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Topic subjectA letter to the judge in the trout stocking lawsuit
Topic URLhttp://www.calfishing.com/dc/dcboard.php?az=show_topic&forum=5&topic_id=11799&mesg_id=11799
11799, A letter to the judge in the trout stocking lawsuit
Posted by swimbait, Thu Nov-25-10 01:13 PM
Robert Belloni
7893 Jade Circle
Dublin, CA 94568
November 25, 2010

The Honorable Judge Patrick Marlette
Superior Court of California, County of Sacramento
Department 19
720 9th Street
Sacramento, CA 95814

Regarding: Case No.: 06CS01451
CENTER FOR BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY, a nonprofit corporation,


Dear Judge Marlette,

I own and operate calfishing.com, a fishing website catering to anglers of the great state of California. Online since 1996, we are a community of over 3,000 registered members and more than 130,000 unique visitors per year.

I’m writing to refute the petitioner’s arguments in the Supplemental Verified Petition for Writ of Mandate filed by the Center for Biological Diversity (case number 06CS01451). I’m also writing to ask you to consider the unintended consequences that the cessation of trout plants has had - and will continue to have - on California’s threatened and endangered species.

While my points may not have the backing of a scientific paper or a paid researcher, I respectfully hope that you will use the lens of common sense in evaluating them.

Point 1:

The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) states in their Writ (line 23) that stocked rainbow trout have a detrimental effect on delta smelt. They fail to mention that there is no overlap between the past or present range of delta smelt with areas that have historically been stocked with rainbow trout.

The CBD seems to infer that stocked trout in the Sacramento or American river might turn anadramous, swim down stream and eat delta smelt. While this could happen in theory, please require the CBD to prove the impact before making a ruling. Prove, with peer-reviewed science, that stocked rainbow trout have eaten delta smelt anywhere in the state of California - ever.

If the CBD can somehow prove this (or even capture a hatchery rainbow in the delta smelt’s range), ask them to compare the impact of this predation vs. the impact that native steelhead historically had on delta smelt. It can’t possibly be greater.

Realize that the CBD chooses to evaluate the environment based on its historical state or present state depending on which is more convenient to their argument. In this case they should not be allowed to have it both ways, implying that stocked trout are bad for delta smelt, but ignoring historical steelhead abundance.

Please don’t rule that hatchery rainbow trout are having a negative effect on delta smelt without first proving there is any impact at all.

Point 2:

The CBD lists a number of amphibians they believe are adversely affected by stocked trout. Red and yellow-legged frogs are chief among these. Their overly simplified argument is that because a frog tadpole can be eaten by a stocked rainbow trout - stocked rainbow trout are bad for frogs in all locations in California.

This logic has already been applied using the 1,000 acre rule that the CA DFG agreed to in 2007. What a tragedy that The Department was forced in to a compromise that manages the state’s environmental resources based on a round number. I can tell you without question that this ruling has led to the untimely death of all of the threatened and endangered amphibian species listed by the CBD. Let me explain:

The classic scenario the CBD uses to press for trout stocks to be ended in the state of CA is the case of the high sierra lake where stocked trout are the only significant predator for yellow-legged frogs. In these alpine environments where trout food is scarce it makes sense that the trout will hunt down the frog tadpoles and have a serious impact on their populations.

Bench lake is a well studied example of this. I’ve talked with Curtis Milliron from DFG about the studies and gillnetting they did here. I’ve also camped and fished on the shores of Bench lake many years ago and understand perfectly why stocking trout was never a good plan here.

The scenario that seems to go un-thought-of and un-studied is the scenario of a lowland reservoir that is less than 1,000 acres with many predator species present alongside native species.

This scenario can be observed (but is not being properly studied by DFG or any scientists for that matter) at places like Coyote Lake, just east of Gilroy, CA. Coyote is a warm water fishery stocked with largemouth bass, channel catfish, crappie, and threadfish shad. Until the CBD sued, Coyote was also stocked with rainbow trout

Coyote Lake is a man made lake, but native species such as hitch, California newt, and California red-legged frogs also call this watershed home. Native fish and amphibian eating birds such as ospreys, golden eagles, bald eagles, cormorants and blue herons frequent the shores here.

With regular trout stocking, a population of predators evolved in natural proportion to the food base the stocked trout provided. Coyote was noted as a “trophy” largemouth bass lake, with many large bass taken each year by anglers. Cormorants and ospreys were regularly observed devouring trout here, and in the summer months as the trout died off from warm water, bobcats, turkey vultures, and a host of other native opportunists made the most of the dying trout along the shore.

Being smaller than 1,000 acres, and having an outflow that leads ultimately to the sea (via Anderson reservoir which blocks any/all steelhead from coming upstream) trout plants were stopped at Coyote Lake.

When the trout stocks ended, the predators had two options: leave or switch to other food sources. Birds can leave, and I assure you that they have. Gone are the rafts of cormorants at this lake and many of the osprey. What can’t leave are the largemouth bass. They are stuck, and they are hungry. I know that they are hungry because every year we fish this lake and catch numbers of large bass.

These bass that were enormous and fat from feeding on stocked trout are now skinny and voracious. Their feeding behaviors have changed since 2007 and now at night they sit so close to the bank that you can see their backs sticking out of the water at times. Why are they in the shallows? It’s because they are hunting down anything that moves along the shore. Without question this includes any native specie that will fit in their mouths - newt, frog, hitch or otherwise.

If some paid scientist of the CBD had studied the stomach contents of bass, ospreys, cormorants and eagles before trout planting was stopped at Coyote Lake and then after it was stopped, they might be horrified to find the carcasses of their beloved native species. These large predators are far more effective than any stocked trout when it comes to eating native species.

But no CBD scientist made this study. And when I’ve corresponded with Noah Greenwald from the CBD who is leading this suit on their side, he rejects this argument out of hand. To me, this is no worse than shooting all the wolves in Yellowstone because they were eating sheep. It’s a blanket policy applied with a one dimensional view of nature.

I await the day when the CBD will sue for the eradication of all non-native fish species in California Lakes to really “get to the bottom” of these predation issues. On a slippery slope will we one day see rotenone used to poison our lakes? I wonder, and I am afraid.

The CBD petitions the court (p 6. line 27) stating that the CA DFG has not, “adequately evaluated and fully disclosed the direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts of hatcheries and stocking on sensitive species and ecosystems, in violation of CEQA.” Yet the CBD does not point out the unintended consequences that they, through their lawsuit, have already caused the environment.

Anglers and native species alike are relying on you Judge Marlette to consider all scenarios. The CBD asks for it in their writ and I ask you for it here. When you think about ‘actual injury’ to native species, please consider the consequences like I’ve outlined above. Because of the 1,000 acre compromise, the last red-legged frog may have been eaten at Coyote Lake by a cormorant that couldn’t find a trout to fill it’s stomach.

Point 3:

The CBD postulates that native steelhead downstream from man-made reservoirs will interbreed with stocked rainbow trout and dilute the gene pool. This is the ostensible reason why lakes like Casitas and Castaic Lagoon no longer receive trout deliveries from the Fillemore Hatchery. Never-mind the fact that the Santa Clara river below Castaic Lagoon is typically dry and devoid of all life. But I digress...

I ask you to press the CBD and the CA DFG for proof that the native steelhead gene pool is damaged by stocked rainbow trout (not stocked steelhead bred from indigenous stock, but stocked hatchery rainbow trout). Ask them for peer-reviewed evidence that deleterious allelles have been observed in steelhead captured downstream of stocked locations.

Select locations where rainbow trout have been stocked for at least 20 years and dam overflows should have allowed hatchery trout to escape downstream. Lake Cachuma / Santa Ynez River would be a perfect case, as I’ve personally caught stocked trout downstream from Bradbury Dam in the early 90’s that escaped over the dam and it is well known that native southern strain steelhead still exist here.

I highlight my personal knowledge of these situations because as far as I can tell, no one was downstream of places like Bradbury Dam during the high water years in the 90’s doing genetic studies of steelhead to see if their gene pool was being diluted.

Conclusion: Stocked trout are the cornerstone of recreational angling in freshwater for the state of California. The CA DFG has not managed these stockings perfectly through the years, but they are embarking on a good re-assessment that will lead to reasonable trout stocking rules for the state.

The Center for Biological Diversity, true to the form they brag about so openly in the book “Eco Barons” is stacking up the lawsuits against the CA DFG to harass their way to victory. It is apparent that they will use flawed logic, incomplete science, and one-sided arguments to win in court. It’s also apparent that they take a one-dimensional view of nature. A view that reveals their ignorance to the more complex reality.

I hope that in this dialogue I’ve convinced you to look at their logic with a keener eye. I hope you will eschew arbitrary decisions based on lake acreage, elevation, or similar delineations that nature pays no mind to. I hope you will trust the Department of Fish and Game but verify the objectivity of their processes. Above all I hope you will consider pragmatic solutions that reflect the man-made and man-influenced natural world we live in right now today.


Rob Belloni, MBA