Hi Martin,

We are happy that you have just recently began fishing our Lakes, and that you are excited about all of the fish that we stock on a weekly basis.  It would be sad for us to lose you as a customer because you were given the wrong information about how we manage the fish at Santa Ana River Lakes, because what you were told was incorrect.

Thank you for your email, I know that this is a little long, but I have been meaning to put together something like this for publication on our website because we do get questions about our nets, and have heard several misconceptions that are completely wrong.

I would be happy to discuss some of my tips for catching trout at Santa Ana River Lakes, and if you follow them, you will begin to catch plenty of fish at the Lake. You can call me at the number below.

The beneficial purposes of the nets at Santa Ana River Lakes

Most of our anglers understand the benefits that the nets provide, however some have grand misconceptions about their purpose, so the following will help you understand why they are important and will help you understand that they will help you catch more trout on a more consistent basis at Santa Ana River Lakes.

Keep in mind, our goal is to give you the best opportunity to catch fish at our Lakes, ensure that you have a good time, and make you want to come back on your next fishing adventure. One thing we have learned over many years of operating our Lakes is that in the final analysis, most fishermen want to catch fish over anything else.  And providing a consistent and even supply of fish in our Lakes at any given day of the week is the best way to ensure great fishing and gives fisherman what they want, FISH.

First of all, we do not use the nets at Santa Ana River Lakes all the time, nor have we used them at Corona Lake this Season. We also don’t need to use nets during catfish season, because we own the largest catfish farm in California, Imperial Catfish, and deliver our own catfish several times a week.  Only under certain circumstance during Trout Season, which will be explained below, do we use the nets at Santa Ana River Lakes. 

Additionally, we have found in the past, that the nets are not necessary at Corona Lake, because the lake is a very old lake with lots of natural underwater structure, which gives the fish a lot of cover. And with that structure, the majority of the fish stocked will not be caught on the first or second day after each stocking. However, with Corona Lake’s water being as low as it is currently, the fish are being caught much faster than when the Lake is full. Santa Ana River Lakes on the other hand, has no natural underwater structure or cover for the fish to disperse into and are usually caught much quicker after a stocking than at Corona Lake.

Secondly, when we do use the nets, we only hold very little of the entire stocking that is delivered for the week in the nets. Usually about 70% of the delivery is released on the day of delivery and around 30% is held in the nets. Many people think that we put most all of the fish we stock into the nets, this is simply not true. If anybody wishes to watch how we stock the fish and then later see the fish stocked around the lake with our portable stocking trailer, they can come fishing on one of our stocking days and see it for themselves.  Additionally, we try to avoid putting any of our large trout in the nets. The majority of the trout, as set fourth above, are delivered and released directly into the Lakes on the day of delivery. Either immediately from the big stocking truck out the pipe and directly into the Lake, or from our portable stocking trailer, you will see dumping trout around the Lake after the stocking truck leaves.  The portable stocking trailer is used because it depends upon which trout supplier is delivering trout that week, and how their tanks are loaded when they arrive. For economic reasons, they usually arrive at our Lakes with a full load, and with fully loaded fish tanks, but sometimes, they will have a smaller load in one of the fish tanks that can be stocked directly into Chris’ Pond or somewhere else we would like them stocked into the Lake. That eliminates the need for us to initially stock some of those fish into the nets.

If the delivery trucks are fully loaded with full tanks then it impossible to safely stock trout unless the entire tank is dumped all at once. This is because when you open the hatch, all of the water goes out the hole in the bottom of the tank first, and all of the trout are left flopping around at the bottom of the tank. If you have watched any of our stocking videos, you will know exactly what we are referring to. Trout out of water die quickly and injure themselves very easily. Trying to dump half the load of one big tank, and then dumping the other half at a different spot in the lake from a tank with little or no water, and just fish, is nearly impossible without killing or overstressing the trout. Additionally, because of the quagga mussel issue in this area, we are not permitted to put any of the Lake water into the delivery tanks. This is why we have not been tempering the delivery water before each tank is released like we did in the past.  So to avoid killing the trout we just purchased for our anglers to catch, we will send some of the trout down the tube and into the holding net. Then a few hours latter, after giving the fish a chance to reduce some of their stress from the long trip, our staff will get the trout out of the nets, puts them into the portable stocking trailer and safely distribute them to different locations around the Lake.

In the past, we would stock Santa Ana River Lakes with deliveries of trout several times a week. This helped us insure that we had an even supply of trout stocked in the Lakes all week long and provided our anglers a good opportunity of catching fish any day of the week they came fishing.

However, since about 3 or 4 years ago, things have changed dramatically in our business. Mainly, the big change has been the much higher costs of fish, and the ridiculous costs of transportation. With the high costs of long distance transportation, multiple weekly stockings are now cost prohibitive. Back when we were receiving deliveries of trout several times a week, our fish cost was about half of what we pay today, and there were no transportation cost or extra fuel surcharges added to the cost of the fish. Additionally, our admission price for fishing 3 to 4 years ago, was only a few dollars less than what it is today. However, we still stock the same quantities of fish we stocked back then if not more in some cases.

If we were like most businesses that passed these extra costs along to the consumer, our admission price would probably be twice the cost it is today or more. But with the economy the way it is now, we knew that our customers could not afford such an increase. In fact, this year, even though we desperately needed to raise our admission prices, we decided not to and this has made business difficult.  Our admission fee of only $22 dollars, which allows for a 5 fish limit. When compared to many of today’s commonly purchased items, $22 is a real bargain.  It costs $60 or more just to fill a pickup truck with gas. Parking at any event or at the airport will cost you as much if not more than the cost of our admission. And they did not have purchase any fish for you to catch. Many anglers don’t realize how much a five fish limit of fish costs us to stock. If you figure an average of 3 pounds per fish, which would be a very conservative figure for our Lakes, that’s 15 pounds of trout. Our cost for those fish is around $60.00, and we only charged you $22 for opportunity to catch them. Plus, you get to enjoy the using the Lake all day, not to mention the fun you will have catching the best quality trout available, and eating some of the finest trout you will ever taste.

Therefore, without raising our admission fees, we have tightened our belts in other ways, developed new ways to attract business and created strategic partnerships with our fish suppliers to be able to stay in business, and all without lowering the quality of the trout, or the quantities of fish we stock.  In fact, the quality of the fish you will catch at our Lakes today is much better than anything we have ever stocked in the past.

As you may know, the majority of the trout we stock are transported very long distances like Nebraska or Northern California, before they get to our lakes and the cost of that transportation is outrageous with the high and constantly fluctuating costs of diesel fuel.  Example: The “Taliwalkers” come from Nebraska, which is nearly a 30-hour drive in a big rig diesel truck and trailer. That delivery truck probably averages around 5 miles per gallon, if that. Our other main supplier, which provides us with the “Sierrabows” and our record breaking sized rainbow trout, travels from Northern California, and that delivery is about a 14-hour trip or longer. Their truck also likely averages around 5 miles per gallon. All of our contracts for the purchase of trout are negotiated for transportation costs and fuel surcharges which can be very costly depending upon the price of fuel at the time of delivery.

Our trout suppliers have invested a lot of money to build their huge 18 wheeler tractor truck and trailer delivery rigs, so that they could deliver enough fish in ONE deliver to satisfy our weekly stocking needs. One large weekly delivery cuts our transportation costs in half or more, and allows us to purchase extra fish for our anglers to catch from the savings. Actually, about 500 pounds or more a week in extra trout is delivered because of this savings.

The problem we found in the past with delivering one huge load, all at one time directly into Santa Ana River Lakes, is that the majority of all the trout stocked are caught on the first, second or third day. Which is usually Wednesday, Thursday or Friday, and when Saturday and Sunday arrives, the days when most people are able to come fishing and bring their families and friends, little if any fish are left for them to catch, which made for a lot of unhappy anglers on the weekend and that is not good for business. This is because as stated above, Santa Ana River Lakes has NO underwater structure or cover for the fish to go to, but more importantly, the Lake is a relatively small body of water, around 120 acres in total. Which would include the Big Lake and Chris’ Pond. The Catfish Lake is not stocked with trout, but some do swim up current through the connecting pipes.  So a huge load of trout stocked in Santa Ana River Lakes, creates a fish density situation that would not be possible if the same amount of trout were stocked into a lake that had around 750 acres. In a 750-acre lake, it would be impossible to catch most of the stocked fish in just a few days after a stocking, because the trout would have plenty of water to find cover and disperse throughout the lake. As such, a holding net would be useless in a lake that provides plenty of natural underwater structure, cover and vast areas of water to despurse.

Sure, back when we did not use nets, the few guys that fished right after these stockings were very, very happy. And it is those anglers who remember those days, that are the most outspoken critics about our use of the nets. They want it the way it was when we dumped the entire load and did not have nets. They took advantage of the situation and had no regard for how others might do latter in the week. Some guys we learned, were making a fortune catching and selling them to the local fish markets.  As stated, about 70% of the trout delivered are either directly stocked into the Lake from the stocking truck or from our portable stocking trailer that day. The other 30% or so are then released on top of what was directly stocked, to satisfy our anglers that come to fish with their friends and families on the weekend.

Additionally, sometimes we order extra trout for company fishing derbies or large events that reserve Chris’ Pond for a particular day and we will hold those specially purchased fish exclusively for that event in the nets and then transfer them over just before the event.

Simply stated, here are the main benefits that the nets provide:

The nets help us save money by cutting our transportation costs in half or more, which allows us to stock approximately 500 pounds or more of extra trout each week for the same amount of money it would have cost us for twice a week fish deliveries.

The nets help even out the playing field so that all of our anglers have an equal opportunity to catch fish throughout the week by giving us the ability to regulate the population of trout in the lake, especially on days when a lot of anglers are at the lake.

The nets have not really changed things all that dramatically, from how we stocked trout in the past. If you think about it, we would stock two or sometimes three times a week, but in smaller quantities. Effectively, the multiple weekly stockings we did in the past, regulated and evened out the population of fish in the Lake throughout the week. Now, the nets give us the same ability to do this, but they are more efficient and much more cost effective which allows us to stock more trout for our anglers to catch. Admittedly, the nets did have a dramatic effect for those anglers who fished on stocking day when we dumped the entire load into the lake before we had any nets, and again, those anglers are the most outspoken critics on the subject of the nets.

Additionally, by equaling out the opportunity for everyone to catch fish, and not allowing just a few to catch all of the trout on stocking day, when often the 5-fish limit was disregarded, makes it possible for us to enforce the 5 fish limit rule much less stringently than many lakes do with Lake Cops, that come around and hassle you about how many fish you have on our stringer or how many you have hidden in your car.  We like to believe that most fishermen are sportsmen that respect the sport and understand that those that do not respect the 5 fish limit rule, are unfairly taking fish that were stocked for someone else who paid good money to catch.  Many of our sportsmen that fish our Lakes, do report over limit fishing to our Staff for us to take appropriate actions, and we really appreciate that !!

So as a business decision, here are the options:

  1. Get rid of the nets and go back to stocking two to three times a week, spending a lot of your fish budget money on transportation and not on trout and then raising the cost of admission to be able to stock enough trout to make our customers happy?
  1. Get rid of the nets and allow those few that can fish on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday during the day to catch all of the fish, or catch and release fish all day long which either kills the trout or stresses the trout making them prime prey for the cormorants an pelicans to eat. Which in turn will make the majority of our weekend anglers unhappy when they don’t have any fish to catch?
  1. Hire a bunch of Lake Cops to hassle everyone to make sure that no one gets more than a 5 fish limit? If you don’t mind driving customers away from your business, this is the option for you.
  1. Leave the nets, and save money a lot of money on transportation costs by being able to receive a large supply of trout in one delivery, and use those savings to stock more fish for the anglers to catch.  Safely use the nets to capture fish from the stocking truck tube, so that they can be carefully distributed in our portable stocking trailer by Staff to the other areas around the Lake, when it is impractical to stock smaller loads from the big delivery truck. Effectively use the nets to hold and release fish for the weekend, when most of our anglers are able to fish with their friends and family, so that they have just as good of a chance to catch trout as those that fished earlier in the week.

Option # 4 is the one we have chosen for now, but we are always trying to look for better ways to improve our business operations. Until we find a better way, option #4 is our choice.

Again, thank you for your email Martin, I hope the above information helps clarify some of the misguided information you were told about the nets.


Craig Elliott