If there’s a single, overriding issue for the millions of trout anglers in California, it’s the quality and quantity of the winter rain and snow that fall on the state. As this report is written, the full effects of the 2010-2011 winter are not known. However, predictions of a La Niña, or mild winter don’t necessarily mean there won’t be plenty of water available for quality angling, both in still waters and rivers/streams across the Golden State.
Something that had more effect on trout angling than water and weather was the lawsuit brought by the Center for Biological Diversity concerning where and how trout are stocked in California. Over the long haul, the suit didn’t impact a large number of your favorite trout waters, but it caused the California Department of Fish and Game to carry out a long and exhaustive process that held up stocking of many waters for a period of time. Thankfully, most of that is behind us now.
If you want the most up-to-date information on the subject, go to the DFG’s Web site at http://www.dfg.ca.gov/. Scroll down a little in the Fishing and Hunting column and click on “Stocking Evaluations.” This will take you to a pair of pdf documents that are updated often. The one for catchable trout will show you all the waters currently being stocked throughout the state, by region. You can also check out all the current regulations, license fees and other great information on the DFG Web site.
The DFG’s interactive On-Line Fishing Guide is a bit limited, but you might find some useful information there, as well. You can also go to the Regions tab and get information on fishing and other information on a region-by-region basis. Sometimes the best way to plan a fishing vacation trip is to contact the fishery biologist in the region you are heading to and get first-hand information on the places you want to visit.
INLAND/DESERT AND SOUTH COAST REGIONS
Containing a huge chunk of inland Southern California, plus most of the Eastern Sierra, the Inland and South Coast regions have plenty of great trout waters. One standout in the last few years is giant Diamond Valley Reservoir, near Hemet in Riverside County. This largest of all Southern California reservoirs is fed by California and Colorado River Aqueduct water, and gets stocked with thousands of pounds of catchable and sub-catchable trout every year. Over the past few years, Diamond Valley has developed a reputation for very large rainbow trout that hold-over in the deep, cool waters of this roughly 260 billion gallon reservoir (at full pool; Diamond Valley has been down as much as 100 feet below that during the last year or so), and grow to mammoth proportions.
“We are going to try to get some Lahonton Cutthroat trout for Diamond Valley in the spring of 2011,” said Inland Region Fishery Manager Mike Giusti. If we get the eggs, we will raise them at the Mojave Hatchery. Also, we will be raising the browns for Diamond Valley to catchable size instead of sub-catchables.”
Big Bear Lake is another fine destination for Southern California trout anglers. Located high in the San Bernardino National Forest, this large lake gets stocked every year with thousands of pounds of quality trout by both local businesses and the DFG. Nearby Lake Gregory, a San Bernardino County Park lake, will also get an allotment of brown trout for 2011.
For the stream angler, all of the small trout streams in the San Bernardino and Angles National Forests should be in good shape. One item of note is that the East Fork of the San Gabriel River, a free-flowing small stream favored by fly anglers, is being considered for Wild/Heritage Trout status by the DFG. Roger Bloom, California’s Wild Trout and Heritage Trout manager told Game and Fish Magazine that studies are underway to include this pretty little stream in the program. That could mean that it might become a catch-and-release trout steam, much like its sister stream, the West Fork of the San Gabriel River.
In the Eastern Sierra, Lake Crowley, near Mammoth, is one of the great trout fisheries. It should be holding its own in 2011. It was reported to be quite low during the fall of 2010, but winter rain and snow melt should take care of that. The fall stocking that brings so many trout in the 15- to 18-inch (and larger) range for anglers in the spring have continued at basically the same levels as before. As usual, anglers gearing up for the spring trout opener at the end of April should expect outstanding fishing.
Hot Creek, the premium destination in the Sierra for fly anglers, continues to be very good, as does the lower Owens River, near Bishop. Hot Creek is a “special regulations” water for fly anglers, and is almost always very good fishing. Almost lost in the steep, winding canyon that holds it, the Owens River Gorge, which operates on general statewide regulations, continues to be an interesting brown trout fishery. DFG Biologist Steve Parminter reports that after nearly 20 years of on and off negotiations, the DFG is close to an agreement with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, which has several hydro powerplants in the Gorge, to regulate the flows in a manner more beneficial to the fishery. It’s been a long time coming. The Department of Fish & Game’s Wild and Heritage Trout folks are also looking at the Owens Gorge with an eye on the management of this fishery, and trying to decide if it should be managed as a wild trout stream.
The Bishop Creek drainage, which includes multiple forks of Bishop Creek, plus Lake Sabrina, North Lake and South Lake, should be on everybody’s list of roadside waters that are worth the trip. Anglers should also pay attention to Pleasant Valley Reservoir, near Bishop, for its fine trout fishing.
Further North, in the Bridgeport area, anglers can look forward to Bridgeport Reservoir being quite good, as should be both Upper and Lower Twin Lakes. The East Walker River should also be on your list of places to fish. The East Walker is open over part of its length year-round and offers spring fishing in both California and Nevada for anglers interested in big brown trout.
At Kirman Lake, a small hike in water produced some exceptional Lahonton Cutthroat trout fishing last year. The lake should be up to the task again in 2011.
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