By: Jim Matthews
There have been no Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) trout plants at Puddingstone Lake in San Dimas or Peck Road Park Lake in Arcadia this entire winter trout season. The plants were suspended when the Los Angeles County Public Health Department announced that both waters’ populations of fish had levels of contaminants above the safe eating standards in late September last year.
This comes just one year after Puddingstone Lake received nearly weekly winter plants during 2013-14. Peck Road Park was planted once every two to three weeks during the same period. This winter, the parks have become ghost towns compared to last winter.
The whole idea with both moves was to protect the public health.
However, when digging a little deeper, it appears that hatchery rainbow trout stocked by DFW are likely the one healthy alternative for anglers who want to catch and keep a few fish for dinner at urban lakes throughout the region with health warnings. Why?
The simple answer to that question is that the trout are raised in clean facilities and water by DFW. The trout they plant out are free of contaminants and provide a great, healthy meal. The fact they are also fun to catch is a big bonus. The fish are also generally caught and eaten by anglers within one to two weeks of being planted, so there isn’t time for the fish to pick up contaminants from the lake.
Statewide, the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) has issued a blanket advisory for all of the state’s reservoirs and lakes with recommendations on how many meals per week a person can eat without getting too much mercury from the types of fish present. The one fish that gets a green light, without significant restriction, is rainbow trout. Most of the trout caught in these lakes and reservoirs are planted by DFW.
In Southern California, OEHHA had water-specific warnings for Little Rock Reservoir, Magic Johnson Park Lakes, Pyramid Lake and Silverwood Lake (see the complete listing: oehha.ca.gov/fish/so_cal/index.html), but in each case rainbow trout are given clean bills of health with few or no restrictions on eating, because the trout caught in these waters were all fish planted by DFW, and state studies found they did not accumulate enough toxins to be a health hazard.
The DFW no longer plants Little Rock Reservoir and Magic Johnson Park Lakes with trout. Silverwood has been getting weekly plants this winter, and Pyramid Lake is generally planted every three weeks. The interesting thing about these two lakes — unlike Puddingstone and Peck Road Park — rainbow trout can survive year-round, potentially accumulating contaminants for a longer period. In the urban lakes, the water temperatures get too warm for rainbow trout to survive by late spring. This eliminates the concern about long-term accumulation of contaminants.
The bottom line is Puddingstone and Peck Road Park lakes (and probably Magic Johnson Park Lake, too) need to get restored to the state’s trout stocking list to serve the huge urban fishing constituency.
“If we knew there was no hazard [with DFW planted trout], there would be good public health reasons to encourage people to catch and eat fish from those two waters,” said Angelo Bellomo, director of the environmental health division of the Los Angeles County health department, the agency that issued the Puddingstone and Peck Road Park warning. “When we look at what makes healthy people, there are lots of good arguments why we’d want people to go to the parks to fish — a healthy meal is just one of them.”
While it is a little fuzzy who initiated the stoppage of the trout plants, county and state health officials and DFW staff need to huddle and discuss restoring the trout plants at these waters and revising the health warnings so they “recommend” rainbow trout as table fare.