All those rainbow trout native to the Lower Kings River have a new place to hatch.
A new incubator house, which can house up to 300,000 trout eggs, is just one of several improvements to the popular tailwater fishery east of Fresno.
Others include the ongoing construction of North Riverside Park and its 1 1/2-mile hiking trail linking the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers bridge and Choinumni Park. The $285,000 project includes a paved parking lot and permanent restrooms, which already have been installed.
The incubator house, an enclosed metal building connected to the river by a series of pipes, more than doubles the old system: two 8-foot by 3-foot cement tubs that rarely operated at full capacity.
Kings River Conservancy board member Hank Urbach said the first batch of trout eggs -- 170,000 in all -- were brought to the new incubator house in early November. The next batch, in February, will consist of nearly 300,000 eggs.
The trout eggs are brought in and placed in troughs with continuous water flows. Once they hatch, the fry float to the surface and are scooped out by buckets and hand-delivered to various segments of the river. (When water levels allow, some fry may be flushed into the river on their own.)
"They're very poor swimmers at first," fly fishing guide Jimmie Morales said. "You have to be careful where you put them."
Funding for the incubator house came from a $75,000 grant from the Ted Martin Family. Additional funds will support the project at $15,000 annually for five years.
One of the aims of the Kings River Fisheries Management Program is to populate the Lower Kings with rainbow trout that are as close as possible genetically to the river's original inhabitants. Volunteers have been taking fin samples from wild trout living in the Upper Kings above Pine Flat Dam so their DNA can be tested.
The first batch of trout eggs brought to the new incubator house came from Utah, Urbach said.
The Department of Fish and Game currently stocks the Lower Kings with trout raised at the San Joaquin Hatchery in Friant. This includes 9,000 pounds of trophy trout weighing an average of 6 pounds that will be planted every two weeks until the end of March.
The first trophy trout plants started this week.
How (and if) the DFG trout plants will co-exist with native trout hatched at the new incubator house has yet to be determined.
The Kings River Conservancy is hosting a fundraiser and barbecue Saturday from noon to 2:30 p.m. to raise money for the Frank P. Jones Memorial Warden Patrol Fund. The event is at Thorburn Access Park, located at Highway 180 and Rio Vista Road.
All monies collected go toward increased DFG warden patrols on the Lower Kings and limit poachers. More than $20,000 has been raised to date.
"I see wardens all the time now," Morales said. "Are there still people out there poaching? Yeah. But all the fishermen I talk to that are doing it legally are happy to get checked out."
A 3 p.m. tour of the new incubator house will follow the barbecue and raffle, which starts at 2. Grand prize is an all-expenses paid guided trip for six to Shasta Springs Trout Camp provided by Cal Trout.
KINGS RIVER WARDEN PATROL BARBECUE
What: Fundraiser for the Frank P. Jones Memorial Fund, which pays for extra warden patrols on the Kings River
When: Noon to 2:30 p.m., followed by 3 p.m. tour of the new incubator house
Where: Thorburn Access Park, Highway 180 at Rio Vista Road
Raffle: Grand prize is an all-expenses paid guided trip for six to the Shasta Springs Trout Camp outside Dunsmuir. Donated by Cal Trout. One hundred $25 tickets will be sold. Plus giveaways from Orvis, Simms and Sage
Details: kingsriverconservancy.org or (559) 787-9500