February 21, 2012
By Jeff Walters
The 2012 California trout forecast is very promising for all anglers statewide. California Game & Fish Magazine has put together an extensive outlook for the entire state, from north to south, so you can pinpoint places to target.
There is no so-called "season" for trout fishing in Southern California. No official opener, no stream closures; just a few frozen bodies of water to contend with in the winter months. However, there is something that more or less qualifies for an "unofficial" opener. That is when the weather cools down enough to get the water in most of the reservoirs, lakes and streams cold enough to stock trout and have them survive.
These reservoirs, lakes and streams are stocked to provide fishing for the local population. The California Department of Fish and Game is one of the main suppliers of catchable-size trout. It stocks areas such as the Santa Ana River in San Bernardino County, off of State Highway 38 at the South Fork Campground. The stocking starts to go in at that point, and for the next 10-12 miles downstream the DFG stocks over 12 thousand pounds of catchable-size trout each year, offering the angler a great fishery all year long. The projected outlook for this area is very promising, with many stocked and native fish to be had. Upstream provides more of the wild native fish, mostly brown trout.
However, this year has seen some cutbacks in not only the budget, but the areas where trout are stocked. In Southern California, some well-known reservoirs, lakes and streams are receiving no stockings from the DFG or from private hatcheries. This is due to the current litigation process that concerns many of the Environmental Impact Reports on waters where trout are stocked.
For more information on this subject and to view a list of closures to stocking, you can log onto www.dfg.ca.gov/news or www.biologicaldiversity.org. to learn more.
For the many waters that do receive stockings during the cooler months of the year, DFG stocks larger numbers in those waters. In places like Lake Perris State Park in southwest Riverside County, the stockings exceed 25 thousand pounds per year. According to Dwayne Maxwell, with the California Department of Fish and Game, Fisheries Division Region 5, many other areas are receiving the stocking allotments that were scheduled for the now-closed areas, boosting the numbers for these places.
The overall outlook for the Southern California stocking season is very good, despite the cutbacks and closures. There remain strong fishing venues that millions of anglers enjoy during the cooler months of the year going after mainly stocked trout. The DFG posts all the stocking schedules and they can be viewed by logging onto www.dfg.ca.gov
One private trout hatchery that is getting a very warm welcome here in Southern California is Chaulk Mound Trout Ranch out of Bridgeport, Nebraska. That's right — Nebraska. They stock wonderful, wild-fighting rainbow trout that have now become known as "tailwalkers." Getting their stocking business started here in California wasn't easy. However, due to professionalism, belief in their product and a fantastic customer service attitude, Ron and Lisa Bright have made a name for Chaulk Mound Trout Ranch.
Chaulk Mound fish are stocked in only a few well-known free lakes, such as Lake Wohlford, Lake Dixon, Lake Poway and Lake Miramar, all in San Diego County and all within 20 minutes of each other. They are also in a few well-known "pay to play" lakes in the southland, like Santa Ana River Lakes and Corona Lake. These tailwalkers have developed quite a reputation. Even though they are stocked and not wild, they still hold the fight of a strong, wild rainbow trout. For more information on them, log onto www.cmtrout.com.
There are many other areas that hold wild trout in the southland and that can be accessed any time of the year, weather permitting. Almost all are listed as "Special Regulations" fishing areas and require artificial lures and flies with only barbless hooks. Some allow the standard catch limit of five fish per day per license. Others require a two-fish limit of fish over 8-10 inches. Now that doesn't seem like a huge fish and they are not. However, considering the fact that these fish live and thrive within a short, one-hour drive or less from over 20 million people, they are a rare find, indeed.
For more information on fishing in Southern California, log onto: www.socalfishn.com.
Central California options are on page two
Vastly different from Southern California and containing many more areas to fish for trout, Central California has many of its own fine fisheries. With full rivers and streams being fed from the Western Sierras, this vast and expansive area holds many waters just waiting for the angler. It is home to some famous rivers like the Stanislaus, the Tuolumne and many more. According to the information provided by the U.S.G.S., California Water Science Center, (http://ca.water.usgs.gov/), there are numerous waterways that are at or above normal flow and will continue this way well into next year.
Even though there has been record rainfall and a good snowpack, there are still vast amounts of water that are being diverted for agricultural use all throughout the valley. However, that doesn't stop the lakes and rivers from being stocked with trout of all sizes. Once again, the California Department of Fish and Game delivers vast stocking amounts of catchable-size trout all through the region.
This area relies heavily on agribusiness as a source of income and much water is diverted to provide for that. There are some local reservoirs and lakes that have adopted their own stocking program by raising their own trout. Lake Amador, just outside of Stockton, is one that really offers a great fishing program due to its own hatchery. The first stockings go in in early October with 5,000 pounds of trout, then every week after that more stockings go in, offering the angler a very good fishery. To get there, take State Highway 88 east from the Stockton area, go past Lake Camanche — another fine trout fishery — to Jackson Valley Road.
With so many reservoirs and other waters to fish, the projected outlook for Central Valley trout fishing is good to great for the year 2012 for both stocked and wild trout. The wild trout mainly thrive in the rivers and streams supplying the many large reservoirs. For example, the San Joaquin River — California's second-longest river — supplies water to Millerton Lake State Recreation Area, near Fresno, and offers great wild trout fishing in the upper reaches. Same with Lake McClure, near Modesto, which is fed by the Merced River, is another fine trout fishery. Moreover, incredible amounts of stocked trout go into some of these reservoirs.
Discover best bets for Northern California Trout on page three
This area contains more wild trout than any other area in the state. With famous rivers and lakes, and huge reservoirs like Lake Shasta, the angler can't go wrong when picking a place to go trout fishing. According to Craig Nielsen, the owner of Shasta Trout, there are still debates over water usage, even in this area. Nielsen claims that the Pitt River has seen some dramatic flow changes this past year due to continued changes in flow regulations. These changes have caused many areas of the Pitt River to be undesirable due to high water flows. However, this does not dismiss the Pitt River from being one of the better wild trout fisheries. Nielsen projects that once the released flow regime is straightened out, that the Pitt River will produce very well for 2012. Neilson and staff can be reached by logging onto www.shastatrout.com.
The Lower Sacramento River is clearly one of the most well-known wild trout fisheries in the state and boasts some impressive numbers of fish. Home for many professional guides and outfitters, this section of the river gets fished on a daily basis regardless of the weather conditions. I spoke with professional guide Chris Dicker and employees of The Fly Shop, located in Redding. Dicker said an increase in the number of wild trout caught on the Lower Sacramento River in 2011 and thinks that the catch rates will remain high or even better for the year 2012. Dicker and the staff offer some great advice for both fly- and spin-anglers. They can be reached through their Web site at www.flyshop.com
Since Northern California has so many wild rivers and streams that hold a sea-run population of salmon, steelhead and other species, it is rather difficult to focus on just a few areas. With water flows above normal for 2011 and projected to stay that way for the upcoming year, the overall trout fishing forecast looks very good for 2012. The Klamath, Trinity, Eel, McCloud, Upper Sacramento, and American rivers will all produce quality fish for the year, according to local guides and outfitters. These waters contain wild trout. No stockings have gone into these waters due to crossbreeding and hybridization with the wild species, as explained in the informative article available at http://genome-lab.ucdavis.edu/Publications/index.htm.
Eastern Sierra anglers can learn about top California trout options on page four
The Eastern Sierras is one of the most well-known trout fisheries in the state. Millions of people from all over the world travel to this area. There is so much to see and do that a person has only to point to a place on the map and go catch trout. As it is full of stocked trout from both the state and private hatcheries, anglers will have no problem finding great places to fish.
Parchers Resort, just outside of Bishop, holds the concessioner permit for South Lake and offers rental boats, cabins and tackle. South Lake receives stockings from the DFG along with private stockings, and boasts some very large wild trout as well. Giant brown and rainbow trout roam this lake and there's the possibility of the next state record being caught here. There are just so many trout in this lake that anglers really can't go wrong. Jared Smith is the manager at Parchers Resort. Smith, an avid fisherman and photographer, claims he never gets bored fishing this area. "There is just too much to see and do," he says. Parchers Resort is a great staging area to visit Bishop Creek, South Lake, North Lake, Lake Sabrina and many more. Log onto www.parchersresort.net for additional information.
Hot Creek Hatchery, which is on a wild trout stream just outside of Mammoth, supplies most, if not all, the state stocking programs in this area. However, just downstream from the hatchery is a world-class trout fishing stream. Special regulations are strictly enforced with a "no limit, catch-and-release" policy. It's a fly-fisherman's ideal location for very big, wild brown and rainbow trout, offering easy access, clean restrooms and trails in overall good condition.
Mammoth Lakes offers a series of five lakes to fish, all stocked by the DFG and from other hatcheries like Mt. Lassen Trout Farms. Rainbow, brown, brook trout are all found in these waters. Most of the browns and brook trout are wild and can reach very good size. The outlook for this year is even better than most with more stockings going in, more water flow and areas with easy access. Mammoth Lakes area is one place that should be on every trout angler's to-do list. You can fish a different lake each day and still have easy limits every day. Use the Mammoth area as a staging point to go and fish the 500 or so other places all within an hour of Mammoth. A short drive up and down State Highway 395 will show you countless places to fish the stocked creeks.
Some places of interest to look at while visiting the Mammoth area include Hot Creek, Convict Lake, Convict Creek, Mammoth Creek, Lower McGee Creek, Rock Creek, Rock Lake, Lower Bishop Creek, Lake Crowley, Owens River and Pleasant Valley Reservoir, just to name a few, and are all found off of State Highway 395.
Another outstanding fishery at the tail end of the Sierras is the Kern River Valley, near Bakersfield. The entire lower region of the river below Lake Isabella was once on the "no stocking" list of the DFG. It has now been removed and stockings have resumed and so has the fishing. The stretch above the Johnsondale Bridge, which is above Lake Isabella on the Kern River, has "wild trout status" and special regulations are enforced. Below the bridge, fishing is open all year long, with many miles to fish for stocked and native trout. For more information on the Kern River, check out www.kernvalley.com or www.kernriverflyfishing.com.
PROJECTED TROUT FORECAST
The overall projected outlook for trout fishing in California for the year is downright amazing all throughout the state — even with fiscal cutbacks within the DFG, stream closures to stocking, areas placed in "protective status" and new "no fishing at all" regulations in some streams and rivers. The Golden State will shine once more with the many programs and a stocking schedule to provide outstanding trout fishing in the year to come.