No two seasons are the same when it comes to the Eastern Sierra trout fishing scene.
One of the biggest factors making for changing conditions is the winter weather and its impact on spring, summer and fall conditions. One year there's too much snow, the next, like last year, not enough.
Local businesses serving the fishing public change hands, sometimes for the good and sometimes not so good. Concerns are expressed regarding state budget shortfalls and the impact on DFG, especially on the trout stocking program and possible reductions.
And in what seems to be an annual event, some non-native form of life creates an concern relating to impact on the local trout fishing.
This season saw a winter snowpack right around 100 percent of normal, a marked contrast to last year’s 28 percent, and it can't do anything but help the fishing environment. Local lakes and reservoisr, once the runoff begins, will recover water lost last year. Streams will be in good condition going into the late fall. There will be no stocking reduction like we saw last year. And last year’s rigid fire restrictions are modified.
The downside is, unless there's a major weather change, high elevation passes, Tioga and Sonora, will see a later opening dates. Lakes and resorts around the 9,000-foot level and above may be hard pressed to open by Memorial Day - a good year for the early season ice fisherman.
There's been a couple of changes on the business scene. Barrett's Outfitter's in Bishop has a new owner and name. Brandon Wood is the new owner/operator of Sierra Outfitters/ Owens River Fly Shop. Brandon is a licensed guide and has lived in the area the past five years.
Kerry Kellogg no longer operates Tioga Trailer Rentals in Lee Vining.
Seems he's taking a liking to retiring. New owner is Tioga Trailer Rentals is Barry Price who hails from the Maripoaa area.
Veteran Bridgeport fishing guide Frank Killen, for the first time in 10 years will be off the water this season. And longtime Big Pine tackle shop. Roy's Gun and Tackle, has closed its doors.
Every year there's some degree of hysteria focusing on DFG and reduction in the stocking program. This year’s focus is on state budget cuts and the impact of the New Zealand mud snail.
Local hatchery supervisor Dennis Redfern says anglers can look for stocking at the same level as last year, right around 900,000 catchable rainbows along with several thousand pounds of heavyweight broodstock.
Because of the New Zealand mud snail infection at the Hot Creek Hatchery, production is being reduced at that location. However, Redfern says trout will be transported in from other locations to make up the Hot Creek deficit.
And private trout rancher Tim Alpers will be shifting his new facility Conway ranch onto high gear, including rearing brown trout in addition to rainbows.
Quagga mussels and the possibility of invading the Sierra is the latest crisis. Look for new regulations focusing on private boaters aimed at keeping the mussel out of the area, especially on those waters supplying domestic water.
Going back in time there was whirling disease and then the mud snail. Both maladies are still with us and the fishing resource survived, and we will survive the mussel. Maybe it's time we give some thought to basing resource management on accepting reality and focus on methods of living with the issues rather than closing down the store.