Kern River Hatchery Reopens with Mission to Raise and Plant Native Trout

The Kern River Hatchery has reopened to the public with a bold and innovative new mission: to raise the Kern River rainbow trout and stock the native fish throughout the Kern River Basin where anglers will have a chance to catch it.

New facilities recently constructed at the Kern River Hatchery in Kernville are designed to breed, rear and facilitate the planting of the Kern River rainbow trout, one of 12 subspecies of trout native to California. The goal is to plant the native strain of trout instead of other domesticated strains of rainbow trout.

The hatchery will continue to serve as a holding facility and planting base for rainbow trout reared in other hatcheries for stocking in waters from Bakersfield to the high Sierras as the new program progresses. The facility has been in operation since 1928.

Historically, warming water temperatures during summer months did not adequately allow for full hatchery operations. Utilizing groundwater to augment the hatchery’s water supply solved the problem.

“The goal is to not only provide fishing opportunity but help with the restocking of a native strain of rainbow trout to native watersheds,” said Tony Holland, Kern River Hatchery manager. “This twofold operation has the potential to increase natural reproduction while providing continued angling opportunity.”

The hatchery plays a key role in planting trout. Most of the rainbow trout planted, however, have been reared at other hatcheries and were not from strains of rainbows found in the Kern River Basin. New wells providing cool, year-round water along with the building of new facilities to hold broodstock, egg taking stations, an incubation area, deep tanks, chillers and raceways make it possible to start the new program using local native stock.

“This program integrates genetic science, hatchery management techniques and common sense,” said Gerald Hatler, California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) regional fisheries program manager. “It is an innovative and exciting new project.”

This summer, CDFW biologists and hatchery crews are planning to collect wild Kern River rainbow trout broodstock to start the program. Four new deep tanks to rear fish are in place. The goal is to capture 50 to 100 mature trout from the backcountry within the Sequoia National Forest. The trout will be transported to the Kern River Hatchery where genetic samples will be taken to match and define genetic pairing to produce the best offspring.

The hatchery, located in Kernville, Kern County, is open daily to the public from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

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