Lake Elsinore Stocking Hybrids
City bringing in striped bass; hybrid fish to feed on carp 'fingerlings' in lake
By: Jose Carvajal - Staff Writer for the Californian NC Times
LAKE ELSINORE -- After trying with little success last year to remove from the lake tens of thousands of pounds of carp, a bottom-feeding fish blamed for being a major contributor to the lake's water quality problems, city officials are taking a different tack.
They're turning to striped bass to get the job done.
By summer, city officials are expecting to stock the lake with 4,000 pounds of a hybrid striped bass that will feed on carp "fingerlings." The carp offspring, which are far smaller than the average 5-pound adult carp, are particularly elusive. Going after the fingerlings is seen as being a key part of controlling the lake's carp population.
The bass being introduced to the lake this year could eat as many 150,000 pounds of carp and other small fish during their stay in the lake, according to city officials, which will be until they either die or are fished out by anglers.
In 2003, the city signed a deal with the Lake Elsinore-San Jacinto Watersheds Authority. The multi-agency coalition's mission includes improving lake water quality. The deal calls for the city to remove at least 90,000 pounds of carp from the lake every year until 2010 on the authority's dime.
In August, the city halted harvesting efforts because it wasn't meeting its desired marks. To make up for that, the city is adding the two tons of bass, with each fish weighing between half a pound and three-quarters of a pound.
Carp stir up nutrients at the bottom of the lake that encourage algae blooms, which, in turn, choke off the lake's oxygen and lead to fish die-offs.
City Lake and Aquatic Resources Director Pat Kilroy said this week that a couple of factors are likely playing into the city's having a hard time meeting its carp harvesting targets. Since 2002, the city has removed about 1.2 million pounds of the fish from the lake, he said, which has reduced the population by as much as 60 percent.
According to Kilroy's figures, the average daily removal rate has sunk from 7,067 pounds in 2004 to 2,493 pounds in 2006.
Five weeks into what was supposed to be an eight-week session last year, the city stopped harvesting. Kilroy recommended that the city used the money saved be spent on the striped bass. This week, the City Council agreed to spend $16,400 to buy the fish.
While the carp population was being depleted over the last several years, Kilroy said, the lake was filled with billions of gallons of water from the heavy rains that hit the region a couple of years ago, raising the water level 20 feet. Because of that, the fish have more room too roam around and avoid the city's nets.
Elsinore Valley Municipal Water District board member Phil Williams, who serves on the watershed authority's board, said that the increased lake level has played a big role in the dip in carp removal.
"With the full lake, they're out there travelling around having a good time," Williams said. "The surface area for them to swim around got bigger."
This wouldn't be the first time hybrid bass, which are sterile and can't reproduce, have been stocked into the lake.
Kilroy and Williams said that, in the long run, the plan is to create bass fisheries on the lake to keep their population high.
Though the city will likely try its hand at carp harvesting again in August, Williams said the striped bass being stocked in the next several months should be a big help.
"They're hungry little buggers," he said.