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Last month I stumbled upon a volunteer activity that really caught my attention – stocking Hot Creek with fish by bucket brigade! I quickly signed up and showed up at the parking area above the geothermal pools with a good crowd of other volunteers on a crisp October morning.

.image of Hot Creek on a fall morning

Why the bucket brigade?

We were briefed by Dr. Mark Drew, eastern Sierra CalTrout Headwaters project director, on the health of the Hot Creek fishery, and the project he’s been working on since 2016.

image of small group of people receiving instruction for the fish plant.

A 2007 survey by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife counted 12,000 fish per mile — one of the highest densities of wild trout in California. A follow-up in 2016 indicated the number had plummeted by a staggering 92 percent. Dr. Drew believes a Perfect Storm of factors is probably responsible; he listed the opening of Hot Creek to winter fishing without the promised Department of Fish and Wildlife annual health monitoring, the prolonged drought, and the concomitant 50% decreased in the flow of the spring that feeds the stream as probable causes.

The department adopted a shock-and-stock approach on Hot Creek, annually monitoring the progress of planting 20,000 (able to reproduce) sub-catchable trout each of the last two years — 12,000 rainbows and 8,000 browns, in the 3- to 4-inch range. Records are unclear, but it’s likely been decades since the wild stream was stocked, making the drastic intervention historic. The hope is that a hearty, sustainable population takes hold again. The stream will be stocked with 12,000 fish every year hereafter until annual population surveys indicate that there are 6,000 fish per mile of stream.

close-up image of small brown trout in a bucket.        close up image of small rainbow trout in a bucket.

DFW has done a quick study and finds no issues with water quality or food availability, and this is the third year for the bucket planting. Results are promising.

image of a man walking with a bucket of fish.

Photo: Fred Rowe

image of man holding a bucket of fish.

Photo: Fred Rowe

When a group of 25 people surveyed the stream in September of 2017, 80 percent of the trout were identified as “planters.” Surveyors used a  backpack capable of delivering 400 to 700 volts to shock sections of the stream. The “shockers” were followed by “live cars” — vented, plastic garbage cans that allow water flow — where stunned fish are deposited. James Erdman, a Fish and Wildlife biologist, estimated the largest trout landed was a 24-inch brown, but added “there were quite a few great browns in that 20-24 range.” Fish numbers jumped about 20 percent from 2016 to ’17, Erdman said, adding that they were “guardedly optimistic”.

The stream was shocked and trout counted again earlier this fall, and Dr. Drew indicated that the numbers were promising. Our job would be to deposit another 20,000 fish by forming a bucket brigade along the creek to the west of the geothermal pools (which form a natural barrier from the fish downstream).

How it went down

image of man carrying bucket down a hill.    image of truck with fish tank on the bed.

We spread ourselves out along the trail while Department of Fish and Wildlife employees filled the buckets, complete with little aerators. Buckets of live trout were passed from hand to hand upstream. At the end of the brigade the fish were gently released into the creek.

image of a man standing in a stream.

Photo: Fred Rowe

image of fish being transferred from a bucket to the creek.

Photo: Fred Rowe

Empty buckets were quickly transferred back up the line to be refilled.

image of a woman with a load of buckets.

We were a jovial group and people had come from quite a distance to help out; including southern California and Las Vegas. Hot Creek is a beloved fishery,  and people are very invested in its health. After a few hours and many hands, all the fish were in the water. We high-fived each other and now we wait for the next survey – holding on to hope for Hot Creek to thrive again.

If you want to go

Hot Creek is open for fishing all year with special regulations: Only artificial flies with barbless hooks may be used, and with a zero limit (catch and release only).

http://www.eregulations.com/california/fishing/freshwater/waters-special-regulations-f-m/

And remember that the Upper and Lower Owens are also great winter/ Year round fisheries…

Be sure to tag us when you post your photos: we are @visitbishop on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter!

 

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16 hours ago

If you plan to be in the area at the end of March, grab your tickets to this event early - it is usually a full house! Hosted by Inyo Council for the Arts, it is two evenings of adventure, culture, art, and good causes. Each night features different films - so get tickets for both 😁.Tickets for the 2019 Banff Film Festival go on sale February 18th! Tickets are $15 per night and are available at Eastside Sports and Inyo Council for the Arts in Bishop and Booky Joint in Mammoth Lakes. ******NOTE: Due to non-cooperation by the weather, tickets may not be available at Booky Joint on February 18th. We are working on getting the tickets up there as soon as possible. Thank you for your understanding and patience! Tickets will still be available on the 18th at Eastside Sports and ICA, and by calling ICA.****** Ignite your passion for adventure, action, and travel! This year’s exhilarating and provocative films explore remote landscapes, highlight mountain cultures, and feature exciting adventures and adrenaline-packed sports. The festival will take place Friday, March 29th, and Saturday, March 30th. Screenings are in the Charles Brown Auditorium at the Tri-County Fairgrounds in Bishop. Doors open at 6pm, films start at 7pm, with different films shown each night. Banff Centre Mountain Film Festival is brought to the Eastern Sierra by Inyo Council for the Arts. For more information and tickets, call Inyo Council for the Arts at 760-873-8014 or visit www.inyo.org. ... See MoreSee Less

If you plan to be in the area at the end of March, grab your tickets to this event early - it is usually a full house! Hosted by Inyo Council for the Arts, it is two evenings of adventure, culture, art, and good causes. Each night features different films - so get tickets for both 😁.

18 hours ago

In town for the weekend? Don't forget to check out our great local merchants and galleries, including this new one on Main Street. Find more here: www.bishopvisitor.com/activities/arts-photography/ or stop by the Visitors Center at the Bishop City Park, across street from Schat's Bakkery! ... See MoreSee Less

In town for the weekend? Dont forget to check out our great local merchants and galleries, including this new one on Main Street. Find more here: https://www.bishopvisitor.com/activities/arts-photography/ or stop by the Visitors Center at the Bishop City Park, across street from Schats Bakkery!

2 days ago

Hello friends and fans of the Eastern Sierra! The Bishop Area Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Bureau will be participating in the 2019 LA Travel & Adventure Show this weekend at the LA Convention Center! We hope you'll stop by our booth to pick up a free visitor guide. The first 150 people to use our promo code, VIPBSHP, will receive a free ticket to the show! Visit LATravelShow.com to get your ticket! ... See MoreSee Less

Hello friends and fans of the Eastern Sierra!  The Bishop Area Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Bureau will be participating in the 2019 LA Travel & Adventure Show this weekend at the LA Convention Center!  We hope youll stop by our booth to pick up a free visitor guide.  The first 150 people to use our promo code, VIPBSHP, will receive a free ticket to the show! Visit LATravelShow.com to get your ticket!

 

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The Chuck and Joe show is always good. My two favorite Chamber hosts.

I've got go to my OSHA 30 training CLASS otherwise I would be interested!

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