Riverside County Parks only stocking for special derbies, no Skinner plants

The shortage of trout caused by the closure of Calaveras Trout Farm in northern California has nearly eliminated all Riverside County Parks trout plants for the 2015-16 fall-winter trout season. Lake Skinner will receive no county-sourced fish at all this season, and Lake Cahuilla and Rancho Jurupa Park Pond will each only receive one plant, just prior to fishing derbies at the two facilities.

Calaveras was the primary source of fish for Riverside County Parks and its sudden closure due to a complete loss of it water supplies left the county without fish.

“Our vendor went out of business so we were lucky to get any trout this year,” said Ann Dixson, park superintendent. “Mt. Lassen [Trout Farm] has been generous enough to give us stocks for our two fishing derbies.”

Dixson said Mt. Lassen agreed to provide 3,000 pounds of rainbow trout for the Jan. 23 fishing derby at Rancho Jurupa and another 3,000 pounds for the Feb. 27 event at Lake Cahuilla. Other than those two plants, anglers will be relying on state Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) plants this season.

But there is a glimmer of good news on that front. Mike Giusti, a fishery supervisor with the DFW, said that because of an adjustment in the 2016 budget giving the agency more money for the hatchery program, there would be an additional 100,000 pounds of trout (over the 2015 numbers) available in early 2016 for Southern California waters. Giusti said Skinner would be getting more state fish than it did last year, which should partially make up for what has been lost by the closure of Calaveras.

Calaveras Trout Farm in Snelling closed its doors suddenly when the Merced Irrigation District shut down the water supply to all of its clients, including the hatchery. Drought had just about dried up the watershed and there simply wasn’t enough water for irrigation or hatchery use. Without advance warning, many vendors – like Riverside County – had to scramble to try to find fish.

According to the DFW website, there were DFW trout plants – only about 200 pounds per plant according to all the lakes’ staff – made the third week of November and two weeks ago at Rancho Jurupa and Lake Cahuilla. Plants are also scheduled at those waters this coming week. Skinner received similar-sized plants each of the past three weeks, according to the website (but only two were confirmed by park staff). Giusti said these plants have been small because they state is finishing up the 2015 allotments, which were smaller, and the numbers should begin to bump up in 2016.

After not being planted since 2010, DFW and county trout plants resumed at Lake Skinner in February this year. The plants were stopped for those five years because of lawsuit over the DFW trout stocking program. The DFW had to document the planted trout posed no threat to native steelhead trout that might exist in the watershed. That documentation was finally approved early this year.

Historically, trout season generally only runs through April at Lake Skinner (and other urban waters). By April the water becomes too warm for trout, so the season at Skinner this past winter was abbreviated. Anglers had hoped this fall-winter season would get back to normal, but fish shortages mean this year’s trout season will also be shorter and less productive than historic seasons at Skinner.

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