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.