by Cheryl Senn
Cleaning up along the Kings River and boosting the river’s rainbow trout population are projects which are being worked on collaboratively by the Kings River Conservancy (KRC) and the Kings River Fisheries Management Program (KRFMP), along with help from local volunteer groups like the Fresno Fly Fishers for Conservation (FFFC) and the Tenaya Middle School Wildlife Club.
On December 8, more than 40 members of the FFFC joined KRC and Tenaya Middle School Wildlife Club volunteers on a scheduled clean up day at Avocado Lake.
According to Louie Long, Environmental Resources Manager for the Kings River Conservation District and the manager for the KRFMP rainbow trout incubator facility, the Avocado Lake area was chosen for a clean up because the area gets a lot of use and consequently a lot of trash gets left behind.
Jeff Trafican, president of FFFC, said his group was going to focus on the catch and release area. “Our club formed for the purpose of preserving the fishery on the Kings River, so we tend to put our emphasis on activities related to the Kings. This is just one of those things.”
FFFC vice-president Fred Ramirez said the clean up was going to take place below the Alta weir. “Catch and release involves barbless hooks, artificial flies, lures only and no bait. So we can try to sustain a healthy fishery, so our younger generation will be able to catch fish too.”
The Tenaya Middle School students said they like exploring the world and wanted to do their part in helping the lake and river areas stay clean.
During the clean up, items such as barbed wire, beer bottles and cardboard were picked up along the river. In the afternoon, on the same day as the clean up, a tour of the new trout incubator facility was given to the public.
The 15 foot by 20 foot steel building, which is in close proximity to the Kings River and the KRC’s North Riverside Park, is the new trout incubator house. The KRFMP has worked out a long-term lease agreement with Fresno County for this new incubator facility.
According to the KRC website, the group received a substantial Ted Martin Family Grant through the Fresno Regional Foundation. The money KRC received will go to three Conservancy programs and one of the projects is the Rainbow Trout Improvement Project (RTIP). The RTIP seeks to restore the genetically superior strain of trout that once populated the river. The amount of $75,000 was allocated to fully improving the fish incubating facility and an additional $15,000 per year, over a five-year period, will allow for the selection and purchase of trout eggs.
“We’ve been incubating trout eggs in stream-side incubators for over 10 years now,” said Long. “We just opened up the incubator building to bring stream-side operations inside. It improved our quality control and quality assurance, so it’s going to increase our capacity.”
During the tour of the incubator facility, Long described how the process works, from egg to release of the trout fry. There are two rearing tables with a low velocity raceway where 169,000 eggs were incubated and raised to one to two inch sized fry. The water used in the incubation process comes directly from the Kings River. The water is diverted through the incubating facility raceways and then returned back to the river.
A week after the trout eggs hatch, they are fed a Aquamax fish diet nine times a day every two hours starting at 6 a.m..
The first attempt at incubating eggs indoors began on November 20, 2012 and the fry were released on December 12, 2012.
Long said fungus spreading from dead eggs to the living eggs was a problem that could not be controlled during stream-side incubating, but now can be with the new system. Also, the fry would be in jeopardy of being exposed to the fungus from the dead fry and would be compromised. “The density is much lower and we are able to remove the dead fry and prevent the spread of the fungus which kills the living fry. That’s one way that we’ve improved our survivorship.”
The indoor incubator facility also allows for feeding the fry for a period of two weeks before they are released. “By feeding them for two weeks, we give them that first layer of fat, and hopefully that will improve their chances of survivorship,” continued Long.
According to Long, with incubating this first batch of trout eggs indoors in the incubator house, the hatch success and survivorship has seemed to have eclipsed that of the stream-side incubators.
The trout fry were released on December 12, 2012 and volunteers met to help with the release of the fry in six different locations, according to Heidi Ann Isner, Resource Analyst for the Kings River Conservation District.
Release location is very important, Isner said. “We try to put them in water where there is very little current. I always try to release the fish where there is small to medium sized gravel. In nature, that is where the eggs are going to be laid…to protect the young.”
“Also, we want to keep them out of any heavy current because, if they have to fight a heavy current, they can exhaust themselves trying to fight it and ultimately that can kill them, so they need a pool where they are free to move around,” continued Isner. “Also, a place with cover is really good to protect them from predators.”
Being able to monitor the fish, once released, is a process which Isner says the KRFMP is still working on.
“A lot of work is going into improving the trout fishing on the Kings River,” said Long. “A lot of work by a lot of people. A lot of volunteer help. When we release these fish, we have volunteers come and help us out. We would welcome anyone who is interested in helping out.”
The next incubation process, with a new batch of trout eggs, will begin on January 25, 2013.
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