Rainbow trout set for early release in Lake Siskiyou

Staff reports
Mount Shasta Rotary members tend to trout they've raisedin pens at Lake Siskiyou. The fish will be released early, the last week of April, for the enjoyment of catch-and-release anglers.

This year’s crop of Alaska-quality rainbow trout at Lake Siskiyou will be released a month early, the last week of April, announced Mt. Shasta Rotary in a joint statement with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The early release will provide the chance at a world-class catch while the surface waters are still cool in May and early June, said Tom Stienstra, president-elect for Mt. Shasta Rotary and director of the Rotary trout pens.

“By setting our big Rotary trout free a month early, it will provide a sensational local opportunity before the campgrounds fill up,” Stienstra said.

More:Volunteer bucket brigade deliver trout to Rotary's Lake Siskiyou fish pens for trophy fishing program

The heart of the program is what locals are calling the “USS Rotary,” that is, a large dock structure located near the marina, with three inset 10-foot deep cages. 

The structure is designed, funded, constructed and managed by Rotary, with support from donors, agencies and many local volunteers.

Last fall, the CDFW provided 900 large Eagle Lake trout, hand-picked for the project by biologist Monty Currier, from the Crystal Lake Hatchery near Baum Lake in Shasta County. For the past six months, the fish have been fed four times per day by battery-powered, solar-charged automated feeders, with oversight from site manager Steve Brown and Merle Anderson, Rotary Foundation President.

Trout leap during a feeding at pens where they were raised in Lake Siskiyou.

The trout can grow an inch per month and now mostly range 17 to 23 inches, including some in the 4-to 7-pound class, similar in quality, appearance and behavior to the elusive giants in Alaska.

“It costs thousands of dollars to go to Alaska,” Stienstra said. “Our goal is to provide anglers, especially children and their parents, a chance to catch a fish like that for free at their backyard fishing hole.”

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Will Keller of Siskiyou Fly Fishers said members of his club would release their catch. He urged other anglers to do the same, often after a photo, to perpetuate the lake as a trophy-class fish destination.

Under Brown’s supervision last weekend, volunteers scrubbed the cage walls and then scooped the floating debris, to ensure pristine water quality and flow in and out of the pens. The water temperature, measured at just 42 degrees last week and is expected to rise about 10 degrees in the coming month.

"Lake Siskiyou entered the year very low, down roughly 20 feet at the measuring station at the dam, according to Jason Ledbetter, director of Siskiyou County General Services," said Stienstra. "Even after a tepid winter, the water has started rising visibly in the past month, including up another three feet last week. The boat ramp has again become serviceable, and as the week started, the lake was down less than 7 feet at the dam, and is expected to continue rising through April, May and June as snowmelt pours in from the Trinity-Divide."