CDFW stages intervention
On Thursday, October 6, California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) will take historic action to stock Hot Creek, a Wild Trout Water, with 6,000 diploid (able to reproduce), sub-catchable rainbow and brown trout. The stream will be stocked with 12,000 fish every year hereafter until annual population surveys indicate that there are 6,000 fish per mile of stream. The decision comes after reports from local guides and non-profits that the fish population is in serious decline.
Per CDFW Code, a “wild trout” is any fish that was born in a stream, as opposed to a “native trout,” which is a fish found in its native historic waters, or a hatchery fish, which was born and raised in a hatchery and may be released into a stream during a stocking event. The brown and rainbow trout that made Hot Creek a Blue Ribbon Wild Trout Fishery are Wild, not native.
Jeff Weaver, Senior Environmental Scientist for CDFW, told The Sheet that CDFW has no record of Hot Creek being stocked prior the October 6 event However, their records only go back to 2001, and the creek was designated “catch and release” in 1980. That designation was later changed to “Wild Trout Water” in 2007. The decision came with legal code that prohibited stocking unless it was deemed necessary to sustain the wild fish population.
Several local guides and anglers told The Sheet anecdotally that they had seen evidence of hatchery fish making their way into the stream prior to the formal legal designation as a Wild Trout water in 2007. “There is always a possibility that things may have happened without our knowledge,” said CDFW Senior Environmental Scientist Mike Giusti. “That was before the designations were coded, and we know the stream was stocked at some point because the fish are non-native, so they had to be put there by someone.” When asked if heightened scrutiny at the hatchery due to the stream’s formal designation as a Wild Trout Stream in 2007 was a factor in the observed population decline in the fishery, Giusti was skeptical. “We observed a record fish population at around 12,000 fish per mile, in 2008. The real decline has been in the last 3 years, not the last ten. We feel confident the drought is the primary culprit here.”