The price of “go fish”


It’s all about money. The local and out of town trout fishermen bring in a lot of revenue to the county, and in the process, get to relax and enjoy life.

But, there is a steep price to pay for their enjoyment.  

First of all, there is a definite opposition from the fish and wildlife biologists to trout rearing and planting.

Their philosophy is that such practices disrupt the natural balance of nature and causes big problems for the eco-system. 

The competition for a biologist position is fierce, with 100 or more applicants for every opening. 

An applicant who approves of trout rearing and planting automatically fails the interview process. We see this philosophy in action with the cessation of trout planting in the John Muir and Ansel Adams Wilderness, and in our National Parks. 

The leverage to do so comes from the Yellow Legged Frog—trout eat YLF’s.

To some degree the biologists are right, for hatchery trout can spread whirling disease, white fungus, VHS virus, etc. and tend to be socially aggressive to natural trout, for example the Lahontan Cut throat trout is a dead duck in the presence of hatchery trout. 

Hatchery managers have to deal with many predators, including gulls, fish hawks, kingfishers, mink, muskrats, water snakes, crayfish. 

Trout themselves can be cannibalistic when overcrowded.

Human poachers can sneak in a hook trout. I’ll also note that hatchery workers are underpaid and overworked, you have to be a hustler and a stoic to survive the sword of the hatchery manager.

And, as Tim Alpers can tell you, the politics of hatchery ownership is overpowering. 

In our Mono county Lakes, only Crowley Lake and Bridgeport Reservoir have sufficient natural food supply for trout to grow. All the other 19 lakes are either bare survival or starvation environments. 

The volcanic minerals in the Owens River provide the food supply for insect larvae in Crowley Lake. The tons of cow manure flowing into Bridgeport Reservoir from the Hunewill Ranch provide nutrients for the insect larvae. You can easily see this by noting the clear water flowing out of Lower Twin Lakes, and that same water flowing into Bridgeport Reservoir, colored tea brown. That, fellow environmentalists, is a price we pay for cows. 

Of course, Bridgeport Reservoir turns into a weed farm and mud pond in mid July. The Smith Valley alfalfa farmers must have their three crops and the reservoir is their water source. In mid July, the algae in Crowley Lake make the fish taste like … yuck … and the 18” minimum size trout on  Aug. 1 virtually shuts down trout fishing there. 

I wince when I see the huge effort to get more trout fishermen into Mono county. 

Thousands of them hammer the banks of every lake into bare dirt, thereby allowing mud and debris to wash into the lakes. 

Lake Mary is as prime example. They also break off thousands of hooks, sinkers, lures, mono filament line on every rock and log in a lake, and leave mono filament line clinging to every bush along a stream.

Every fall, I would retrieve the speed limit buoys I panted in our lakes.  Attached to every anchor line would be 20-50 lures and hooks. 

I’ve seen shouting matches between boat anglers on overcrowded lakes.  There is a “do not encroach space” around every boat, and when one intrudes into another’s space, tempers flare. 

Lake Mary, Gull Lake, June Lake, are examples. 

There is also a constant battle going on between boat anglers /shore anglers, and water skiers/ PWC operators. Nothing angers an anchored trout fisherman than a ski boat whizzing by a few feet away, cutting his line and violently rocking his boat. 

Personal watercraft operators seem to have this harebrained idea that it’s macho to buzz an anchored boat or to whiz by a shore angler within a few feet of the shoreline. This occurs with great regularity on Grant Lake and Upper Twin Lakes. 

As a boat cop, I constantly had to legislate battles between these two groups. And to top it off, a new group of water-sports people have populated our lakes in the past few years, too: kayakers and water boarders.

We are simply running out of space to accommodate all of them.

So, fellow citizens, “go fish” has a lot of baggage attached to it.

Russ Reese

Swall Meadows