On top of last week’s successful release of 1,000 trophy-quality rainbow trout from the fish pens at Lake Siskiyou, Mt. Shasta Rotary announced a $5,000 donation to youth fishing programs that will support 3,000 youngsters in the north state.

On top of last week’s successful release of 1,000 trophy-quality rainbow trout from the fish pens at Lake Siskiyou, Mt. Shasta Rotary announced a $5,000 donation to youth fishing programs that will support 3,000 youngsters in the north state.

The fish release crowned a six-month program at the Rotary Trout Pens. Last November, the Department of Fish and Wildlife donated rainbow trout from the Crystal Lake Hatchery in Shasta County that were placed in the pens. Under the supervision of Site Managers Merle Anderson and Steve Brown, battery-powered, solar-charged feeders fed the trout multiple times daily, depending on water temperature. Over the past six months, volunteers from Rotary, Siskiyou Land Trust and Mt. Shasta Trail Association provided additional maintenance as needed.

After the lids to the pens were removed, a group of 15 volunteers then descended the pens by rope into the lake, where they watched the fish swim free.

“Some of the trout were eager to fly free, others were a little tentative, and others, like, ‘No way! I'm staying! I like being hand fed by Steve and Merle,’ " said Tom Stienstra, program manager for the Rotary trout pens.

“Watching those big fish swim free was the closest thing I know to the feeling of flying a plane for the first time and lifting off from the runway,” he said.

The trout averaged 3 to 5 pounds, with a sprinkling both bigger and smaller, Stienstra said. Since were raised in cages instead of hatchery raceways, they look, act and feed much like wild rainbow trout.

In turn, the Siskiyou Flyfishers, which also volunteered to support the program, pledged to release their catches to jump-start Lake Siskiyou as a site with a trophy trout fishery, said Will Keller, president of the Flyfishers.

Rotary’s Greg Juell, owner of Sousa Ready Mix, designed and fabricated a portable winch system for the pens, as well as a system that otter-proofed the pens, that CDFW called a model for pen projects.

The trout pen program is operated under the direction of Monty Currier, associate fisheries biologist for CDFW, who also runs the north state’s Kids Fishing Days.

In concert with Anderson, president of the Mt. Shasta Rotary Foundation, Stienstra said Rotary had raised $5,000 to support Currier and Kids Fishing Days.

This year’s youth events at Lake Siskiyou and the Mt. Shasta Fish Hatchery are pending, Currier said, with the Siskiyou Kids Fishing Day likely in late summer or early fall. The money will go to replace aged loaner fishing rods, buy bait and tackle, rent Port-a-potties, buy Walkie-Talkies for event communication, and provide new rod-and-reels as prizes. At last year’s two events in Mt. Shasta, about 500 youngsters took part.

Nothing frustrates a child and their parents to fishing faster than poor equipment that doesn’t work right, Stienstra said, and this donation will solve that.

This year’s strain of trout is Eagle Lake Trout, among the most desirable trout in the world. They are know for their brilliant crimson stripe along chrome-bright sides, black leopard-like spots on their backs, fighting characteristics and sometimes elusive nature that make each trophy catch a prize for all anglers.

Rotary designed and built the dock structure with three 10-foot deep trout pens, funded with a donation by Gary Bechtel, who promotes and funds youth outdoors opportunities.

Gary Coe of Kokanee Power donated the primary food for this winter’s program, with additional food in late season provided with a donation from the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors.