Upcoming trout plants scheduled for the Kings River and Bass Lake should keep local anglers plenty busy over the winter.
Nine thousand pounds of jumbo trout are bound for the Lower Kings below Pine Flat Lake in what will be the eighth year of the Department of Fish and Game's popular trophy trout program.
The first batch of big fish will go into the river in early December and plants will continue about every two weeks in 1,000-pound installments through March, San Joaquin Hatchery manager Greg Paape said.
This year's trophies weighed an average of 5.5 pounds at the end of September, meaning they could average 6 pounds or more by the time they hit the river.
"There are some really nice-sized fish this year," Paape said. "And we've got a lot to put in."
This year's trophy fish are Mount Whitney rainbows, one of California's oldest trout strains that originated from eggs collected at Rae Lake in 1917. They were used as hatchery broodstock two years ago.
Planting areas include the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers bridge, Choinumni Park, Winton Park, behind Avocado Lake and Alta Weir. Limits are five fish per day. The section between Alta Weir and Highway 180 is a designated catch-and-release zone that requires barbless hooks.
"They're easy to catch, and they're a good-looking fish with fine spots on them," Paape said.
Trophy trout also will be planted at Hensley Lake in January.
At Bass Lake, the DFG will plant 5,000 pounds of half-pound rainbow trout at 9 a.m. Friday at the Ducey's Lodge ramp and another 4,000 pounds in December.
Those fish are part of Bass Lake's annual allotment. However, no trout have been planted this year as lake operator Pacific Gas & Electric Co. continued its $60 million seismic retrofit of Crane Valley Dam. The project required lowering water levels and dredging near the dam.
The in-water portion of the project has been completed, PG&E spokesman Denny Boyles said.
In addition to the DFG plants, PG&E will fund its own trout plants and also cover the cost of raising kokanee fingerlings for two years as mitigation for lost fishing opportunities during the multiyear project.
Those trout plants will begin Dec. 17 with 1,500 pounds of half-pound trout and 750 pounds of trophies. More fish will be planted next spring.
Unlike rainbow trout, which are planted to be caught right away, kokanee take three years to mature into adults.
Bass Lake's once-thriving kokanee fishery was decimated this year, likely by increased sediment levels from three months of dredging. There should be 12,000 to 15,000 adult kokanee in the lake, but none have been caught since July, according to guide Todd Wittwer.
There also is concern among anglers that 1- and 2-year-old kokanee in the lake have been stunted, meaning it could take until 2015 before fishing returns to normal.
Fifty thousand kokanee fingerlings will be planted next year in late spring or early summer.
"I think it's nice that someone is going to fund the kokanee for two years, but there's nothing we can do for last year's fish -- or next year's," Wittwer said.