Fish and Game staff continues to work toward clearing the Owens River in Inyo County for trout stocking in time for the opener.
Most major fishing waters are in good shape for the fishing opener, but sections of the Owens River in Inyo County, along with Twin Lakes near Bridgeport and Convict Lake, cannot be planted until Fish and Game staff can make sure that sensitive species that could be impacted by trout are not present.
After being sued by the Center for Biological Diversity, Fish and Game ran the entire stocking program for the state of California through the California Environmental Quality Act process. The end result was an Environmental Impact Report that requires Fish and Game to consider the impact of trout on each sensitive species in each body of water.
This means making sure that no sensitive species are significantly impacted by the stocked trout. Brad Henderson with Fish and Game explained that for the Eastern Sierra there are only two sensitive species in question, the willow flycatcher, and the northern leopard frog. The willow flycatchers are said to compete with trout for insects. This bird has led to the surveys of the lakes in question.
When it comes to the Owens River in Inyo County, Fish and Game has to look for the leopard frog. Henderson says that no leopard frogs have been seen in the Owens River since 1994. Its also not certain whether the leopard frog is native to the Owens River since the frog has been introduced elsewhere. The idea is to look for the frog and find out. If no northern leopard frogs are found, the water can be cleared for stocking.
Even if a northern leopard frog is found, that doesnt necessarily mean that stocking is out of the question; but Fish and Game would have to evaluate the situation to see if stocking has a substantial impact.
The timing of the EIR process and the legal wrangling has pushed this stocking issue right up against the general trout opener, but barring additional legal hurdles, next year should be different. Henderson explained that once a body of water is cleared, it doesnt have to be cleared again for five years.
There is a wild trout catch and release section of the Owens along Chalk Bluff Road, but other stretches of the river see a lot of anglers looking to take home a stringer of trout. Henderson remains hopeful that the river can be cleared in time for the opener.
Were plowing through this stuff, he says, “to make sure we comply with the EIR and get waters open.