I am dismayed at the tone and focus of John Cox’s recent article ("Anglers welcome plans to restart repairs at Kernville fish hatchery," March 16). Cox takes a cavalier attitude toward decades of mismanagement of a government project and a terrible waste of money. I’m hoping the quotes attributed to Guy Jeans were also taken out of context because both Cox and Jeans treat the debacle of the Kern River rainbow trout project and the laughable treatment of the hatchery as if it was oh well, just another mess to chalk up to dumb luck.
The Kern River Fly Fishers, a 52-year-old club based here in Bakersfield, has been working on introducing the Kern River rainbow trout back into our local waters for decades. Members have attended CDFW hearings and meetings. We have worked on the language of project studies and repeatedly asked for the official report detailing its implementation. And, repeatedly, there has been decades of passing the buck, shrugs of shoulders, nothing happening and delay after delay after delay.
I am amazed that government incompetence and waste has completely been ignored by Cox in this instance. “It’s just something that, you know, it just takes a while to do,” Jeans is quoted saying. Later in the article, Cox writes about the CDFW Fishery Program Manager, “He was unable to estimate how much the project would cost, where the money would come from or how much has been spent on the hatchery's renovation so far.”
Really? Somebody running a project with public money does not know how much it will cost or where the money will come from, and nothing is mentioned in this newspaper about it? Two decades of waste and it gets a free pass from The Californian? This is unacceptable.
In fact, no one knows with certainty if or when the hatchery will open again. Every project timeline shared in the past by the CDFW has been woefully optimistic. There has not been any stocking of native Kern River rainbow trout over the last 15 years. We have been told for the last 10 years that Kern River rainbow brood stock will be acquired in the next year or two by the CDFW. It will take two years to raise catchable sized rainbow trout after the brood stock is acquired. That means the earliest possible time frame to stock native Kern River rainbow trout is more than four years away.
We do know how much money has been spent. More than $1,000,000 has already been sunk into the Kern River Hatchery over the last 15 years. The five wells cost +$150,000, fencing $300,000, 2018 work +$750,000, according to the hatchery managers we have talked to over time.
It has been way too long. There has been way too much time and money wasted. There are many anglers out there who have been patiently waiting for the Kern River to become a sustainable fishery. Continuing to market the falsities that pure Kern River rainbow trout are thriving and being stocked in the Kern River on the 20-mile section, and the four-mile special regulations section, lessens the impetus to get this project accomplished. And it is downright fraud to tell the public that these are the fish you can catch now.
There are other rivers around the state that have plentiful, sustainable trout populations. Other states have amazing rivers without stocking. We deserve that in Kern and Tulare counties.
In addition to programs devoted to the development of the sport, the KRFF offers (pre-pandemic) monthly fishing trips and mentorship workshops for those new to the technique. We meet via Zoom on the first Wednesday of each month. Reach us at PO Box 686, Bakersfield, CA 93302, and kernriverflyfishers.com.
The KRFF have the perseverance to see this project through. But our patience is wearing thin. We have waited too long. It’s time this project gets done.
Larry Elman is the president of the Kern River Fly Fishers.