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.