Steelhead Trout Planted in Mendocino County's Mill Creek Lake
A small lake in Mendocino County is the second water in the state planted with native steelhead trout under new environmental mandates. On Jan. 11, the Department of Fish and Game (DFG) planted Mill Creek Lake with steelhead trout that were raised at Warm Springs Fish Hatchery. A total of 15,000 fish will be planted in the lake over a five- to six-month period.
This fish planting meets all new environmental planting regulations established in 2010 and state fish planning mandates codified in Assembly Bill 7 by Assembly Member Dave Cogdill (R-Modesto). According to the new mandates, non-native rainbow trout can no longer be planted there because of potential escapement downstream into the Russian River system, where they could interbreed with native steelhead trout.
Bill Cox, DFG State Program Manager of Fish Production and Distribution, said, ?We are always looking for better ways to provide angling opportunities, make the best use of hatchery facilities, and adapt to changing circumstances and regulations.?
DFG completed and filed the Hatchery and Stocking Program Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement in 2010, culminating a two-and-a-half year effort to evaluate and analyze impacts of fish stocking on certain California native species. As part of the actions, waters like Mill Creek Lake fall under new strict stocking guidelines.
?We realized that waters like Mill Creek Lake could not be planted with non-native hatchery rainbow trout. So instead of writing it off as a lost fishing opportunity, we found a way to use all our resources at Warm Springs Hatchery and provide a fishery,? said DFG Senior Hatchery Supervisor Brett Wilson.
The new planting program utilizes excess steelhead eggs from the Russian River drainage mitigation programs to rear steelhead trout to plant into Mill Creek Lake. These fish meet the genetic integrity of hatchery steelhead stocks monitored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Key to the new planting program are utilization of hatchery space and resources. Only one concrete hatchery pond is needed for the rearing process, eggs come from normal hatchery operations, and food and personnel costs are covered under a reallocation of license money.
This planting program also helps meet native trout planting goals defined by the Heritage and Wild Trout Program mandated in AB 7. The bill specifies that only coastal rainbow and steelhead reared under special constrains can count toward meeting native trout production goals.
Warm Springs Hatchery is fully funded by the United States Army Corps of Engineers, and maintained and managed by DFG.