Hwy 178 closed - 05/27/23
Per Caltrans District 6 Facebook Page, Hwy 178 in the canyon has been closed due to cracks in the road near the waterway at the mouth of the canyon. No ETA for repair has been given yet. Hwy 155 is still closed between the Glennville area and the summit. CHP is advising the best route for people to take is Hwy 178 to Hwy 14 south to Hwy 58 to get back to Bakersfield.
Here is the link to Caltrans' Facebook page - https://www.facebook.com/caltranscentralvalleydistrict6
River Update - 05/05/23
Effective Thursday, Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux has issued temporary river closures for parts of the Kaweah, Kern, and Tule Rivers.
Sections of the Kern River within Tulare County at all points along the Kern River beginning at Dry Meadow Creek, approximately two miles east of the Johnsondale Bridge, down to the Tulare/Kern County Line. The closure order would include all river access locations for recreational use
See more details at link below:
Apparently there are already closures for parts of the Kings & St. Johns rivers in Tulare County as well.
Fishing Report - 04/27/23
It appears certain that the historical snow pack of 2023 will be driving California fishing conditions for all of this summer. Fortunately for Bakersfield residents and other San Joaquin Valley cities temperatures have remained below normal for months holding back the huge run off to come. This has given water managers the time to drain flood control reservoirs before they will fill fast and spill over. Summer temperatures are on the way and the great runoff of 2023 is about to begin. The North Fork of the Kern River is flowing +6,000 cfs and climbing fast as I type. The South Fork is 1,500 cfs.
I have collected snow pack data and run off flow data for over 20 years and have been able to predict within one week of when flow conditions become wadeable after the dangerous snow melt flows of summer. When flows drop below 1,000 cfs in Kernville and the 16 mile section between Fairview Dam and the KR3 Powerhouse are diverting 600 cfs for power this low flow section (400 cfs) has the best catching of the year. Why? The river is continuosly stocked by the CDFW for weeks or months and trout are swept down river and disbursed all over the river. They aren’t dumped in just a few well known spots and completely harvested in a weekend like most of the year. The first three weeks after flows drop below 1,000 cfs (measured at Kernville) trout are disbursed throughout the river and pocket water is wadeable making the catching prime. Hooking 10 trout/hr is commonplace for those who can wade aggressively from pocket to pocket covering a mile of river in an afternoon.
So when will this happen? With a peak April 1 snow pack of 332 % of normal my regression analysis says we will see 1,000 cfs around September 15. There are few snow packs seen this large so prime time may happen earlier or later, but I am confident wading the Upper Kern won’t be safe until after Labor Day. In the mean time Lake Isabella should be pretty good this year for carp, bass and crappie but lake levels will rise fast over the next few weeks. Fly fishers will probably have to adjust where they go and how deep the pan fish are every week as the lake rises fast and is drained fast to avoid down river flooding in San Joaquin Valley cities. Upper elevation tributaries will thrive but access to them may not be possible until July 4th. The road to Johnsondale is still closed above McNallys. The NFS does not know when it will be repaired.
Post 45,000 cfs on the Upper Kern River - 03/29/23
I had a chance to examine some of the carnage after the historic flooding today after I did a Trout in the Classroom presentation with a Kern River Valley school today. The wild flowers are really looking good :-)
Here are some photos I took.
Very odd seeing no boats on Lake Isabella because boating is not allowed (county decision)
Whiskey Flat opposite the Rodeo Grounds
Inlet pipe to the Kern River Hatchery now severed and severe erosion under it. The hatchery seemed to not have any damage as far as I could see. Whew!
Headquarters Campground stripped of many trees (west river bank) sediment piled up in camp sites.
Thunderbird Closed to vehicles because of deep gullies
Spring Hill Campground Closed to vehicles and day use because of deep gullies
Kernville upstream of Kernville Bridge many trailers have been moved
Fishing Report - 03/27/23
Wow, the Southern Sierra snow pack continues to build. At this time it is at 283% of what is expected on April 1st with another big rain/snow storm on the way. It appears we will have the highest snow pack on record in the Southern Sierra after the NOAA predicted a dry winter.... This is great for the fishery, however, this will mean very treacherous wading conditions for a lot of the spring and summer. It is a good thing that Lake Isabella construction will be completed just in time for the huge water year to capture the huge flows to come soon. Kern River flows though Bakersfield will be vigorous through the fall for sure. The water master will be challenged to divert water away from all low lying areas in the San Joaquin Valley.
The massive flows that were seen on nation TV in Kernville washed out stretches of Mountain 99 and the road is closed above Fairview (county trying to restore). Also there is no boating allowed on Lake Isabella until debris is not a concern on the lake. You may want to call the NFS before you head up to the Kern River Valley at 1-760-376-3781. The Lake Isabella Trout Derby has been pushed back to May 20th and will end much earlier this year on June 4th. Of course things could change so check their website for the latest https://www.kernrivervalley.com/isabellalakefishingderby
We stay away from any flows over 400 cfs on the Upper Kern. (Note: when there are 600 cfs power diversions on the 16 miles below Fairview Dam to the KR3 powerhouse it can have flows under 400 cfs even though the gauge in Kernville reads 1,000 cfs). Sadly, when snow packs exceed 170% drownings also increase as well with over a dozen lost lives on the Kern River during the high flows that resulted from a big snow year (much smaller than this year) in 2019. So please encourage friends and family to stay out of the Kern River unless they are with a professional rafting company that has good water safety practices. Also stay away from eroding river banks that will slough off into the river as bank erosion will occur during high runoff flows.
Up to now the trout catching on the Upper Kern and local Bakersfield lakes has been directly related to when they are stocked this year as most wild trout populations were devastated by the multi-year drought on the 20 mile section. Catching is very slow when route 178 to Kernville is closed with rock slides and the CDFW stocking truck can't make it up the canyon. As I type, flows have receded from the historic +45,000 cfs in Kernville to 1,500 cfs below Fairview Dam and the Kernville gauge is showing some odd numbers that may not be accurate? The gauge at Hart Park is now above 4,000 cfs in order to flush water out of Lake Isabella before the huge snow pack above 7,500' begins to melt. So we have stayed away from the Kern River for weeks and don't plan to return likely for months to wade safely.
Local lakes got some plants last week and appear to be harvested effectively soon after. Lake Buena Vista got 3,000 pounds of trout recently and it may take a while for the catching to cool off out there. Brite Lake was scheduled for a trout plant last week but no reports have come in yet. It is still pretty cold up there. The safest and best catching this summer will be at high elevation lakes and streams above 7,000'; however, road access likely won't happen before the 4th of July. Pan fish and bass catching should start to improve locally soon if we ever get up to seasonal temperatures.
Fishing Report - 03/07/23
Wow, the Southern Sierra snow pack continues to build. At this time it is at 216% of what is expected on April 1st with several rain/snow season weeks to go. It appears we will have the highest snow pack on record in the Southern Sierra after the NOAA predicted a dry winter.... This is great for the fishery, however, this will mean very treacherous wading conditions for a lot of the spring and summer. It is a good thing that Lake Isabella construction will be completed just in time for the huge water year to capture the huge flows to come soon. How soon you ask? This weekend it appears. We are forecasted to get a warm pineapple express storm this Friday with rain expected as high as 7,000' in the Kern River Valley. This will melt the huge snow pack below 7,000' and cause very high flows. We stay away from any flows over 400 cfs on the Upper Kern. (Note: when there are 600 cfs power diversions on the 16 miles below Fairview Dam to the KR3 powerhouse it can have flows under 400 cfs even though the gage in Kernville reads 1,000 cfs). It appears the start of a huge spring runoff will start this weekend and likely continue for months. Sadly, when snow packs exceed 170% drownings also increase as well with over a dozen lost lives on the Kern River during the high flows that resulted from a big snow year. So please encourage friends and family to stay out of the Kern River unless they are with a professional rafting company that has good water safety practices. Also stay away from eroding river banks that will slough off into the river as bank erosion will occur during high runoff flows.
The catching after the Riverwalk Lake trout derby was slow and it appears the large number of derby fishers harvested most of the lake. Riverwalk Lake is scheduled for a plant next week. Flows on the Lower Kings have been too high to consider so we canceled our Feb outing. Flows now are ramping up to +3,800 cfs to make room for the huge volume of water to come down that drainge as well. See the latest river flow graph here https://www.dreamflows.com/graphs/day.101.php
I got to spend some time talking with a CDFW biologist that oversees our area. He said that the Kern River Rainbow genetic sampling last year should give us a good location to find Kern River Rainbow brood stock. However, there is no funding source to do the actual genetic testing of those samples at this time. He also said the Kern River Hatchery inlet siphon replacement is now being handled by the state engineering organization and funding was approved. It won't happen any time soon though.
The safest and best catching this summer will be at high elevation lakes and streams above 7,000', however, road access likely won't happen before the 4th of July. Lake Isabella will start rising fast and the crappie bite and bass bite has been slow but should improve in the next month as we finally return to seasonal temperatures. We have been well below normal temperature wise since November. The Lake Isabella Fishing Derby is scheduled from April 1st thru June 4th, 2023. Daylight savings time starts Sunday.
Fishing Report - 11/21/22
Trout fishers in Kern County continue to have a hard time finding trout over 10 inches to play with. It appears there won't be much catching for Turkey Day week 2022. There are several reasons. The extreme drought and the high water temperatures do more damage to larger trout than juveniles, no stocking for months, only sterile trout stocked by the CDFW for over a decade and nearly complete harvesting of any trout that can make a meal. River conditions on the Upper Kern (20 mile section and wild trout section) are in the low 40's and even some 30's are being recorded by club members. The river is finally clear again but should we see rain expect murky conditions to exist much longer than normal. The few smaller trout that managed to survive the summer by finding a cool spring within the Kern River are now becoming lethargic. Getting any trout to the net is an accomplishment. You can have the river practically all to yourself and angling pressure has been almost non-existent because of the lack of catching. That may change as the first stocking in months is scheduled to occur in December according to my sources at CDFW. Trout will come from the San Joaquin hatchery as there is no reopen date yet for the Kern River hatchery and no project start date to repair the large/long infeed pipe. Given the progress to date it is hard to imagine the Kern River Hatchery being operational within the next 2 years.
Another genetic survey to identify where the purest strain of Kern River Rainbows (KRR) exist was undertaken recently. There have been several genetic studies over the last + 20 years and we are still waiting for the experts and CDFW to determine where to retrieve KRR brood-stock. Once they are sourced they can be bred to produce the first hatchery grown KRR which will take two years to reach foot-long status. In the past CDFW people have said the first crop of hatchery KRR will be sent to isolated high elevation locations to provide a supply of brood stock should the CDFW loose the brood stock to hatchery unforeseen failures or extreme drought. With no reopening of the Kern River Hatchery for the foreseeable future the first stocking of locally produced catchable KRR on the 20 mile section of the Kern River is years away. Sadly this has been the case since I first reported on this project nearly 20 years ago.
The steps at Johnsondale Bridge have been removed and no date has been finalized yet for reopening, potentially they could reopen by summer of 2023........ The precipitation forecast for Southern California is not encouraging as another dry winter is predicted at NOAA.
The Kings River will not be stocked with large CDFW brood stock as in years past. This was a great fishery for decades in winter when huge rainbows 3 -8 pounds were stocked weekly to provide some of the best trout fishing south of Alaska. Sadly it appears last year was the final year for that great experience. KRFF members were glad to have helped stock and catch those legendary rainbows. This fall the Kings has received a steady supply of foot longs and will continue to have smaller trout added weekly. The catching is reported to be very good on these smaller trout but you can get lucky and tag a rare +20" holdover from last year's brood stock plantings.
For California it has been a tough year for trout stalkers with one very notable exception - the Lower Sacramento River. This Lake Shasta tailwater has maintained perfect rainbow/salmon temperatures all year long and the catching has been very good even in a drought years. Many KRFF club members fished the egg drop recently with big wild rainbows in everyone's net. Every one landed 20" bows up to 27" and +20 to the net each day per boat. Guides there reported they had more days guiding than any year to date as it was by far the best river in CA this drought year and 3,800 cfs can hold a lot of trout. This is a prolific trout fishery and has not been stocked in decades. One wonders why the success there with wild trout can't be duplicated elsewhere in CA. Enjoy our members best of many catches.
Fishing Report - 10/04/22
Fishing on the Upper Kern has continued to be very challenging for fly fishers. Summer thunderstorms have murked up the upper river for weeks. Big downpours on the heavily burned areas of the last two years brought a lot of sediment and soot into the Upper Kern. Even with the recent lack of precipitation the murkiness continues to exists (hopefully this is not a repeat of the post McNally Fire issues we experienced for months almost two decades ago). No stocking has occurred since July and none is scheduled at this time. Cooler river temperatures (low 60's) are welcome but the pervasive low visibility for fly anglers on the Upper Kern (under 100 cfs at Kernville) makes catching very tough. Bait anglers managed to harvest most of the summer and are able to catch some small trout that survived the hot summer. For fly anglers bright flashy flies might work but I had no luck recently. At the recent Fly Gals weekend it was reported that only two small squaw fish were caught among all of the fly gals. The 20 mile section (hit 80 degrees daily) and 4 mile trout section got very hot this summer, only trout that moved way up river or found a spring survived. CDFW Hoot Owl conditions are defined as waters having sustained afternoon temperatures over 67 degrees. While this has been true for the Upper Kern for months now, it was never been designated as a Hoot Owl water? This is hard to believe when the Kern River Rainbow is seen as a threatened species.
Lower Owens River (Pleasant Valley Dam downstream to Five Bridges) in Mono County
Hot Creek in Mono County
Mill Creek (Walker Basin) in Mono County
Lower Rush Creek (Grant Lake to Mono Lake) in Mono County
Bridgeport Reservoir in Mono County
Deep Creek (San Bernardino County)
Crowley Lake (Mono County)
Truckee River (Lake Tahoe to the Nevada state line) in Nevada, Placer and Sierra counties
Upper Truckee River (El Dorado County)
Although these are not legal angling closures, CDFW strongly recommends adhering to the recommendations for the specific waters listed until removed when conditions for those waters improve. Note: The list is not static and will be updated as conditions change with waters being added and removed. To view the CDFW list of waters recommended not to fish after noon see the webpage here: https://wildlife.ca.gov/Fishing/Inland/Hoot-Owl
The stairs at Johnsondale Bridge to access the trail that traverses the 4 mile wild trout section are closed for repairs through at least this fall. Fines to $10,000 and imprisonment can be issued for using them. See Forest Order here: https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/fseprd1031853.pdf
Largemouth bass are being found in good quantity in the Lower Kern (most under 1.5 lbs) from Democrat down to Hart Park. Water is skinny concentrating fish. Be careful wading in the canyon as it has steep gradient compared to above Lake Isabella. Below the mouth of the canyon is much safer and floatable with some portage required. White, black and flashy streamers have worked well. Top water patterns in the evenings are best.
FIRE ALERT - Wishon Fire 08/15/22
A Fire has broken out in the Tule River drainage above Springville, California. The fire was first reported around 2:40PM this afternoon and as of 4:20PM the fire had rapidly grown to 200 Acres. Highway 190 is close East of the White Barn. There are no evacuations yet for Doyle Springs, Camp Nelson, Pierpoint and Ponderosa. Please see the links below for updated information and a view from a webcam pointed to the fire.
National Incident Information System - Wishon Fire - https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/8336/
Alert Wildfire Blue Ridge Webcam - https://www.alertwildfire.org/region/sierra/?camera=Axis-BlueRidge1
Porterville Recorder News - https://www.recorderonline.com/news/wishon-fire-burning-on-sequoia-national-forest/article_6f8889b4-1cf5-11ed-a121-07d12427f753.html
Aerial IR video from FIRIS https://twitter.com/i/status/1559337035353112577
Fishing Report - 06/03/22
The peak of the spring run off has happened just as predicted with the peak never reaching 1,000 cfs on the North Fork Kern River. There was a hefty planting last week for the Memorial Day weekend and plantings scheduled for all of the 20 mile section (CDFW sections 4,5,6) this week . The last members to fish the Upper Kern were two weeks ago and water was murky, flows over 700 cfs and the catching was tough. Today the river was 430 cfs above Fairview Dam and 110 cfs below in the 16 mile stretch on CDFW section 5. I knew there would be a narrow window of opportunity before the summer heat began roasting the 20 mile section and above. I also wanted to scout the Upper Kern before our club mentorship outing for beginners occurred tomorrow to help people prepare.
I arrived at the park in Kernville and no one was fishing? Uh oh, that likely means no stocking has happened this week. Did river temps rise to levels the CDFW won't stock at? So I went about checking things out. I tried a favorite run on the lower end of section 5. At 8:30 am water temp was 65 degrees, visibility around 3 feet. I know that typically the river gains one degree per hour in summer so I got to work. I was relieved to get 3 bows to the net in the first 40 minutes using flashy flies in the murky water. The #12 red hooked Arnerd and Kern Murky were getting the grabs. Nothing on small (#18-#20) flashy nymphs that were tried. No surface takes on the foam golden stone. I moved up river where it should be cooler. I covered another long run and managed eight more to the net and several LDR's. Six of them were 15"-19". I made sure I covered the the best water at least 10 times. It is harder to see flies in the murkier water like today so you really have to place the fly right in front of their noses. Target deeper pockets and pools over 3' deep. The knee deep water with a good gravel beds I tried used to hold juvenile wild rainbows, today had none but significant numbers of squaw-fish. I landed over a dozensquaw-fish but they were all under 10 inches. To me, this indicates that the drought and low flows below Fairview Dam are changing the river and reducing wild trout reproduction as well.
I found better fishing just downstream of well aerated water and far away from stocking locations. I rarely nymph with an indicator on the Upper Kern but felt that I should give it a try in one large deep pool. I rigged up a hot pink squirmy worm and my flashy Kern Murky.
I made some long casts by a large boulder and mended like crazy and stuck a good sized bow. But the fight was short lived as these warming conditions fatigue big trout quickly. It was a pristine female that likely was a long term holdover that was far from any stocking point. I normally pump a stomach on a fish like this to see what they are eating but my stream thermometer said 68 degrees at 11 am. So I kept her submerged and let her go with no ill effects. I was done for the day as river temps were only going to go higher. I did want to check out river temps further up river and chat with other fishers. There were few people fishing on a Friday? I think we are seeing the effects of $6 gas. As I moved up river to Johnsondale Bridge few folks had landed trout and were observing warm temperatures. Not much pressure was observed but the JDB parking lot was full and I watched a foursome of fly fishers blanking and they likely weren't going to score as the were fishing nymphs and walking downstream on a run as they fished it spooking any potential rainbows. Water at JDB was 70 degrees at 1 pm.
Back to the fishing summary, I landed 11 good rainbows in about 3 hours so that's about 4/hr and better than I expected. Typically after weeks of runoff I land +10/hr the first week I can wade after high flows. High flows and fast current spread trout all over the river before they are harvested. This year's runoff was just several days long and not very promising, so I was pleased with today's numbers and quality. Flashy larger (#12)nymphs flies are important. Not much surface activity. None of my trout jumped and none would grab a streamer. Trout are definitely becoming more lethargic and triple digit temperatures will be here next week. If you go up make sure you have a full tank of gas in case of fire (it is extremely dry) and you have to travel north to get home. Bring your stream thermometer and observe Hoot Owl conditions (stop fishing above 67 degrees) even if the CDFW won't place Hoot Owl restrictions on the 20 mile section. Expect to stop fishing before noon the next week and then earlier after that. Use heavy tippet (I like inexpensive fluorocarbon 6 lb Vanish) and get fish to the net quickly and release without taking trout out of the water. Take your time reviving them, especially the trout over 15" that are much more susceptible to lethal heat stress. I won't be back up on the Kern likely until October when trout healthy temperatures return to the 20 mile and 4 mile wild section. Sadly we can expect 80 degree river temperatures at Riverside Park in Kernville soon after the 4th of July.
Fishing Report - 04/11/22
The final snow pack measurements are in. The Kern River benchmark for April 1st is a paltry 26% which is even lower than last year. So extreme conditions will exist on the 20 mile section as well as the 4 mile wild trout section above Johnsondale Bridge for most of the summer. Hoot owl conditions (afternoon water temperatures above 67 degree) will be pervasive. The question is will the CDFW place hoot owl restrictions on the fragile Upper Kern River to protect the fishery?
The Lake Isabella Trout derby got underway on 4/9/22 (best tagged trout wins $5,000 if you entered) and runs through 7/4/22. See more info here https://www.kernrivervalley.com/fishingderby The crappie bite is beginning to pick up in 10'- 15' of water. No shallow bass bite yet and Lake Isabella at 11% of capacity. Construction on Lake Isabella Dam will be complete at summer's end.
River % of Normal
San Joaquin 44%
Statewide Average 35%
Fishing Report - 04/01/22
Had a chance to spend some time with +80 KRV fourth graders at their Trout in the Classroom trout fry release at Riverside Park. They added about 200 more tiny rainbows to the Kern River there. They learned about trout biology and behavior, taking care of our wild places, fly casting and more. It is always great to be a part of getting kids outside. After working with the students I had some time to fish the Upper Kern. During my talks I saw 4 pairs of fly fishers try to catch rainbows at Riverside Park. None were successful and there were no bait or spin fishermen there and I'm sure they were aware the stockers from earlier in the week had been fished out. I headed up to Section 5 where flows are around 100 cfs and much easier to wade than the water above Fairview Dam and below KR3 Powerhouse (around 500 cfs).
On section 5 I was surprised to see that the water was very murky and 58 degrees at noon almost 10 degrees more than the previous week. This day air temps reached the upper 70's. I could not see down 2.5 feet and wading was difficult because you could no see bottom even in just 100 cfs. I tried my conventional flies with no luck and tied on my flashy Kern Murky. I did hook 3 rainbows to 15" on one of 3 wild stretches I fished but none touched my net. So I have been technically skunked for the first time in several years with back to back trips. Some members did decent 2 weeks ago when the water was off color and they are very good fly fishers and willing to bush whack a lot. So the catching remains challenging and will get harder as the melt continues with a heat wave on the way. Air temps will likely exceed 90 degrees up in Kernville this week.
What is the benchmark snow pack for the Kern River? Much worse than I projected. Just 34% of normal following a 29% last year. The recent SJ Valley rains did not translate to much snow in the mountains and a lot of sublimation must have occurred over the last month. The San Joaquin River is at just 46% and that feeds the San Joaquin Hatchery which may put that hatchery in jeopardy as well. It had to be shut down a few years ago for high water temperatures. That hatchery supplies all of the Tulare and Kern County trout plants and could alter stocking for another year if it has to be evacuated again.
Here's the statewide snow pack measurements http://cdec.water.ca.gov/cgi-progs/snow_ss/COURSES This will mean Hoot Owl conditions (afternoon water temps exceeding 67 degrees) will arrive just after memorial Day on the 20 mile section through September. You can expect the 4 mile wild trout section to be in the same situation before July 1st. Not a good scenario. Also of great concern is that the Sacramento drainage snow pack is only 14% of normal. Extreme wild fire potential will exists again this summer.
As you can see we are in dire straights and extreme measures need to be taken by all this year to make sure our water resources are not wasted and that cold water species like our favorite quarries can survive.
On a more positive note our club had an outstanding outing to Pyramid Lake , NV last week. On one day we all netted double digits each of these magnificent Lahaton Cutthroats to over 15 lbs. Some of our members have fished this "bucket list lake" for decades and they shared their huge knowledge base with us to have great success. Check out the smiles.
Fishing Report - 03/11/22
Conditions on the Upper Kern have not changed much since the start of 2022. Water levels remain low and stockings are almost weekly but at reduced poundage from years past. They appear to be stocked heavily at Riverside Park and don't have much time to migrate beyond their stocking point. Water temps in 40's. Water flow below Fairview Dam is now 70 cfs and far too low to keep trout healthy and able to move easily about to find cover from predatory birds and heavy fishing pressure. Lately catching for members has been slow both nymphing, euro nymphing and streamers. This likely will continue until the spring melt provides healthy flows that distribute trout throughout the 20 mile section.
Severe drought pervades the Southern Sierra for the second straight year and little snow forecast for March. We are running out of time for our snow pack to be anywhere close to normal. At this time the latest measurements show the Kern River drainage at just 61% of normal. April 1st is the benchmark date for the peak snow pack and is approaching fast. It appears it will peak around 50% following a 29% level in 2021.
See the latest snow course measurements here http://cdec.water.ca.gov/cgi-progs/snow_ss/COURSES Statewide the snow pack is dire at just 60%
Therefore, water temps on the Upper Kern will exceed 67 degrees most days after Memorial Day through October. It will be interesting to see if the CDFW will designate Hoot Owl recommendations for the Kern in 2022 just as other trout waters were protected in 2021. We will likely not see peak runoff flows on the Upper Kern exceed 1,000 cfs for very long or if at all based on the studies I have done over the last 2 decades. Just not a good scenario for sustaining a wild trout population that experiences heavy harvesting pressure.
The Lower Kings is producing very well and continues to be planted heavily. Pressure is firm as well as these trout are 14" -20" and rod benders. Speaking of rod benders our club recently made trip outings s to the Redding Area and did exceptionally well on the Lower Sac and private lakes. Check the smiles out.
Fire Alert - Airport Fire (Bishop) - 02/18/22
A fire started Wednesday afternoon (2/16/22) near Bishop, Ca. The fire quickly jumped to a couple thousand acres in size by early evening. As of Noon Friday, the fire was at 4,136 acres and 30% contained. For more information, please check the links below:
CALFire - Airport Fire Incident - https://www.fire.ca.gov/incidents/2022/2/16/airport-fire/
MyMotherLode report - https://www.mymotherlode.com/news/local/2349593/eastern-sierra-nevada-fire-explodes-to-2800-acres.html
LA Times report - https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-02-17/wildfire-burning-east-of-bishop-in-owens-valley-grows-to-2-800-acres
Fishing Report - 02/04/22
Not much catching to report as few of our members have been on the Upper Kern. Water is very cold and trout have been lethargic upstream of Fairview Dam and the 4 mile wild trout section. Flows are still extremely low (just 47 cfs) on section 5 which encompasses 16 miles of river on the 20 mile section. An exhaustive study that shows the impact of these low flows has recently come to light - more on that later. These very low flows dramatically impede planted trout from migrating after planting so fish remain where planted where they can be easily seen in shallow water and harvested efficiently by both human and aviary predators. Numerous social media posts help to identify planted areas with real time photos and videos of where the trout have been placed. A large portion of the plants are going by the bridge in Kernville - see video here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jqQRR_zyO78 These trout come from the San Joaquin Hatchery (3.5 hr drive each way) so there isn't a lot of time available to to place trout in lots of different locations like when the Kern River Hatchery was functioning. At this time there is no timeline to restart the Kern River Hatchery. So until we get a spring melt off to increase flows and distribute trout, this situation appears to be in place for the coming weeks.
So what will the runoff look like? Not encouraging. The snow pack measurements for California waters have been updated and you can check out your favorite river drainage's here http://cdec.water.ca.gov/cgi-progs/snow_ss/COURSES . Statewide the huge and wonderful rains/snows of December have led to a historically dry January and predicted super dry February. The Kern River snow pack stands at 104% of normal down from +170% just 6 weeks ago. If the trend continues the snow pack would be well below average (right now 63% of what we usually have by Apr1 st). Who knows, maybe a big storm will hit in March or April? The NOAA still predicts a very dry period for SoCal.
Back to the Upper Kern River health and what we and others are doing to improve it. The Kern River Fly Fishers have created a non-profit to improve, or some would say save, the degrading of our name sake river. The Kern River Fly Fishers Council and the Kern River Boaters are working together to get these crippling low flows increased. Together we petitioned the CDFW to release the 35 CFS they require to be diverted by SoCal Edison to operate the closed Kern River Hatchery, as it is no longer needed. The CDFW complied with our request and authorized SoCal Edison to no longer divert 35 cfs water at Fairview Dam for the hatchery. We were all happy with this news, but SoCal Edison is not adding this 35 cfs to 16 miles of section 5 which is still at a paltry 47 cfs. Apparently, the CDFW can't or won't require SoCal Edison to put the 35 cfs the CDFW no longer needs back into the Kern River below Fairview Dam and the KR3 Powerhouse. This is very disappointing and harmful to the trout habitat that makes up most of the 20 mile section most of us fly fish. 35 cfs would increase flows between Fairview Dam and KR3 by 74% from where they have been every winter for decades! This could have a profound beneficial impact on wild trout populations that have been decimated by extended droughts on this "low flow" section. How much devastation has been wrought? We are beginning to find out with a study done by Liz Duxbury of the Kern River Boaters. If you care about the Upper Kern River you need to read the study. Its methodology is exquisite, leaning on the newest science related to proper water flows to provide sustainable healthy fisheries. What Liz (a Masters degree in civil engineering) concluded is that the minimum flows that SoCal Edison is operating under results in "severe degradation" from November through March and "poor or minimum habitat" from April to September. Minimum flows in those periods should be increased 126 cfs in winter and 61 cfs in summer. We as fly fishers always observed there was something wrong with water flows on section 5 most of the year, now there is good science to confirm our observations.
READ THE STUDY HERE https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5463d57ae4b0926760596243/t/61e97478f5417d348fd5079b/1642689656917/Environmental_Flows_NF_Kern-1997-2020.pdf
The Kern River Fly Fishers Council and the Kern River Boaters are working to change how SoCal Edison manages water flows on our federally designated Wild and Scenic River. We will make our concerns know as SoCal Edison applies for a 25 year renewed license to operate Fairview Dam and the KR3 Powerhouse. We believe the status quo cannot continue. We will need your help to address the relicensing of this project and will provide opportunities for you to voice your concerns as well.
Additionally, the CDFW has not had a sense of urgency placed on the plight of the Upper Kern River Rainbow and the trout habitat on the Upper Kern. The CDFW made a commitment to reintroduce the Kern River Rainbow back into its native waters on the 20 mile section over 20 years ago and it has spent over $1,000,000 with no wild fertile Kern River Rainbows planted in the Kern River in over 15 years even though CDFW has displayed on its website that it has been rearing Kern River Rainbows at the Kern River Hatchery for over ten years. In addition the Kern River has never been recommended for Hoot Owl restrictions, even though the Upper Kern River sees temperatures well above 70 degrees most summers. The CDFW places Hoot Owl restrictions on trout rivers when temperatures exceeding 67 degrees but not on the Upper Kern? Members of our Kern River Fly Fishers Council have petitioned the California Fish and Game Commission to place the Kern River on its agenda for future meetings with the public to comment on these and other issues we have regarding the health and the management of the Upper Kern River. We will pass along these opportunities to make our voices heard. We believe the Upper Kern can be restored to its former self and there will be a lot of inertia to shift to make this happen. We are partnering with the Kern River Boaters to make this happen and you can be part of it as well. Thanks for your help and concerns in advance.
Fishing Report - 01/06/22
Hoping you all have a good start to '22. I got a trip in yesterday to evaluate the increasing flows, water temps, water clarity. Most importantly to see how several weeks of weekly CDFW stocking the Upper Kern had distributed rainbows along the 20 mile section. More on my findings later.
The recent near record rain and snow of December has many of us cheering. Snow pack for the Southern Sierra reached over 170%. Then yesterday state water regulators imposed stricter was use measures for residential users. What's up with that? So I did some investigating. Today the Southern Sierra snow pack is 147%, so in just a few days has dropped over 23%. The NOAA is still predicting below normal precipitation for the Southwest US (NorCal normal). Actually, right now the Southern Sierra snow pack is just 55% of the average season total and if we get no snow the rest of this season we will have a poor snow pack year following a dreadful snow pack last year. That's why water officials have imposed stricter guidelines and fines for watering lawns and washing cars. Seems extreme but we clearly are not out of the woods yet. No rain in the next 2 weeks forecasted and Lake Isabella is at just 9% of capacity which is half of where it was a year ago. Yikes!
In summary for the day it was gorgeous, water cold/clear in the 40's, trout aren't distributed very well along the 20 mile section. To catch trout you need to be near a planted area soon after the planting takes place. Videos on line suggest that a large proportion of planted trout are being dumped at one location.
No trout plants scheduled beyond this week for Kern County at this time and none for local lakes since mid December. Until recently, the only planting for Kern County in winter was in local lakes and the Upper Kern was not planted. For some reason it changed. Not sure why. Need a new fishing license for 2022? Buy online here https://wildlife.ca.gov/Licensing/Fishing . Steelhead report cards are due here https://wildlife.ca.gov/Conservation/Inland-Fisheries/Steelhead-Report-Card
The Windy Fire Closure Area has been modified and extended to June 15, 2022. It appears The Forks of the Kern trailhead will not be accessible for some time. See Forest Closure Order here https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/fseprd974438.pdf and map closure area here https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/fseprd974439.pdf
The Kings River continues to get much larger weekly plantings. Three quarters of the pounds planted are going in the catch and keep section above the weir to below Pine Flat Dam. Members recently had +20/fish days with many 15" rainbows landed. Small nymphs and streamers are working. Some were skunked and there are some larger hold over trout hooked and broken off. Larger +4 lb brood stock rainbows are not reported to be planted yet.
Fishing Report - 12/2/21
I needed to do a trip to the Kern River Valley (KRV) for a Trout in the Classroom errand and I’m tired of the cold overcast weather of the last month in the Bako. So I headed up with my fly fishing gear to fish for about 3 hours in the warm weather the KRV has been experiencing the last few weeks. I wasn’t disappointed. For the last several weeks reports from club members and other anglers I keep in touch with found a one trout day or skunk to be typical, but they had the river to themselves. If they hooked a trout it was on section 6 or high up on section 5 where summer water temps did not reach 80 degrees. In addition there was a rumor floating around our club meeting last night that the 20 mile section was to be stocked by the CDFW weekly the next 3 weeks. So finally for the first time since June significant numbers of trout over 10” might be in play.
I arrived on section 6 at 11:30 am and found the water temp to be just 44 degrees and air temp 55 degrees. I saw no vehicles in the pull outs until I was above Fairview Dam and there were just a handful all the way up to the JDB. So it appeared stocking had not taken place yet. I was greeted with two F-18’s thundering through the canyon as I slipped on my waders. I covered a long run that usually has wilds and did not get a take on large or tiny nymphs. I saw very little insect activity. I moved on down the road and dropped in a nice tail run and could see from the bank several trout grouped together, clearly stocked this week and had not scattered much yet. I ran my nymphs over them without a grab. When water is this cold Upper Kern trout usually aren’t feeding much but will strike a streamer that gets waved in front of their face. I rigged up a streamer rod with a fast sink tip and reliable 8lb Vanish for tippet. A #10 olive bugger with some flash was tied on the end and I went 40’ upstream to cast down to them and strip up. I make sure to keep my rod tip in the water and prepared to strip set with a slow intermittent retrieve. I managed to land 2 in about 10 minutes but had no other grabs. Typically, if I don’t get a grab every 10 casts I move on. However, I knew there were several trout there so I hung around for 30 minutes without another take. So I headed downstream. A half mile later I stopped by 3 baiters clustered together to see how things were going for them. They were casting right over a pod of trout with eggs and worms and had no luck for about an hour. They were frustrated and suspected the cold water had something to do with it. I moved on further downstream to find some solitary water.
I stopped at several spots on section 6 and 5 without any grabs until 2pm when I found another spot where I could see trout. Again nymphing didn’t get a grab but the streamer worked very well. I tagged at least 10 more hard grabs and landed 5 bows with two that taped out at 16”. All of my trout were 13” – 16”, so bigger than the usual CDFW planters. I think that the lack of stocking the last 3 months in both Kern and Tulare Counties by the San Joaquin Hatchery allowed the average stockers to get bigger.
A real a surprise was that the water temperature at T-bird was 60 degrees at 2:30 pm. That means trout are going to be more active down there and that the extremely low flows (just 46 cfs now)for power diversion have raised water temperatures on section 5 much higher than I have ever observed. Sixteen degrees higher in just 3 hours. Most of the water on section 5 is barely moving and there are long stretches where water depths are just knee deep. That makes it easy for predatory birds to harvest what trout are there and likely why there are almost no wild trout caught by anyone along section 5. Our club non-profit and others want to do something about this and get minimum flows increased . Most importantly, to make the minimum flows adjust for extreme trout lethal water temperatures we see practically every summer. More on that in later reports.
So a great day to be on the river. Nice trout caught and released. Very little pressure…….. for now. I did later learn from the CDFW that 500 lbs of trout (about 1,000 bows total) were allocated for the Upper Kern 20 mile stretch this week. Also that will be similar the next two weeks. So about 50 trout per mile over the 20 mile stretch each week.
The Lower Kings is doing much better and that is predictable. There are around 1,000 lbs (2,000 bows) per week going in a 4 mile stretch of both catch/release and catch and keep river. That is about 500 trout per mile. Members up there today netted well into double digits and all trout above 14” topping out at 19”. Both the CDFW and a private hatchery are stocking weekly and have for some time. Small nymphing like #20 zebras and similar are working well.
Going forward the NOAA precipitation models for the next 3 months are bleak for CA and the Southern Sierra. If so, extreme conditions will again pervade most of next summer on our favorite local rivers. Our club is petitioning the CDFW to prepare and to protect our Wild and Scenic Kern River. Plans for higher minimum flows, hoot owl restrictions and other measures need to be seriously considered if this fishery has any chance of becoming a sustainable trout fishery we can all enjoy and pass on to our kids and grandkids.
We reach a milestone this week and will surpass 100,000 views on our fishing reports. Thanks for your viewership and we plan to continue to bring you the best information available with free detailed reports that include the latest information (numbers and data driven)and actions we can take as a fly fishing community to both recreate and help sustain our Kern River in very challenging conditions.
Fishing Report - 11/12/21
Local catching continues to be a struggle for most. Nymphing small #16-#20 bead heads with some flash on the Upper Kern below Johnsondale Bridge has helped people land small wild trout under 10” . What is driving the smallish catching? The extremely low and lethally warm water of the past summer impacts larger trout much more than smaller trout. Some of these smaller trout have managed to find some of the few fresh water springs that exist in the Upper Kern River and survive. However, trout on the Upper Kern experience heavy pressure and trout big enough to eat are effectively harvested. There is no CDFW planting for Kern County planned for November with the exception of Lake Isabella for Thanksgiving week - not sure why planting is dramatically curtailed compared to last year. The National Forest Service Windy Fire forest closure is in effect through the end of the year which includes many areas we like to fly fish and visit the trail of 100 Giants.
Forest closure order here https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/fseprd961358.pdf
A violation of these prohibitions is punishable by a fine of not more than $5,000 for an individual or $10,000 for an organization, or imprisonment for not more than six months, or both.
See map here https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/fseprd961360.jpg and the Kern River trail above Johnsondale Bridge that gives access to the wild trout section is also closed https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/sequoia/recarea/?recid=79731 I called the NFS Kern Ranger District to confirm this morning. The number is 760-376-3781 for the latest campground and recreation information.
Additionally, river flow below Fairview Dam is just 46 cfs, these flows are far too low to give the few remaining trout enough deep water to thrive and escape raptor predation. Our new club non-profit and others are working to increase these minimum flows for the relicensing of the KR3 Power generation facility to help try and make this stretch a self sustaining fishery-more to come on this in later reports.
The best catching for a day trip locally is the Lower Kings River. The CDFW continues to plant the river below Pine Flat Dam and it will be supplemented with stocking ordered by the Kings River Fisheries Management Program and the Kings River Conservation District. A total of 1,500-2,500 trout ( averaging over 15”) from the private Calaveras Hatchery are going to be planted next week. Later in December the CDFW will be planting thousands of +3 lb rainbows and will provide trophy catching for many fly fishers on the catch and release section . Typically streamers work well soon after planting then later tail water tiny nymphs are the ticket like #20 zebra midges and micro mayflies. Flows are around 100 cfs and wading is easy.
A march is planned tomorrow Nov 13th in the Kern River bed to promote Bring Back the Kern that strives to bring water back to the Kern River in Bakersfield. See here https://www.bringbackthekern.org/upcoming-events
See also article https://www.bakersfield.com/columnists/lois-henry/march-to-bring-awareness-to-kern-river/article_44e8d644-40d9-11ec-a12a-e73c1f7db0de.html
Fishing Report - 10/22/21
Our local waters have not been replenished by CDFW plants in months. Statewide stocking has been reduced heavily for October. The San Joaquin Hatchery is focused on spawning trout for next year’s crop of planters as are most of the hatcheries statewide. Many lakes state wide are extremely low and it doesn’t make sense to stock them as well. Our Riverwalk Lake is just a mud puddle at this time. However, Lakes Ming and Hart Park water levels are doing well and the Upper Kern is cool but low. Unfortunately, no plants will happen any time soon but likely will happen just before Turkey Day. The National Weather Service has issued a flash flood watch for the Kern River Valley as a big rain is expected and the potential for landslides from the recent fires are a concern.
So where should you go in California for some great wild trout action? The Lower Sacramento River below Lake Shasta is fishing great. The salmon are moving up to Keswick Dam and the rainbows and steelhead are close behind feeding on salmon eggs. Salmon typically go out to the ocean and return two to three years later to spawn. We had a great snow pack three years ago and those salmon are returning to the Lower Sacramento River that is very low. This concentrates both trout and salmon and made for some great catching for ten of our members last week on egg patterns in the morning and caddis imitations in the afternoon. Everyone got into quality trout over 20” and the biggest taped out at 27”! These are all wild, strong and gorgeous trout (the Lower Sac has not been stocked in decades) and the CDFW considers all trout over 16” in the Lower Sac are steelhead for reporting on your steelhead card. If that is true over half the trout we landed were Lower Sac CDFW steelhead (not my definition). Enjoy the smiles.
Fishing Report - 10/08/21
Good news on the Windy Fire as it is raining today. The Forest Service has opened the Upper Kern from Riverkern to Johnsondale Bridge. There appears to be significant rain happening on the Windy Fire as I type. How much soot and ash with hit the Upper Kern is unknown but if the Windy Fire is extinguished that will be great. So far no increase in river flows have been recorded.
Some folks have fished section 4 between KR3 and Lake Isabella the last few months with little success. The river has been over 70 degrees on that stretch for months and now has been cooled down to trout friendly temperatures. I made a call to the San Joaquin Hatchery to get some idea when we will see trout plants in Bakersfield Lakes and the Upper and Lower Kern River. The manager there said trout plants could return to those areas as early as November. The Upper Kern has not seen plants in nearly 3 months and trout there were extremely stressed. No restrictions were placed on trout fishing during the extremely high water temperatures so the catching likely will not be good until planting resumes. Some trout may have found cool springs to escape to and they will be critical to reestablish wild rainbows for future years. So please release any trout you land as planted trout by the CDFW are sterile and cannot repopulate the Kern River. Flows for now are very low at 100 cfs. The 4 mile wild trout section above Johnsondale Bridge and other tributaries are closed and forest service patrols are stationed at Johnsondale Bridge to prevent non-residents from accessing areas above that point. All campgrounds are closed except Headquarters Campground. You can access the day use areas to fish and picnic. McNally's Motel is open, the restaurant will open next weekend and the burger stand is open for business.
Five years ago the San Joaquin Hatchery had to be closed and evacuated due to extreme drought. This year they were able to maintain cool temperatures from Millerton Reservior and the trout are doing well. Kings River trophy trout will not be as large as previous years but they plan to beef them up for December through February and some should reach three pounds. They are stocking the Kings River below Pine Flat Dam at this time. There is no planned date this year to collect Kern River Rainbow brood stock. There is no planned reopening of the Kern River Hatchery, which has been closed almost a year, any time soon.
WINDY FIRE - 9/21/21
The WINDY Fire started on September 9th due to lighting. The fire is currently at 27,183 acres. There are currently evacuation orders for Johnsondale, CampWhitsett, Ponderosa and Quaking Aspen along with an Evacuation Warning for Camp Nelson. As of earlier today, Johnsondale is still safe with fire crews using the site for one of their main staging points as well as using the lake for the helicopters to dip water out of. There are a number of road closures in the area. Please see the below links for updated information:
National Incident Information - Windy Fire - https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/7841/
Kernvill Air Quality (zoom out on the map to see other air monitoring stations) - https://www.iqair.com/us/air-quality-map?lat=35.755&lng=-118.4175&placeId=ntihoPt2H4dtuxYz4
Sequoia National Forest Facebook Page - https://www.facebook.com/SequoiaNF
PACIFIC SOUTHWEST REGION FOREST CLOSURE - 8/30/21
All Pacific Southwest Region Forest Lands have been closed until at least Sept 17th, 11:59pm. For further details, please see the below link to the official closure notice.
FRENCH FIRE INFORMATION AS OF 08/26/21 7:30PM
As of Thursday morning (8/26), the French Fire was at 22,030 acres and 19% contained. Evacuation warning and alerts have been updated today. Please see the Kern County ARCGIS Map link below or go to https://experience.arcgis.com/experience/ae9708aeeeec4268a3813ea2be191db4/page/page_1/?draft=true
Sequoia National Forest has posted the following on their Facebook page this evening (Aug 26th):
Upper Kern River Area and Trails Closure Order issued due to the French Fire
For other Sequoia Forest Alerts and Closures visit this page: https://www.fs.usda.gov/alerts/sequoia/alerts-notices
WILDFIRE INFORMATION AS OF 08/20/21 8:30AM
The French Fire started on Wednesday, Aug. 18th about 4:30pm near Sawmill Rd and Wagy Flat, near Woffard Heights, west of Lake Isabella. As of 8:30AM today (Aug 20th), the fire was 4,272 acres in size and 5% contained. Several evacuation orders and alerts are in place. Please see the links below for more information:
National Incident Information System - French Fire - https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/7813/
Kern County ARCGIS Map of fire and evacuation boundaries - https://kcfd.maps.arcgis.com/apps/instant/interactivelegend/index.html?appid=cd18207578044581a9a9a1255fc88417
NBC Los Angeles Article - https://www.nbclosangeles.com/news/california-wildfires/evacuations-kern-county-french-fire-california-wildfires-lake-isabella/2675213/
Bakersfield Californian Article - https://www.bakersfield.com/news/updated-day-2-french-fire-continues-burning-5-percent-containment/article_363eeb70-0113-11ec-a014-6705d9962af0.html
Kern Valley Sun Article - https://kernvalleysun.com/stories/606758023-update-evacuation-order-issued-for-keyesville-south
Alert Wildfire Webcams - Shirley Peak 1 - http://www.alertwildfire.org/sierra/index.html?camera=Axis-ShirleyPeak1&v=fd40729
Alert Wildfire Webcams - Shirley Peak 2 - http://www.alertwildfire.org/sierra/index.html?camera=Axis-ShirleyPeak2&v=fd40729
Alert Wildfire Webcams - Rocky Point 1 - http://www.alertwildfire.org/sierra/index.html?camera=Axis-RockyPoint1&v=fd40729
Alert Wildfire Webcams - Rocky Point 2 - http://www.alertwildfire.org/sierra/index.html?camera=Axis-RockyPoint2&v=fd40729
The Walkers Fire started Sunday, Aug. 15th about 11:30AM. As of 10:45AM on Aug 19th, the fire was at 1,890 acres with 10% containment. More information can be found at the links below:
National Incident Information Systems - Walkers Fire - https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/7807/
Visalia Times Delta Article - https://www.visaliatimesdelta.com/story/news/2021/08/18/sequoia-national-forests-walkers-fire-continues-grow/8180007002/
Porterville Recorder Article - https://www.recorderonline.com/news/walkers-fire-up-to-nearly-2-000-acres/article_c2f5ddd0-0087-11ec-bc66-97a3d42d8995.html
Alert Wildfire Webcams - Tobis Peak 2 - http://www.alertwildfire.org/sierra/index.html?camera=Axis-TobiasPeak1&v=fd40729
Alert Wildfire Webcams - Blue Ridge 1 - http://www.alertwildfire.org/sierra/index.html?camera=Axis-BlueRidge1&v=fd40729
Fishing Report - 7/23/21
Conditions on the Upper Kern River will be bleak for the foreseeable future. Extreme drought continues to make flows on the Upper Kern very low and lethally warm for trout. No stocking has occurred for some time and based on the past, we likely won't see any until late September. The recent Monsoonal storms have pushed soot and sediment into the Upper Kern murking things up. Flows are trending back to 120 cfs after having bumped to around 170 cfs. Just a 50 cfs surge made a big change. More T-storms are in the forecast for our local mountain areas. Some white water companies have stopped guided raft trips until flows return (probably next year). Wisely KRFF members have not fished the Upper Kern as the few remaining wild trout are under extreme environmental and constant angling pressure. Fishing regulations and Hoot Owl CDFW restrictions still are NOT in place on the Upper Kern. Several trout waters in the Eastern Sierra have been designated for "Hoot Owl" restrictions to protect trout populations . If the CDFW designates a water as under " Hoot Owl" restrictions it is recommended that the water is not fished after noon. "When these select fisheries begin to achieve sustained afternoon water temperatures exceeding 67° Fahrenheit, CDFW will add the water(s) to a “Hoot Owl” watchlist below and will work with local stakeholders and CDFW staff to help with outreach to inform anglers.
The waters listed for protection at this date are :
The Lower Owens River (Pleasant Valley Dam downstream to Five Bridges)
You can learn more at the CDFW web page https://wildlife.ca.gov/Fishing/Inland/Hoot-Owl
Unfortunately, the Upper Kern River has been managed poorly again during extreme drought and the degradation of this once great Kern River Rainbow water continues its further decline. During frequent extreme droughts, it is hard to comprehend why the 24 miles above Lake Isabella and a designated wild and scenic river with three threatened unique native species just doesn't seem to garner any common sense measures to improve and protect it by the CDFW and USFS. Hoot Owl restrictions are rather new to CA waters but have been in place in many other western states like Montana and Oregon to name a couple. Hoot Owl restrictions in those state are ENFORCED not simply recommended. In some cases trout waters are closed to fishing any time of day. As a result thriving wild trout populations do much better in those states than California. The CDFW is way behind the curve on Hoot Owl restrictions in a state that has been impacted by extreme droughts for decades. According to Caltrout's latest study 45% of our state's native salmonids (like trout and salmon) will be gone in 50 years and 78% in the next 100. Check out the 2017 study here https://caltrout.org/sos
Upper elevation tributaries are very low and warming also. Please consider fishing only warm water species locally. Insure you take a water temperature before you toss a fly any where you are stalking trout. If over 65 degrees play fish quickly with heavier tippet (I like inexpensive 6 lb fluorocarbon Vanish), keep them in the water when releasing. If river/stream waters exceed 70 degrees leave them alone. Lake Isabella bass and crappie are still providing good catching. Not much being posted about carp catching and the Lower Kern Canyon Bass. Some locals have landed some bass on the Kern River near town and local lakes are producing early and late in the day.
Fishing Report - 6/10/21
The summer furnace turned on last week with triple digits. Upper Kern River temperatures were 75 degrees at HQ campground and pushing 70 on the upper half of section 5 just after Memorial Day as predicted. However, we got a great stretch of cool weather that put the Bako and Kernville in the 70's in the afternoon with lows in the 50's. So we headed up to take advantage of trout safe water conditions before the furnace kicks back on this weekend. We made our way to the Johnsondale Bridge and noticed very few cars in the pull outs and campgrounds along the 20 mile section even after school is out for the summer? No one was fishing at Riverside Park in Kernville so the Memorial Day stocking likely has been harvested or many trout went belly up? So the catching on the 20 mile section is noticeably down and so is the pressure.
We decided to get a weekday on the special regulations section before weekenders crowd in. We had good luck with the typical stuff. Stimulators, #12 foam golden stone, #12 red hooked Arnerd's (very few grabs on the steel hooks), and BHFBPT size 16. It requires a lot of work to get where fish are accessible and to catch to them. Above the JD bridge the river gradient is steeper and so are the canyon walls making entry to the river and wading a much more physical challenge compared to below Fairview Dam. Definitely a young man's (or someone who thinks they still are) stretch of river to fish. Water clarity was a bit off, not gin clear, as we expected at 250 cfs. Water temp at 10:30 am was 57 degrees and a bit chilly to wet wade in the morning. We fished until 3:00 pm. I was able to land 19 with five 14"-15". The three man team landed 30 total in about 4.5 hours. All trout are super clean and much stronger than stockers of the same size that pervade the 20 mile stretch. We were pretty worn out by the time we made it back to the car and several more vehicles were parked than when we arrived earlier this morning. A really special day and conditions like this won't exist until October and hopefully the trout can survive until then. We got a great airshow too with F-16's, F-18's , F-22 Raptors and one huge C-17 booming just above us into a bright blue sky.
Predictions of temperatures exceeding 110 are forecasted next week in the Bako and 107 in Kernville. Water temps will again be lethal on much of the 20 mile section. It is imperative that catch and release anglers know what water temps are and please consider leaving the river alone above 70 degrees. Also, land and release trout quickly above 65 degrees (no photos please). The CDFW has taken sections 4 and 5 of of its stocking plan for June. Section 6 likely will be unstocked soon as well. The stocking truck has to travel from north of Fresno over 3 hours to reach the Kern through extreme heat and trout have a hard time making that trip and then being dumped in a river nearing 70 degrees.
We feel every measure should be taken to ensure the survival of trout remaining in the Upper Kern. One easy way is to put the 35 cfs that is currently dedicated for power generation and the Kern River Hatchery (closed) back into section 5 below Fairview Dam where water temperatures have already exceeded 75 degrees. We encourage all concerned anglers to email the CDFW Region 4 Director Julie Vance at JVANCE@dfg.ca.gov and or firstname.lastname@example.org to implore her to release these 35 cfs that are not needed for the Kern River Hatchery that will be closed the next 2 years (at a minimum) and put this 35 cfs back into an extremely impacted 16 mile stretch of the Kern River between Fairview Dam and the KR3 Powerhouse. Seems like a no brainer huh?
Fishing Report - 5/12/21
The catching has been good for most while flows have remained very low for May. The usual go to patterns are working well. A salmon fly hatch was on for a short time but soon golden stones and hoppers will predominate. Any dry fly with a yellow belly will work. #12 - #18 bead head pheasant tails, copper johns, BH princes and BH hares ears set 30" below the dry will get grabs. Upper Kern River temperatures have remained healthy for trout along the 20 mile section and it appears we have already reached peak flows last week at 800 cfs. So likely there will be just a few weeks of good trout temperatures on the most pressured stretches of the Upper Kern River. The low flow section below Fairveiw Dam has been near 100 cfs with easier wading. Just remember that those flows could ramp up over 500 cfs if SoCal Edison has a mechanical issue with power generation. If you notice that the river is rising and getting dirty you must cross to the east side of the river within a minute or you risk being stranded on the west side. It can be a long walk to a crossable stretch.
Summer is approaching fast and there are some things to be aware of. First there have already been two fires flare up in the past week along the Kern River drainage. The tinder is dry and if a strong wind is present, making a quick exit is imperative. I always have a full tank of gas in case I have to drive north to escape a fire south of me. Second, the 20 mile stretch and 4 mile wild trout section above Johnsondale will be severely stressed this summer. The Kern River drainage has received one of the lowest snow packs on record at just 29% following a 50% year. Kern River temperatures will exceed 70 degrees starting soon in June on the most popular sections 24 miles above Lake Isabella. It addition much of the Golden Trout Wilderness and the Sequoia National Forest were ravaged by the huge 174,000 acre Castle Fire last year and many of those areas are CLOSED TO THE PUBLIC for all of 2021 including the Forks of the Kern. These areas are wisely being allowed to rest while the long natural rehabilitation of those devastated areas slowly begins. The extreme drought has prevented the huge soot and ash loads to remain on the slopes of the national forest but a huge monsoonal summer thunderstorm could change all of that. I encourage any one considering fishing the Kern River this summer to bring a stream thermometer with them and avoid catch and release fishing when temperatures exceed 70 degrees and never allow a trout to be lifted out of the water above 65 degrees. These are special trout in special places. The wild trout on the heavily pressured stretches above Kernville are at risk.
Fish surveys conducted over the last 23 years on the 20 mile and wild trout sections above Lake Isabella show that very few wild trout over 9 inches (229 mm) exist. Most are under 6 inches (152 mm). The surveys are conducted in early Fall. In all of the surveys almost no stocked trout are found via elctro-shocking and snorkeling. It confirms what many of us already know, that in the 24 miles upstream of Lake Isabella Dam any trout big enough to fry is harvested quickly. Especially when the amount of CDFW stocking has been dramatically reduced over the last 15 years. Suckers and Pike minnows are thriving - approximately +30 of those combined species for every single trout found. You can view the raw survey data and studies at the SoCal Edison KR3 Powerhouse Relicensing website https://www.sce.com/regulatory/hydro-licensing/kr3 . A chart below shows one of the best surveys (2011)during a good water year (195% of normal).
The CDFW Kern River Rainbow project that has been over twenty years in the making and over $1,000,000 spent has been delayed another two years with the closing of the Kern River Hatchery to replace a mechanical failure of the inlet siphon. While many of us applaud the CDFW's intentions to reintroduce pure strain Kern River Rainbows into the highly hybridized trout located in the 24 miles above Lake Isabella, we must take care to protect this heavily pressured fishery under great stress this year. Last summer the Kern River saw over an estimated 20,000 visitors each weekend. Not all were kind to the forest and some areas were devastated and had to be closed for rehabilitation like Chico Flat-it will reopen soon. In addition, glass containers are now prohibited from being in your possession on much of the 20 mile section and Lake Isabella with fines up to $5,000. It is time to get serious about the trashing of our wild places and I am glad to see the Forest Service taking actions. See https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/fseprd902967.pdf
I encourage all campers, hikers and anglers who intend to target Golden Trout and Kern River Rainbows to visit the Sequoia National Forest website to see all of the 2021 closure information before you enter for the latest conditions and to view the closure areas as a result of the FOREST ORDER NO. 0513-21-08 https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/fseprd886774.pdf
The Lake Isabella Trout Derby has had less than 100 0f the 500 tagged trout caught . Total prize money awarded so far is just over $10,000 with over $25,000 of tagged prized trout still swimming around the lake. The grand prize $5,000 has been caught. You have to pay a fee to enter. Lots of pressure will be on the lake for trout this summer it appears. Crappie and bass are moving into the shallows and the bite is good there.
Fishing Report - 4/9/21
Spring is upon us and we have the April 1st bench mark snow packs recorded for all of the California drainages. It ain't pretty. The further south in the Sierra the bleaker it looks. The April 1st measurement for the Kern was 29% of normal which follows a 50% 2020. What does this mean for trout fishing on the Upper Kern. Flows will not reach 1,000 cfs unless there is a huge thunderstorm before May 15th (that would be a very rare event). Expect no banking of disbursed stocked rainbows over the runoff period for 2021. The run off will peak well before Memorial Day and the peak in the flow curve will definitely be flattened this year. Upper Kern River temps will exceed 70 degrees in early June or even before Memorial Day on sections 4 and 5 to be sure. About 2-3 weeks later they will exceed 70 degrees on section 6 and the wild trout special regulations section. All of these predictions can be made with the data I have collected for over 20 years that are available from various government agencies.
It will be a very stressful summer and well into fall for trout on the 20 mile stretch. Please consider using a stream thermometer and avoid fishing on the 20 mile stretch when river temperatures rise above 70 degrees. The fertile trout population is already in jeopardy with no fertile trout plants of significance in well over a decade on the Upper Kern. The CDFW already has indicated that because of the mass trout kill at SoCal hatcheries last year plantings will be down 50% from normal numbers in 2021. There is every indication that wild places will be heavily visited again this year based on all of the travel surveys which also means there is and will be heavy fishing pressure on all waters in California.
For now the Kern River is rising daily during this unseasonably warming trend that is predicted for most of April. Water is slightly off color. Flashier flies are working better like brassies and copper johns of different bright colors. Water temps are perfect for now. Catching numbers are about half of what they were recorded last year, inline with the reduced SoCal CDFW stocking mentioned above. In addition all stocking is now done by the San Joaquin Hatchery which requires a 7 hour round trip drive so there isn't a lot of time to make broad distributions of planted trout. So the best catching is concentrated in those spots. See a recent video of how plants are made https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NNeBxiAEl9s please avoid hot spotting on social media to give these planters a chance to disburse. Until the Kern River Hatchery is restarted more than 2 years from now, this likely will be the modus operandi for planting the Upper Kern. The Lake Isabella crappie bite has come up nicely in 5' to 15' of water.
The Lake Isabella spring fishing derby has been changed from prior years. It will not be just for a weekend but will extend from April 24 to September 6 and 500 tagged rainbow trout will have prizes ranging from $20 to $5,000 for those that pay the entry fee. This will ensure there will be additional pressure on the lake for months and likely means fewer solid sized rainbows will migrate up river this year. I have spoken with volunteers that are feeding the trout being raised for the tournament and they are getting near 3 pounds. More info here https://www.kernrivervalley.com/copy-of-isabella-lake-fishing-derby-1 Stay safe and wear your mask when you camp or fish closely around others.
How does the snow pack look for the rest of California? The northern most waters are in decent shape compared to the Kern River. Most NorCal watersheds are near 70 percent.
State wide the average is 62%. See database here http://cdec.water.ca.gov/cgi-progs/snow_ss/COURSES
Below is a table showing some of our favorite watersheds
Fishing Report - 2/26/21
I finished my taxes and recent stocking on the Upper Kern plus the beautiful weather begged me to get up on my favorite water. Usually, I don't consider going up there when morning air temperatures are consistently in the 30's as that means water temps are in the low forties and a sluggish bite. I arrived around 10 am and the air was crisp but water temperature on section 4 was 45 degrees. So I had good hope for later temperatures in the upper forties at least. There were several folks hooking up near the bridge in Kernville so that always confirms very recent stocking and I was told by the happy anglers the trout were planted yesterday 2/25. There were over a dozen bait/fly anglers there so I moved on as I prefer my solitude. I spent the next four hours covering the most water I have ever fished in one trip on section 4 without one bump, no insect life buzzing around at all. I spoke to 6 other fly fishers on section 4 and no one had a take either. I hit some areas that were planted a couple of weeks ago on section 5 and got nary a bump as well. I fished dries, nymphs big and small, ever tugging streamers. I got a good airshow from screaming fighter jets in a cobalt blue sky. No snow remains on any of the peaks that I could observe from the 20 mile section.
Speaking of snow the pack year to date in the Kern drainage is not encouraging. The Kern River snow pack is poor at 42% of normal as of today. We had one of the driest February's ever recorded, so March has to be big to have any chance of a decent April 1st benchmark. We still have not had a big enough rain event to erode the huge soot and ash areas in the Kern River drainage that had over 170,000 acres burned last fall. The river is running clear and cold around 200 cfs and no diversion at Fairview Dam for the last several days. Snow packs in the Northern Sierra are better - running just under 70% of normal for this time of year and just 60% of the April 1st peak benchmark. Unfortunately, the 3 month forecast shows another year of drought will affect many of our state waters again.
The CDFW provided an update for plans at the Kern River Hatchery last week. They reported, “The Kern River Hatchery will remain closed until the siphon in feed pipeline replacement work is complete and the improvements can provide a reliable water supply. This will involve major construction that is anticipated to take a minimum of two years to complete. The timeline could be longer and will be determined once initial planning for construction is complete. State funding has been allocated for pipeline replacement. Additional improvements are proposed for completion while the facility is closed. Funding for additional improvements has yet to be identified”.
“Recent studies carried out by CDFW show that there are unique strains of Kern River rainbow trout present in the Kern River watershed that can assist with development of a native fishery. This is an exciting opportunity that will rely upon modern fish hatchery techniques which is a major factor in closing the hatchery to ensure the facility can satisfy this need. CDFW will be developing a broodstock program to reintroduce Kern River rainbow trout into the Kern River watershed in conjunction with reopening of the Kern River Hatchery. All fish production will cease until the facility becomes operational. The facility will continue to be closed to the public.”
Sadly it appears that the Kern River Rainbow Project (KRRP) will be deferred until the Kern River Hatchery reopens. We were told last year that the San Joaquin Hatchery would get the first brood stock while the Kern facility was closed so that the KRRP program could get initiated. Unfortunately, it indicates that we are years away from catchable native KRRT being planted in the Kern River. The statement above says there, “are unique strains of Kern River Rainbow Trout (KRRT) present in the Kern River watershed”. However, they are located above 8,000 foot elevations. CDFW biologists do not believe there are many or pure KRRT on the 20 mile section or the 4 mile special regulations above Johnsondale Bridge. Why? Because decades of CDFW planting fertile Eagle Lake and McCloud rainbows on the 20 mile stretch moved up river and hybridized with the native KRRT. That is why the CDFW started planting only sterile trout the last 10 years to reduce further hybridization. To give you some idea of how much planting was going on the Kern River Hatchery was planting over 180,000 pounds of fertile rainbows every year +15 years ago (even higher pounds are reported in the 1970's). Recently, sometime years they annually planted under 50,000 pounds of sterile (triploid) rainbows before the hatchery closure. That is why the CDFW uses the term “reintroduce” Kern River rainbow trout as pure KRRT essentially don’t actually exist in the stretches most anglers target on the 4 mile wild trout (trout born in the river) stretch and the 20 mile stocked stretch below Johnsondale Bridge to Lake Isabella according to their biologists. That is why the brood stock have to be collected above 8,000' nearer the headwaters of the Kern River to initiate the KRRP and reintroduce pure strain native KRRT into their historical watersheds at lower elevations above Lake Isabella.
Covid-19 infections in Kern County are still very real with over 25 deaths reported in Kern County just yesterday 2/25/21, it is imperative to prevent further spread in the vulnerable Kern River Valley and here in Bakersfield. Many of us are on the cusp of being fully vaccinated, but I continue to protect the community up there by wearing a mask and having all the food, water, fuel, and flies I need packed before I leave home, making sure I have no reason to closely interact with anyone or contact public surfaces while fly fishing. Hope you all stay healthy and safe.”
Kernville Fish Hatchery Temporary Closure Q&A - 2/18/21
The California Fish & Wildlife department has released a two page Question and Answer PDF on the Temporary Closure of the Kernville Fish Hatchery. Below is a link to the document for your review:
Kernville Fish Hatchery Temporary Closure Q&A
Fishing Report - 2/12/21
Catching will and has been driven by weather and primarily stocking. The CDFW has made a dramatic shift from its stocking policies of the past with few Bakersfield lakes and Lower Kern River plants but far more plants occurring on the Upper Kern. Not sure why the dramatic change from years past but local lake plants draw a lot of people that often aren’t masking and socially distancing, that may be the reason? Upper Kern River temps have been in the upper 30’s and low 40’s so the bite has been slower (except on pressured stocked runs) and flows are running clear around 250 cfs. A weak and warmer storm is approaching this weekend so runoff could be significant and worth watching.
Cope's Tackle & Rod Shop paid to have a private hatchery stuff Riverwalk Lake with lightning and rainbow trout up to 10 pounds on Tuesday. There are a lot of social media post with PB's and happy smiles. Prizes are being offered by Cope's as well. These are big trout but are sterile and will die off when lake temperatures exceed 70 degrees in April. The best fly fishers have landed dozens a day using small midges patterns like #18-20 zebras hung 2' below a "press on" indicator in water less than 4' deep. Set on any twitch! There is a lot of pressure so these trophies likely will not survive the holiday weekend.
The Lower Kings will continue to get trophies planted through next week. Catching has been good on small nymphs as well. Flows have been clear and low (just 150 cfs) concentrating foot long and big rainbows alike.
The Kern River snow pack is poor at 39% of normal as of Feb 12 and a weak storm is coming soon. Bakersfield will get a projected .07" of rain and Kernville 0.25". Snow levels will likely stay well above 4,000’. We still have not had a big enough rain event to erode the huge soot and ash areas in the Kern River drainage that had over 170,000 acres burned last fall.
Snow packs in the Northern Sierra are better running about 70% of normal for this year and 67% state wide. Unfortunately the 3 month forecast is not encouraging and a second year of drought will affect many of our state waters again.
You can see all California snow pack surveys here http://cdec.water.ca.gov/cgi-progs/snow_ss/COURSES and graphs here http://cdec.water.ca.gov/reportapp/javareports?name=PLOT_SWC
The Lake Isabella spring fishing derby has been changed from prior years. It will not be just for a weekend but will extend from April 24 to September 6 and 500 tagged rainbow trout will have prizes ranging from $20 to $5,000 for those that pay the entry fee. This will ensure there will be additional pressure on the lake and likely means fewer solid sized rainbows will migrate up river this year.
Whiskey Flats Days has been cancelled because of the huge numbers of Covid-19 cases in Kern County and full ICU’s in our local hospitals. Stay safe and wear your mask when you camp or fish.
The Sequoia NF is seeking public comment on the proposed Castle Fire Ecological Restoration Project impacted by the huge 2020 fire. See more information here https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/sequoia/home/?cid=fseprd879990
Fishing Report - 12/22/20
Winter is pretty much here. The Upper Kern is running pretty cold in the 30's on the 20 mile section. It is clear and just 170 cfs in Kernville and just 60 cfs below Fairview Dam. It is still getting stocked but the cooler temperatures are slowing the catching way down. Pounds to be stocked are much lower than last year throughout Kern County and SoCal because of the huge bacterial trout kill this past summer. Also the Kern River hatchery appears to be down indefinitely as the large siphon line that feed river water into it needs replacing at very high cost and planning it seems. You can read an article recently published in the Californian here https://www.bakersfield.com/news/hatchery-closes-down-again-following-three-years-of-renovations/article_c24d71b4-2dd7-11eb-a774-276cf8699ec7.html . It is too bad because if it were open more local control over where trout are stocked would be in play, it is a tourist destination for many, and the highlight of the Trout in the Classroom field trips each year. One wonders if the facility will operate in the next couple of years or ever at all. The Kern River Rainbow project still has not been implemented and likely won't be any time soon. It has been well over a decade since any Kern River Rainbows were reared at the Kern River Planting Base. KRR brood stock are scheduled to be obtained next year (fingers crossed).
Trout are being planted in Bakersfield Lakes but in fewer spots because of the huge loss of hatchery trout this summer in SoCal. Lake Ming and Riverwalk are getting trout (Truxton Lake and Hart Park will not recieve any), catching had been slow and the cormarants are doing better than many anglers. No stocking is scheduled for the Lower Kern it appears this winter. Lake Bueana Vista has some huge trout missing a lot of their tails being caught up to 10 pounds for their annual derby.
The Lower Kings trophy trout program started two weeks ago. It has been a bright spot. It also is having both CDFW and private hatchery plants made to bring stocked levels to more normal levels. Some members have tied into several big bows to 24" and hefty. Black zebra midges are the ticket sizes 18 and 20. These + 3 pounders will be stocked weekly through mid - February. In the past our club has helped with the stocking but because of Covid infections volunteers are not being utilized.
One of many nice KINGS RIVER trophies taken this past weekend
Covid infections in Kern County are at extremely serious levels. Practically all ICU beds are filled. At this time 1 in 36 residents in Kern County have an active Covid -19 infection isolating at home according to our Kern County heath department. If you are going to fly fish make sure you are isolated from others and you wear a mask. As always it is imperative to prevent further spread in the vulnerable Kern River Valley and here in Bakersfield. I continue to protect the community up there by having all the food, water, fuel, and flies I need packed before I leave home, making sure I have no reason to closely interact with anyone or contact public surfaces while fly fishing. I wear a mask. Hope you all stay safe.
Fire Alert - Canyon Fire - 12/06/20
The Canyon Fire started on the Upper Kern River on Saturday, Dec 5th around 1:00 PM. Mountian 99 north of Kernville is currently closed. The fire is currently 70% contained but high winds are expected over the next couple of days. You can monitor the fire at the below link:
Additionally the Forest Service has extended their forest closures through 12/31/20 due to the SQF fire complex. Full details can be found at the below link:
Fishing Report - 11/19/20
I haven't had a chance to get away for a couple of weeks and wanted to get above the fog in the Bako today. Recent reports from members suggested that skunkings were more common on the 20 mile section recently as water temperatures declined and more weekend harvesting occurred. The good news was that the Upper Kern was running clear even right after the rain we got two weeks ago. Apparently there was not a lot of precipitation at higher elevation (we got almost half an inch in BFL) as the SQF fire was not quenched and is still burning. Hard to believe huh? See here https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/7048/ At this time the Sequoia National Forest area, including trails, is still closed north of the Johnsondale Bridge because of the SQF fire. See here https://www.fs.usda.gov/alerts/sequoia/alerts-notices
The 20 mile section is open to fishing, however, Chico Flats disbursed campground is closed for rehabilitation because people completely trashed the area.
See story here https://kernvalleysun.com/chico-flat-campground-shuts-down-for-season/
Back to the fishing. I decided to start at a wild stretch that I covered two weeks ago and got a dozen grabs and landed a nice wild 16" bow to see how it was doing. On my way there I saw no people fishing Riverside Park and only 2 cars in the turnouts on the drive up. I was glad to know I would have solitude but it also means........... The river was 46 degrees at 10 am and no insect activity. The sun was bright and it was warm enough to wear waist waders and a fishing shirt without a jacket. I only got one small grab in an hour over a stretch that held at least 12 feeding wild trout last week. In addition I could see many footprints where there were none last trip. It became obvious to me, given the reports of skunkings, that I would have to search for trout if I wasn't going to be skunked myself. I made the decision to drive a lot and go right to my favorite wild spots and try some often stocked spots. I managed 4 rainbows (largest 16" and 3 clearly wild) in 4 hours. I stopped at 9 different spots on sections 4,5 and 6 and fished at the best water I know and did not find any trout grouped together. It was obvious that there was no stocking this week or they were already harvested (I doubt that because very few were fishing). I only saw 3 vehicles on the 20 mile stretch but there were 10 vehicles at the Johnsondale Bridge Parking lot. I'm guessing those people don't realize they could be in for a big fine if they are on the trail above the bridge (fire zone closed area)when it is being patrolled.
Water temps were between 43 degrees and 47 degrees and when below 45 degrees those waters should not be stocked by the CDFW. That also may be why there wasn't evidence of recent stocking. The only bugs I saw were midges in the # 20 to #26 size. I did try hanging some midge larvae patterns sizes #20 and #22 without any grabs. The red hooked Arnerd and #18 BHFBPT landed trout. I have been tugging streamers as well but have not had any luck with them in over a month. Cooler water makes trout less active and likely to chase a streamer. I think I will leave my streamer rod at home next time. I can say the river is beautiful with golden trees lining its banks. There was a deep blue sky and not even a hint of forest fire smoke in the air. With the clean atmosphere the fighter jets are back and I had five F-22 raptors and three F-18's thunder over my head well under 1,000' during the day. Awesome!
As colder temperatures return we will see more planting in our local BFL lakes. The Kern River Hatchery is still dry and no reopen date has been communicated. Riverwalk and Ming Lakes will see trout right before Turkey Day from the San Joaquin Hatchery. In the past we saw them show on Tuesday. Have a safe holiday!
Fishing Report - 11/5/20
To be honest I really didn’t think I would return to the Upper Kern for a while but a few new developments this week urged me to take a trip today. First, stocking was to resume this week directly from the San Joaquin Hatchery. Second, warmer weather could mean warmer river temperatures. Third, a dramatic drop in flows (just 44 cfs) on section 5 would mean trout concentrated into less water and water would warm up during the day at slower flow speeds over section 5. Fourth, and most importantly, cold/rain/snow is coming this weekend to the Southern Sierras. This likely means the huge 170,000 acre SQF fire will finally be quenched after 2 months of devastation, but soot and ash will soon murk up the pristine gin clear 20 mile section for some time to come. So I headed up the canyon this morning likely to partake in the last good fly fishing of the year.
Fishing Report - 10/29/20
More seasonal temperatures have finally returned to our area. I checked to see the progress of the SQF fire before I left the house. Even with recent high winds the SQF fire has not grown much. We dodged a bullet! The air quality showed that it would be in the moderate range. I was hoping to get another week like last week, however, reports from the weekend indicated things were changing. As I drove north of Kernville it was obvious there were far fewer vehicles in the turnouts and that no one was fishing at Riverside Park at Kernville. This meant I would have no trouble finding solitude and/or the catching has gone south. I hit the river just before 10 am. Water temp was 46 degrees. Uh oh. I was wet wading just two weeks ago when it was 55 degrees and much warmer. My expectations were lowered quickly. I did cover the same water as last week plus another stretch with a lot less success. Landed just 3 rainbows in 4 hours, far lower than 21 last week. Just two rises seen in 4 hours. A dramatic drop in catching and bug life is less numerous. Is it river temp or harvesting that ended the good catching for this year it seems? My guess is both. Here’s my rationale.
With Covid-19 infections finally low enough to make Kern a “red county”, it is imperative to prevent further spread in the vulnerable Kern River Valley and here in Bakersfield. I continue to protect the community up there by having all the food, water, fuel, and flies I need packed before I leave home, making sure I have no reason to closely interact with anyone or contact public surfaces while fly fishing. Hope you all stay safe.
Fishing Report - 10/23/20
Perhaps fall is finally here? The last two months have been extremely warm and I was able to wet wade last week as the Sequoia National Forest was opened up to the Johnsondale Bridge and the 20 mile stretch was made accessible. Today I arrived on the river around 9:30 am and it registered 52 degrees. It was smokier than Bakersfield but tolerable. As I drove up river from Kernville it appears that dispersed camping areas are accessible but there were few campers. Headquarters Campground was open and I think so was Fairview. The others fee areas were locked shut. I saw far more vehicles in the turnouts this week than last week. Fishers were disbursed all along sections 5 and 6. Most of the anglers I observed were fly fishers. No bait fishers were at Riverside Park and few up river. The lack of stocking for many weeks likely has kept the harvesting pressure off on weekdays I’d guess, the weekends may be another thing? I do have some information on future stocking, more on that later.
Fishing Report - 10/15/20
News that the 20 mile section was now open all the way to Johnsonville Bridge was great to hear yesterday. I wasn’t sure what to expect because I hadn’t been up in two months because of the national forest closure and the high level of smoke between Kerrville and Johnsondale. The forecast was to hit the mid-90’s in Kernville today and I thought the water temperatures would likely be in the low 60’s given the very warm weather the last two months. Flows at Kernville are around 140 cfs and 95 cfs on the low flow section. Good for wading most anywhere on the 20 mile section.
I drove past River Kern and noticed a lot of orange cones inside every large pull off parking area that I like to fish was closed.??? There was very little fishing going on. There was no one fishing at Riverside Park in Kernville. The area has not been stocked in a couple of months. Typically any trout over 11 inches that fits in a frying pan are harvested within about three weeks once stocking stops. The lower part of the 20 mile section waters had reached +70° for most of the summer. So I just avoided those areas and reports over the last few weeks suggested the fishing was tough on section 4. I really didn’t find a spot that wasn’t closed until I got above Fairview Dam. Then I began seeing a lot of cars, unfortunately they were all within a mile of each other because it was the only stretch where there were not orange cones and signs marking off parking lots, dispersed camping areas and turnouts. Also none of the fee campgrounds are open, they’re all locked shut. So the first couple of hours of fishing it was hard to find a run to myself. But when I did, hook ups came right away. Water temperature was 55° and remained there most of the day. A lot of October caddis are in the air, however, my #12 Arnerd nymph and a beat head flashback pheasant tail #18 got a lot of grabs all day. In the first two hours though, I only hooked four fish (two landed) none over 12 inches.
I got a sense by 11 o’clock most people gave up due to crowding as most vehicles were gone. I found a stretch that I don’t think anyone had fished and had to walk quite a bit to get to - keeping my fingers crossed I wouldn’t get a citation. A fisher I bumped into said that a county sheriff tried to cite him. He told him that the SNF was opened yesterday. After some spirited discussion he got a warning. I did see on the national forest website before I drove up that the area between River Kern and Johnsonville Bridge was supposed to be a wide-open for fishing. I found a lot of nice fish mostly under 12 inches as well. But was blessed to land a 15 and a 16 inch holdover - both taking the Arnerd #12. I thought about bringing my 4wt rod today because most people who had fished before the closure said they were finding wild trout on the upper part of the 20 mile section and few were over a foot long. I’m glad I brought my 5 wt because I tagged a beautiful 17 inch wild buck trout with a deep red band. The fish was strong and ran down stream at least 30 yards. It was a bit difficult because I had to boulder hop down stream because a #18 BH pheasant tail likely is going to get ripped through a strong trout’s mouth. After a good fight I finally found a way to get him to come to the net. It was a clean male and my guess in spawning colors. Rainbows typically don’t spawn in fall but I’ve heard it does happen.
Total today were 18 to the net and I had on at least 30 trout in four hours. I even managed to catch a nice brownie. It was pretty obvious that these bows were not fished to in the last two months and have moved up river quite a ways from anywhere I have been fishing this summer. My foam stonefly got a lot of grabs after noon so fish are still thinking about chomping on hoppers although I did not see any flying around.There were swarms of October caddis and small midgets. A fair amount of bigger critter scat along the river and camping areas as the lack of people has not scared them off.
I headed home around 1 o’clock very tired from all the bushwhacking. I also wet waited and at 55° I don’t advise it. My feet were very cold and I did not spend much time wading in water above my knees. I did have to ford some water that was waste deep. I couldn’t stand in water above the belt for more than two minutes at a time. It was just too cold even when air temperatures hit 90 degrees. I advise anyone coming up, especially as temperatures drop next week, to bring your waders. When I drove home most of the orange cones and closed area signs were removed but not all. So you may want to contact the Forest Service office to see if your favorite spots are open to use again. Their number is 760-376-3781. Check the air quality forecast here https://wildlandfiresmoke.net/outlooks/SouthernSierra-Sequoia It is getting better but that could change. There still is no rain likely in October and the potential for more fires is very real. I have not seen fighter jets in a while. My guess is the visibility and ash plugging jet turbines are keeping those cool flybys from happening for a while.
This is really good fishing and the water is gin clear for now...... It hasn’t been hit much in the last two months. I believe that’s about to change. When we get our first rain the 170,000 acre SQF fire is going to make things pretty bad for a while. Soot and ash will foul the waters. So we have a nice window for the foreseeable future as there is no rain in the forecast. The fire continues to burn and there was a fair amount of smoke, but it got better as the day grew on.
I am concerned about what is going to happen at the Kern River Hatchery. The major biological issue at three Southern California hatcheries has resulted in a loss of over 3 million trout system wide. A lot of things are changing to provide trout to the areas where there was devastation. Many waters are not going to be stocked at all and some at very reduced levels. The Kern River Hatchery is dry and closed, the hatchery manager has been permanently transferred to another facility. At this time there is no indication from my sources that the hatchery will be operational anytime soon. So don’t expect the numbers to be great for very long and I was always practice catch and release. Most of the trout in the river now I believe to be 8” – 11”wild and fertile. I sure would hate to see these last fertile trout that managed to survive a very hot and dry summer get consumed.
Fishing Report - 09/24/20
Fishing on the 20 mile section continues to be a struggle where it is allowed. Much of the stretch is closed due to extreme fire potential. The Castle (or SQF) Fire has grown to over 144,000 acres and is only 33% contained. The hatchery has shut down planting until the Sequoia National Forest is reopened. They are considering stocking Bakersfield Lakes as conditions permit. Typically the first BFL stockings occur in mid October. If we return to typical temperatures as expected, that likely will occur.
Forest Service Temporary Closures and Restrictions - 09/07/20
On Monday, Sept 7th, the US Forest Service issued temporary closures on many National Forests in California and added restrictions on the National Forests remaining open. The National Forests closed include: Stanislaus National Forest, Sierra National Forest, Sequoia National Forest, Inyo National Forest, Los Padres National Forest, Angeles National Forest, San Bernardino National Forest, and Cleveland National Forest. Please see the link below for the official closure and restrictions information.
Fishing Report - 09/03/20
The SQF fire (originally the Castle Fire) originating near the Forks of the Kern on 8/19 has dominated the environmental conditions on our favorite river. The fire now has spread to +46,000 acres (72 square miles) and shows no signs of slowing. It has been consuming more than six square miles each day. It is only 1% contained and very dry/hot conditions coupled with steep terrain is making control of this fire very difficult. It is now expected to be contained by 9/30, however, that seems very optimistic. The road is closed beyond Johnsondale and Sherman Pass Road is also closed. Extreme heat is coming this weekend. The 7th heat wave of the summer will hit +104 degrees in Kernville starting Friday and last beyond the Labor Day weekend. San Joaquin Valley temperature will hit 110 degrees. Air quality has been “very unhealthy” in Kernville and progressively worse as you travel north toward Johnsondale Bridge. In Kernville the AQI has easily exceeded 250 (peaks near 500) the last few days and likely with get worse as this fire expands. At these hazardous levels you can see in the chart below “Everyone should avoid any outdoor activity”. This chart comes from the US Interagency Wildland Fire Air Quality Response Program and you can see more location data and forecasts here https://wildlandfiresmoke.net/outlooks/SouthernSierra-Sequoia
Fire Alert UPDATE 7:30AM - Castle Fire - 08/30/20
The Sequoia Fire Complex, as of 7:30AM this morning, was listed at 34,283 acres. Current estimated containment is Saturday Sept 12th. The air quality is very bad in the mornings in the Upper Kern, Johnsondale & Kernville areas. Here is a link to air quality forcasts for those areas:
Taken at Fairview Dam on Wednesday. Less than 1/4 mile visibility.
Fire Alert UPDATE 8PM - Castle Fire - 08/24/20
The Castle Fire jumped from 5000 acres earlier today to 12,000 acres as of the 7:30PM report on the Inciweb website (see below). All trails into the Golden Trout Wilderness have been closed. Also, the communities of Ponderosa and Camp Nelson have been put on voluntary evacuation status. More information and maps are available at the Inciweb site link below.
Fire Alert - Castle Fire - 08/23/20
The Castle Fire started on the 19th of August and is burning in the north fork of the Kern, in the Golden Trout wilderness, east of the Giant Sequoia National Monument, in Tulare County. Crews are working today to protect the Forks of the Kern Trailhead, Jerkey Meadow Trail, and the facilities in the Lloyd Meadow. This fire is on USFS land and is managed by a Federal Incident Command Team.
Here is a website for people to check on the fire from day to day.
Fishing Report - 08/20/20
The extreme heat and smoke of the Bako the last week is really becoming annoying so I thought I would head up to the Upper Kern to find better conditions wading in the river. I knew that Kernville has also registered triple digit heat the last week so I wasn’t even sure I could find trout friendly water temperatures on the 20 miles section. Flows had dropped to 150 cfs above Fairview Dam and had risen to 200 cfs the last few days because of thunderstorms way up river. So I was concerned water clarity could be an issue. The water clarity turned out to be fine today, however, the air quality wasn’t much better than the Bako which exceeds 150 and is unhealthful due to fires all around us.
I am personally still concerned about the huge amount of people coming up to camp on the 20 mile section. At this time several of our Bako hospital ICU’s are very full and hopefully may have peaked. There seems to be a slow decrease in hospitalizations so we must take care not to reverse this. Currently, over 16,000 people in Kern County are at home recovering from Covid-19 in quarantine. This is up from two weeks ago and may have finally started to decline for the first time since this pandemic hit us. Back in April the number was less than 200 county wide. So we need to keep up the concern. Kern County infections/deaths numbers can be found here https://kernpublichealth.com/covid-19_dashboard/ Check the case status button to see the trend graph. With Covid-19 infections remaining at these very high levels, it is imperative to prevent further spread in the vulnerable Kern River Valley and here in Bakersfield. I continue to protect the community up there by having all the food, water, fuel, and flies I need packed before I leave home, making sure I have no reason to closely interact with anyone or contact public surfaces while fly fishing. Stay Safe.
Fishing Report - 08/06/20
The recent heat wave abated for a few days, so I was chomping at the bit to wet my fly line on the Upper Kern for the first time in two weeks. I wasn’t sure what to expect given that the 20 mile section has seen +70 degree water temps for days. I was glad to hear that the CDFW has not reduced stocking yet after the Kern River Planting Base (KRPB) had to be shut down for high river temps two weeks ago. They have been driving to the San Joaquin Hatchery and back in one day and stocking twice a week. The stocking web site was not updated to reflect any stocking on the 20 mile section for August when I last checked. It now shows only stocking for this week. I sampled seven stocked sites today but never hooked a trout on any of them? I did get into some nice trout though, when I did a lot of aggressive wading.
Fishing Report - 07/24/20
With a brief respite from the high heat wave of mid-July I hoped to make a trek up on the Upper Kern and fish some water that was more favorable for trout survival. I landed on section 4 early and found the water to be 67 degrees and air temp in the 70’s . That was encouraging given others have seen mid 70’s on this stretch last week in the afternoon. The catching was slow and fishing pressure increasing, so I headed up river where trout should have been less stressed over the last two weeks. Up on section 5 and 6 I found some unpressured water and covered quite a bit of ground. Catching again was hit and miss along three long stretches. I did see a lot of stonefly shucks at water level. My #12 foam stone with a yellow belly got a lot of hits, especially after 10 am. During the course of my day, ending at 2 pm, I landed 3 on it. Total to the net were 12 in about 6 hours. It was better than 2 weeks ago. I landed 8 wild trout and 4 foot long recent stockers. I never found more than two trout in a run. The air temp was in the low 90’s when I quit and the tubers were making catching difficult. Water temp 69 in the middle of section 5. This was on a relatively cool day. A new heat wave is on the way. So the weather and very low flows are going to make trout survival tough. Flows at Fairview Dam are 200 cfs and drop to 160 cfs in Kernville. That means 20% of the water evaporates or sinks into the aquifers on the 20 mile stretch.
Fishing Report - 07/10/20
The Upper Kern has dropped another 100 cfs since last week to just 270 cfs. I was looking forward to accessing more water above Fairview Dam and sampling the waters on sections 4 and 5 which were heavily stocked for the July 4th weekend. Unfortunately, I was unable to locate any of the bigger trout that were planted last week. Nor was I able to reverse the downward trends in the catching the last few weeks as the river continues to recede. I tried a favorite half mile stretch on section 5 first. Water temp was 65 degrees at 8 am. I landed two footlongs in the first 10 minutes but didn’t get a grab the next two hours of wading upstream. I headed further up river checking out three other stretches on the low flow section with two more netted. One of the trout was a long and lean 15” bow that I thought looked like a Leopard Bow. I’ve never seen so many spots all over a rainbow. I believe this may be a new strain of CDFW planters as I’ve seen more of these on social media posts.
Fishing Report - 07/02/20
Made a trip up before the 4th weekend today. Friends have reported that river temps have dropped since the heat wave last week. I arrived on Section 5 before 8 am and the river was 64 degrees and much healthier than the previous week. Typically the 20 mile section gets planted heavily for the July 4th weekend. This year is no exception. The hatchery has been able to continue operations with the increasing river temperatures. They are planting 2,000 lbs of rainbows ranging from 1 to 3 pounds. I never found a planter today? I spent the first 2.5 hours on a longer 3/4 mile run on section 5. Not one trout bit but I did land three small squaw fish. Landed 20 on this stretch less than a month ago. So the temperature spike last week and the huge fishing pressure last weekend did deplete this long stretch. I moved much further up river and decided to give section 6 a try. It has dropped to 350 cfs and will drop another 100 cfs by next week based on the trends.
Fishing Report - 06/25/20
It has really been hot in the San Joaquin Valley and up in the Kern River Valley. The first extended heat wave of the summer is ongoing. I left the Bako just after 6 am to get on the Upper Kern as early as possible. I wasn’t sure how bad things had gotten, because there has been an uptick in flows. Probably the last remnants of snow pack well above 12,000’. I decided to take a river temp on the lower end of the low flow section 5 and it was 70 degrees at 7:30 am. So I moved further up river. I found river temps at 67 degrees on the upper half of section 5 (low flow) well before noon. I covered water that I had luck (landed 12)with last week with only one hookup. It was a good sized fish but never tried to run. It just hunkered down. It was exciting for about five seconds until I realized what I had hooked on my Arnerd nymph. I put some pressure on it and netted a 22” squaw fish. Didn’t fight half as much as rainbow would. This species will thrive this summer on the 20 mile section.
Fishing Report - 06/18/20
Made my 3rd trip post runoff today. Usually the best catching of the year occurs for three weeks post runoff (total flows below 1,000 cfs) as harvesters and birds remove a lot of the disbursed trout. After this point the catching is directly related to how much stocking occurs in concentrated areas. I had success again today with over 40 rainbows hooked. However, there was a big difference in how that was achieved this week. I spent the morning covering two separate half mile beats that I hit last week. The first beat got me 6 landed (half of the week before) and the second, Old Friend, just 2. With total hook ups on the first two runs about 30% of the previous week. I did land a 17” long term holdover and pumped a stomach. Definitely not a recent stocker with white tipped fins and pointy nose. A lot of small nymphs size 18 to 20. I was doing fine with a size #18 BHFBPT. The Arnerd got a few too. River temp was 62 degrees at 9 am.
FIRE ALERT - Ant Fire - 06/14/20
A wildfire started last night on the 20 mile section of the Kern River. The fire is designated the Ant Canyon Fire. The fire was on both sides of Mountain 99 and both sides of the river. As of late this morning the fire was at 10 acres. Status updates can be found at the below link:
Ant Canyon Fire just north of Goldledge Campground web page https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/6771/
Please use caution if traveling through the area.
Fishing Report - 06/12/20
We have had some very unusually cool weather lately with record lows recorded for Bakersfield. The origin of the Kern River is Mount Whitney about 60 miles north of Kernville, so it typically take about 36 to 48 hours for flows to change in Kernville as a result in temperatures or precipitation. Flows on section 5 is 120 CFS and much lower than just a week ago when it was pushing 200 CFS. That means trout are concentrated in 40% less water volume and I expected to improve my catching today. On the down side, lower flows on a hot day could spike river temperatures. So I made sure I brought my stream thermometer and headed up making sure to have all I needed with me (lots of water, fuel, food, flies and etc. to protect our mountain community). I arrived on section 5 around 8:30 am. Water temperature at 60°. On the first cast I hooked a 16 inch pristine rainbow and it really was the beginning of a very good day.
Fishing Report - 06/03/20
It appears that the snow pack is close to gone as flows dropped dramatically as predicted below 400 cfs on section 5 the first week of June. There has been some Fairview Dam diversion flow surges on this section with a dramatic increase on Sunday which took flows from 400 cfs to 700 cfs between 7 am to 7 pm. To avoid being caught on the west side of the river in high flows, I always call the flow phone at 877-537-6356 before I leave the house and when I arrive in River Kern where there is cell reception. Being able to cover a lot of river is the key to double digits on the Kern River between Johnsondale Bridge and Kernville. About half of the NFS campgrounds are open and there are a lot of portable toilets along section 5 for those that are interested. Personally, I still bring all I need with me and fill up the tank before I head up to potentially avoid transporting Covid-19. We all need to stay safe and healthy and we need to do our part to keep our mountain & river communities safe & healthy. Progress on the Lake Isabella Dam is impressive and two years away from completion.
One of the most visible aspects of the project happening now is the construction of a much larger emergency spillway. Workers will remove 2.8 million cubic yards of material to make room for the spillway. That's nearly as much material as it took to build the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt. Whoa! See story here https://www.bakersfield.com/news/project-manager-on-isabella-dam-provides-update-on-progress/article_686f2cf8-aff9-11e9-a36e-37d34aad1e76.html
I arrived at the river at 8:30 am and rigged up. My first five casts were rewarded with two spunky rainbows. Then moved around with little success the rest of the first hour. The second hour I pushed through more pocket water and began finding rainbows disbursed in pockets at + - 50 yard intervals. Water temp was 60 degrees at the start and air temp 72 but climbed fast. I had trouble landing trout as the #16 BHFBPT just kept pulling through lips in heavier current. Had 12 grabs in the first 2 hours with 5 to the net. If trout took the #12 Arnerd I got them landed. Most trout I hooked the first 2 hours likely were planted for the Memorial Day weekend as they were 10”-12”. One was a pristine 15”buck with spawning color (seems late in the season for that). I had quite a few grabs on my #12 foam golden stonefly but none got the hook. Often a recast to the same spot where the dry was munched resulted in a hook up on the dropper nymphs. Had a bunch of takes on the pick up too. Fish are aggressive.
I moved onto another stretch that I had to myself. Lots of bush whacking and the brush on the river is getting pretty thick, so I came home with some scrapes but it was worth it. I got into chunkier rainbows, ironically the 17th rainbow I landed was 17” and the 18th was 18”.
I found that the predictable post runoff catching to meet my expectations. I was buzzed by a pair of F-35 raptors and a pair of F-18’s. A real air show my grandsons would love. I landed 20 by noon but it was getting pretty hot. Wet wading is the way to go now. I tried another spot where I could run a #10 olive krystal flash wooly bugger deep and pulled 3 footlongs out of a long run. No really big rainbows on streamers today like earlier this year. I really like using a fast sink (12 ips) to get my streamers down fast in the Upper Kern. For the day I landed 26 rainbows in about 5 hours. Probably lost 15 others. There was all kinds of insect activity from tiny midges to large crane flies. I pumped a 16” bow’s belly and found both tiny nymphs and larger dries. I think nearly any pattern will work just present the fly in front of the trout and the next three weeks should be excellent before river temps become lethal.
Fishing Report - 05/21/20
Normalcy is beginning to return to our favorites streams, rivers, and lakes. Fishers are encouraged to continue to social distance while enjoying their favorite pursuit. Conditions for wading fly fishers on the Upper Kern are still not recommended because of high flows over much of the 20 mile section. The north fork at Kernville is still in runoff mode and today is at 1,200 cfs after some very cool temperatures. However, we a ramping up to the century mark in the Bako on Memorial Day and 90’s in Kernville.
The Kern River Fly Fishers encourage everyone to follow the current orders of the State and County Health Officers. We all need to stay safe and healthy and we need to do our part to keep our mountain & river communities safe & healthy.
Fishing News - 04/24/20
The CDFW acted on its proposal to delay the trout opener in Alpine, Mono, and Inyo counties after the public meeting April 15. Now Sierra County is included. Today the CDFW issued this additional announcement below:
As much as it pains us, CDFW has delayed the start of the trout opener in Alpine, Inyo and Mono counties and on the Downie River in Sierra County as requested by county officials due to the public health concerns of COVID-19 and limited heath care facilities in these counties. In addition, CDFW has temporarily postponed fishing on the North Fork Yuba River in Sierra County.
The trout season was scheduled to open in these counties tomorrow, Saturday, April 25. The delay to the opener extends through May 31, 2020.
Specifically, this means all waters in Alpine, Inyo and Mono counties not currently open to fishing will remain closed to fishing through May 31. CDFW is also making minor adjustments to bag and possession limits in waters that are currently open for fishing to protect and conserve the existing fisheries that may be affected by increased angling pressure or harvest. Additionally, fishing is now temporarily suspended on the North Fork Yuba River from Yuba Pass downstream to the confluence with Goodyears Creek and the trout opener on the mainstem of the Downie River is delayed, both through May 31, 2020.
These decisions do not affect the trout season in any other county.
The adjustments to bag and possession limits for the four counties in question can be found here: https://nrm.dfg.ca.gov/FileHandler.ashx?DocumentID=178544&inline
The CDFW is no longer posting the stocking schedule online. Why? Over the years fishers have congregated on stocking spots and using social media have pulled in lots of fishers (mostly catch and keepers) right after stockings occur. This is not good for social distancing, so the policy has changed. Hopefully the practice will be considered permanently and would greatly improve the distribution of planted trout on all of our waters. This should give trout a better chance to survive and disperse while escaping the onslaught of Facebook hot spotting harvesters and posters that have become common now on the Kern River and Bakersfield Lakes. See CDFW statement here https://nrm.dfg.ca.gov/FishPlants/Default.aspx
The snow pack totals are in and there does not appear to be any more snow in the forecast. Our first heat wave of the year is here and the runoff has started. The Kern River drainage snowpack is 50% of normal. The total state snow pack is at the same level of 50% of normal. That means many rivers will be lethal to trout that are in the Southern Sierra by summer’s start soon after the peak runoff.
Here is a graph of the Kern Snow Pack for the last two decades
If we look at the runoff trends it shows that there will be a very short window of about 5 weeks where trout will be planted in the Kern River and the fast current will sweep them down stream to be disbursed. Last year the CDFW planted for over four months in high flows that gave us great disbursed catching for quite a while after the Kern River runoff ended. Peak flow this year will likely be well below 4,000 cfs. If we get a heat wave pushing 100 degrees for a few days in May 4,000 cfs might be reached for just a day. Based on previous years we will see 70 degree river temps at the hatchery shortly after Memorial Day. So not a great trout season for trout survival expected this summer on the 20 mile section. As we have seen in the past, the hatchery likely will not be operational most of the summer, as the five wells on site can only supply 1 cfs total. Time will tell. The Upper Kern should be at flows under 500 cfs by July 4th. That should keep a lot of rafters and fishers away from Kernville and Riverkern that could bring Covid-19 with them should the Govenor’s stay at home order remain in place into the summer.
Here is how some of our favorite rivers ended up for April 1, 2020. Truckee River seems to be the best for now.
Database can be viewed here http://cdec.water.ca.gov/cgi-progs/snow_ss/COURSES
Fishing Report - Rich Arner - 04/15/20
Summary Fish and Game Commission Emergency Fishing Closure Webinar April 15, 2020
Today the CFGC held and emergency webinar to discuss Emergency regulation concerning suspending, delaying or restricting sport and recreational fishing. There were a huge number of people who participated. During the call, over 460 people were connected to the webinar and most remained on the
To start out the webinar, the CFGC spent a lot of time asking people to be professional and considerate of all points of view and the seriousness of the current health situation.
It is their proposal to surgically close three counties Alpine, Mono, and Inyo Counties to sport fishing. These are areas that receive large numbers of anglers beginning the day of the trout opener and weeks thereafter. These anglers would require lodging, food, tackle and other services and could bring the Covid-19 virus into these areas with limited health services.
The commissioner provided several comments before public input was allowed that are noteworthy. No hunting closure/restrictions are being considered. This proposal would limit the CFGC’s ability to restrict or suspend fishing until May 31, 2020 in three counties. There is no statewide closure being considered. There has only been one closure in history that the CFGC implemented, which was on the Merced River in 2015 related to salmon during the extreme drought.
The first people to comment on the proposed change were only public officials after 20 minutes of technical issues. They emphasized that just these three counties be closed to all outdoor activities not just fishing for the beginning of trout season. A Sheriff from Inyo County said they did not have the manpower to handle and monitor the large crowds of fisherman and others that will congregated at harbors, boat ramps, lakes and river banks. The FFF of Northern California supported the protection of these
There were several public officials to comment in most of the first two hours. Here are some of them. A Siskiyou County official wants the CFGC to be aware that these actions would push more anglers into his region, especially the Upper Sacramento River. Other counties wanted to make sure their areas would not have any restrictions placed on them and that normal fishing would continue to occur. They want their own residents to have the ability to fish. A Plumas County official thanked the CFGC for not placing a
After almost 2 hours the public was allowed to comment and 394 callers were still on the webinar. They were only allowed to comment for one minute each. The first caller from the public was concerned that San Diego has closed all fishing from harbors and she was not allowed to go out in the ocean in her own self contained vessel to feed her family. Other public commenter’s believe that closing one area to fishing will crowd people into other areas. Others thanked the CFGC for not closing fishing state wide and romoting that people can fish while practicing social distancing. Several people need to get meat by fishing because they can’t get meat in their local grocery stores. Many were upset that locals could be allowed to fish and are petitioning that they should be the only ones allowed to fish their waters. They were emphatic that if waters are restricted by the CFGC to fishing the water should be closed to everyone. Several said they think that the California Constitution states we can fish and that any restrictions on fishing should be up the each individual county or municipality not the CFGC. No one commented on Kern River or any Kern County waters.
The CFGC wrapped up with comments well after three hours with over 250 callers still connected. They emphasized that if your local harbor is closed to salt water fishing, that it is not in the CFGC’s jurisdiction, that is a municipality issue. The CFGC is working to open up ocean fishing particularly for salmon. The new proposed restrictions language would be in effect until May 31, 2020 and would expire after that time. A legitimate request (made by Bart Hall of the Fred Hall shows) to extend the fishing season, because of this short term ban on the front end of the season, should be considered. The CFGC is not practicing martial law or violating our state laws. The CFGC was pleased with the technical challenge to
It would appear that the proposal to invoke Emergency regulation concerning suspending, delaying or restricting sport and recreational fishing for Alpine, Inyo, and Mono Counties through May 31st will go forward. Stay tuned for the latest.
Fishing Report - Rich Arner - 04/14/20
The California Fish and Game Commission has announced today that the potential Emergency regulations to suspend or close areas to fishing will be discussed starting at 10 am (not 9 am) April 15.
The revised agenda is now available on the Commission's website at http://nrm.dfg.ca.gov/FileHandler.ashx?DocumentID=177983&inline.
This meeting will be held by teleconference only. Please refer to the agenda for important meeting information, including registering for the teleconference. As always, a live stream of the meeting will be available at www.fgc.ca.gov on the day of the meeting.
Fishing Report - Rich Arner - 04/12/20
There is a lot to report while we are off of our favorite waters and I hope to keep you up to date on some big issues that are driving our fly fishing for 2020.
The most urgent topic regards the California Fish and Game Commission Emergency Meeting that was cancelled last week. Many of you tried to participate. Because of huge participation it had to be rescheduled. The CFGC oversees the CDFW.
On April 9th the CFGC wanted to discuss whether or not to temporarily grant authority to CDFW to decide whether to delay, restrict, or suspend sport or recreational fishing in order to prevent and mitigate public health risks that may arise when people travel for fishing trips or congregate while participating in available fishing opportunities.
At this time the CFGC shows a meeting for April 15 beginning at 9 am on their web page, but there is no time allocated to address this critical topic? So I made inquiries and got an email this morning that reads below.
April 9 Emergency Meeting
If you are contacting the Commission regarding the April 9, 2020 emergency meeting, please note that due to the high public interest in the meeting, we exceeded the capacity of our teleconference technology and postponed the meeting. The Commission is rescheduling the agenda item to April 15 at 10:00 a.m. Please check our meetings webpage for updates or visit our homepage at www.fgc.ca.gov to join our electronic mailing list (select Agendas: Business Meetings).
It is unclear to me if there is a separate meeting to discuss CDFW fishing closures at 10 am or is a part of the 9am meeting/webinar? Given the EXTREMELY high interest you would think this topic would dictate its own meeting. To insure that you get a link to the meeting/webinar sign up for an email notice soon, before the system is overloaded again. To do this, go to this web page and check the first box that says AGENDAS: Business Meeting at this webpage:
Then check your email or junk folder for the invite email from the CDFG. Hopefully that will allow you to listen or participate.
There will be lots to report on going forward and I look forward to keeping you updated. Here is just a list of topics to be covered: the outcome of the webinar, proposed NEW Fishing Regulations for the Kern, Golden Trout Wilderness and other top waters, KRFF recommendations for those new regulations, the COVID-19 delayed snow pack surveys state wide, predicted peak flows for the Kern, when trout lethal temps will pervade (sadly) the Upper Kern in 2020, potential start of the Kern River Rainbow project in 2020, updates for the Kern River Hatchery, best fly fishing videos, great Kern fly ties and lots more…..
At this time we’d like to give a big thank you to all of the heroes out there that are taking on a lot during these challenging times: especially medical workers, first responders, grocery employees, truck drivers, utility workers, farmers/laborers, medical supply providers and so many more....
Stay safe and informed.
The Kern River Fly Fishers encourage everyone to follow the Governor's "Stay at Home order". We all need to stay safe and healthy and we need to do our part to keep our mountain & river communities safe & healthy.
Fishing Report - Rich Arner - 03/28/20
I think that you will all agree that we are living in most interesting times. Most of us are hunkered down at home tying flies because of the COVID-19 virus induced social distancing. However, things have improved somewhat for our local fisheries over the last month. We were far behind in rainfall and snow pack, but March will have higher than normal rainfall in Bakersfield by the time it concludes. N.O.A.A. had forecasted a much drier than normal March through May. It could still play out that way or perhaps not? Short range geographic climate prediction continues to be a very inexact science.
There has been a slight bump in the Southern Sierra river drainages snow pack (see bottom plot above) which ticked up a bit to 43% of normal. The Kern River drainage has had just two physical snow pack measurements the last month; rather estimates from satellite imaging are interpolated for the plots below. Typically there are physical measurements taken near April 1st, as that is the historical benchmark for peak snow pack. You can view the measurements of all of the rivers in California here http://cdec.water.ca.gov/cgi-progs/snow_ss/COURSES . Even with the good March rainfall total, it appears that the snow pack level will fall below 50% in 2020. What does that mean? After a very good 2019 there was a lot of good trout catching and vegetation grown in the Southern Sierra, now it appears it will be very dry and extreme fire potential will concern residents, campers and fishers all summer. Once we have the April 1st snow pack, stayed tuned for a prediction of peak flows and when the Upper Kern drops to 1,000 cfs (400 cfs low flow section) post run off.
According to the CDFW Region 4 office hatcheries, where our Kern River hatchery trout come from, are now closed to the public and many CDFW employees are working from home. However, trout plants are still going forward. The Kern River Hatchery siphon is repaired and trout should be back in the races in April. They expect to hold trout again and stock in April, most of the schedule is not posted online yet. Direct stocking from the San Joaquin Hatchery was lower pounds than usual during March. Water is off color and river temps in the upper forties. Our Governor has locked most of us in place, but has encouraged us to continue outdoor activities, especially those that involve exercising, while social distancing. So if you plan to go fishing with a friend, make sure you don’t ride share, unless you are going with a member of your household. In the past few months the stocking strategy drew pods of bait and fly fishers and it was hard to get multiple catches unless you were around a lot of other fishers. That might improve, if they start stocking in more stretches outside of Kernville. They stocked sections 4 and 5 two weeks ago and section 4 should get some trout next week. The hatchery manager has said fishing pressure has been light and that may be because of the lighter poundage? A few members have made the trek up to the Kern the last 3 weeks and those that did had few landed. More rain is on the way and that may cloud things up? Section 5 is very low at 77 cfs. Check out the 19” buck that a KRFF friend landed about a month ago on the Lower Kern. We just hit over 70,000 visitors to our fishing reports. Thanks for your interest!
Fishing Report - Rich Arner - 02/22/20
Lots of news to discuss in addition to catching conditions. There were some nice plants just before Whiskey Flat Days in Kernville (the plant was not on the planting website schedule). Hatchery manager Tony says the average trout size in the latest lot is the biggest he’s seen since he arrived at the Kern River Hatchery. He said that there were a lot of fishers concentrated where he planted around Kernville. Some were up to 16 inches. How many lasted the three day weekend? Who is to say. Next plant not on the schedule yet. The Kern flows are still low and Section 5 is still almost a trickle at 45 cfs. The snow indicates that we will have a drought year unless some big storms arrive soon. We will have one of the driest Februarys recorded. The NOAA forecast is for warmer than normal temperatures and lower than normal precipitation through May and that means low snowpack and faster snow pack melt. Current snow pack measurements for the Southern Sierra is just 46% of where it should be now and just 52% for the whole state. The graph trend is distressing. What does this mean? Based on past years I’ve tracked, expect trout lethal water temps on the Upper Kern 20 mile section before the 4th of July and flows will be wadable on the low flow section about June 10th. That gives you just a 3 week window to wade safely and not lethally exhaust rainbows if the current bleak precipitation trend holds.
How’s the Lower Kings River doing? The CDFW still has not fattened up their super catchables (3 lbs) to size yet. Cold river temps (48 degrees) at the San Joaquin Hatchery have slowed the weight gaining process as cold trout don’t eat as much as trout in warmer water. They do hope to plant super catchables by mid-March. They have planted the Lower Kings weekly with +footlongs and few lucky fishers have tagged some sizeable holdovers from last year. Flows have been staying below 300 cfs, which is a bit high, but fishable and the catching has been good with the weekly plantings for months. Remember that the Lower Kings below Alta Weir is barbless, artificial, catch and release with heavy fines for those that don’t comply.
Finally the Kern River Fly Fishers are sponsoring the INTERNATIONAL FLY FISHING TOUR FILM FESTIVAL in Bakersfield March 21st at 2:00 pm at the Maya Cinemas. This is the first time it will be held in Bakersfield. If you haven’t been to one of these events you are in for a real treat. The festival consists of several short high quality films about fly fishing all over the world. We will have great prizes that you can win. All proceeds to benefit Casting for Recovery. For more information see the links below. The event should no last more than a couple of hours
Fishing Report - Rich Arner - 01/18/20
Welcome to the first fly fishing report of the decade. This is the best time of year to tie flies, clean one’s fly fishing gear and plan future fishing trips. Very cold nights and below normal day time temperatures have kept the river and lakes pretty chilly. There was recent stocking at Bakersfield lakes a few days ago. Section 4 got some trout around Kernville. Bait fisherman are doing well the first day of plants, but by the second day not a lot of trout making it to the net. Lethargic trout chilled by the cold river temperatures mean they stay in place and social media blasts assure harvesting them is quickly accomplished. Water temperature at the hatchery is just 37 degrees. It doesn’t have a lot of trout in the races and is still closed to the public and hoping to reopen by April. It will stock our county locations periodically but much lower pounds than later this spring.
The Kings River will not get large brood stock this winter as in years past, but should get hefty 3 pounders in late February. For now it is getting stocked weekly with lots of foot longs and the catching has been good but flows below Pine Flat reservoir are high for wading fly fishers at 500 cfs, however, flows have dropped to 350 cfs as I type - still very high for fly fishing. Most waders prefer flows below 200 cfs.
Lake Buena Vista has had many lunkers landed to 7 pounds but we are unaware of any fly fishers doing well there.
Rainfall has been pretty low for January and snow packs are lower than normal. The low flow section on the Upper Kern is down to just 46 cfs. Above Fairview Dam on section 6 flows are 270 cfs and fairly clear but crossing the river is not recommended. If you fall in make sure you can get to warm clothes fast.
The snow pack for the Kern River drainage won’t be sampled until early February and preliminary estimates have it around 82% of normal for this time of year. There is little precipitation in the forecast for the remainder of January. The NOAA forecast for the next 3 months is not encouraging for California. These are the most important precipitation months of the year. Hopefully there will be a change, but healthy Kern River conditions from July to September are not likely with the current trend in place. The best places to plan for great fly fishing look to be Montana, Colorado and Northern Idaho this year.
A KRFF member came across an interesting article online from TFO that shows many manufacturers are purposely overweighting fly lines.
Give it a read here: https://tforods.com/the-predicament-of-buying-the-right-fly-lin/
Conditions are very good on the Lower Owens. Pleasant temperatures and great flows around 150 cfs look to be good for the club outing later this month.
Remember to get your 2020 fishing license https://wildlife.ca.gov/Licensing/Online-Sales
Report steelhead Harvest by 1/31 https://www.ca.wildlifelicense.com/InternetSales/CustomerSearch/Begin
Fishing Report - Rich Arner - 12/03/19
It is great to see all of the moisture dropped on the Southern Sierra. We were far behind in rainfall and snowfall totals but now are in very good shape with another dumping on the way. While the precipitation is great, the colder weather has dropped water temperatures dramatically. In Kernville the Upper Kern is in the upper 30’s. The Upper Kern town locations got stocked before Turkey Day and the catching heated up but effective harvesting has put the bite down. Colder river temps are making trout lethargic. With temps well below 45 degrees stocking on the Upper Kern is likely over for a while. See CDFW stocking water temperature protocol here https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/Fishing/Hatcheries/Criteria From the CDFW website, “This dynamic Fish Planting Schedule is updated in real time, directly by CDFW Hatchery staff. Although it contains current information, all fish plants are subject to change depending on road, water, weather and operational conditions”.
Fishing Report - Rich Arner - 11/20/19
Rain finally got here and is much welcomed. This is one of the latest starts (3rd latest on record) to the rainy season ever in Kern County. That has kept the Upper Kern clear but will it mean a drought year for 2020? Good news on the potential wild fire front for sure.
We have seen much more planting in our Bako local lakes than previous years, however, the catching has been slower than usual for fly club members as well as bait anglers. Warmer lake temperatures are suspected. The Lower Kern has also been stocked, the water is cloudier than the upper, and wading more difficult in the higher river gradient. There are a few stocking locations that have some short runs that are wadeable but usually are heavily pressured. Easily finding a quite spot with numbers has always been difficult on the lower. The catching on the Upper Kern has been much better in some areas. Section 4 has been stocked regularly, especially between KR3 and Riverside Park in Kernville. Social media quickly announces when the stocking occurs and catching commences. While double digit numbers can be easily had by anglers timing their fishing within 48 hours of the stock. The caveat is you won’t be alone. The web connected quickly mass for the free food so the catching is great with a few super catchables reported to be sprinkled in with the foot longs. Get there early and camp on your spot strategically if this is your cup of tea.
Flows (50 cfs) are very low on section 5 below Fairview and there is lots of wadeable water there, however, the extremely low flows have given natural predators a distinct advantage over unwary rainbows. Not much stocking lately or scheduled the rest of 2019 for the stretch below Fairview Dam. So a lot of walking and boulder hopping are required to find some long term holdovers still surviving there. At this time water clarity on the Upper Kern has held up but the next 24 hours will tell. Snow levels down to 6,000’ and we need to start building the snow pack as we are well behind the normal trend. Section 6 above Fairview Dam has blanked most members for several weeks. It hasn’t been stocked much and flows still too high to traverse a lot of water. Water temps will drop substantially and that will put down the wild and long term holdovers, however, the recent planters on section 4 should still be eating as they are used to getting fed daily and will take a while to naturalize there feeding behavior. So expect more catching in and near Kernville to keep the locals happy for Turkey Day. If water clarity stays favorable, fly fishers could do well also near town.
The trophies are coming to the Lower Kings soon, details to be provided soon so stay tuned. Releases from Pine Flat Dam have dropped dramatically to under 400 cfs from 1,350 cfs just a while ago. Some of the trophies planted last winter are being caught and more to come soon. It is also getting typical planters weekly for quite some time. There is a long section below Alta Weir that is barbless, catch and release only and is often patrolled by stealthy CDFW wardens with binoculars to delay harvesting. Before you go any time soon check the flows on Mill Creek. Although a small creek, it can bring a lot of muddy water into the Lower Kings should this latest storm drive flows up over 50 cfs. See here https://www.dreamflows.com/graphs/mon.480.php
You can order your 2020 fishing license now online here https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/Licensing/Online-Sales
Fishing Report - Rich Arner - 11/07/19
We are having an unusually warm and dry fall this year. It makes for great fishing, however, we really need rain. The threat of wild fires is still extreme as almost no precipitation has fallen in SoCal in months. Air quality in the SJV is very poor and people with allergies are wheezing and sneezing a lot. Not a problem up on the UK today!
Fishing Report - Rich Arner - 10/25/19
Colder Upper Kern River water temperatures have been recorded in the 40’s on the 20 mile section last week. However, we got a few days of hot windy weather that threatens to shut off power to the Kern River Valley and spark wild fires (as I’m typing the I-5 in Castaic is shut down in both directions for a brush fire there). While our sympathies and concerns are extended to the unfortunate circumstances for many in SoCal, it does mean that there is a potential for more active trout and less fishing pressure on the Upper Kern. Yesterday the lakes in the Bako were stocked and social media quickly broadcast the news. So with the prospect of more angling people staying in the Bako and the warmer water up river , I thought it would be a good time to take advantage of the last best days of the year for catching on the Upper Kern.
Fishing Report - Rich Arner - 10/22/19
Ahhhhh the pleasantries of Fall are upon us. Much cooler temperatures in the Bako have arrived . The Kern River has not yet received any rainfall and hopefully it will sooner than later. A far lower snow pack is predicted this season than last year. We will update you as we get more definitive forecast data. Trout can still be had for those willing to work. A lot of CDFW stocking has moved down stream below Kernville and Lake Isabella- even to Bakersfield lakes. They are hoping to get more trout into the higher flows of the Lower Kern as they can get more spread out and remain uncaught for longer periods of time. This gives more anglers a chance to catch before the stocking truck followers efficiently harvest. There is very good news for our local lakes. The first lake plants nearby are happening in October this year. On Thursday last week Lake Ming got the first load. For the first time in years we will see trout out at Riverwalk before Halloween this week. Local lakes will see a lot more plants and will resemble what we were used to seeing before extreme drought and the Moccasin Hatchery (All of CDFW Region 4 still being adversely affected)was severely flood damaged in 2018 . Power outages for wildfire season have not yet affected the hatchery but they have been on alert several times and there may be an outage later this week according to SoCal Edison. The hatchery is still closed to tours for the near term.
Fishing Report - Rich Arner - 10/03/19
The big drop in SoCal temperatures made us curious as to what the catching was like. Often big temperature drops can lock up the trout for days. Today was not the case. This week sections 2,3 and 4 were to be stocked. We love section 5 to wade but flows have dropped down to just 86 cfs, above Fairview on section 6 flows are holding steady at 350 cfs. Still too high to cross.
It is called Albolene Moisturizing Cleanser.
The fly fishing guides we used on the McKenzie River in Oregon swear by this product for their fly floatant. They have used for years. We used all day long for the best dry fly fishing I’ve experienced. I applied to my foam stone and it held up great and kept my fly buoyant. I would not use on tiny dries (under size 18) as I use silicone shakes for that. You can get a 3 ounce tube of Albolene for $6 here https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/B00QF1YORS/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o02_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1 You can buy a big 12 oz jar that will last a drift boat guide for years at CVS for $14, but I like the tube because I can easily squirt the floatant easily into an empty Gink bottle for on the river. It cost about one tenth the price of gink and should last the average fly fisher for years.
Fishing Report - Rich Arner - 09/26/19
Finally had a chance to get up on the Upper Kern since the big stock last week. We targeted areas that were stocked last week to see if any of the super catchables under 3 pounds were still around to play. We checked out 9 different spots on Sections 4,5, and 6. We started around 8:30 am and noticed a hint of smoke in the air. Water temp 60 degrees on section 4 and air temp 72 degrees. We decided to wet wade, as temps into the lower 90’s were forecasted. We searched and searched but did not locate pods of newly planted trout. We did hook and land 18 trout over the course of the day. Trout were found but not concentrated. Few appeared to be recent stockers. It appears most of the big boys have already been harvested? We saw many more fishers on the river mid week than previous weeks. No catching by others observed, both fly fishers and bait/spin fishers.
(webmasters note: There is a large (1000 acres or so) controlled burn in Tulare County being handled by CalFire. This is to burn off excessive and non-native grasses and brush. The weather pattern is pushing the smoke up into the Lake Isabella area. Rich was advised late last night.)
Hatchery Report - Rich Arner - 09/24/19
The catching up on the Kern River really has been a roller coaster. Back in mid-August is was prime time on the Upper Kern as the river was stocked for months while flows were too high for effective harvesting. Trout were swept downstream from stocking sites before they could be harvested. Then flows on Section 5 became crossable and holding water was abundant. For those who can wade aggressively, the catching was the best of the year. Catching five trout/hr was the norm for three weeks. Flows on Section 6 and 4 remained uncrossable through September, however, the cemetery stretch had a few super catchables (under 3 lb) survive a few weeks from the July hatchery evacuation. The hatchery remained dry because power could be cut by the utilities at any time to avoid potential wild fire issues. As I am typing, utilities across the state are issuing warnings to many residents in fire prone areas that may experience power outages for days until the fire risks dissipate. So it would seem the Kern River hatchery will remain dry a while longer until wild fire hazards subside? Hope to verify soon.
Just about Labor Day the catching dropped off dramatically as a result of harvesting and the very hot weather that raised water temps into the 70’s, particularly on section 5. That makes the bigger trout lethargic and increases all sorts of physiological issues for trout. For those that are catch and release fly fishers, we avoid fishing water as it nears 70 degrees to avoid lethally stressing rainbow trout. In some waters in Montana officials close the rivers to all fishing once temps routinely hit 65 degrees. On the McKenzie River in Oregon, where we just fished, guides don’t take clients on that river when temps hit 65 degrees as well. A self preservation philosophy that sustains a healthy wild trout population that we enjoyed thoroughly last week.
Back to the Kern River. Just as many of us thought the Kern River had moved way past its peak, we got a wonderful gift. The San Joaquin Hatchery provided dozens of super catchable trout and lots of other smaller trout last week. Just in time for the big tournament in Kernville 9/21. It sounds like everyone caught trout and many super catchables up to 25.5”. The total count for about 75 fly fishers was 421 trout caught. Trout of any size counted to help people score, because the catching dropped off after sterile trout and extended drought became the norm years ago. If you do the math the average fisher caught about 6 trout in +6 hours or so. That’s one trout per hour. Not bad, as 15 years ago that was the typical catch rate for most when over 360,000 trout were planted each year out of the Kern River Hatchery. This past year the total trout planted was around 25% of that (the Moccasin hatchery flood damage last year is still negatively affecting planting for our CFDW Region 4).
No word yet if more super catchables will make it to the Kern River from the San Joaquin Hatchery. We should have an update on our website later this week.
A word of caution. While the most wadeable water, section 5, has been stable at about 115 cfs, it has bumped up dramatically without warning recently (see 9/13/19 report). It could more than double if water is not diverted for power. If you notice a flow surge or the water becoming stained, get back to the road side fast. It could be quite an adventure to get back to your vehicle as flows reach +350 cfs.
Hatchery Report - Rich Arner - 09/17/19
Good news, there appears to be planting scheduled for September. There is a planting scheduled for this week on sections 3,4,6. Temps are cooler so river temps should be fine this week. The usual patterns are productive. Flash back pheasant tails, copper johns, hares ears, princes.... all bead heads set at least 36” below a hopper our stimulator with yellow bellies. Nymphs sizes 12 to 18 and dries 12 to 16. Correct presentation is key, matching the hatch not as important. Remember to move your planted catches to holding water in concealed spots if possible or just toss them across the river to give them a chance to last a couple of weekends. Be prepared to cover a lot of water to find where the trout are.
Fishing Report - Rich Arner - 09/13/19
Happy Friday the 13th. Once again a heat wave is present in the Kern River Valley and much of California. There was a short window where temps dropped and cooler river temps existed. However, the catch rates continue to fall post melt as more harvesting continues and less stocking is being done. The Kern River has not been stocked for 2 weeks and is not scheduled at this time for September according to the CDFW planting web site. We hope to report on what has transpired to affect this soon.
Fishing Report - Rich Arner - 08/29/19
Triple digits have been seen in the Bako and up in Kernville recently. So we have stayed off the Upper Kern as the inflows above Fairview Dam have dropped down to below 400 cfs. This is good and bad. It makes more holding water on Section 6 but raises river temps all the way to Lake Isabella. With cooler weather predicted today, we decided to try the lower half of Section 5, even though it has not received much stocking the last month. Water temps were 65 degrees at 8 am. Far fewer grabs were experienced today with just 5 trout landed in 4 hours of aggressive wading and bushwhacking in the morning. Far fewer grabs than last week as well and few fish sighted along stretched that held a lot of long term holdovers last week. The trout that were hungry did bump the yellow bellied #12 foam stonefly. All 5 landed were 14” to 17” but noticeably leaner this week. River was 70 degrees a noon and air temp 97. Whew, I drank a lot of water. It is clear harvesting and river temps over 70 degrees on this stretch have dramatically reduced the population of holdovers and the best catching of the year is now behind us. Precise trout holding locations are now being sold online to potentially hundreds of fly and bait anglers which clearly is having an impact as well. If that information is indeed accurate, it most certainly will accelerate harvesting over previous years.
Fishing Report - Rich Arner - 08/20/19
I epoxied my tip top back on my 10’ 5wt Sage One and the weather got cooler, so why not get on the Upper Kern while the getting is good? I arrived on a stretch on section 5 and water was 62 degrees at 8:30 am. I waded by some idle bait fishers staring at their rigs. They hadn’t had any luck, but the did cheer as they watched me pluck six pristine bows below and above them. These long term holdovers I’m catching may not be interested in bait???? Perhaps they have become wild in the last few months? The boys did move onto the same water I just had released trout to but didn’t appear to have any luck. Some had surf type gear? Usually after hooking and releasing Kern Trout, I rarely see others come behind and get a trout to bite shortly after they have been snagged on a fly. I hope the harvesters don’t return tomorrow. I kept moving out of sight and I continued to do well and landed 10 in the first 2 hours. Missing quite few that spit the hook and leaped a lot. For the first time in 3 weeks I finally caught a trout with hatchery scarring. However, the fins seemed to have healed over with a lot of scar tissue, I don’t remember seeing before. Otherwise the trout was plump and spunky.
Fishing Report - Rich Arner - 08/16/19
Flows really have dropped down in just 8 days on Section 5 , the low flow section, I finally got a day I could get away to fish. I was looking forward to getting on a lot more water this week as flows dropped from 400 cfs last week to just 150 cfs today. There were a lot more vehicles parked along the road. I really wanted to check out the same water I fished last week to assess how much harvesting has occurred. Typically 2 or 3 weeks after flows drop down on the low flow section most trout are harvested. I did well today, however, the same water that was productive last week yielded only one quarter of the hook ups I had this week. A lot more water was accessible this week and softer pocket water is now abundant. I did find many clean trout again to the net, but had to work hard and move over twice the water I covered last week.
Fishing Report - Rich Arner - 08/08/19
Flows on the Upper Kern have trended toward a sweet spot we have been waiting on for months. In the past when flows dip below 1,000 cfs at Kernville after the run off, the best catching of the year happens. For the past several months the river was stocked at high flows that washed stockers down river and prevents stocking truck followers from harvesting most trout soon after they are placed in the Upper Kern. Hence, that is why the CDFW calls the Kern River a put and take fishery. With air temps finally dropping below triple digits I decided to head up on Section 5 where flows are nearing wadeable levels for the first time this year after the huge snow pack. If you recall my prediction model back on May 24th, it pointed to August 11 as the first date the Upper Kern could be fished optimally.
I drove by the Kern River hatchery around 8:30 am and saw that it is still dewatered and it has been closed to the public for a while. Why? More on that later. I decided to enter the river at the first point I did not see vehicles. The UK is running a bit higher than I like. Pocket waters that hold trout are still few. It took great effort and skill to circumvent the river to trout holding spots. I was rewarded with some the best looking rainbows I can remember. Wish I had brought my camera with me. I landed 6 rainbows 14” – 17” in the first hour and missed several others. In these flows, if you hook a trout on a #16 BH flashback pheasant Tail and they go downstream they are extremely hard to land. Because the river is flowing so strong you can’t horse them upstream and wading fast downstream guarantees you will slip into the river. So I ripped a lot of lips. I use 4 lb Berkeley Vanish Fluorocarbon as tippet and never broke off a fly all day. The bows I landed were pristine, white tipped and vibrant red banded. I pumped a few stomachs and they were eating #18 – #22 mayfly nymphs and ants. Nothing large in their bellies, but they did devour my #12 red hooked Arnerd and #16 BHFBPT hung deep below my Hills’ foam Stonefly #12. My bottom fly was 50” below the point dry fly and that is a good foot deeper than I normally fish. These high flows require it. Weighted nymphs are required to get deep and stay deep. Water temp was 62 degrees at 9 am and rose only 1 degree at 1 pm near when I quit. I stopped at 4 locations and spent quite a bit of time bush wacking and aggressively wading. Every trout I landed was near pristine. I doubt they were wild though for several reasons I don’t have the time /space to elaborate. The trout I landed very likely were planted between March and June and have had time to recover from hatchery rash, flattened noses and grow an inch or three since they left the hatchery. Wish I had a camera.
I did manage to get 3 spunky bows that slammed the dry and all on the second or third whack (never the first). No double hooks ups this year on the first post run off trout rodeo. All big trout grabbed the weighted #12 Arnerd. I landed 16 in 4 hours but easily hooked and lost that many as well. Takes on nymphs were subtle and you must be ready to set quickly with flies so far below your indicator fly. Typically in years where the hatchery stocked ++100,000 pounds annually I could expect to land +10 trout/hr just after the run off dropped below 1,000 cfs at Kernville. So predictably with total pounds likely below 50,000 this year I would have predicted < 5 trout/hr. With flows flattened just above 1,000 cfs at Kernville and just below 400 cfs below Fairview Dam conditions are still trying for most fly fishers, but the most strong/aggressive waders can find trout. I have to say flows 100 cfs lower would open a lot more quality water. Will flows drop this weekend with a nice low pressure system to arrive soon? If so there may be a lot of happy fly fishers at our Kern River Fly Fishers club mentorship outing this weekend. You can’t find better experts to wade beside to show you how to catch on general patterns many of you have in your fly boxes. Presentation and location is the key, matching the hatch not so much.
Fishing Report - Rich Arner - 07/19/19
Sadly the Kern River still is very high and dangerous. Most of the drowned bodies of those who perished have been recovered with the exception of the 11 year old girl who slipped off a rock and went in near Keysville. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims’ loved ones.
Fishing Report - Rich Arner - 07/05/19
Conditions on the Upper and Lower Kern River continue to be much worse than tough, they are dangerous. The unseasonably cooler weather for the July 4th week caused Upper Kern River flows to recede to the 3,000 cfs from the peak at 7,000 cfs. Also the Lower Kern dropped from the 5,000’s to the 3,000’s as releases were dropped from Lake Isabella. Unfortunately people are still entering the river and not coming out. The Bakersfield Californian reports that just yesterday one woman drowned (pulled out at Rabbit Island ) and two men are missing (Granite Point and behind Lake Ming) and presumed drowned. Previously in June six people went missing in the Kern River in both Kern and Tulare County stretches. Even with plenty of local TV news time being devoted to keeping people out of the river prior to the 4th, people still are going into a dangerous river. One 11 year old girl drowned when she slipped into the river while standing next to it , having no intention to enter it. Often after long periods of high run off river banks are eroded and slough into the river and polished river rocks are slippery. For these reasons we don’t even advise anglers to fish the river from the banks. Our prediction that flows will remain hazardous until mid-August appears to be spot on. We just don’t see flows trending below 400 cfs on Section 5 (low flow stretch) until the kids go back to school in the Bako around 8/13. Sadly we are on track to have more than 10 people drowned in the Kern River again. +100 degree days are coming back soon, flows will climb once again, but will not test the 7,000 cfs level again. Please be wise and stay out and stay alive.
Fishing Report - Rich Arner - 05/24/19
Catching has really been a challenge the last weeks nearly every where in Kern County. This is driven by the unseasonably cold weather dropping to as much as 20 degrees below normal for late May. The extra precipitation is welcomed and has actually bumped the snow pack up a bit and will likely delay the prime catching another 2 weeks on the Upper Kern. More on that later.
The crappie bite has been dramatically slowed with the cooler weather at Lake Isabella. Could it rebound when temps normalize? Who is to say? The carp bite for fly fishers has been challenging with rising lake levels moving those finicky feeders into different holding water. There was some success for some fishers at Carpfest but the carp are pretty small. The largest landed was just 19” which was much smaller than last year’s best even with a lot of carp fly fishing experts stalking their quarry. How high will Lake Isabella be allowed to rise? At this time we are at 60% capacity which at last check is the maximum limit until the Lake Isabella repairs are completed years from now. With the recent bump in snow pack that means a huge inflow is about to happen when we hit +90 degrees soon. That could mean huge flows must be released into the canyon above the Bako. Time will tell but the water master has a very challenging job ahead of him over the next month.
Upper Kern flows have dropped but that will only be very temporary and short lived. Expect the current dangerous conditions on both the Upper and Lower Kern to get much worse very soon. Time to tie some more flies and work on your casting.
The Y axis shows the number of days into the year the Upper Kern recedes to under 1,000 cfs and the X axis sows the April 1st snow pack for that year. Using the regression line it shows that in a year that we get a 197% snowpack (2019) we should expect the best catching to be on day 224 of the year or August 11th. Naturally changing weather conditions can move this date up or back but is a good estimate to plan your best chance at a successful fishing trip for the Upper Kern. Plan later than earlier what this graph shows - to be safe. As always remember that 400 cfs is not ideal for wading and is reserved for the strongest waders and they may stop diverting flows for power generation at any time for maintenance issues and etc. If that happens get on the road side of the river ASAP. The best wading occurs below 200 cfs. Above Fairview Dam I don’t attempt to wade across the river unless flows are well under 200 cfs as the river gradient is much steeper making river flows faster and many fewer crossing places on that stretch.
Fishing Report - Rich Arner - 04/26/19
The Lake Isabella crappie bite kicked in with the recent seasonably high temperatures and anglers are doing best on the South Fork arm of the lake. Hard to hook carp are active but very few fly anglers have the skill to fool them. If you do they are a fun fight. The April trout derby results were good this year and a lot of trout were caught a couple of weeks ago with the top dog landing a 25 3/8” rainbow. The trout bite on the lake has dropped off after a super harvest compared to previous years.
Fishing Report - Rich Arner - 04/05/19
The melt is on and another huge (197% of normal) Kern River snow pack means hazardous conditions for fly fishing for months to come. Two years ago with another huge snow pack over a dozen people lost their lives in the Kern River including three that had no intention of entering the water but slipped on rocks next to the river or were standing near the river when the eroding river bank collapsed into the river. Please encourage friends and family to stay out and stay alive. Rafting companies will be running trips all summer long and have the expertise and safety equipment to enjoy the river – after you sign the waiver.
April 1st is the day that snow pack levels are benchmarked. Here are the totals for some of our favorite drainages. See all here http://cdec.water.ca.gov/cgi-progs/snow_ss/COURSES
SAN JOAQUIN 160%
When valley temps hit 80 degrees it is time to scalp off your winter rye and Kern flows ramp up. The Upper Kern went over 2,000 cfs this week and was blown out. The CDFW stocked sections 1 – 5 giving the Lower Kern the first planters in months. Unfortunately, Lake Isabella releases have ramped up (1,800 cfs and climbing) and most of the holding water will not be accessible for fly fishers for months. The good news is that trout will be planted over the next few months and most will not be caught before they are swept downstream. They will be disbursed over wide areas before they are harvested in short order when flows are low. When flows drop below 1,000 cfs in August that will be prime time.
The latest from the hatchery is encouraging. Currently total pounds to be stocked are still well below previous years because of the Moccasin Hatchery disaster last year. But the hatchery is holding trout in three races for the first time in months. They have been planting half pounders + - 12” and are holding one race of trout to beef them up as trophies that will take months to reach trophy size (over 3 lbs) Hope fully by the end of this season? The hatchery is open for visits 7 days a week. No Troutfest is planned by local personnel this year for the April trout opener.
A new state of the art water quality system is in place with a chiller that has a generator back up that can assure cold clean water for up to 50 brood stock Kern River Rainbows. In the past brood stock and all trout being reared were lost because of a multitude of failures that include high river temps in below average snow pack years, silted up siphon pipe, power failures, culvert leaks, and etc. These issues still are not eliminated for the entire hatchery and will be a concern going forward. A huge investment will be required to replace the decades old siphon pipe that is beginning to fail. It is over 1,000’ long and on hot summer days can expand and contract over 6” which has stressed the steel pipe to the point of likely failure. There are 5 water wells that can be turned on during siphon failure but COMBINED only provide ¾ cfs. That is enough to keep one race cool in summer. Deciding which areas of the hatchery would be prioritized once the KRR project is up and running will be a challenge.
Future home for 50 brood stock Kern River Rainbows with chiller
The Kern River Rainbow project could be initiated late this summer with the acquisition of brood stock. Then each portion of the rearing process will need to be proven for this species. Raising KRR will require a learning curve and constant monitoring. Hatchery manager Tony seems very prepared and excited for the challenge. It will take years though before significant numbers of foot long KRR will be place in the Kern River. We desperately need fertile trout to be continuously placed into our favorite river for the first time in almost a decade given the tremendous fishing pressure it receives. When you view the hatchery all of the facilities on the south side of the property will be dedicated to KRR including the incubation house. Currently Mt. Shasta fingerlings are being raised from eggs in the incubation house to prove the facility is capable of rearing.
Back to the fishing, Lake Isabella levels are coming up and the inflows are cold so the crappie/ bass bite is slow to come on. Not a lot of fishing boats on the lake at this time but that will change with the trout derby coming up soon 4/13-15 . No word on whether giant rainbows will be planted this year. Speaking of giant rainbows. Club members tied into some monsters on the second outing to Eagle Canyon lakes. With a near state record landed by Rich Arner at 33” length and 27” girth (estimated to be 26.5 lbs!!!) Quite a fishing story. Check out the smiles.
Rich with near state record 33”long 27” girth estimated 26.5 lbs
The CDFW is proposing to change fishing regulations state wide and our club is providing feedback to the agency. The 4 mile stretch is at risk. We cannot lose the opportunity to give the KRR project the best chance at success. Here is our position regarding Kern River regulations going forward. Please consider joining with us to promote this change.
“We are in opposition to the proposed changes to the fishing regulations in the 4 mile regulated section of the Kern River from the Johnsondale bridge upstream to where Forest Service Trail 33E30 heads east to join the Rincon Trail. 35 years of studies and science do not support your position that the proposed regulation change would not have a negative impact on this fishery. The 14” minimum and zero bag limit season during the spawn is needed to sustain a natural fish spawn in a section of the Kern River that is not currently stocked with hatchery fish.
It has been documented that the unbalance of Trout to Pike Minnow in this section of the Kern River is at 1:100 and 2:100 in the pools above the bridge. Trout over 14” become predators and change their diet from insects to feeding on the rough fish populations and can help to naturally repair the unbalance of species. The Edison Trust Fund has spent over $1,200,000 laying the ground work to improve the fishery in the Kern River Basin. The CDFW has spent nearly $750,000 improving the Kern River Hatchery to propagate and care for Kern River Rainbow Trout. After 35 years of hard work and almost $2,000,000 of expenditures in preparation for restoration & retrieval of brood stock and all the efforts to restore native Kern River Rainbow Trout to this section of the river, protecting a 4 mile long wild nursery is more important than changing the regulations.
All the science supports maintaining the regulations in this section as they exist currently. We would suggest to you that the only beneficial change to the current regulation would be to extend the current regulation from Johnsondale bridge down to the Fairview Dam, increase enforcement and close this section of river to all fishing during the spawning season.”
Fishing Report - Rich Arner - 03/28/19
Not much catching lately to report locally, however, lots of great news to report on snow pack! Riverwalk Lake finally got a huge plant for a kid’s tournament Saturday,March 9th; however, almost all of the trout were harvested by anglers or cormorants by Monday afternoon. Upper Kern flows are well above 1,000 cfs and climbing making wading treacherous on the prized pocket water. Flows on the low flow section below Fairview Dam are over 400 cfs nearly eliminating prime slow holding water and makes river crossing a danger and not recommended, especially if releases at Fairview are increased without warning. It could be a long time before you can get back to your vehicle. Near Kernville finding slow water safe to wade is in short supply and it must be stocked recently for you to get any catching. The lack of trout porn on social media confirms the trying conditions. It looks like the next time we will see safe wading and productive catching on the Upper Kern will be in late July similar to 2017. It is a sad reminder to know over a dozen people lost their lives two years ago after a big snow pack and likely it will happen again with many wading and swimming in deadly river conditions. The Lower Kern will be finally be planted the first week in April, let’s hope flows stay safe. The Lower Kings has been blown out for weeks and some of those trophies are likely to make it through the summer.
The Kernville Hatchery is seeing progress and they are now holding trout their once again for the first time in several months. There are just 2 races with trout. The hatchery is open for visiting 7 days a week. Take a look to see the 3 year construction progress and 2 tons of foot longs.There will be a meeting in Fresno April 3rd at from 6-8 pm at the Betty Rodriguez Regional Library, 3040 N. Cedar Ave to comment on proposed fishing regulations that mean big changes for trout populations and fly fishing . Most of us see more damage coming if we don’t forward our concerns.
The snow pack is great! The rafting companies are cheering as they will have rip roaring rafting all summer and we will see the Kern River flowing in Bakersfield as well. Plan on fishing the high meadows most of the summer and get into those spunky wild sub foot longs with short rods and short accurate casts. Make sure you are in good shape to handle altitudes well above 6,000 feet. Stealth is the key as they will hit any small dry that is presented softly. I find it is a great way for a newbie to learn. You get to accurately sight cast, learn where trout lay, and get immediate feedback with landing or spooking fish. Stay low and keep that shadow off the water!
Now about the precipitation, rainfall in Bako is 112% of normal and 99% for Fresno. However, snow pack for the Kern River Basin is better and is 150% of normal and 156% state wide for March 19. One thing to note is that the Kern snow pack is heavily weighted toward the lower elevations so a warm rain will melt that quickly and that could cause the Kern to hit dangerous flow levels very soon and bring safer flows earlier, perhaps in July? We will update you on how the most popular CA rivers totaled when the April 1st numbers are in. April 1st is considered the benchmark and the peak of the snow season. The best fishing has been up north on the Lower Sacramento and the famed Eagle Canyon Lakes where KRFF anglers are taking HUGE trout. Check them out!
Fishing Report - Rich Arner - 02/15/19
Not much catching to report locally, however, lots of weather going on. Upper Kern flows jumped up to dangerous levels during the current storm to well over 4,000 cfs. Very cold weather has kept the trout down and now extremely poor water quality will severely hurt any catching for fly fishers- not to mention unsafe for wading. Leave the fly rods at home if you are going to Whiskey Flat Days and enjoy the festival instead.
Rainfall for this snow/rain season is improving. Rainfall in Bako is 92% of normal and 102% for Fresno. However, snow pack for the Southern Sierra is better and is 149% of normal and 141% state wide for February 15. More is still on the horizon as I am typing. So what will this mean for the Upper Kern this spring, summer, and fall? The rafting companies will be the biggest beneficiaries for sure, but when can fly fishers expect safe wading conditions? It could be later summer if we keep trending toward a snow pack like we had in 2017. Flows did not drop to under 1,000 cfs until August that year. High Sierra meadows should be great once the snows melt and provide access in June well before the Upper Kern River recedes to safe wading conditions. Check out the flow graphs below to see how long the high flows lasted in 2017. Of course more water means better habitat for all creatures in the river for sure. We will keep you up to date on conditions as they develop.
Stocking according to the CDFW remarkably continues to occur on sections 4, 5, and 6 on the Upper Kern according to the CDFW website ( keep in mind weather/road conditions can change where they can and do stock) and not in our local lakes for the first time anyone can recall. Why? We finally got some clarity from the CDFW below:
“Thank you for contacting the Department regarding the lack of trout stocking near Bakersfield. It means you care about the fishery and the citizens in your area. As you mentioned, Moccasin Creek Hatchery was damaged in March 2018, and will not be operational until March 2019. More than a million fish were lost, representing more than two years of production. It takes approximately eighteen months to raise a catchable trout from egg to appropriate size, meaning production will not be back to full capacity until Fall 2020.
When examining reduced allotments, there are two approaches which can be utilized. One is to reduce all allotments proportionally, the second is to prioritize allotments by angler use and/or catch efficiency. We have found that reducing an allotment below a certain threshold creates disproportionate reduction in catch rates, meaning no one catches anything. We need to stock enough fish so anglers catch fish at an acceptable rate, and we believe it is better to stock those fish where there are more anglers to maximize the catch efficiency.
For this reduction, we tried to maintain efficient stocking in about 30 locations instead of doing a poor job at 70 locations. Many of the locations are near urban area and/or major travel corridors. As an example, in your area, we prioritized the stocking of Ming Lake over Hart Park and River Walk. Feel free to provide feedback on whether that was a good choice, or reasons you perhaps would select another location. I will review the logic on the upper Kern River locations in winter to see if other location may make more sense. Lakes that are not being stocked includes Isabella, Success, Kaweah, Pine Flat, Eastman, Corrine, Manzanita, McClure, Don Pedro, New Melones, and many others, so you are not alone in wondering why stocking is not occurring as in past years. However, there is a reason and the goal is to maintain an acceptable level of service at limited locations under the circumstances. Also, there still are good fishing opportunities for warm water fish in Isabella.”
The CDFW will have a great challenge for some time to please everyone who likes to catch rainbow trout. What does this mean for our Kern County area? All of Region 4 will have substantially reduced pounds for the next two fishing seasons until Fall 2020 at the earliest. Fifty-Seven Percent LESS waters will be planted. This is discouraging for many of us as the waters closest to us will provide much less catching. For those of you that follow these reports, you know that over the last 10 years the total pounds planted by our Kern River hatchery (statewide trend is down big too) have been reduced 75% before the Moccasin Hatchery disaster. Also nearly all trout planted are sterile as well. So that is why the catching has really dropped off the last year and will continue for some time. We do have some positive news to report that the Kern River hatchery may finally be operational after 3 years of construction. Fingers are crossed.
There are a few last projects left to complete at the Kern River Hatchery (currently still a planting base) but the end seems near. I know, I know you have had heard this line for over 3 years. There recently was a new full time CDFW permanent manager assigned from the Hot Creek hatchery and he wants badly to become fully operational again. Hopefully a restart of a trophy trout program here could be initiated during a good water year. Kern River Rainbow brood stock could be sourced later this year as well. Stay tuned for updates. Meanwhile the Lower Kings continues to provide great catching of trophies.
The best quality catching in the state continues to be on the Lower Kings River. The short stretch below Pine Flat Dam just got another load of 3-6 pound trophies yesterday to add to the 2,000 pounds of trophies in the last half of January. Some of our members and fly fishing friends have tied into them tugging black streamers and small nymphs to chunky bows to 6 pounds. Presentation is the key and fly type really isn’t that crucial at this time. Bait poachers on the catch and release section have been issued heavy fines by very stealthy CDFW wardens. Way to go!
Learn more on how to hook them (landing is another thing…) at the KRFF outing February 23. Pine Flat Reservoir is still low and will be in the accumulation mode so releases should be low (been well under 150 cfs the last month). If there is a rain event (currently), watch flows for Mill Creek as it is not flow controlled and can muddy up the Lower Kings quickly and clear up very quickly as well. Check here http://www.dreamflows.com/graphs/mon.480.php It spiked to +400 cfs today and has affected water clarity. Once below 20 cfs things tend to clean up nicely.
There are just two spots left for our beginners fly fishing course at Bakersfield College, see our 1/11/19 fishing report below for details and registration. It has to be the best value for a new fly fisher in our area and you will be taught by some experts that have decades of fly fishing on our Kern River and other area waters. Get a half priced KRFF membership for new members too.
Thanks for your support and we celebrate over 60,000 views this month and continue to strive to provide the best fact based trout fishing reports in our area.
Fishing Report - Rich Arner - 02/01/19
Upper Kern flows jumped up to dangerous levels during the last storm to over 2,000 cfs. Very cold weather has kept the trout down but the bite may be back with the recent warming trend. Rainfall for this snow/rain season is improving. Rainfall in Bako is 75% of normal and 82% for Fresno. However, snow pack for the Southern Sierra is better and is 97% of normal and 100% state wide. Some big storms look to be on the way here in the two week horizon. We will keep you up to date on conditions as they develop.
Stocking according to the CDFW remarkably continues to occur on sections 4, 5, and 6 on the Upper Kern and not in our local lakes for the first time anyone can recall. Why? Inquiring minds want to know. The two big storms on the horizon will ramp flows up soon and muck up the river, but that will push trout further from planted areas making more enjoyable catching later when things calm down. Perhaps after Whiskey Flat Days could make for some decent catching?
For now the best quality catching in the state likely is on the Lower Kings River right now! The short stretch below Pine Flat Dam just got 2,000 pounds of trophies in a two week stretch with the last planting January 25th.
Some of our members have tied into them tugging black streamers and small nymphs to chunky bows to 6 pounds. Presentation is the key and fly type really isn’t that crucial at this time.
Learn more on how to hook them (landing is another thing…) at the KRFF outing February 16. Pine Flat Reservoir is low and will be in the accumulation mode so releases should be low (been well under 150 cfs the last month). If there is a rain event, watch flows from Mill Creek as it is not flow controlled and can muddy up the Lower Kings quickly and clear up very quickly as well. Check here http://www.dreamflows.com/graphs/mon.480.php It has been running about 10 cfs and has not affected water clarity yet or very long with one rain event a while back.
Our club had a great outing to the Lower Owens last weekend and the fishing has turned on with water temps in the mid 40’s. Many had double digit days. Hot Creek was also fishing just as well but access was difficult as there is quite a bit of snow to traverse down the north facing trail to the the creek in the canyon. Check conditions after the upcoming snow storm blowing in up at 7,000’ this weekend.
There are just a few spots left for our beginners fly fishing course at Bakersfield College see our 1/11/19 fishing report below for details and registration. It has to be the best value for a new fly fisher in our area and you will be taught by some experts that have decades of fly fishing on our Kern River and other area waters.
Fishing Report - Rich Arner - 1/11/19
The big fish are now in entire stretch of the Lower Kings River. We helped stock and fished for 3-8 pound trophies today. These are actual trophy trout now and not the brood stock (mostly 3-4 lbs) that went in just before Christmas. The top half of the 600 pounds stocked are much larger than last month. The river is low at 100 cfs and is exceptionally clear and river temp was 53 degrees. A beautiful day. Not much rain forecasted for the Fresno area Saturday, so there should be good catching. Use strong 3x and 4x tippet. Good luck.
PS: Here is a reminder that your Steelhead Report Cards are due by the end of January. Failure to mail in or report online could cause you to loose the ability to purchase a steelhead stamp in the future.
You can report online here https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/
Fishing Report - Rich Arner - 1/4/19
Upper Kern flows are about to tick up as a week of rain events are on the way and much needed beginning tomorrow. River temps have been in the 30’s for quite a while and the bite is off even with CDFW plants past and scheduled. In the past several years the CDFW would not stock below their own guidelines of 45 degrees on moving water during winter. If they are stocking, as suggested by their web site, it is the first time in over 10 years trout were placed in sections 5 & 6 at this time. The Lower Kern usually is planted this time of year and has no stockings planned or completed since last spring. Only Lake Ming has been planted and no trout planted in Riverwalk, Truxton, or at Hart Park. It would be nice to know how and why this new stocking strategy is occurring? This rare opportunity to fish for freshly planted stockers on the Upper Kern in winter has lured many friends to venture up above Kernville. However, skunking's appear to be the norm in the very cold water. Hopefully we will see plants closer to home soon in + - 50 degree water of our local lakes.
The snow pack is well below normal (currently 70%) and hopefully the next week can improve it. We will keep you up to date on conditions as they develop.
The Lower Kings River got the first 1,000 pounds of larger brooders planted just before Christmas. It was planted with half pounders (foot longs) very, very recently and is scheduled for chunky brooders next week. Our KRFF outing should have great catching before the rain swells Mill Creek. Water temps remain in the 50’s so trout will be active on the Lower Kings. Some of our members have landed several nice 20” trout in the last two weeks as have other anglers. There has been great success drifting small green nymphs to chunky bows to 6 pounds. Presentation is the key and fly type really isn’t that crucial at this time. Several more brood stockings will occur over the next few weeks. Learn more on how to hook them (landing is another thing…) at the two KRFF outings we have planned. Pine Flat Reservoir is low and will be in the accumulation mode so releases should be low (been well under 150 cfs the last month). If there is a rain event, watch flows from Mill Creek as it is not flow controlled and can muddy up the Lower Kings quickly and clear up very quickly as well. Check here http://www.dreamflows.com/graphs/mon.480.php
Tight lines and think SNOW!!!
Did the Prez catch the same nice trout twice?
Fishing Report - Rich Arner - 12/14/18
There are catching reports, planting news and snow pack updates for our area. Much to discuss.
Catching on the Upper Kern has improved a bit since stocking was resumed for December even with very cold water temperatures. Buena Vista Lake has had a lot of great action and friends and family have been posting their trophies on social medial. The trophy Lower Kings brooders will soon be here again. Unfortunately total stocked pounds are reduced for the Upper Kern and has eliminated stocking for Bakersfield City Lakes because of the closed Moccasin Hatchery - more on that later. A good sized precipatation event for the Southern Sierra recently almost caught us up to season normal levels. Snow pack levels now are 87% of normal but no significant storms on the horizon. That will keep Upper Kern water mostly clear for the next 2 weeks but won’t help the drought situation and Lake Isabella storage is well below seasonal normal levels.
I received this statement from the regional CDFW office recently. “For starters, you and others have rightly noticed that we have conducted less trout plants in Kern County in 2018 as compared to previous years. The reason for this is simple and it's due to lack of trout production caused by one of our region's trout hatcheries going off-line due to being flooded this past spring. Unfortunately this production facility (Moccasin Creek Trout hatchery) has not come back on line, and is not scheduled to come back on-line until March, 2019. To compensate for this production loss, and try to provide at least some trout angling opportunities in the Department's Central Region Counties, we're planting fewer waters than we have historically.
Now that said, all is not lost regarding Kern County; we have planted the Lower Kern River above Lake Isabella several times this year and are planting it this month. We also have supplied sub-catchable trout to Kern County to rear in net pens in Lake Isabella and these fish will be released in spring 2019. Also, we will be planting Ming Lake this winter so keep checking the Department's fish planting schedule to see when this water will be planted.”
So there you have it from the horse’s mouth. It appears that Lake Ming may be the only local water planted this year before Santa gets here? In the past, before the Kern River Hatchery rebuild began 3 years ago Riverwalk, Truxton, and Hart Park Lakes were planted beginning in October. Lake Isabella net pens have been used for years to raise trout primarily for the Lake Isabella trout derby to be held next year.
Water temps are very low on the Upper Kern and that has slowed activity, however, plants will happen next week on section 4 (if afternoon water temps stay above 45 degrees)and section 5&6 should have been planted very recently if water conditions were adequate These are assumed to be foot longs. There is more news from the Friends of the Hatchery as they acquired another grant to enclose the inlet culvert to the hatchery. They also need to repair the culvert because gophers had burrowed into it and it began to leak. It will be replaced with a concrete culvert that is rodent proof. Additionally, the only two races that they have been holding trout in the last 3 years requires resurfacing. So the hatchery will not be operational for some time until that work is done. The Moccasin hatchery is targeted to be operational March 2019 but those trout will take a year to grow to foot long size. So 2019 appears to be another year of reduced total stocked trout. Hopefully the Kern River Hatchery will be fully operational by this summer after more than 3 years of rebuild work. Fingers crossed.....
Bear Valley Springs was planted before Turkey Day and trout to 20” were caught up there. Our KRFF outing was very productive for several of our members with some trophies landed and great fellowship. Action was slower today but another trophy was landed.
The low elevation Lower Kings is fishing very well and many trout survived the summer as KRFF members participated in the recent electro-shock survey. Thanks guys! In addition it has been regularly planted the last few weeks. Guide Jimmie Morales says his clients have been doing very well on small #22 and #20 Callibaetis dries and nymphs. The San Joaquin Hatchery reports that the brooders are ready to be planted soon as they require a 3 week recovery period after spawning. The trick is scheduling manpower and equipment to load and plant them. They plan to start the trophy plants late next week in time for Christmas week. If there are any upcoming rain events keep an eye on flows before you go. Pine Flat Reservoir is low and will be in the accumulation mode so releases should remain low. Watch flows from Mill Creek as it is not flow controlled and can muddy up the Lower Kings quickly and clear up very quickly as well. The trip up there is worth it because these brooder trout run from 3 to 8 pounds. Remember there is a lot of warden presence up there especially on the artificial lures, barbless, catch and release section below Alta Weir down past Avocado Lake. Citations are written to bait fishers and the unlicensed practically every time I’ve been there. Get your 2019 license now at https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/Licensing/Online-Sales
Fishing Report - Rich Arner - 11/16/18
Over the last week experienced club members have had little catching success on the Upper Kern with no planting in weeks. There will be a planting for the Upper Kern the week of Thanksgiving and the following week. There are no plants for Bakersfield Lakes. Planted pounds for our region will be reduced for quite a while because the Moccasin Hatchery rebuild will take one to two years it seems (often these projections are much more optimistic than reality). The hatchery contained 1,400,000 trout when it was ravaged by flooding.
Fishing Report - Rich Arner - 11/8/18
Been a while since I was able to get up on the Upper Kern. Normally if stocking occurs in October and flows are clear and low; double digit catching days are typical. Unfortunately, there has only been one report in the last 2 months for a large group of fishers that I survey that managed a double digit day about a month ago. So I felt I should give it a go to see what’s up.
Fishing Report - Rich Arner - 09/28/18
Catching on the Upper Kern has been dropping off since the last stocking two months ago. There were a couple of isolated spots that held trout through the warm river temps that were pressured once the word got out. These areas provided heavily aerated water that trout could survive the hot summer. Catching in the recent fly fishing tournament held last weekend was markedly down from last year as the best catching required covering a lot of water in hard to reach areas which were not pressured during trying summer conditions. Barbless hooks this year were not required in an attempt to increase the catching. Many participants were blanked as in past low snow pack years and substantially reduced stocking. Great to hear that they raised some funds for Casting for Recovery and Kern Valley Search and Rescue! We look forward to seeing the total funds raised for two great causes.
Things are about to change as the CDFW should have planted this week and again in two weeks. The Kern River Hatchery will be down for months so planters will be brought in from the San Joaquin hatchery. Even with the recent September heat wave water temps should be just below lethal levels and the CDFW stocking temperature guidelines for moving water. Sections 4, 5, and 6 are to be planted. Let’s hope the trout get a chance to move around a bit before the locals following the stocking truck harvest them. When releasing your trout take the time to move them around to areas that will give them a better opportunity to survive the social media driven fishing pressure. Some trout will be planted above Fairview Dam; it can be inferred this latest batch of stockers will be sterile.
Here is a quick update on the Kern River Hatchery. It has remained fishless for quite a while and beyond. The inlet trench that feeds the hatchery is not concreted and gophers are burrowing into the side and it has begun to leak. If not addressed the trench could have a huge failure. Thankfully folks at the Friends of the Hatchery have procured funds to rebuild the inlet run that should last decades. Unfortunately, a bid process and scheduling the work will mean that it will likely be well into next year that the hatchery might be operational again and the a trophy trout program could be restarted before the opener in late April 2019. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.
Fishing Report - Rich Arner - 09/13/18
I’ve stayed away for 2 months because of high Kern River temps on the 20 mile section and today was a good day to check out how the fishery has fared. I only wanted to try section 6 because flows there have not been very wadeable for 2 years and I thought that I could get a sense of how the wild trout population is doing up there. There has been no stocking for 2 months. Fly fishing friends have done OK on sections 4 and 5 but were confined to only a couple of spots that seemed to retain trout during the lethal summer temps. Those areas are no longer secret it seems and will likely be pressured until stocking resumes.
I headed up river on to section 6. Arrived on the water at about 10 am. I had 8 grabs in the first 45 minutes on two different flies. A golden foam stonefly #12 from http://www.flydealflies.com/ where I get most of my flies that I don’t tie myself and the red hooked BH Arnerd #12. I now tie it with a tungsten bead because an experiment I did in my pool showed that tungsten really helps the sink rate on bigger nymphs but has little increased sink rate on flies size #18 and smaller. Had no idea why I could not land these trout so I tied on fresh flies and my land rate went way up. I did land 13 to the net over 4 hours. However, I did cover a ton of water. Some of this section 6 water has not been reachable for 2 years. I found the river very clear and there was no soot and silt build up on the banks and shallows that often occurs when we get the muddying monsoonal rains like we had in July and August that hit some fire scorched areas well up river. Spawning gravel beds were plentiful. All of the trout I landed today were wild and more than 2 years old I’d guess. They required a lot of wading but worth it. I was hoping to bring my 8 yr old grandson up to try the Kern as he has done very well casting and landing small wilds on the Upper Tule this summer above 6,000’. But the areas where I found fish he could never wade to. Maybe next spring when stocking resumes and trout are more accessible we can try? I did land 2 browns today. Never landed 2 browns on the same day on the 20 mile section that I can recall. The bigger was +14” and strong. They were caught more than a mile apart.
Fishing Report & BassPro Update - Rich Arner - 08/22/18
The very dry, windy, and hot July and August weather has spurned forest fires all over California and has pushed smoky air all over the state and beyond even to New England as seen on satellite maps.
July and August monsoonal storms have periodically generated muddy conditions on our Kern River that shut the Kern River Hatchery down in July. All of the trout (including all of the trophy trout being fattened) were removed from the hatchery. Few trophies were known to be caught by fly fishers and how well they survived in +70 degree water temperatures is unknown. If the past is any indication, most will not survive long as high water temps affect large trout adversely much more than small trout are impacted. When a trophy trout program can be restarted at the hatchery is uncertain. Therefore, catching has suffered compared to previous summers. No trophy trout fundraiser for the Friends of the Hatchery is planned for this year.
Senior people from the CDFW have told us the following.“In case you have not heard, the Department Central Region’s Moccasin Creek Trout Hatchery was flooded this past spring and we lost all trout production at this hatchery. The consequence of this loss is that the CDFW’s Central Region, which normally has two trout production hatcheries to meet its production demands, now only has one. Because of this loss, the CDFW Central Region made the decision to allocate its remaining trout production to the most popular fishing waters located within the 12 Counties that comprise the Department’s Central Region. This decision was made to allow some CDFW provided trout fishing in most counties rather than having normal trout fishing opportunities occur in a few counties and no trout fishing being offered in others. Focusing on these most popular waters unfortunately meant that about one-half of the total amount of waters the CDFW plants would not be planted in 2018 and also a large decrease in the total number of trout planted would also occur. That said, the CDFW has been able to plant the upper Kern River above Lake Isabella primarily due to obtaining some extra trout that were made available by the CDFW’s Fish Springs Hatchery. Since these fish are genetically diploid (able to reproduce), rather than triploid (unable to reproduce), we are limited in what waters we can plant them. Since diploid trout can only be planted below Section Six (i.e. downstream of Fairview Dam) on the upper Kern River, only sections 1 through 5 can be planted using these fish. Given the limited availability of trout to plant, we target sections 3, 4, and 5 in the Upper Kern River.”
The Kern River hatchery will be dry for months as the final stages of the hatchery construction are completed. When completed, the Kern River Rainbow project may be able to finally begin and hopefully brood stock for rearing native Kern River Rainbows may be sourced early next year?
The bottom line is local trout plants will be down significantly for the remainder of the year and a restart of the Kern River hatchery and a trophy trout program is months away. A one time planting of fertile trout was made one week last month below Fairview Dam for the first time in several years, however, fishing pressure by both harvesters and C&R fishers during lethally high river temps on the 20 mile section mean few will survive to repopulate. Sad.
Bass Pro Shops Update
Many of us have noticed that there hasn’t been a whole lot of activity near the Hoskings exit on Highway 99 in the Bako? The giant Bass Pro Shop with an included White River Fly Shop was announced in November 2017 and is still very much alive. I had a chance to chat with the project manager in charge of the new retail development and he says, “Yes, Bass Pro Shops has been signed this entire time. We would like to kick off site work in April, and open the initial stores including Bass Pro May 2020. Bass Pro Shops is a 400-day build, and it’s 7-9 months to finalize the civil engineering, building plans, and permitting of all. We are just reaching critical threshold of signing all the other leases for Phase One that must open with Bass Pro Shops to make the economics work for the 80+ acre site. So as long as the powers-that-be don’t drive the financial economy into the ditch; and tariffs, labor shortages, and overheated construction pricing don’t blow the project budgets … we’re about ready to finally make this happen. I work on this daily. You’d be shocked at how many lifetimes can be consumed on these projects”
So there you have it from the horse’s mouth. We are still over a year away from our sportsmen’s paradise.
Fishing Report - Rich Arner - 07/13/18
Been vacationing a bit but had a chance to go fly fishing again. Because there has been extended days with triple digits in Kernville and flows have been dropping (raising water temp to lethal levels) it likely was not a good idea to fly fish the 20 mile stretch above Kernville. So I took an old friend who has never caught a golden trout to a golden favorite spot above 7500’. It was good to see the meadow in great shape even with a poor snow pack year but last year’s huge snow pack really helped out a ton. Air temp was 67 degrees at 9 am, water temp 53 degrees. Perfect. We made stealthy presentations to tons of easy access small golden’s. Any small dry would work. You just have to be very stealthy. We landed +75 in 3 hours before the dark clouds began to form. There have been a lot of showers in the southern sierra and flows on the Upper Kern have come up. We didn’t want to be in a wide meadow when the bolts hit. We headed back toward home. When we arrived back down at the Johnsondale Bridge the water was chocolate milk. Air temp was 102. Bait fishers were fishing just above the Johnsondale Bridge Sad smile as no stocking has been happening in sections 5 and 6. They are now pressuring the special regulations section without any concern for being cited. We considered fishing the stretch if water temps were below 70 degrees. The visibility was extremely poor but I took a water temp anyway at 1 pm and it was 70 degrees. We headed down river to ascertain the extent of the poor conditions. The chocolate milk had not quite reached T-bird yet but some tubers were there putting in. I took a temp there and it was 74 degrees at 1:30 pm 104 on the car temp gauge, whew!!!. No trout to be seen there according to baiters I talked to. Can’t imagine they survived since the last plant weeks ago. We headed home.
Fishing Report - Rich Arner - 06/15/18
Flows have finally dropped below 200 cfs and the Bako hit triple digits this week. I wanted to try before water temps get lethal. Got an early start before 8 am and flows were just 120 cfs on section 5. Water temp on lower end of section 5 was 63 degrees to start. Water clear. Stocking on section 4 only this week? I did not try section 4 as that is where people were going to apply fishing/harvesting pressure, float rafts, and flows on that stretch over 700 cfs.
Some folks advocate fly fishing water as long as it is below 70 degrees, however, this practice can be deadly on a river like the Upper Kern that varies in water temp quite a bit in one day. It may be under 70 degrees from 7 am to 10 am but that doesn’t make it wise to fish. Why not you ask?
Think about how you would feel if you had to endure air temps above 105 to 115 degrees for 21 out of 24 hours. During that hot time you would do everything to stay cool, you would feel weak, exhausted and avoid doing any work or play at all. In the 3 hours of high but tolerable temps you would do your chores, gather/make food, and eat. Then just try to survive when the hot returns.
The same thing happens for trout. They only have a 3 hour window to eat comfortably. If we disturb that time by hooking and releasing a trout they likely will hide after being C&R’d and not feed any more during that short 3 hour window. Do that over most days for an extended period of time and a trout won’t make it after a few weeks. Not to mention playing a trout to exhaustion in near 70 degree water may kill it. Once you start seeing late morning temps nearing 70 degrees leave that water alone ALL DAY and fish up in the high elevation meadows. Stay off of the warm river and give the wild bows a chance to survive and multiply. It will be a hard summer for trout on the Upper Kern.
The weekend just ahead looks to be unseasonably cool but it likely will be the last weekend I’d consider fishing stretches of section 5.
Section 6 still is well over 400 cfs and does not offer much in the way of easy wading. Check the top line of the graphs at http://www.sutronwin.com/scedison/tw/jsp/ to find out when flows drop in the safe range and make sure you buy a good thermometer.
You can get a great digital thermometer I use at Harbor Freight for about $10 with a coupon.
You can order here or drop buy the store https://www.harborfreight.com/non-contact-pocket-thermometer-93983.html
Fishing Report - Rich Arner - 06/08/18
Made a dash up to the Kern today to scout out the river for the mentorship outing we have scheduled for Saturday. My goal was to try as much water as possible to find where all the trout were planted on Wednesday. The good news is I found 38 bows in 7 hours so about 5/hr and I landed a bow at every spot I tried. However, trout were concentrated on only 3 of the 10 stops I made. Water temp was 59 at the start around 8:30 am. I was glad to see flows had dropped to under 250 cfs on Section 5 and was very cautious to call the flow phone every 2 hours in the first half of the day to confirm that Fairview releases did not spike as they did 3 times over 700 cfs in the last 8 days. I have tried to get in touch with SoCal Edison to find out when they reduce diverting water for power with no luck. I’ve also called several rafting companies to see if they know why flows on Section 5 more than double at times during prime fishing hours. They don’t know when the flows spikes are scheduled either but they are glad to get them for their rafting clients. You can see high water marks on the shores from the spikes earlier in the week. Water is flowing over Fairview Dam this afternoon. Don’t forget to check flows on the low flow section when you are near RiverKern at http://www.sutronwin.com/scedison/tw/jsp/ or call 877-537-6356. It takes about two hours for the surge to show up at HQ once the surge starts at Fairview Dam so you have some time to cross the river and fish before you have to get back on the road side. Water gin clear today and no flow spike. These flow spikes really blacken the water the first 5 miles below Fairview Dam.
Back to the catching. If fish were found in the first few casts it was game on. Otherwise a lot of traversing required to hook up. They loved my red hooked #12 Arnerd and # 16 or #18 BHFBPT. Not much surface action but lots of hatches going on. I had many fish chase the nymphs on the pick up. Also two double hook ups. When they got bored with those I had great grabs stripping a #12 Olive Krystal flash bugger behind a fast sink tip. Quick intermitant short strips. I got very good at strip setting! All trout between 9” and 14”. No trophies hooked or sighted today.
Fishing Report - Rich Arner - 05/24/18
There have been some funky flows on Section 5 this week. Weather, stocking and flows are starting to line up great. However, I was debating whether to give it a try as there appears to be some maintenance issues with SoCal Edison at Fairview Dam. This has cause huge changes in the flows on the lower flow section. Flows 2 days this week were increased nearly 200% from about 9 am to 6 pm when water normally diverted for power generation was put back into the river below Fairview Dam.
This time of year crossing the river can be very helpful to the catching but if you are caught on the wrong side of the river when flows are doubled to +700 cfs getting back can be unsafe and nearly impossible. So I made sure I checked the flow phone at River Kern before I started fishing around 9 am and I was safe. I started on the lower part of Section 5 because it would take 2 hours for high flows to reach me. Water was crystal clear. On the first cast a 12” brown took my #16 BHFBPT. This was by far the lowest down river I have ever caught a brown. Water temp was 58 degrees.
I didn’t have a lot of takes over the next 3 hours but did land the first> 20” trout in 2 years. It was a very healthy buck that measured 22” and about 4 lbs . I covered quite a bit of water and land and managed 5 trout in 3 hours.
I thought I’d try higher up river as the river was clear and dropping and drove up toward Fairview Dam. When I arrived high up on Section 5 the water was much different. Very dark, almost black, and much higher. Visibility under 2 feet. Completely different than I fished just 3 hours earlier. Tried a few casts and headed back down river. The water did not look promising for a fly fisher at all. Driving back I did not find a clear spot until River Kern. I kept going south to Kernville. I found clear water and lots more fishers near the rodeo grounds. Not much action, flows clear but near 1,000 cfs. Baiters said fishing was slow. I would guess the dark slug of water would arrive within an hour.
Packed up and went home before 3 pm. Be very wary of flows especially if you plan to cross. Today they spiked to 500 cfs on section 5. Call the flow phone when you are at Riverkern where the last cell signal can be found. Watch the water and if you see any change in increasing flows get back to the road side ASAP no matter how good the catching is!!!
Fishing Report - Rich Arner - 05/11/18
The Upper Kern peaked at 1,800 cfs yesterday and we rescheduled our club mentorship outing to early June when the catching will be better and the wading much safer. Indications are that flows will slowly decline and in a week or so they should drop below 1,000 cfs above Fairview Dam and below KR3 and on section 5 flows below 200 cfs should open up some pocket water to waders on the low flow section. Stocking will resume just before Memorial Day. River temps will be rising quickly and wet wading will be possible again for a short time. We expect Upper Kern River water temps to become lethal on the 20 mile section well before the 4th.
Section 5 flows http://www.sutronwin.com/scedison/tw/jsp/
Fishing Report - Rich Arner - 05/02/18
Returned to the Upper Kern for the last Trout in the Classroom field trip of 2018 for Liberty HS. Gorgeous day with T-Storms predicted in the afternoon. I was able to hit the water at noon. It was great to see that it was crystal clear and 350 cfs on section 5 (low flow section).
Fishing Report - Rich Arner - 04/25/18
Had another great session of Trout in the Classroom high schoolers from Ridgeview HS today. We spoke to freshman, juniors and AP Biology seniors about how we use what we know about trout biology, behavior, and habitat to catch and release trout on the Kern River.
Fishing Report - Rich Arner - 04/11/18
We are living in interesting times! 94 degrees in one day and 60’s the next? The 2018 snow pack season numbers are in for most of the river drainages in California and the Southern Sierra does not look good. For some reason on the Kern survey the lowest elevations have not been reported so it is fair to say they are likely at “0”. So the Kern River is likely below 46%. We had a warm tropical express come through the upper reaches of the Kern watershed and the Merced last week and much of the snow pack was melted. Flows hit 6,000 cfs on the Upper Kern and the Merced hit 8,000 cfs in Yosemite closing the valley campgrounds and attractions.
Fortunately Lake Isabella was not close to full and the surge was captured for the valley users below as we will be drought driven again this summer. We may get one other storm tonight and that will likely murk things up again on the Upper Kern and the melt will continue with elevated April temperatures. With the very low snow pack, run off will end very early this year well before Memorial Day. Flows may even drop below 1,000 cfs before May 1st when most of us can wade on Section 5 (<400 cfs)to most of our favorite secret spots. That means no banking of trout and scattering across the river by the CDFW plants we’d normally get for many weeks or months in a normal year. Based on our data collection over several years it appears we will see lethal trout temperatures on the Upper Kern 20 mile section again soon after Memorial Day and planting will likely cease . We will have a short window when planting resumes this spring (as of this writing none scheduled for April). Our hope is the “super catchable” 1.1-1.5 lb trout being held at the Kernville Planting Base to bulk up to the 3.0 pound trophies (CDFW definition) can be held successfully at the hatchery this summer with the 1 cfs that the 3 wells provide. It will be a challenge for hatchery personnel to monitor them 24/7 on their fixed budget. We’ll root for them and that the trophies can hit 3 lbs by the end of the year and released into our favorite stretches.
Here is how some of our favorite rivers ended up for April 1, 2018. Truckee seems to be the best for now.
Looking forward to 4/28 the Kern River hatchery will host a free fishing day at the hatchery for kids 15 and under 9 am to 3 pm. All gear provided and hot dogs and sodas too. Here’s the area they have prepared for the trout catching fun.
Fishing Report - Rich Arner - 04/02/18
Dramatically the weather has warmed up, however, the catching has dropped off on the Upper Kern and attention was placed on our Bakersfield Lakes. The local lakes were stocked before the bunny got here. The catching was good soon after the stocking truck drove off but trout were on the smallish side by those who reported their catches. Today there are far fewer fishers on our local waters indicating the harvesting is near completion and lake temps have risen rapidly with the near 90’s we saw in the afternoons locally. The derby in Lake Isabella had a few huge trout caught as a result of some big planters subsidized by local Kern River Valley businesses. Thank you! Haven’t seen or heard of any toads being caught above Lake Isabella to date yet.
Fishing Report - Rich Arner - 03/23/18
Had the opportunity to visit the Upper Kern nearly every day this week. I did fish on Monday and had some luck but not as great as last Friday. I covered twice the area of water and found trout to 16” in 3.5 hours. A lot of the runs that held trout last week didn’t get a grab this week. Landed 8 and did have two +16” jump and throw my red hooked Arnerd #12. I even had one take on the dry. I saw larger size #14 mayflies around 2 pm too. Water was a bit clearer to maybe 5’ on Monday 3/19. But things were far different today.....
I got a chance to talk with the new hatchery lead and he passed along some more info on the trophy trout program and its current status. He said trophies are 3 lbs and over and he has none of those. His biggest trout were delivered to him ranging from 1.1 – 1.4 lbs. He got CDFW permission to hold some of these in a race and fatten them up. It will take months though to more than double their weight and stock them as true trophies. He has planted some of 1.1-1.4’s last week and I believe caught some of them the last week. However, the bulk of them will be held until they are true +3 lb trophies. We can’t wait! They also recently installed a screen that removes leaves and debris on the inlet side of the hatchery. We also look forward to the free kids fishing day at the hatchery April 28th. Hot dogs and sodas will be provided along with fishing gear to be used by kids 15 and under.
There is a big trout tournament at Lake Isabella this weekend and the chamber has stocked Lake Isabella with +600 huge trout in the 5-15 lb range for some luck contestants.
Fishing Report - Rich Arner - 03/16/18
Spent some time with a class of 2nd graders for Trout in the Classroom this morning. They released 40 new trout to the Kern River they raised in their classrooms. They got to learn about rainbow trout and aquatic insect biology, behavior, and habitat. Then I had them cast on my old Orvis Clearwater fly rod that easily has had 10,000 students from 2nd to high school cast over the last dozen years. It is a long drive but worth every minute to get these Bakersfield kids on the river and in the National Forest.
After spending some time with some inquisitive and energetic students I stopped by the hatchery to see what’s up. The hatchery is still a construction zone and much of it is closed off. There are 2 races with trout that are brought down from the SJ hatchery.
They are rearing trophies in one of the races. These are much smaller than the Lower Kings brooders that go 3-8 pounds ( by the way they are still being caught regularly after the last brood stocking 3 weeks ago, over 5,000 lbs of them went in a 3 mile stretch over 6 weeks).
On the Upper Kern sections 4,5,6 were schedule to be stocked this week (about 1500 trout over a 20 mile stretch)so I gave it a try with ominous rain clouds slithering over the mountains. Water clarity was better than I thought with about 4’ of visibility after recent rains and another inch of rain coming Saturday so things could go south in a matter of hours.
At noon the water temp on section 5 was 48 degrees and a very light hatch of BWO was beginning. I did not see one car in the pullouts, nor a fisher at Riverside Park, nor any tents in the campgrounds on a Friday afternoon? My guess is between the rain predicted and the catching has been so poor for so long most have given up. That was good for me because I had a lot of river choices all to my self. I set up my hopper dropper with a fresh Red Hooked BH Arnerd that was freshly tied yesterday at the KRFF club tying party last night. I bounced around some likely spots that might hold trout. After some searching I landed my first bow – an 18” stout planter. This was the size of the trophies that likely were planted this week. A trophy is defined by the CDFW as a trout 3lbs or more. I think this one qualifies.
I also added a BHFBPT size #16 and started getting a lot of half pounders (footlongs). Bounced around for 2 hours and landed 15. Five were 15” – 18” and all bigs were caught on the #12 RH Arnerd. The rest on the #16 BHFBPT. None on the dry as expected but it is a great indicator fly.
None of these trout appeared to be Lake Isabella spawners like we used to see before the 5 year drought so I believe it is safe to say that ritual is now extinct even after the great water year of 2017. I have not seen any evidence or talked to anyone who has caught a lake Feb/Mar spawner in years.
One thing people ask me is how much weight do I use and what is my favorite tippet? I don’t use any weight. My Arnerd is weighted under the dubbed body with .015 lead free wire I get here https://www.basspro.com/shop/en/round-lead-free-wire and no split shot is needed so I have a straight line to my indicator fly. A much more efficient tug is translated to the indicator foam stonefly. A few years ago I fished with a guide who recommended 4 lb Vanish fluorocarbon because, “it is the same stuff they put on tippet spools and charge 10 times the price because they can”. I’ve used it ever since and just $6 for 110 yards at Wal-Mart. I wrap it on old 4x tippet spools for my lanyard and buy a new spool every spring that easily lasts the year.
A pretty good day for just 2 hours and the best part...... I was the only guy on the river. Got to love that. Southern CA Snow pack has crept up to 37% (Kern a bit lower than this)of normal and we should get more snow in the next 2 storms which will be colder. We need a lot more and soon. One thing to be aware of. There is now construction on Lake Isabella dam area and the road 155 to Kernville is closed to one lane for construction near French Gulch . It looks to be ongoing for quite some time and there are traffic delays. Plan accordingly. Tight lines and hope to try again next week. There will be a hatchery staffing hiccups for the next 6 weeks and likely might impact the amount of stockings for a while. A trout fest for kids is planned for opening weekend the last Saturday in April. They get to fish the hatchery for free with equipment provided. Lucky kids we had to catch fish the hard way.
Fishing Report - Rich Arner - 02/01/18
The Lower Kings is truly fishing amazing. It continues to be stocked with trophy trout in the 3-8 lb range. Over 1,000 lbs went in again this week (most in the catch and keep section) and 1000 lbs more planned this month. River levels are beginning to come up to 315 cfs as demands for water increases with the severe drought upon us again in the San Joaquin Valley. River temp 52 degrees at noon.
The Southern Sierra Snowpack appears to be headed for a record low this year with no significant snow in the foreseeable future. Currently the snow course measurements look like this:
More February data here http://cdec.water.ca.gov/cgi-progs/snow_ss/COURSES.02
Fishing Report - Rich Arner - 02/01/18
The first reports of snow pack and rainfall are trickling in and the results are not encouraging at all. While BFL has had one decent January rainfall day it has not shown up in the Southern Sierra snowpack. The first comprehensive snow pack data will be reported any day now but the early projections look as bad as 2015. It was one of the lowest ever recorded. Right now we are at 18% of normal for all of California and just 18% in the Southern Sierra as of 1/26/18. See the blue line in the graphs to understand the latest trends.
No rainfall is in the forecast through the first two weeks of February 2018 and record high temperatures likely will melt what little exists at this time. Pray for a change soon. At this juncture on the 20 mile stretch we will see trout lethal river temperatures in June and the end of stocking likely after Memorial Day. Sad.
Currently the only decent catching has been the weekly stockings on our local lakes. The Lower Kern has been planted about once a month according to the CDFW planting web site. With a very warm spell on the way, potentially the Upper Kern could be warmed above 45 degrees and limited planting resumed for Whiskey Flat Days weekend. With the 2017 high Lake Isabella water levels it will be interesting to see if the Feb/Mar spring run of lake fish spawners will come back? We haven’t seen those lake fish in the Upper Kern in 5 or 6 years.
Flows below Fairview Dam to KR3 are trickling at a paltry 48 cfs? The Kern River Hatchery is still not fully operational and no trophy program is in progress yet and its future appears to be uncertain. However, there is great fishing to our north a couple of hours.
Flows on the Lower Kings have remained rock solid at 270 cfs so wading is fine and so is the catching. The Lower Kings got its first planted trophies earlier this month and one of our members, Phil Elliot, helped plant rainbows to 8 pounds last week in the catch and release section. About 1,000 lbs of 3-8 pounders are being planted bi-weekly. They are very picky in this tail water preferring #20 chironomids on 6x tippet. Skill and patience is required to land these beasts. I’ve also had very good luck with a hot pink squirmy worm and tugging large dark streamers as well. If you’d like to help the CDFW stock give me a ring and schedule yourself to help out. Get up to speed on how to be successful by attending our two club outings to the Lower Kings to learn from the experts.
Lower Owens, PVR, Upper Owens and Hot Creek catching was dramatically affected by the short term frigid weather timed just wrong for our outing last weekend again. The Lower Owens and PVR waters were unproductive for baiters and fly fishers alike. While a few found double digits over the weekend there was some great dry fly action on Hot Creek with tiny flies on bows under 12”.Where have all of the browns gone? There is an extreme warming trend for the next two weeks that surely will improve the catching on Eastern Sierra waters soon.
Fishing Report - Rich Arner - 01/12/18
It was great to see some moisture from the heavens in Kern County this week but we have a loooooonnnnnggggg way to go . The first snow pack survey data won’t be available until early February, however, rainfall totals in the Southern San Joaquin Valley are just 30% of where they should be this time of year. A dramatic change needs to happen soon or the 20 mile section on the Upper Kern will be over 70 degrees most of the summer and that will eliminate summer stocking completely for the 4th time in 5 years.