Editorial: Trout Plant Cutbacks

Editorial: Trout plant cutbacks having impact

Western Outdoor NewsPublished: Oct 29, 2019

The cutback in trout raised by and planted by the California Department of Fish and Game (DFW) that has been going on for at least 8 years is continuing to have a major impact on anglers statewide, and some guides are calling for the DFW to get back on track and expand trout production and plants.

Shaver Lake, for instance, has always been an excellent trout fishery, but in recent years the DFW has cut back on trout plants dramatically, and in fact, according to guide Dick Nichols of Shaver Lake, the lake allotment has gone from somewhere around 3,600 fish to 1,000 fish this past year.

“We now rely on kokanee, but there won’t be any adult kokes caught this year because the DFW didn’t plant two years ago. This year, the few trout plants were gone in 1 to 2 weeks. Last year my boat caught an average of 15 trout a day, this year it’s 25 kokanee to one trout, and they are only 11 inches long. And yet they are stocking lots of trout in Courtright, and one friend said he caught 50 in one day!” The road to Courtright will be closed in a few weeks, but Shaver is available for fishing year-round.

Trout plants in California have declined by 39 percent since 2012 and by 50 percent in pounds of trout. DFW trout plants went from over 4 million pounds in 2012 to barely over 2 million last year. Some streams and lakes that used to be planted receive no fish at all, and many anglers are simply not buying licenses or fishing any more. Here are the numbers of DFW trout plants:

2012 — 4,103.928.3 pounds / 11,896,835 fish

2013 — 3,403,425.5 pounds / 10,144,803 fish

2014 — 3,180,514.6 pounds / 11,568.638 fish

2015 — 1,970,538.8 pounds / 8,371,431 fish

2016 — 2,046,149.6 pounds / 7,276,598 fish

In 2018, DFW embarked on developing an R3 program (Recruitment, Retention and Reactivation) that models national programs to increase fishing participation rates and license sales. California license sales have been plummeting for years, coming at the expense of the department’s budget and communities dependent on outdoor tourism. The need for a R3 program is long overdue and DFW is expected to release its final draft soon. But if DFW continues to stock fewer fish, they will be undermining the program’s objective. License sales will not increase if the number and size of freshwater fish continue to decline.

As far as contacting the DFW about the problem? That’s not likely to help, since the current DFW administration is all about “wild” fish and is trying to rid itself of planted trout altogether, despite increasing demand by the public.

If you are concerned about the quality of fishing, join the California Sportfishing League (CSL), a nonprofit coalition of fresh and saltwater anglers, and businesses devoted to protecting access to recreational fishing. They are leading the charge for a California R3 program and urging the State Legislature to establish a fishing license that is valid a full 365 days from the day of purchase. Go to to see how you can help.

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