gdurkee wrote:I just sent a note to Roland with the observation that I don't see anywhere near as many people fishing now as I did in the 70s. Then, I think over 60% carried fishing rods and a fair percentage of them were serious about fishing (this is only in Yosemite & Sequoia Kings -- I have limited experience elsewhere). Nowadays I think the number carrying poles is probably less than 20% and the number I talk to who are seriously into fish (like, say, you and others participating in The Fishing Hole discussions) is literally a handful of people. Maybe 10 at most in a season.
So that's also to say that the numbers of anglers in the parks is extremely small. The lake you show on your website -- bottom of the home page -- used to get 3 to 5 parties a week in the 70s and early 80s. Now I think it's fewer than 10 parties per season. In fact, I've always had a slight suspicion that the fish are getting slightly smaller there because there's less fishing pressure.
What lakes in Sequoia Kings do you think have shown reduced fish since aerial stocking was stopped? I have to say I've noticed no differences I could attribute to lack of stocking. It seems mostly to be whether it's good habitat or not. I think the 70s showed some great fishing because, in a number of alpine lakes, they'd only been recently introduced and the food was great. Now that they've eaten everything, you see some declines in size (assuming there's a lot of spawning area -- if not, the size seems to stay very good).
I don't think the lake you show on your site or others (like Crabtree, Wallace, and others in the southern Kern) have been stocked since the 50s, yet the fishing (Goldens) remains the best in Sequoia Kings. That's a strong argument which questions just how useful aerial stocking is. To a certain extent, DFG has gotten themselves into this pickle by not having very good (or any) studies to show if aerial stocking even works. Mortality is extremely high -- maybe even 100%. Even for areas where aerial stocking would be allowed, they really have to look at how efficient and effective it is.
PS: From your site, what Kings lakes do you think might be better than the one shown? I can only think of two and I'm not sure either is better. The very, very best is, I think, in the southern Kern.
Hi George, thanks for your informative posts on this thread and the eloquent dissent by William O Douglas. It's a lot like reading Muir with a reasoned legal slant--I'm in the midst of re-reading Muir's Mountains of California at the moment, so it was very much in the spirit of the moment (there is a little note about what I know to be MYLF and lack of fish in "Glacial Lakes" in there, too).
Regarding the possible decline in the number of folks fishing the backcountry I cannot say for sure I've noticed this in the 4 decades I've been headed to the mountains. I can say with total certainty that off trail travel of any sort, other than peak bagging, has declined hugely since its peak in the 70's. Accordingly, the drop off in the folks visiting that lake with the football rainbows is not a shock. We can see this trend in the type of footwear available at outdoor stores (see thread in Outdoor Gear), as well as the ability of the average hiker to read a topo map. I remember that many of my casual hiker friends in high school could read a topo well enough to plan and execute trips that would be considered "advanced cross country" today. In the northern Sierra (say Desolation and vicinity) well worn use trails of the 70's have long vanished as brush overgrew them. Has backcountry angler use fallen off correspondingly? Probably, but it is hard to say given that I am sort of a magnet for receiving communication on backcountry fishing, so I receive a large number of emails per year from dozens of different people.
Regarding lakes in Seki that have gone fishless since being stocked (now I'm not sure if they stocking was aerially or ground based) I have it on good authority that the big lake above Colby once had epic goldens, and we know from McDermand's writings that Lion Lake did too. South Guard Lake is another former legend (info on which was passed on by the most hardcore Seki backcountry fishermen I've ever met--met them at the football rainbow spot).
Regarding the efficacy of air drops, I am fairly sure it is much more effective and way cheaper (entire districts are done in one or two days; I have old air drop charts from the late 80's and early 90's) than the old pack train method and the DFG has successfully maintained a large number of fisheries outside the NPs that could not be maintained otherwise. That fish existed in those lakes from the air dropping, instead of natural reproduction, is very apparent when we look at the large number of them that have gone fishless in the North Sierra since air dropping ceased in many of them as of 2000. We can also see this in the shift in populations of some west flank lakes, formerly dropped with brookies (and dependent on stocking), but "converted" to rainbow lakes in the wake of post-2000 management changes (with brookies being all but banned). The key to effective air dropping is identifying the lakes that truly need it and regulating the "dosage" properly. This has always been a balance between pleasing the masses (want to catch something) versus pleasing the hardcore (who want fewer and bigger). In todays fisheries, with plenty of lakes featuring small fish, much smaller allotments (than pre 2000) should be the rule. Historically the strategy seems to vary by district, with the best district (pre 2000) being Rancho Cordova (Northern Sierra). The worse tended to be the Redding District (Klamath Mtn wilderness areas: Trinity Alps, Marble Mtns., Russian Wilderness etc) where I complained several times of overstocking of already overpopulated lakes (I was told by one official there that in their opinion a self sustaining lake didn't exist!). For self sustaining lakes there are very few for which the natural reproduction does not eventually result in a higher fish density and more fish--it's just a matter of how long this takes. Historically, one can see this trend at a number of places. Versteeg is one example when one looks at the records of folks who have fished it repeatedly over the decades (as well as McDermand's epic accounts). Wallace is another one. Great lake, but not the lunker palace it was in McDermand's time (nor the equal of Crabtree 3). I am willing to bet the fish at the football rainbow lake were bigger 40 years ago. The decline in fishing pressure may have also contributed to an increase in fish population (and reduction in fish size), but at a lake of that size and fish numbers, the level of fishing pressure it once received is probably less significant than population gains through spawning. If a lake has utterly no spawning potential--and there are lakes like this--one can fine tune the fish density with the drop allotment and truly create premium fisheries. Washington is doing this, and their plans also include the use of sterile fish. This allows them to manage a trout population density that is small enough that other sensitive critters can coexist, while maintaining a fishery with some very large fish. Whether or not these policies have helped with some of the "wall of fame" photo thread shots on the WA Trailblazer's site (must be 20 inches plus and backcountry to qualify) is hard to say, but some of the recent shots there are mind blowing (note I had to represent Cali and put in the 32 inch mack; another guy threw in a nice rainbow from somewhere in Yosemite--recognized the lake right off the bat).
Better than the football rainbow lake? Of course this has to do with average size, so the 'better' lakes have fewer fish. I will PM you on those.