Cal Boating planning to reduce trout plants by 50 percent

By: Jim Matthews

Trout stocking will be reduced by more than half in 2015 and the state will be planting smaller fish, according to a Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) document posted on the agency website Nov. 7.

The document says the agency will only plant 1.6 million pounds of trout statewide in 2015, violating a state law passed in 2006 that mandates the agency plant 2.75 pounds of trout per fishing license sold in the state. There are around 1 million annual fishing license buyers in California (and 1.8 million total licenses and permits sold), so the state will miss its mandated allotment by at least 1 million pounds of fish.

The document also says the state’s hatcheries will be releasing fish that average ¼ pounds each instead of ½ pound, which is the current standard. It blames the stocking reductions and changes on increased costs and drought, but there is no documentation to support or justify the reductions.

In 2010, the agency produced 3.6 million pounds of trout and the number was at that level or higher each of the past four seasons. The question is what did the 2006 law mean when it said “fishing licenses sold”? Is that number around 1 million annual license buyers, or the 1.8 million total licenses sold, or something in between? From 2004 through 2009, the DFW reported it produced an average of 2.2 million trout, putting them in violation of the law for at least four years regardless of the numbers used. Now the DFW is planning to produce only 1.6 million trout annually?

Have DFW costs for raising trout actually increased more than 50 percent? That is what the document hidden on the DFW’s website would want us to believe. 

Do you buy that?

It really looks like the DFW is planning to reduce the trout stocking budget and reallocate the funds to other “priorities.” It really smells to me like they were hoping no one would really find out about this until it was a done deal. Anglers would see the trout plants come about as regularly as in the past and see about the same number of fish, albeit half-size fish. Was the DFW hoping to get away with this and only hear a little grousing about the size of the trout planted (although largemouth bass and striper anglers would probably rejoice at more palatable-sized chum for the bass)?

But do you think they really didn’t want us to know about this? Everything about this is odd. The almost secretly-posted document is entitled “Why is DFW planting few and smaller fish in 2015?” This sort of implies there was an announcement and this was a response to public questions.

But I can’t find a press release or any other documentation on plant reductions. In fact, the allotments for next year’s plants aren’t final yet. Was this a trial balloon? DFW staff who are allowed to comment on this weren’t available this past week, so there will be more to come.

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