I picked this week to cover just how different the fish stocking programs are between Oregon and California for non-anadromous fish.
In Oregon, with a few exceptions of some private ponds and lakes, virtually all of the stocking is done by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) and virtually all of the fish planted are rainbow trout of three basic sizes (barely legal, 12-inchers and 16-inchers) that are intended to be caught and kept almost immediately.
Many of the richer waters in central and eastern Oregon receive plants of sublegal rainbows since they reach legal size rather quickly and a few western Oregon waters such as Hyatt and Howard Prairie also receive plants of smaller trout because their trout grow quickly.
With very few exceptions, trout along the Oregon coast grow very slowly. Before Butterfield Lake, in Coos County, was deeded to the public, it produced rainbows up to nine pounds, but these were privately stocked fish that were fed food pellets daily and rarely ventured close enough to the railroad tracks to be hooked by an angler.
The larger coastal lakes are capable of growing good-sized trout, but they usually turn out to be searun rather than carryover or lake-reared fish.
A large portion of the trout planted in California are raised in private hatcheries and purchased by privately operated marinas on certain California lakes and reservoirs. Some of these marinas have got in the habit of buying some humongous fish including rainbow trout weighing more than 20 pounds. In fact, several years ago a small fee-fishing lake turned in a rainbow trout for state record consideration that was caught mere hours after being stocked as a 28 pounder. Thankfully, the record application was eventually denied.
Some of these marinas also purchase catfish for stocking in the summer months. Most of these fish are channel cats, but some blue cats are also purchased. Years ago, Irvine Lake received a lot of publicity when it gave up a 72 pound five ounce blue cat that was stocked three weeks earlier as a mere 72 pounder. Earlier this year, the Santa Ana River Lakes stocked a 78 pound blue cat that was caught a few days later at the same weight.
Presently, anglers catching one of these jumbo stocked cats are required to release them in return for cash or merchandise. After all, raising catfish this heavy is very expensive – and they do a much better job of generating fishing interest and turnout while they are still in the water.
While I applaud California for stocking some truly impressive fish, the mindset of many of the anglers pursuing these fish greatly concerns me. These fish should not be considered the equal of similar-sized fish that have had to endure the constant dangers of growing up in the wild.
Further evidence that even some of California’s more seasoned anglers suffer from this “mindset” was when a rather famous Florida-strain largemouth bass was snagged off her bed in Dixon Lake. While “Dottie” definitely weighed enough to top the world record, the fact that the angler even considered turning the illegally-caught bass in for record consideration is very troubling.
A more recent example of this mindset is the huge spotted bass that was caught in late November of this year. The bass was weighed on three different accurate scales at eleven pounds four ounces, or slightly more. After all that trouble, the lucky angler tried to keep the lake that produced this potential world record a secret – calling the lake “Lake B” and then starting rumors that it was caught on Lake Berryssa, although it is far more likely it was caught at Bullards Bar Reservoir.
My position is that if you cannot bring yourself to honestly state where you caught a fish you are submitting for a state or world record – don’t submit it. Oregon doesn’t accept fish for state records that are caught out of waters not open to the public. But they slipped up when they accepted as a state record, a largemouth bass caught from a private pond near Butte Falls. Fortunately, that record has since been eclipsed by a bass from a pond in Springfield that does have public access.
However there is some value in being able to take a drive of approximately one hour from Los Angeles to Irvine Lake and having a chance to catch lunker-sized specimens of the following trout species: rainbow trout; brown trout; cutthroat trout, brook trout and steelhead as well as more than ten warmwater species including channel and blue catfish.