BY PAUL MORITZ
KENNEDY MEADOWS – The opportunity of a lifetime is here. Broodstock golden trout have been stocked in the Sierra with easy roadside access and no backpacking needed to get to the fish. Simply drive up, put the tailgate down, cast and haul in goldens. Too good to be true? Check it out for yourself.
Years ago seed fish were collected from Cottonwood Lakes. These golden trout have historically been collected and used for hatchery operations. Male and female trout are reared in captivity and stripped of eggs and milt. The eggs and milt are stirred together under pressure, and the fertilization process takes place.
After the fish reach a size of about an inch, they can be stocked in high country lakes via aerial drops. The fry are loaded into an airplane and then dropped over a body of water, and the small stature of the trout assures the drop does not injure the fish, and the survivability is nearly 100 percent. Some fish are allowed to grow in the hatchery to a few inches, and those fingerlings can be transported in a traditional stocking truck for delivery, or kept in the hatchery until they reach catchable size.
What happens to the original trout that were used to breed all these smaller fish? They have been used for a few seasons, grew to abnormally large sizes, moved from Moccasin Creek Fish Hatchery to Kern River Fish Hatchery, and now they are currently being stocked into the South Fork of the Kern River in Kennedy Meadows.
Years ago, a lawsuit shut down all stocking of non-native fish to the South Fork of the Kern. Since golden trout are native to the drainage, the stocking is allowed to proceed with the current batch of goldens. The Kern River that runs through Kennedy Meadows has seen dry years where nearly all the water was gone and only pools around the larger boulders held water. The river has also seen the banks flood, and last year the water was very high. Currently the water is running absolutely perfect. Clear, strong, flowing and ideal for trout.
Another interesting aspect about these particular golden trout is the fact that they are “diploid” trout that can reproduce naturally once they are stocked. Golden trout spawn in the late spring when the water reaches 50 degrees, and a female can lay just over 2,000 eggs.
Anglers are currently fly fishing, casting lures and drifting baits to the golden trout, and all are finding fish success. Golden trout tend to take flies and are not shy. Flies with red or yellow accents work best, and effective patterns for golden trout include: Royal Wulff, Red-Headed Step Child, Copper Johns, Black Gnats and San Juan Worms. Dries will work when the light and conditions are right, and nymphs will work as long as the trout can see them.
Bring up a 3-weight rod, since most casts are less than 20 feet. Spin casters need to bring up an arsenal of Panther Martins, CD5 Rapalas and a 503 chrome Super Duper with a red head and prism body. Bait soakers could lob out a nightcrawler or a red salmon egg. The river runs slowly through the meadow, and has a steeper gradient up beyond the campground to the PCT bridge. There are pools, runs, undercut banks and lazy pockets of water to fish.
Kennedy Meadows General Store will have information to point you in the right direction. The folks at the store are friendly locals and full of information. Enjoy a burger on the patio, listen to fish stories and take a load off. The general store has limited fishing tackle, so bring your own gear.
The stocking of these golden trout is a rare treat, and this opportunity will only last as long as the trout are being stocked in the river. An employee at the Kern River Hatchery said he has enough golden trout for at least one more stocking, possibly two more. To date, at least two separate stockings have taken place. Take a drive up to the Kern Plateau and soak in the beauty of the high country. Golden trout fishing in Kennedy Meadows, it’s a thing.