of Lake Gregory for The California Parks Company, which leases and manages the facility for San Bernardino County Parks.
The drawdown has allowed CalParks to add additional public facilities around the lake shore, including volleyball courts and cabanas, and there is less brush and no trees right along the shore to hamper fishing.
The fishing program is ongoing unchanged at the lower water level, with both Department of Fish and Wildlife trout plants and private plants funded by CalParks ongoing. So far this season, the DFW has planted trout the weeks of April 9, 16, and 23. CalParks planted 5,100 pounds of rainbow trout from Mt. Lassen Trout Farm six weeks ago, and added 1,200 pounds of Jess Ranch rainbows two weeks ago.
Freeman also said the May 27 Lake Gregory Classic Trout Derby will be held as planned, with $5,000 in guaranteed payouts for the longest three trout ($3,000 for first, $1,500 for second, and $500 for third). Registration is $25 in advance or $35 the day of the event. (More information on the derby at www.lakegregoryrecreation.com.)
[Jim Matthews is a syndicated Southern California-based outdoor reporter and columnist. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 909-887-3444.]