Say goodbye to skiing and hello to angling

While more than 800 inches of snow fell at Kirkwood Resort this season, the slopes will be closing for the season on April 30.

Dave Zellmer, chairman of the Alpine County Fish & Game Commission, said fishing season for streams in California always opens the last Saturday in April, which this year is April 29.

"Alpine County has the best fishing in California," he said.

Fish planting is overseen by the Alpine County Fish & Game Commission, formed in 1951 following a resolution initiated by Alpine County Board of Supervisors Chairman Hubert Bruns.

Zellmer, an avid hunter and fisherman, has served on and off the commission since 1955, when he was playing professional baseball in Reno and living in a ranch house in Alpine County's Fredericksburg. This Mothers' Day, May 14, he is being honored by the University of Nevada baseball team and is invited to throw out the first pitch for their home game.

"Back in the old days," says Zellmer, "I would often plant fish in the back country by horseback, carrying the trout and water in panniers. We used to run fish tanks near Wolf Creek, but herons and poachers snatched the fish we were raising. Now, we buy the trout and plant them every week during the season, in 42 locations, including the East Fork and the West Fork of the Carson River, Markleeville Creek, Hot Springs Creek, Silver Creek, and the lakes; Caples, Alpine, Summit, and Indian Creek Reservoir."

Over coffee at Woodfords Station, when Zellmer was asked about the location of the best fishing spots, he replied, "All over the county."

Locals do have their favorite fishing spots, though most won't share their choices. Just hang around Woodfords Station, and you can listen and learn. You also can buy a fishing license and gear.

Hope Valley Outdoor Recreation Center offers bait, maps, books and flies. Nearby Sorensen's Resort offers fly-fishing lessons through Horse Feathers Fly Fishing School and other fly-fishing programs and supplies.

In Markleeville, Bob Rudden, co-owner of the General Store, not only "will tell you fishin' lies," but he also will sell you a license and equipment and then weigh your trophy fish and take your Polaroid photo.

Carson River Resort, located on Highways 4 and 89 on the East Fork of the Carson River, 2.5 miles south of Markleeville, has fishing supplies, licenses and Pleasant Valley fly fishing permits.

Zellmer always enjoys the free kids' fishing day, scheduled for June 10 this year and sponsored by our local fish and game commission, chamber of commerce and Alpine Kids. The kids will help plant fish in the morning Ð and then catch them in the afternoon?

"We don't feed the fish for two days before planting them, to avoid their getting 'seasick' in the truck," Zellmer said about planting trout throughout the season. "Then, after pouring them into their new water, they need a while to settle down and get acclimated to their unfamiliar surroundings."

Zellmer says that the commission will be planting 22,000 pounds of "catchables" - trout that are 12-14 inches long and "trophies" - fish that weigh three to ten pounds or more, mostly Rainbows, but some Brooks and Goldens.

So far, the streams and lakes of Alpine County have not been infiltrated by the New Zealand Mudsnail. Zellmer explained that this tiny snail, "about the size of a BB," was brought into the United States from New Zealand in the ballasts of cargo ships, which dumped surplus water into our ports.

The snails can live in most types of water, from silted river bottoms to brackish waters and even clear mountain streams, and they reproduce asexually. The snails disrupt the food chain by consuming algae in the stream and competing with native bottom-dwelling invertebrates. A decline of invertebrates (small aquatic organisms) could follow the advent of the snails, thereby reducing forage for fish. With a decrease in fish food, fish populations could diminish.

People accidentally spread the mudsnail with their waders and fishing gear. The best way to stop these aquatic hitchhikers is by cleaning all recreational equipment, such as cleaning rubber boots with bleach.

I'll conclude this column by telling a fish story. When I was first married, my Dad wanted to show my husband how to fly fish, so he took him out to the East Fork of the Carson River. My Dad said, "I'll show you how it's done," casting his line with two leaders - and he immediately caught two trout, one on each fly, with that very first cast.

n Gina Gigli is a Markleeville resident. Reach her at


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