You can't control the weather and budget problems, but you can get a bead on the state'sbest trout-fishing hotspots. Here's a guide to action in all regions of the Golden State. (April 2009)
California trout anglers are facing several challenges in the form of drought and funding of trout hatcheries. Still, there are many opportunities in 2009.
Southern California gets a lot of its water either from the Colorado River or the California Aqueduct, and to some extent, the Los Angeles Aqueduct, which carries water from the Eastern Sierra. Reservoirs connected to these systems are likely to have better water conditions than those that rely mostly or entirely on local rainfall.
There are exceptions.
€¢€‚Diamond Valley Lake in Southern California is so low that the public launch ramp was closed. Diamond Valley gets water from both the Colorado River and California aqueducts. Management was concerned that quagga mussel could be introduced into the system.
€¢€‚San Vicente Reservoir, formerly a star of San Diego's trout-stocking program, is out of action for several years. It closed in late 2008 so a taller dam could be built. It will probably remain closed until 2012.
€¢€‚Lake Perris in Riverside County was another fine winter trout lake, that won't be a star this year. The lake is open to fishing, but has been drawn down considerably. The dam is being worked on to meet current earthquake safety standards. Fishing will be affected for years.
If you do much reservoir angling for trout in 2009, you will likely come into contact with state mandated boat, float tube and kayak inspections. The state is trying to prevent the dispersion of invasive aquatic species.
In the Eastern Sierra, you will also see plenty of "Do Not Wade" signs on streams to prevent the movement of New Zealand mudsnails. There is plenty of information on how to disinfect waders and wading shoes to prevent these tiny hitchhikers from spreading to non-infected streams. It's a good idea to look into it at www.dfg.ca.gov/invasives/mudsnail/.
In San Diego, the city has stopped stocking most of its lakes with trout. Only tiny Lake Murray is getting city-bought fish. But the state continues to stock Otay Reservoir.
Around San Diego County, there are a lot of other opportunities to fish for trout, and anglers should consider Lake Jennings, Lake Cuyamaca, and Morena, along with Dixon and Poway lakes.
"We should be stocking as many as we stocked in 2008," said Mike Giusti, Region 6 lakes biologist. "Because of the funding and requirements of Assembly Bill 7, we are stocking half-pound fish everywhere."
Giusti said there are stocking restrictions because of New Zealand mudsnail or whirling disease. But the rest of the hatchery system is well coordinated. If a hatchery needs fish, they are moving them between hatcheries, he said.
The other big DFG Region in Southern California is Region 5, which includes San Diego, Orange and Los Angeles counties. Region fisheries chief DeWayne Maxwell said that drought may cause problems on upper Piru Creek in the Lockwood Valley area. Trabuco Creek could be in poor shape, but that most of the trout stocked reservoirs in the area should be good.
In the Eastern Sierra, most waters should have adequate flows for a good fishing year. Guides, tackle shop operators and resort owners, said things look good for an action-packed year.
Gary Gunsolly, owner of Brock's Flyfishing in Bishop, said even with lower water levels, the fishing will probably be good with the state's current stocking plan.
One suggestion is to make 2009 the year you head up into the Sierra backcountry to sample some of the great mountain fishing.
"There's a wealth of lakes and streams at the higher altitudes all across the state that offer excellent trout angling," said DFG biologist Curt Milliron. "They are a great resource for the angler who doesn't mind a bit of solitude while they are fishing."
Most of these waters don't need stocking to maintain good fisheries, said Milliron.
It's likely that the traditional opener in the Eastern Sierra will be good this year, with Lake Crowley near Mammoth leading the way. Crowley is intensively stocked each year in the fall as the season winds down, and the thousands of trout grow all winter to be in fine fighting condition by spring. One of the great forms of fishing in the spring is to hit the tiny feeder creeks that run into Crowley.
Another hot area for the trout angler in the Bishop area is up State Highway 168. It comes off Line Street in Bishop and heads right for the high mountains to the west.
Bishop is at an altitude of about 4,000 feet. Lake Sabrina, only 15 miles away at the head of the Middle Fork of Bishop Creek, is at 9,138 feet. The steep highway is excellent, and you can drive a passenger car to all of the drive-to waters in the drainage.
Make a plan to drive to these three lakes in particular: Lake Sabrina, North Lake and South Lake.
The showpiece of the area is Lake Sabrina. But South Lake has a reputation for big fish. In 1998, a 17-pound brown was caught right after ice-out. Tiny North Lake is only about 30 surface acres, but it's a great float-tube lake.
In the Mammoth Lake area, there are a number of small trout lakes that usually produce good angling, and the San Joaquin River in the Sierra west of Mammoth is a fine-quality trout stream.
Farther north, Twin Lakes, Bridgeport Reservoir and the East Walker River around the town of Bridgeport are all quality trout fisheries that should be on every Eastern Sierra angler's short list.
On the western side of the Sierra range, in Region 4, the foothills are crammed with streams and big reservoirs. Most are trout fisheries.
"The San Joaquin hatchery had a projected 50 percent increase in production of trout in 2009," said Region 4 wild trout biologist Ken Johnson. "We also have a great trophy-trout program on the Kings River and the San Joaquin. We did a lot of work in the Golden Trout Wilderness this year, but we haven't designated any new waters."
Johnson said hot waters would be all of the wild-trout
waters, and the lower Kings is one. The Kern River above Johnsondale Bridge is very good for wild fish. Below Johnsondale the upper Kern will have good stocked-fish action, said Johnson.
Randy Kelly, DFG fishery manager for Region 4, said most lakes, such as Kaweah and Success, should be strong due to increased planting.
Other good trout fishing will be found in huge Lake Isabella, and the public water between Johnsondale Bridge and the lake, and again below Lake Isabella in the lower Kern for many miles. When the water warms, smallmouth bass become the quarry of choice.
The South Fork of the Kern in the Kennedy Meadows area is another excellent trout water, and the number of streams inside the Golden Trout Wilderness that hold beautiful golden trout is more than enough for several seasons of trout angling.
Northern California usually withstands drought much better than Southern California as far as the fisheries go. Anglers should not expect much reduction in either the quantity or the quality of the trout fishing.
Lake Davis in Plumas National Forest seems to be on the mend after several attempts to rid it of pike.
"We put quite a few good-sized fish in Lake Davis when we started restocking the reservoir," said Randy Kelly, DFG's Davis project manager. "Most of those were 2 pounds or better. We started restocking in December 2007. The catch rates in 2008 were very good. We haven't found any pike."
Linda Radford, a biologist in Region 1 out of Redding, said the overall situation looks good.
"We had some impacts from the fires, but the affected waters will all be open in 2009."
She said the best trout waters this year would most likely be the bigger lakes, like Whiskeytown and Shasta. Also, Hat Creek and Deer Creek are always good.
Other big waters include Oroville, southeast of Chico, Lake Berryessa west of Davis and Sacramento.
John Hanson, wild trout biologist in Region 2, said one of the bright spots in Region 2 is Yellow Creek south of Lake Almanor.
"Not many people go there, so it is a secret," he said. "There are brook trout and a fair number of browns in there."
Johnson said Heenan Lake is looking good. The Truckee is producing a fair amount of large fish.
FOR YOUR INFORMATION
You might have noticed that fishing licenses are more expensive this year. Now they're pegged to inflation rates.
The annual resident license is $41.20. Non-resident annual is $110.80. The 10-day non-resident runs $41.20, and a two-day license (either resident or non-resident) is $20.75. One-day is $13.40.
To get the most recent stocking information on your favorite waters, go to www.dfg.ca.gov, click on the recreation tab, then the fishing tab. Scroll down to fish planting schedules, open that, and you get a good state-wide set of lists that you can zoom in on to get the planting information for your local lakes and streams.
You can also check the site for license fees, a listing of licensed fishing guides, and the multiple threats to fisheries from New Zealand mudsnails, quagga mussels, and zebra mussels.
Find more about California fishing and hunting at: CaliforniaGameandFish.com