By: Jim Matthews
Trout plants will resume at Lake Skinner after two-plus years without being stocked by either Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) or the Riverside County Parks and Open Space District. This popular fishing reservoir once drew large crowds during the winter months.
However, that was before the plants were stopped by DFW until the state could document the trout posed no threat to native steelhead trout that might exist in the watershed.
DFW’s scientific staff was able to convince federal biologists with National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service it would be an impossibility for the hatchery rainbow trout they now plant to hybridize with native steelhead even on the one-in-a-gazillion chance the two fish actually ended up in the same pool of water in a river that is dry 99 percent of the time. The trout DFW now plants are sterile.
The first plant will come soon, but DFW never divulges what day the truck will arrive.
“When we first heard the lake was going to be planted, we posted it on Facebook and in our fishing report, and people got crazy,” said Candy Grajczyk, the manager of the marina-store concession at Skinner. “The phone calls, the e-mails — people wanted to know when the plant was coming.”
Grajczyk said they heard plants were likely to resume this winter back in December. It was hoped the plants would resume in January, but DFW some final paperwork to complete. Grajczyk said they finally got word the plants would arrive sometime this coming week.
In addition to state trout plants, county parks have also planted trout in the past. Those plants may not resume this season, but it is almost certain the county will also add fish next winter.
“Absolutely we will resume stocking as soon as possible,” said Scott Bangle, general manager of county parks Friday. “I need to check with my folks to see the status, but I imagine we may have supply challenges for this season.”
The resumption of plants at Skinner comes at a difficult time for DFW, which was forced to cut its stocking program by 50 percent this year because of a projected budget shortfall for the trout hatchery program. Those cuts are already being implemented across the state.
Whether or not the wildlife agency will need to keep those cuts in place depends on whether or not the legislature gives DFW access to money that is put into a hatchery fund each year. In 2012, the legislature had granted DFW access to this fund for a three-year period. Prior to that, it sometimes didn’t allow the agency to spend the money under the guise of saving money, even though it was a “paper” savings. The money was still allocated each year by law, so there was no real savings. The legislature must decide by late spring if DFW will get the funds for this coming fiscal year, and then DFW could ramp back up its stocking levels.