Thirty-five thousand Shasta Rainbow trout come pouring out of a California Department of Fish and Wildlife tank and into the transfer cage of the Almanor Fishing Association the morning of Oct. 16. The cage is then attached to a nearby pontoon boat and carefully transported to their temporary winter home at the mouth of Hamilton Branch. Photos by Brett Hurff

35,000 new residents in Lake Almanor

Volunteers from the AFA dip nets full of the newly arrived rainbow trout from the transfer cage and disperse them between seven holding pens at Hamilton Branch that will be their home until sometime next spring. Until then, the association volunteers will be feeding them on a daily basis throughout the winter to ensure a healthy batch for release.

This time of year is undeniably one of the busiest for the Almanor Fishing Association.

Just a week after stocking 8,000 pounds of fish food for the winter, the group gathered again Oct. 16 to take possession of 35,000 diploid (fertile) Shasta Rainbow trout from the California Department of Fish and wildlife.

AFA board member Brett Hurff noted, “We had requested 50,000 fish, but DFW only allotted us 35K this year. … Hopefully they will bump us back up to our normal 50K fish next season.”

The AFA was very pleased to receive the trout that were delivered this year. They are the preferred stock for the AFA’s commitment to maintain Lake Almanor as a prize fishery.

Stocking the cages is a two-step process that begins at the Lake Haven Resort boat ramp where the DFW hatchery truck unloads the fish into a transfer cage.

“This is really the easy part,” says Hurff. “They just open the gate and the fish pour out of the tank with all the water.”  

Once the fish are loaded into the transfer cage it is attached to a pontoon boat and slowly moved up the lake to their temporary winter home at the mouth of the Hamilton Branch.

“We are very grateful to David Finkbeiner at Lake Haven who lets us use their boat ramp to unload the fish,” related Hurff.

The ramp is probably the closest to the fish pens and greatly reduces the stress to the fish.

Once the transfer cage reaches the stock cages, the work begins as a group of AFA volunteers scoop the fish up with nets and distribute them evenly into the fish cages.

This year, the association is using seven of the 10 cages at the site because they didn’t want to chance using some that were damaged this past winter.

The dedicated volunteers will start the daily feeding schedule immediately and will continue for the next six months with a plan to release the trout sometime in April 2018.

The fish-rearing program was started in 1985 as an idea from Jim Pleau and Ruben Chavez, who were co-owners of the former Lassen View Resort.

They started with a two-pen test set-up and it has grown to the current 10-pen facility.

For more details of the association’s fish-rearing program, contact Jim Pleau at 596-4995 or current AFA President Rich Dengler at [email protected].