Annual General Trout Opener Coming Soon in the Eastern Sierra

The general trout opener in many counties throughout California will commence on April 26, one hour before sunrise.

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Because of the popularity of this annual event with the angling public, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is making every effort to stock trout in all accessible waters approved for planting prior to the season opener. Lingering winter conditions and this year’s unprecedented drought could play a major role in how many rivers, creeks, lakes and reservoirs can be stocked before April 26.

Most lakes, rivers and streams have a limit of five trout per day and 10 in possession. However, regulations differ on season opening and closing dates, bag limits, minimum and maximum size limits and gear restrictions.

Anglers are advised to check specific area regulations and opening dates in the 2014/15 California Freshwater Sport Fishing Regulation booklet, found online at www.dfg.ca.gov/regulations, for regulations specific to each body of water.

In 2012, CDFW regional staff created the Eastern Sierra Back Country Fishing Guide to provide anglers with a quick, informative and accurate account of the distribution of fisheries in back country high elevation lakes. This guide does not address front country waters, defined as lakes and streams that are accessible by vehicle. Most of the lakes lie within U.S. Forest Service lands managed as Wilderness and usually require back country permits for overnight use. Most back country fisheries are based on self-sustaining populations of trout and do not need regular trout stocking to maintain fish populations. The guide can be found at http://dfg.ca.gov/regions/6/

Crowley Lake in the Eastern Sierra is expected to be one of the most popular opening day destinations for anglers from around the state. In past years, an estimated 10,000 anglers have turned out for the opener, and approximately 50,000 trout are caught during the first week of the season. Typically Crowley is planted with hundreds of thousands of small and medium sized trout, and because of excellent food sources in the 5,280-acre reservoir, these trout grow to catchable sizes and weigh at least three-quarters of a pound by the opener. About 10 percent of the trout caught at Crowley during opening weekend weigh over a pound and a half. These fish are from stocks planted in previous years or are wild fish produced in Crowley’s tributary waters.

Anglers are asked to be particularly vigilant when cleaning fish and fishing gear at Crowley Lake and in the upper and lower Owens River Drainage. The New Zealand Mudsnail was discovered several years ago in the Owens River Drainage, and CDFW would like to prevent the snail from spreading into other waters. To avoid spreading New Zealand Mudsnails and other aquatic invasive species to other waters, anglers are advised dispose of their fish guts in bear-proof trash cans, rather than throw them back into the water. Wading gear should be properly cleaned before using in new waters.

All persons age 16 and older must possess a valid California fishing license to fish within state lines. Freshwater fishing licenses can be purchased online at www.dfg.ca.gov/onlinesales or at regional CDFW offices or other license agents. Anglers no longer have to display their license visibly above the waist but they must have it in their possession while fishing.

Media Contacts:            
Andrew Hughan, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8944
James Erdman, Environmental Scientist, (760) 873-6071

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Warm Springs Hatchery Begins Spawning Operation for Russian River Steelhead

Ninety-six Russian River steelhead were spawned Feb. 20 at Warm Springs Hatchery, marking a strong but late start for the hatchery’s annual steelhead spawning operation.

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The Russian River and its tributaries comprise one of the most significant steelhead populations in the Central Coast area of California. The Russian River watershed also provides important habitat for endangered Coho and Chinook salmon. Although steelhead normally begin entering the river with the first heavy rains in the fall and can be found throughout the river and its tributaries through April, this year little rain fell from November through the first week in February, creating extremely low river conditions and few opportunities for steelhead to move into and up the river system.

Low water conditions in January also allowed the naturally occurring sandbar to form at the mouth of the river, blocking the migration of steelhead.

“Once the first rains hit in February, the sandbar blocking the mouth of the river washed out, allowing the steelhead to move in from the ocean into the river system,” said Brett Wilson, Senior Hatchery Supervisor for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). “Based on what we are seeing right now, we should be able to meet our goal of taking enough eggs to rear a half million young steelhead for release into the Russian River.”

Emergency regulations that went into effect Feb. 19 closed most of the Russian River to fishing, adding extra protection for migrating steelhead and salmon.

March is an excellent time to visit the hatchery and view the steelhead moving through the concrete fish ladder into the restored stream habitat leading to the hatchery. A visitor viewing area also provides excellent photographic opportunity.

“The new restoration stream habitat just outside the hatchery intake gives visitors a chance to see steelhead up close and in native type of habitat,” Wilson said.

Warm Springs Hatchery is the end of a lengthy migration for the hatchery produced steelhead. From the Pacific Ocean, they enter the Russian River at Jenner and travel 40 miles upriver to Dry Creek near Healdsburg before following the stream 14 more miles west to the hatchery. Steelhead are also spawned at Coyote Valley Fish Facility on the East Fork of the Russian below Lake Mendocino.

The steelhead are generally held captive one week before the eggs are artificially taken. Spawning is open to the public and occurs throughout the entire season on most Thursdays at 10:30 a.m. The steelhead eggs spawned at the Hatchery and the Coyote Valley Fish Facility are incubated, hatched and reared at the hatchery for one year before they are released back into the Russian River to begin their migration to the sea.

Warm Springs Hatchery is located just below Warm Springs Dam on Lake Sonoma, approximately 14 miles above the confluence of Dry Creek with the Russian River at an elevation of 322 feet. The hatchery began operation in 1980 and is designed to produce a maximum of 161,300 pounds of salmonid fish annually. Although the hatchery is owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), it is operated by CDFW. CDFW also operates the Coyote Valley Fish Facility for trapping and spawning adult steelhead and imprinting steelhead destined for release in the Russian River. The Coyote Valley Fish Facility is located upstream on the east branch of the Russian River near the town of Ukiah.

Warm Springs Hatchery is a mitigation hatchery that produces steelhead to enhance the river’s natural steelhead population required due to the loss of natural spawning and rearing habitat associated with the construction of the Warm Springs and Coyote Valley dams. The mitigating agency is the USACE. The Warm Springs Hatchery is also home to the Coho Salmon Broodstock Program, which produces coho for release to 21 tributaries of the Russian River as part of a multi-agency recovery effort for this endangered species.

Media Contact:
Brett Wilson, Senior Hatchery Supervisor, (707) 433-6325
Harry Morse, CDFW Communications, (916) 323-1478

Steelhead swimming upstream to Warm Springs Hatchery

Steelhead swimming upstream to Warm Springs Hatchery

CDFW Hot Creek Hatchery to Host First Trout Fest

The Hot Creek Hatchery in Inyo County will host its first family-friendly Trout Fest on Saturday, June 29 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.  Trout Fest is a free fishing celebration that introduces people to the sport of trout fishing and gives the public a close up view of the millions of trout on site and hatchery operations.

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CDFW staff and volunteers teach attendees the basics of trout fishing from knot-tying to catching, cleaning and cooking trout.  Fly-fishing groups will demonstrate the art of fly-tying, casting and catch-and-release techniques.

Children can feed the fish in the raceways and try their hands (literally) at catching a trout in the either the raceway or the onsite ponds. Art activities will run continuously, including gyotaku, the traditional Japanese art of fish printing, wildlife stamp tattoos and face painting.

The trout tasting booth features grilling demonstrations, free recipes and samples of foil-wrapped barbecued trout.  CDFW will also feature its 1928 Dodge Hatchery Planting Truck, and wildlife officers will be on hand to answer questions and demonstrate how their K9 units operate. Visitors  will be able to see various life stages of trout up close in the living stream display.

Admission to the Trout Fest and all related activities are free. All tackle is provided. No outside tackle or rods are allowed. Children 15 and under can fish with a one-fish limit.

The Hot Creek Hatchery is located about 37 miles north of Bishop, or 3.5 miles south of the junction of U.S. Highway 395 and State Route 203, near the Mammoth-Yosemite Airport, follow the signs for parking.

Media Contacts:
Jana Lerian, CDFW Region 4, (559) 539-6644
Andrew Hughan, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8944

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