Brother of F&G director treated to trophy trout at fave lake


Mar 11, 2001
Reaction score
For VIP's Brother, Fish Are Biting At a Tiny Lake
State supplies big trout to region where department chief grew up

Tom Stienstra, Chronicle Outdoors Writer    Monday, April 2, 2001

This is a big fish story you can believe.

The Chronicle wormed it out of the state Department of Fish and Game by demanding records under the Freedom of Information Act.

The central character is Bob Hight, director of that department, a boss whom employees are apparently eager to please.

No other explanation is offered for a special planting of prized, giant trout in Hight's treasured boyhood fishing lake in a remote region of California.

Records obtained by The Chronicle show that brown trout measuring up to 30 inches and weighing an average of 3.3 pounds were stocked at Blue Lake near Alturas (Modoc County), the same lake where the Fish and Game chief fished while growing up, where Hight's brother Richard still fishes.

No brown trout had been planted there for more than a decade, until Gov. Gray Davis appointed Hight to head Fish and Game in 1999.

When the Chronicle began asking how, after all those years, Blue Lake came to be stocked with 198 of these lunkers, a regional manager of the department suddenly stepped forward to take responsibility.

DFG Regional Manager Don Koch said the decision to plant the fish was his, alone.

"Did I know Bob's brother fished there? Yes. But did Bob (Hight) ask me (to make the plant)? No way. I made that decision," Koch said. "I'm the guy."

Koch said the idea started last year at a Fish and Game Commission hearing in Redding, when a few Alturas area residents complained about the quality of local fishing.

"What the hell is going on?" Hight said at the time, according to Koch. "Even my brother said he can't catch big browns at Blue Lake anymore."

After that statement, Koch said he alone orchestrated the plant.

"I'd hate to see him (Hight) get sideswiped because of an idle comment," Koch said. "I was the one who suggested Blue Lake."

Hight denied involvement with the special plant, but acknowledged his favorite California lake: "A lake in Lassen County called Blue Lake in Jess Valley," he said with a warm smile.

The lake is set near the Warner Mountains, just over the Modoc County line. Richard Hight still lives in the area and fishes regularly at Blue Lake. He did not respond to attempts to reach him for comment.

DFG records show that Blue Lake had not been planted with brown trout since 1987. Regional fisheries biologist Paul Chappell said this was because the lake already had a naturalized population of brown trout, although these fish were extremely elusive for anglers.

Last summer an easier-to-catch strain of giant brown trout became available at the state's Mount Shasta Fish Hatchery, scheduled to be planted at Davis Lake near Portola (Plumas County) as part of a restoration program. (Davis Lake was poisoned by DFG in 1997 in an attempt to rid it of pike, a nonnative predator fish.)

But nearly 200 of the Davis Lake-bound brown trout, measuring 18 to 30 inches, were diverted to Blue Lake.

Pat Overton, Fish and Game's regional hatchery supervisor, said he followed orders from Koch.

"I was talking to Don Koch, our regional manager, and he said, 'Why should we send all those down to Davis Lake? Why don't we send a few over to Blue Lake?' " Overton said.

"There was some interest in anglers from that area that would like some brown trout," Overton said. "It would provide an angling opportunity for something exciting to catch, an additional fishing opportunity, something for a little more excitement."

The name Hight was never mentioned in his discussions with Koch, Overton said.

Hight is a longtime insider in Sacramento politics. An attorney, he worked for 28 years for the State Lands Commission and was its executive officer from 1994 to 1999. He first met Gray Davis when the current governor was chief of staff for Gov. Jerry Brown. A year after Davis' 1998 election as governor, Hight was named Fish and Game director.

Hight's salary of $123,255 and other department costs are paid primarily from the sale of fishing and hunting licenses.

The director's salary is equivalent to the sale of 4,192 fishing licenses, which cost $29.40 each this year. The stocking of the large brown trout at Blue Lake was done at a total cost of $4,270, or 145 fishing licenses.

E-mail Tom Stienstra at


Total Bullsh@#.  Nets thing you know he'll be getting drawn for X-3a and X-3b?  Anybody ever check that out.

He he he

Latest Posts

Top Bottom