M. Kate West
“The fish cage program in Hamilton Branch has been in operation for the past 22 years with little to no maintenance,” said Paul Garrido of Almanor Fishing Association.
Due to wind, water surges and winter snows, the platforms and cages have greatly deteriorated.
“In early April 2010, after the AFA made a presentation to the Sacramento-based California Inland Fisheries Foundation, Inc., their board of directors voted to assist with the much needed refurbishment program,” Garrido said.
The AFA received a $15,000 donation from CIFFI.
“We also received a grant of $7,500 from Kokanee Power and the AFA cannot say too much how greatly we appreciate the funding provided by our partners,” he added.
The AFA itself matched the Kokanee Power grant of $7,500 and began repairs on the five platforms belonging to the fish cage program.
Each of the five platforms holds two fish cages and provides a safe, growing environment for fingerling trout.
As the platform and refurbishment got underway, serious damage to the large beams holding the platforms together and the gates to the cages was discovered. That resulted in additional costs and delays. Only three platforms were completed and re-floated this year at Hamilton Branch.
The last two platforms will have to be delayed until next spring or when funding for the repairs is available.
When fully operational, the cages receive approximately 50,000 trout each fall from the Department of Fish and Game. AFA volunteers feed the fish daily throughout the winter until they are released in the spring.
“We have about 33 volunteers who work in two- or three-man groups to feed the fish daily. They do this come hell or high water,” Garrido said.
More than one million Eagle Lake trout have been grown in these cages and planted in Lake Almanor since the program began.
“Eagle Lake trout do well here in Lake Almanor and they are fantastic for fishing. Most of the rainbows caught on the lake are Eagle lake trout,” Garrido said.
They are identifiable because the dorsal fins are clipped as a marker. He said, “Experienced fishermen can also identify these fish by the difference in their color.”
About the mission of the AFA, Garrido said, “If it concerns the fishery at Lake Almanor it concerns us. We work each year with the DFG to ensure we receive fish plants and that we receive a balance of species in the DFG donations.”
“We use these funds to support the limnology program at Chester High School, the Chester Elementary School Plumas to the Pacific Outdoor Education Program and to provide scholarships to seniors graduating from both Chester and Westwood high schools,” he said.
The annual AFA barbecue is the only fundraiser operated by the association members.
The Almanor Fishing Association was organized in 1988. It is a nonprofit with more than 360 members from Lake Almanor, the state of California and the U.S.
Any donations for fish cage refurbishment would be greatly appreciated. To assist with the repairs on the last two platforms and cages, make checks payable to Almanor Fishing Association, Attn: Fish Cages, P.O. Box 1938, Chester, CA 96020.
According to Garrido, the AFA and its partners plan to host a fishing derby in the near future.
The Almanor Fishing Association works collaboratively with DFG and its other partners: Kokanee Power and California Inland Fisheries Foundation, Inc.
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