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Rainbows Always Add to the Color of an Opening Day

April 20, 2001

The forecast is for cloudy skies and cool temperatures throughout the Eastern Sierra on April 28, opening day of the general trout fishing season.

So pack your shades and bring plenty of sunscreen.

As veteran opening-weekend anglers know, long-range forecasts--even short-term ones-- are meaningless.

But one thing is certain: There will be no shortage of rainbows for the Southland hordes ascending to mountain locales from Big Pine to Bridgeport.

Though sometimes affected by weather, Department of Fish and Game stocking schedules are a little more predictable.

For example, this month alone, 73,000 pounds of catchable rainbow trout, or about 146,000 fish, will be dumped into Inyo and Mono county waters by personnel aboard DFG hatchery trucks.

By season's end Oct. 31, those trucks, on weekly planting forays, will have released 799,200 pounds of trout, averaging a half-pound apiece, into waters of Inyo and Mono counties, and a small portion of Madera County.

These don't include the pre-opener plants of Alpers Ranch-raised rainbows into streams between Big Pine and Lone Pine, and in Bishop Creek, the Lower Owens River, Convict Lake and Pleasant Valley Reservoir.

Nor do they include releases of site-raised fish at June Lake and Bridgeport's Upper Twin Lake.

Included on the DFG's April schedule are 7,600 larger trout, weighing one to two pounds and wearing gill-plate tags with DFG insignias, "to let people know of our efforts to enhance the angling experience with the larger fish," says Mike Haynie, the DFG's senior hatchery supervisor in Bishop. "They're welcome to keep the tags; they're just to let people know where the fish came from."

They were grown at the Mt. Whitney-Black Rock hatchery complex near Independence, Fish Springs Hatchery near Big Pine and Hot Creek Fish Hatchery near Mammoth Lakes-Yosemite Airport.

The centerpiece, of course, is historic Mt. Whitney Fish Hatchery, the state's second oldest, constructed in 1916, amid the pines beneath majestic Sierra peaks, with granite boulders and a red Spanish-style roof. (The oldest is the hatchery at Mt. Shasta, built in 1888.)

The DFG scheduled the Whitney hatchery's closure in 1996 to cut costs, but strong opposition caused the department to reconsider and form a strategic plan to "sustain Mt. Whitney Hatchery as a working hatchery and preserve the historical significance of the hatchery facility and its place in the history of the area and state."

While it no longer grows fish for planting, Whitney's broodstock produces millions of eggs annually for Black Rock and other state-run hatcheries.

On April 27, one of the busiest days of the year on U.S. 395, the DFG is conducting a 3 p.m. rededication ceremony and offering free tours of the facility beforehand at noon, 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. Details: (760) 878-0084.


Crowley Lake, a sprawling fishery that will float nearly 10,000 anglers on opening day, is not on the DFG's weekly stocking schedule. Rather, the Crowley Plan features an annual late-summer plant of 450,000 sub-catchable rainbow trout.

The annual allotment includes 100,000 Kamloops-strain rainbows, 150,000 Coleman-strain rainbows and 150,000 Eagle Lake rainbows.

The Kamloops stocked last year should weigh between three-quarters of a pound to 1 3/4 pounds on opening day. They "respond more quickly to angling," Haynie says, meaning that of the trout stocked last summer, more Kamloops will be caught than any other strain.

The Coleman rainbows generally cooperate later in the season and the Eagle Lake rainbows typically hold over a season. Thus, most of the larger fish caught on opening day will be Eagle Lake trout stocked two summers ago.

To make matters more confusing, the DFG added 15,000 Lahontan cutthroat trout to the mix late last summer and will stock 30,000 more at the end of this season.


Bridgeport Reservoir, though a solid six-hour drive from Los Angeles, is an opening-day mecca in its own right, though on a much smaller scale.

But with the concessionaire having gone out of business and the fate of a dilapidated marina facility in limbo during most of the off-season, many fishermen undoubtedly set their sights on other waters.

The situation is finally resolved, however. The owners of Twin Lakes Resort, Steve Marti and Lori Eitel-Marti, were awarded the marina concession Monday by the Walker River Irrigation District and are scrambling to get things in order.

A new fleet of boats has been ordered, and new docks are under construction. A fish-cleaning station--something lacking under the previous concessionaire--also is being built.

The bad news is that the boat order probably won't be filled until early May, and it remains unclear whether the docks or even the fish-cleaning station will be available come opening day.

The tackle shop, public launch ramp and about 20 RV spots, with full hookups, will be operational. And anglers with their own boats should find conditions to their liking.

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