Then there was the summer day at Loch Lomond
Reservoir near Ben Lomond in the Santa Cruz
Mountains. We caught several trout, then landed our
boat on an island with a picnic site and barbecued
the fish on the spot. What a moment. Now it looks
like Loch Lomond is done forever.
Up in the
Sierra, on a stormy, late spring day at Spicer
Meadows Reservoir in the high country, we caught
something like 35 to 40 trout ranging 14 to 22
inches in three hours. Now it's goodbye Spicer.
Try to imagine the early-summer flyfishing out of
a canoe at pretty Gumboot Lake in the Trinity
Divide, casting black leeches, strip retrieve, and
catching a trout on nearly every cast in the last
two hours of light. Must have released 30 or so. It
will never happen again.
San Pablo, Loch Lomond, Spicer Meadows and
Gumboot are among 175 lakes and streams in
California that will no longer receive trout plants
thanks to a lawsuit settlement this past week
between the Department of Fish and Game and
The Center for Biological Diversity sued the DFG
mainly to protect frogs and pollywogs, charging that
fish can't be stocked without the DFG completing an
Environmental Impact Report. Even though the DFG has
stocked many of the lakes for generations, it's over
now at many of the best. The ban takes effect
In the Bay Area, the DFG halted trout stocks at
Bon Tempe, Lagunitas and Alpine lakes in Marin, and
Stevens Creek Reservoir near Monta Vista on the
south peninsula. That means from Novato in north
Marin on south to San Jose, the only lake left with
fishing is troubled Lake Merced in San Francisco,
where trout plants and fishing under the San
Francisco Recreation and Parks Department has
deteriorated to a joke.
According to the DFG, this settlement was the
best it could hope for after the Center for
Biological Diversity and Pacific Rivers Council sued
the DFG in October of 2006. The Stanford
Environmental Law Clinic represented the enviros and
argued in Superior Court that the DFG should be
required to complete an Environmental Impact Report
for each lake or stream before the DFG could be
permitted to plant trout at any of them.
That threatened to stop all trout plants, said
Jordan Traverso, DFG deputy director.
"We actually were pleased with the negotiations,"
Traverso said. "When we got into court Nov. 7, we
were told to work something out or stop the plants."
The DFG did not choose the list of lakes and
streams where plants will be stopped, she said.
Rather a list of parameters was put in place. The
presence of any of 27 species, most prominently,
frogs and tadpoles, the size of the lake, whether it
was a reservoir or natural lake, and whether it was
connected to rivers, determined if it was
blacklisted, Traverso said.
CEQA the hammer
"The premise in the original lawsuit was that our
trout planting program was not compliant to CEQA
(California Environmental Quality Act), that we had
not undergone an EIR (Environmental Impact Report)
for each lake," Traverso said. "That means the
department is required to create an environmental
impact report for something that has been going on
for more than 100 years."
On the surface, the cutbacks are intended to
protect frogs and pollywogs, which trout
occasionally feed on. But several state and federal
scientists told me that the ban on trout plants will
do nothing to increase frog populations.
Traverso acknowledged that. "There could be a
million other factors (with frogs and pollywogs)
that have nothing to do with fish stocking," she
At a wilderness lake in the Humphrey Basin in the
high Sierra, all trout in the lake were netted out
and killed to protect endangered frogs. Yet all of
the frogs died anyway the following year, killed by
chitrid fungus, according to Roland Knapp of the
Sierra Nevada Research Laboratory. "It's a mystery
and we don't know who the real bad guy is," Knapp
said at the time. Although Knapp is a proponent of
eliminating trout, he admitted that the trout had
nothing to do with all the frogs disappearing at the
test lake in the Humphrey Basin.
Noah Greenwald, program director for the Center
for Biological Diversity, lead party of the lawsuit,
issued this statement in regard to his victory to
stop plants at 175 lakes and streams: "Interim
measures limiting stocking are needed to help save
California's native fish and frogs from extinction."
He didn't return a phone call. I wanted to ask him
how many of the 175 lakes and streams being
blacklisted has he actually been to.
The scope of the plant shutdown is stunning in
It includes: Lake Amador, one of the best trout
lakes in the Sacramento Valley foothills; Taylor
Lake in the Russian Wilderness, the only
wheelchair-accessible wilderness lake with trout
fishing in the state; Ice House Reservoir, the
sensational fishing lake in the Crystal Basin; and
the Yuba River along Highway 49, one of the best
trout streams in the Sierra.
An example of how the shutdown could devastate an
area's economy is the Highway 4 corridor, where
pretty Alpine Lake, Mosquito Lake and Spicer Meadows
provide the only lakes with fishing. Stocking trout
will be stopped at all three, leaving roughly a
100-mile range across the Sierra that runs from
Angels Camp through Murphys, Arnold, Dorrington and
Bear Valley, with no lake to fish.
At this point, with the highest-priced fishing
license in the nation, the only DFG response that
would make sense would be to immediately increase
stocks wherever they are permitted. By law,
one-third of all fishing license money is required
to go to the DFG trout program, which would roughly
double stocks at the lakes on the "OK list" if
At the same time, the success of this lawsuit by
environmental factions should throw a scare into all
who fish or hunt. With the same premise, that an EIR
is required before fish are stocked or hunting is
permitted, a similar lawsuit could shut down
virtually any fishing or hunting program.
Notable lakes and streams that will not be
stocked in the future include (north to south):
Bay-Delta region: Contra
Costa County: Lafayette Res., San Pablo Res.;
Marin County: Alpine Lake, Bon Tempe
Res., Lagunitas Lake; Napa County: Lake
Hennessey; Santa Clara County: Cottonwood
Lake, Coyote Res., Lexington Res., Stevens Creek
Res.; Santa Cruz County: Loch Lomond
Res.; Solano County: Putah Creek, Lake Solano.
North Central region:
Alpine County: Alpine Lake, Upper Blue Lake,
Carson River (both East Fork and West Fork),
Mosquito Lake, Silver Creek, Spicer Meadows Res.,
Union Res. Amador County: Lake Amador,
Bear River Res., Mokelumne River. Butte
County: Paradise Res., Thermalito Forebay.
Calaveras County: White Pines Lake;
Colusa County: Letts Lake. El Dorado County:
American River, both Silver Fork and South Fork;
Echo Lakes, Ice House Res., Jenkinson Lake, Stumpy
Meadows Res., Taylor Creek, Wrights Lake.
Glenn County: Plaskett Meadow Pond.
Lake County: Upper Blue Lake, Cache
Creek, Indian Valley Res., Lake Pillsbury.
Nevada County: Boca Res., Bowman Lake, Donner
Lake, Lyons Lake, Martis Creek Res., Prosser Res.
Rollins Lake, Scott Flat Lake, Lake Spaulding;
Placer County: Sugar Pine Res., Truckee River.
Plumas County: Antelope Lake, Middle Fork and
North Fork Feather River, Jamison Creek, Spanish
Creek. Sacramento County: Lake Natoma.
Sierra County: Little Truckee River, Yuba
Northern region: Humboldt
County: Freshwater Lagoon. Siskiyou
County: Castle Lake, Dobkins Lake, Gumboot
Lake, Big Hancock Lake, Sky High Lakes, Taylor
Lake, Toad Lake, Paradise Lake, many others in
Trinity Alps, Russian and Marble Mountain
Wilderness areas. Trinity County: Boulder
Lake, Bull Lake, Grizzly Lake, Tamarack Lake.
Lassen County: Ash Creek. Modoc County:
South Fork Pit River.
Central region: Kern
County: Kern River. Tulare County:
Kaweah River, lower Kern River. Tuolumne
County: South Fork Stanislaus River.
Eastern Sierra: Inyo
County: Pine Creek. Mono/Madera County:
Complete list: Go to
then click on news item in far right column.
- Tom Stienstra
This article appeared on page
D - 11 of the San Francisco Chronicle