Mixed messages on fish plants

By Deb Murphy

This year’s fish stocking program is a touchy subject. With Fishmas less than three weeks away, how do tourist-dependent communities deal with the fact state budget cuts have whacked away half the poundage of trout dropped by the Department of Fish and Wildlife in area waters?


Plus, the trout included in the 375,000 pounds scheduled for the Eastern Sierra are quarter-pounders, down from the meaty half-pounders planted last year.

Jeff Simpson, Mono County Economic Development assistant, admits Mono has an advantage: more money to supplement state stocking, $130,000, all going for trophy trout in 21 county lakes and ponds. And that doesn’t count what individual marinas will be adding to the mix. The town of Mammoth Lakes will be ponying up $75,000 to stock the four lakes in the Lakes Basin. According to Simpson, Alpine County’s fish budget adds up to $50,000; Inyo’s at $20-$25,000.


“I was at the Fred Hall shows in San Diego and Lone Beach,” Simpson said. “We had a few thousand people at our booth and only a few asked about the (CDF&W) plant. What they asked about were the water levels. Our natural lakes are fine, now.” Simpson and Mono’s mantra is come soon and come often.

According to Simpson, the lakes in the June Lake loop are in good shape, Gull is only 11-inches below normal. Like Inyo’s high-altitude natural lakes, the bodies of water get the first crack at the snow melt.

As for the politics of the fish plant, Simpson said the county supervisors will deal with that at the legislative level, looking at reducing the limits and protecting breeding grounds for native fish. The emphasis here is on the “native,” since the CDF&W trout are not breeders.

So, while Simpson sees his lakes as half full of fish, Jim Tatum, chief executive officer for the City of Bishop, and Bruce Ivey, a life-long fish guru, see the lakes as half empty and are looking for a permanent fix.

“We’re attacking this in different ways,” said Tatum. Tatum admits the most time-consuming and long-term fix is convincing the state legislature to honor Assembly Bill 7’s 2.75 pounds of fish in state waters per fishing license sold. “The license fees have exceeded the total plants for the last few years,” Tatum said. In 2014, Tatum said, 1.8 million fishing licenses were sold; that totals nearly five-million pounds of trout, as opposed to the 750,000 pounds planted.

Another long-term fix would be a public/private collaboration that would take advantage of excess capacities in area hatcheries. “This isn’t a new concept,” Tatum said, and grant funding would be necessary to make it all happen. “People come here for a big fish experience,” he said. “Local agencies can supplement with trophy trout if they have the will to do so.”

According to Tatum, trophy trout cost about $5.75 a pound, about the same as a prime cut of beef.

Ivey provided some of the legislative background. AB 7 identified the 2.75 pounds per license in 2005. Then along came Senate Bill 1148 in 2012, changing the wording to “a goal of 2.75 pounds per license.” “That threw out the value of AB 7,” Ivey said. Ivey did the math: Anglers buying full-season fishing licenses in 2014, at $46.44, brought in $83 million. “The cost of fish plants is two-tenths of 1 percent of the department’s budget,” Ivey said. “They need to go back and meet the goals of AB 7. If it made sense then it should make sense now.”

Both Ivey and Tatum don’t see a huge impact on fishing tourism this year with the full impact hitting the Sierra in 2016. In the meantime, Bishop’s Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau is ramping up its “Funds for Fish” campaign to drop as many trophy trout as possible in local waterways.


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22 Responses to Mixed messages on fish plants

  1. Hook Em Daddo April 6, 2017 at 8:29 am #

    Low-Inyo…when thoughtless pricks pull that crap on me (invading my spot)…I suddenly become the worst placement caster on the planet. “Ooops…sorry. Did I cross your line…again? Looks like we’ll have to cut it”

  2. Trouble April 16, 2015 at 6:04 am #

    Ya Rick, I try to stay away from those guys, unless the fish are bitting!

  3. Rick O'Brien April 15, 2015 at 8:01 pm #

    It’s usually the guys wearing brand new fishing vests (with the tags still attached) and using a 500 dollar bamboo pole, driving a brand new SUV, and their faces covered with zinc-oxide because they have office jobs & probably get out once or twice a year. AND they act like they own the whole river.

    • Low-Inyo April 16, 2015 at 6:59 am #

      Rick;If that’a the case,I’d get a good laugh out of that…..One time I was fishing a secluded spot on Lee Vining Creek and about 3 trucks pulled up with decals of some construction company out of L.A. stopping by, with about 20 people piling out,kids running around in and out of the creek,about 10 adults casting into the little pool I was fishing…my dog started barking and this older angry guy told me my dog barking was scaring the fish away.I don’t fish crowded areas or spots,and too many “guys” to confront much about it, so I left to another spot,and when I came back to the original spot, cans,bottles,trash,wrappers,empty power bait containers all along the bank.So instead of catching dinner I went on trash clean-up instead…..nice…

  4. Low-Inyo April 15, 2015 at 2:05 pm #

    Rick; Are you refering to locals maybe saying something or giving you the evil eye or some SouCal tourist-fisherman thinking he’s in charge of something or someone and what not to keep or release ? I’ve never fished that area of Bridgeport,but unless it’s a “catch and release” area,fisherman have the choice on what they can do without someone telling them what they should do,especially if it’s coming from the L.A. crowd.

  5. Rick O'Brien April 14, 2015 at 3:57 pm #

    Try NOT releasing a decent sized trout up on the East Walker (below the dam) after you catch one in the presence of other fly-fishermen. You’ll be stoned to death if the hateful glares and sneer’s don’t get you first.

  6. biggame April 14, 2015 at 3:33 pm #

    really? john, can i ask you where you are from? a felony to fish.. . animal cruelty? they are fish. a fish is not an animal. they are farm raised fish that otherwise would not exist in these waters. perhaps people who do not eat fish should not fish, but a felony? get real.

    • John April 15, 2015 at 10:53 am #

      It was a joke. Google “women arrested for killing goldfish”.

  7. Bob K April 14, 2015 at 12:47 pm #

    So is football, but most of your kids play it.

  8. John April 14, 2015 at 10:20 am #

    The catching and releasing of fish for sport is felony animal cruelty. Take it home and eat it or don’t fish for it.

  9. earl duran April 14, 2015 at 8:56 am #

    I am wondering if there will be enough water in Lone Pine creek, and Cottonwood creek to even stock trout. If you want my opinion , I think fishing is dying out in Inyo county because of the price of a fishing license. less stocking..

    • Low-Inyo April 15, 2015 at 3:15 pm #

      earl duran….Lone Pine Creek has fish right now…..smaller than usual,harder to get to,but they’re there for the patient fisherman.And isn’t that why they call it fishing and not catching ?

  10. No Mo Fish April 13, 2015 at 8:20 pm #

    If the people only knew the ingredients of the fish food purchased by Fish and Game they would never eat another planted trout.

    • Trouble April 14, 2015 at 5:56 am #

      No Mo Fish, sort like taking your kids to McDonald’s?

    • B Frank April 14, 2015 at 6:26 am #

      Do tell?

  11. Trouble April 12, 2015 at 7:50 am #

    Maybe Fish and Game can drop a net full in the Owens this month, while on there way to the all the opening day tourist sites!

  12. wagonrd April 12, 2015 at 6:13 am #

    Just review the problems the Conway Ranch trout fishery had. Every agency in the county fought it tooth and nail. Stop by June Lake sometime and talk to John Ferguson!

  13. Fish Dude April 11, 2015 at 8:57 am #

    Smitty, Good points.. I have to say though the Inyo County Fish Commission is far more proactive than Mono County.(they are organizing a group to go and confront the CDFW and certain Congress folks, soon). Mono County Tourism is taking action, but the Supervisors and the Fish Commission,m are inactive to say the least. They(MC) refuse to acknowledge the seriousness of situation which is, simply stated, a downfall in our economic engine, which is fishing and has been for 95 years. Mono County also refuses any advice , help or information on the subject. They do not want to learn. Sad. I have small business in Mono County and thanks to the dysfunction of the CDFW, Elected and appointed officials as well as MC, this may very well be my downfall. The drought is one thing but to allow unscientific, baseless action that ruins our fisheries is absolutely unacceptable. This all started with the “Triploids” Media?? Do you hear this????

    • Smitty April 12, 2015 at 4:01 pm #

      The Inyo County Fish & Game commission is powerless and underfunded. “Organizing a group to confront the DFW” is not action. The DFW has already been confronted publicly on this, direct locally, in the press, on the radio, and nothing short of taking them to court at the state level is going to change anything. Obviously I don’t believe Mono or Inyo will go there. Regardless, my comments were not intended for the fisheries commissions of either county, although you and I absolutely disagree on Mono county’s commission being inactive. These commissions are nothing more than a glorified way to divvy out fine money anyhow.

      The bottom line here is that Mono County and the town of Mammoth Lakes are actively engaged in keeping the tens of thousands of people looking to recreate here in 2015 happy and ready to come back in 2016. I cannot say the same for those representing us in Inyo County and the city of Bishop…they seem to be sitting on their hands waiting for the fallout…which is just lovely.

      There must a be a short term AND long term strategy to keep us going now and into the future….and I feel strongly that we’re being shortchanged in a big way locally, just like we’re being shortchanged statewide.

  14. Trouble April 11, 2015 at 6:38 am #

    All this native fish mumbo-gumbo coming from the true Fish and Game fools at Cal-Trout, is going ruin fishing in the Owens! There are no quote native trout up here! Cal-Trout is the San Francisco group that had a hostel take over of DFG a couple of years ago!

  15. smitty April 10, 2015 at 7:09 am #

    And in the 1st paragraph I meant that Mono & Mammoth were actively engaged in keeping 2015 anglers happy as well as looking at long term solutions…

  16. Smitty April 9, 2015 at 6:33 pm #

    So what we’re hearing is that Mono County & the city of Mammoth Lakes are actively engaged in keeping the conversation positive with regard to area fishing in 2016 (awesome!) as well as investigating long term solutions. Inyo County and the City of Bishop however are just talking about possible long term solutions, which may or may not even work (ie AB-7), and doing nothing about the plight of 2015 visitors…and then just waiting for the backlash in 2016? Shameful!! IMO Inyo county is about as bad as the California DFG at this point reaping an insane amount of TOT revenue and other tax revenue from visiting anglers and then providing little or no help when the product (fish) that brings those visitors here is in short supply. This is politicians snubbing their nose at local businesses and its infuriating.

    I was also at the Fred Hall shows in both Long Beach and Del Mar representing my business, and while Mr. Simpson is absolutely correct in that the number one concern of visitors is the drought, the 2nd most asked question was regarding the fish stocking situation and those questions were many! I was left there talking to thousands of people unable to provide anglers looking to visit my area any hope of help coming from the city or county – NONE – while neighboring businesses to our north had lots of great things to say about what their elected officials are doing. The stocking issue was enough of a concern for enough people that they held panel discussions at both the Long Beach and Del Mar shows where mgmt within the CA DFW held Q&A sessions. These folks were basically just politicians and offered the kinds of answers you’d expect in a presidential election where questions are dodged and yes & no answers were nowhere to be found…line after line of BS.

    I’m beginning to feel that for the governments in Inyo County to act, appropriately and effectively, they will first have to feel the pinch, which means local businesses and resorts have to see a drop in business sufficient enough to get their attention. That isn’t very encouraging for those of us who own businesses here….we have to fail before the county will help. Tragic.


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