The state's announcement this week that it is restructuring its trout-stocking program for 1994 might not have much of an effect on trout fishermen, but it has striped-bass fishermen and operators of the Southland's two premier striper fisheries up in arms.
Citing in part an anticipated reduction in the allotment of trout statewide for '94, the Department of Fish and Game announced several changes in the program, the most controversial of which is the elimination of Los Angeles County's Pyramid Lake and San Bernardino County's Silverwood Lake as stocking sites.
Mike Haynie, supervisor of DFG hatchery operations for Southern California, said sizable striped-bass populations in both reservoirs are the key factors in dropping the two lakes.
"Striper predation (on planted trout) has reached a level that impacts trout harvest at both lakes to a point where further catchable trout plants are no longer advisable," Haynie said.
There's no arguing that striped bass take a heavy toll on trout. They go into a feeding frenzy each time a DFG truck dumps a load of trout into the water, and striper fishermen are always there with their lines in the water.
The DFG says it raises trout to give anglers an opportunity to catch the fish, not to feed the stripers.
Striper fishermen argue that they buy their fishing licenses--and pay an extra $3.50 a year--so they can fish for striped bass.
Operators at both reservoirs, meanwhile, say they will not only lose customers who might come to fish for trout, but that their fisheries will be affected because the stripers will no longer have the trout to feed on and will eventually affect such species as largemouth bass, crappie and bluegill.
"It's our opinion that the program of stocking trout is designed so people catch fish," said Chet Roberts, president of Pyramid Enterprises, Inc., which operates Pyramid Lake. "People who come here spend money on licenses and pay an additional $3.50 (for a striper stamp) and we sell thousands of dollars of those every year. Trout are being eaten, but the bottom line is that fish \o7 are\f7 being caught."
Roberts and Andy Silva, marina manager at Silverwood, say they will take steps to get trout put back into both lakes, and striper fishermen say they will join in the effort.
"We're all upset, and if there's anything we can do to force them to plant trout again we'll do it," said Tim Wilson, 74, who says he has fished for stripers at Pyramid every week since it opened in 1974.
Not all Southland fishermen are hauling in listless bottom fish this winter, thinking of what spring might bring.
A large school of yellowtail seems to have forgone migration and found refuge in Redondo Beach's King Harbor.
Richard Augustus and Lars Wiproe, using live squid for bait, caught five in the last week, the largest a 22-pounder by Augustus.
"We hooked up 20 yellowtail last Thursday," said Augustus, 47, who lives aboard the Orient Express in Portofino Marina.
"I couldn't land any on 20-pound test, so I tried 30-pound test and caught the 22-pounder . . . right off the dock. By the time word spread, there were 20 people in there fishing where you aren't really supposed to be. (Fishing in the harbor is legal, but fishing around the docks is not)."
Brandon Bowden, 9, discovered the wayward yellowtail nearly two weeks ago while returning to his father's boat to retrieve the keys he had forgotten.
The two had come back from a fishing trip and were ready to leave when Rick Bowden realized his keys were still on the boat in the slip. He sent Brandon back and the youngster noticed the fish swimming beneath the bait tank, which was filled with live squid.
"I walked down and there were two 15-pound 'tails looking at the squid," said Rick Bowden, 36, of El Segundo. "I hooked up to one on 20-pound test and it sawed me off (on a nearby prop or piling) and then, with 30-pound test, I hooked up to one that went 15 (pounds) plus, and it popped off on a piling."
MISCELLANY--A helicopter on contract to the Arizona Game and Fish Department to conduct wildlife surveys crashed near Coolidge Dam on Tuesday, killing one person and injuring three others. Fatally injured was wildlife manager Estevan Escobedo, who had been with the department for nine years. The crash is being investigated. . . . The California Fish and Game Commission approved a rule requiring anglers to wear their fishing licenses while fishing California waters. It will take effect March 1. . . . The Anaheim Sports, Vacation and RV Show will open Saturday and run through Jan. 16 at the Anaheim Convention Center.