| Trophy trout, a Mono tradition
Trophy size rainbow trout aren’t strangers in Mono County waters. Throughout the season heavyweight catches are commonplace. All you have to do is look at the photos in WON and other publications, ranging from chunky 3- to 5-pound catches topping out at an occasional 10 pounder and better.
These aren’t fish from the local DFG hatchery. They’re the product of a vision that began back in the late 1980s , Local rancher and aquaculturist Tim Alpers along with Mono County teamed up with an objective providing a “little more” for the thousands of yearly visiting anglers in the form of a trophy fishery.
Initially Mono County provided the funding and Alpers provided the fish. A few years later, the Town of Mammoth Lakes joined in as a funding partner. Next in line was a handful of landing and resort operators who provided additional private funding for spicing up their waters. Today, 22 lakes and streams throughout Mono County and the Town of Mammoth Lakes are on the trophy trout-stocking menu.
“This year we’re looking at stocking right around 60,000 pounds” said Alpers. “Size ranges from 1- to 2-pound superstockers for smaller stream waters to trophy fish averaging 5 pounds and more for the lakes.”
Memorial Day weekend traditionally kicks off the Alpers stocking program. Stocking continues on a regular schedule to the end of October., with super heavyweights” earmarked for waters shortly before holidays and the end of September.
To our DFG’s credit, their put-and-take stocker program provides the bread-and- butter fish to fill stringers. But when you’re taking a half-pound stocker, and an angler down the line hooks up with a 5 pounder, there’s adrenalin rush knowing the heavyweights are there,and maybe you’re next in line.
“The program has certainly been great for the local fishing scene, “said Ernie’s TackleownerJohn Logue, a15-year June Lake operator. “One of the questions I always hear is, ‘Where have they stocked Alpers?’ It gives the fisherman the chance at catching something besides a 10-inch stocker. Everybody I talk to knows they’re there, and they’re fired up at having the chance at catching at least one.”
Unfortunately, an issue of controversy has surfaced relating to the Inland Aquaculture Group facility. The operation, situated on county owned property involves several agencies. Questions have been raised by one of the agencies, CalTrans, relating to the visual impact of the operation. Pat McDonell’s in the opening day coverage issue of May 6 touched on that controversy, and you can read morein his blog archive at www.wonews.com.For this year, though, the operation is running at full speed, however, concerns have been expressed regarding the future.
For now, big fish are in the Sierra waters, and like everyone else, for me it’s always a thrill to have a big one on.
Martin Strelneck is a longtime WON staffer and columnist, a retired three-term Mono County Sheriff, a freelance writer for several local publications, and a resident in Lee Vining with his wife Beth for more than four decades.