The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has stocked 3,500 large brook trout into Kirman Lake in Mono County as part of an ongoing commitment to restore one of the West’s best trophy brook trout fisheries.
Brook trout in the 1- to 2-pound class were stocked recently into Kirman Lake from CDFW’s American River Trout Hatchery near Sacramento as CDFW trout hatcheries throughout the state assist stocking waters in the eastern Sierra.
Located about 20 miles north of Bridgeport, Kirman Lake is a small, backcountry lake with an outsized reputation for growing brook trout that can quickly reach 4 to 6 pounds in size. Unlike many high-mountain lakes where trout eke out an existence in near-sterile conditions, Kirman’s fertile waters support a smorgasbord of aquatic invertebrates – water boatman, dragonflies, mayflies and midges among them – along with high-protein leeches and shrimp-like scuds that produce a tremendous growth rate in the trout that live there.
Kirman’s food-rich waters, however, lack any spawning habitat for trout, and Kirman’s famed recreational fishery has been entirely dependent on stocking from CDFW over the years. Kirman is stocked more regularly with Lahontan cutthroat trout, but brook trout plants have been sporadic in recent years as CDFW hatcheries transition from raising and stocking non-native trout in favor of native trout species.
The brook trout stocked from the American River Trout Hatchery are believed to be among the last brook trout within CDFW’s hatchery system. The fish are sterile and not capable of reproducing. Similarly, there is no outlet for the trout stocked into Kirman Lake and no risk of the non-native fish escaping into nearby waters. Given these unique dynamics and Kirman’s celebrated reputation among anglers, CDFW has committed to restoring Kirman Lake as a trophy trout fishery, providing infusions of brook trout whenever possible.
Since 2018, CDFW has translocated wild brook trout into Kirman Lake from nearby Silver Creek, where native trout restoration work is underway though in much fewer numbers and much less regularly than when CDFW was stocking Kirman with heavy, annual plantings of hatchery-raised brook trout prior to 2015.
Still, CDFW is seeing increasing angler satisfaction with the brook trout fishing at Kirman as collected in an Angler Survey Box lakeside. Anglers have reported more frequent catches of brook trout and a higher percentage of brook trout caught compared with Lahontan cutthroat trout.
Kirman Lake is a special regulations water that opens to fishing the last Saturday in April through Nov. 15 each year. Only artificial lures may be used. Only two trout may be taken with a minimum size limit of 18 inches in total length per fish.