A gazillion baby rainbow trout were ready to stretch their fins and the Kings River Fisheries Management Program was there to help.

On a warm February afternoon, a handful of volunteers gathered at the nondescript trout incubator in the shadow of the Pine Flat Dam ready to set tens of thousands of fry free into the Kings River.

Portrait of SJVWater.org chief executive officer Lois Henry

Lois Henry

SJV Water

A few volunteers brought their children. Some were veterans of the 21-year-old program — eager to grab a bucket of fry and stock their secret fishing holes.

The fisheries program is a unique collaboration among state regulators, downstream irrigators, and conservationists.

Trout Fry Incubated in Kings River Water

The collaborative was formed in 1999 and renewed last year through 2029. Its goal is to cooperatively keep the lower Kings River healthy for all users, including farms and fish.

Participants include the Kings River Conservation District, Kings River Water Association, and California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Part of the fisheries program includes stocking the river with rainbow trout. The eggs are collected from out of state but incubated in a facility at the base of Pine Flat Dam using Kings River water. So, by the time the trout fry hatch, they are acclimated to the river.

Photo of trout fry being scooped from an incubator filled with Kings River water

Lori Werner, resource analyst for Kings River Conservation District, gathers rainbow trout fry from the Kings River Fisheries Management program incubator raceway as Lilianne and Miles Meadows watch. (SJV Water/ Lois Henry)

Volunteers Have a Positive Impact

Over the years, the program has become a popular educational tool for local schools. And it has relied heavily on volunteers to help with everything from cleaning the fry raceways to fish population counts.

It uses volunteers to help release up to 300,000 rainbow trout fry every year between February and April. It’s latest fry release was Feb. 26.

The program operates on about a $200,000 annual budget, which is shared by the parties — $50,000 each from KRCD and KRWA and $100,000 from the state. State funding is dependent on legislative approval. In years when there’s no state funding, Fish and Wildlife staff help locate grants.

The 2019-20 budget is $147,000, including $74,000 for supplemental fish stocking, which was paid by KRCD and KRWA.

Oversight is provided through an executive committee representing each agency. It also takes input from a technical committee and a public advisory committee, which both meet monthly.

Watch: Releasing the Fry

Next Fry Release

There is another fry release on April 22, depending on weather and water conditions. Volunteers must register for the release with Lori Werner at lwerner@krcd.org or 559-237-5567 ext. 122.

You can read the Kings River Fisheries Implementation Plan at this link.

About the Author

Lois Henry is the CEO and editor of SJV Water. She has 30 years’ experience covering water and other issues in the San Joaquin Valley. Henry lives with her husband, five dogs, one orange cat, and a cranky rescue mustang horse in Bakersfield.

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