Hi SJBassers. Writing to bring you more news about what is going on with trout stocking. Have you caught a big skinny bass from the 'Yote lately? I have. It's a huge bummer! This is a confusing lawsuit so I'm writing this to break it all down and help everyone understand what is happening.
The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) is an environmental group. Their goal is to protect native species. In 2007 they sued the California Dept. of Fish and Game (DFG). They said that stocking trout in California is bad for native species. They said that stocked trout eat native frogs. They said stocked trout eat insects that native birds could have eaten instead. They said that stocked trout could breed with native trout/steelhead and mess up the gene pool.
They sued under an act called the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). This act says that any time the state government does a project, they have to take in to account the environment. In 2007, the CBD didn't win outright but they won a lot. They made the DFG go and evaluate trout stocking through a formal process. They also got a judge to rule that certain places where trout are stocked shouldn't be stocked any more while DFG went and did their evaluation. That's why a lot of places haven't gotten stocked with trout for the last few years.
This year DFG finished their evaluation. They put out a new set of rules to determine if a place gets stocked with trout or not. I've reviewed these rules and talked with the important people at DFG about how these rules will work in real life. These are pretty good rules. They're pretty reasonable. They're not perfect, but they're a great start. Most people at the DFG want to stock trout, but they also want to protect native species where it's reasonable.
The CBD looked at these new rules the DFG put out and they said they are bad. They said the rules are too vague. They said the rules don't provide enough protection. They didn't sue again, but they filed something with the judge in the case called a Writ of Mandate. That's a fancy way of telling the judge that the DFG did such a bad job that the judge should give the DFG a big slap on the wrist and send them back to do their evaluation over again and make new rules - rules that the CBD likes.
The judge has to look at this Writ of Mandate and decide what to do. I am working hard to see how we can convince the judge that the DFG has done their job already and shouldn't have to do it again. I don't have all the answers yet, but I'm forming a group to keep the CBD from going too far. A rough draft of what we believe in is below.
There are a lot of reasons why trout stocking is important to us fishermen. I'm worried that without trout, many lakes will close down because not enough people will come to fish. I'm worried kids won't get their start in fishing because they won't have trout to fish for. I'm worried the CBD will go too far to do things that sound good on paper but are bad in real life. I'm worried about letting people who don't really understand fish be in charge of the fish.
I want to get the word out to the fishing community about this topic. That's why I'm posting this. I need help from lawyers especially, so if any of you are lawyers or know lawyers who can help, drop me a line. If you just want to write to talk about the issue, that's great too. swimbait at gmail dot com is my address.
POSITION STATEMENT (This is a rough draft)
In high sierra lakes located 5 or more miles from any other lake where stocked trout are the only predator present and native species have been impacted by those trout, management plans should be put in place to remove stocked trout where feasible.
In high sierra lake basins where many lakes sit in close proximity, management plans should be enacted that promote recreation through fish stocking in some lakes while removing trout from other lakes deemed to have the best native animal habitat.
In lakes and rivers with native California trout species that have been proven to hybridize with stocked rainbow trout, rainbow trout should not be stocked in locations where hybridization is likely to occur post-stocking. Sterile trout should not be stocked because they may out-compete native fish for food. If sufficient barriers exist between native fish and stocking locations as determined by qualified CA DFG Fisheries Biologists, then stocking should be allowed.
In rivers and streams where native steelhead are present, only sterile rainbow trout or sterile hybrid trout like tiger trout should be stocked. Plans should be put in place to increase native steelhead stocks through local "micro hatcheries" that raise and release fish spawned from native steelhead in local water. These fish do not have to be sterile. Only one generation of fish should ever be bred in the hatchery (capture native adults in spawning locations and breed them in hatcheries located on the same river system).
At lakes upstream of rivers and streams that have native steelhead trout stocks stocks should continue. If peer reviewed scientific data is collected to prove that stocked rainbow trout that wash over dams at high water are affecting the gene pool of native steelhead trout, then stocking should only continue at these locations using sterile trout or locally raised and hatched native steelhead trout as outlined in the paragraph above.
If not enough spawning pairs of steelhead are present downstream to provide viable breeding operations, steelhead with the same genetics from nearby rivers should be used. For example, native trout populations located above dams (Calaveras, Jameson, Matilija, Piedras Blancas etc).
At man-made reservoirs where native birds and amphibians may (or may not) be affected by stocked trout stocks should continue. As mitigation, efforts should be made to provide native bird and amphibian habitat that is isolated from predators. For example, shallow ponds and wetlands areas could be constructed with dense cover for frogs. Bird houses could be built. Etc.