The Conway Ranch fishery is just the latest victim of the third drought year in the Eastern Sierra. “We didn’t even have the water to run the hatchery this winter,” said Inland Aquaculture Group (IAG) Representative Raven Angeles.
IAG began operating the trophy trout farm at Conway Ranch in 2006, “and this is the first time this has happened,” Angeles said.
Last October, Southern California Edison (SCE) informed IAG that there would not be enough water to support the fishery through the winter. SCE runs the power plant up Lundy Canyon, and notified IAG that snowpack above the Canyon was only 24 percent of average.
Last Saturday, IAG members and June Lake Marina John Frederickson trucked the fish from Conway to June Lake, leaving only one pond at Conway Ranch populated for the Conway Ranch Pre-season Trophy Trout Derby on April 19.
Conway Ranch fish also relocated to the Pleasant Valley Reservoir, and participants in the Blake Jones Trout Derby on March 15 were blessed with Alpers trophy trout as a result.
With the Conway Ranch fish scattered to the waters, Angeles said the trophy trout farm will have to start over again from scratch.
“The Mono County Fisheries Commission has been asking the Board of Supervisors to approve a well [to supply the Conway fishery] for a year and a half, for emergency situations,” Angeles noted. “But the Supervisors haven’t approved it just yet.”
The well proposal would take some time to go through the Board, and then through environmental review, considering local concerns about the impact it might have on the drinking water supply in an area where water is precious.
In the meantime, Mammoth Lakes Tourism (MLT) recently announced that the Town and MLT are working with Desert Springs Trout Farm of Oregon for fish stocking this year in the Mammoth Lakes Basin.
“Conway Ranch’s water issues are very unfortunate, but luckily we have found a solution for this year with Desert Springs,” said MLT Executive Director John Urdi.
Desert Springs will provide about 11,000 pounds of fish compared to the 7,600 pounds the Lakes Basin received last year. According to David McFarland, partner of Desert Springs Trout Farm, the trout will be the 3-5 pounders to which long-time local anglers are accustomed.