Crews go fishin'

Maverick

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LAKE MATHEWS: State and water district workers try to rid the reservoir of striped bass.

12:27 AM PDT on Saturday, August 27, 2005

By MARY BENDER / The Press-Enterprise

On Friday, employees of the Metropolitan Water District and state Department of Fish and Game hung up the "Gone Fishin' " sign and set sail onto Lake Mathews in search of striped bass.

Normally, the district-owned reservoir east of Corona is off-limits to anglers, boaters and swimmers, because the lake supplies drinking water to Southern California. But Friday around sunrise, a flotilla of 27 small boats dropped anchor to reel in as many fish as possible.

All in a day's work.

The periodic exercise will continue this morning, wrapping around noon, said Steve Martarano, a Fish and Game spokesman.

On Friday, the 45 employees caught about 500 fish -- including striped bass, large mouth bass and catfish, Martarano said. Each angler was allowed to keep as many as 10 of the striped bass, voracious eaters who tend to dominate the food supply wherever they live.

Any leftover striped bass were given to the Hemet Fire Department, Martarano said.

"We try to trim out the striped bass population, because they're kind of in competition for food with the large mouth bass," Martarano said.

The crews caught eight catfish that were relocated to a lake in El Centro.

"There's a thriving population there," Martarano said. "It's (a lake) we stock."

All the large mouth bass caught in the two-day outing will be taken to Lake Elsinore and Lake Skinner in Temecula. Fish and Game will transport the bass in refrigerated tanker trucks that match the water temperature of the fish's native habitat, he said.

The fish swim into Lake Mathews via MWD's Colorado River Aqueduct, which originates at Lake Havasu on the California-Arizona border and carries water to several reservoirs, including Diamond Valley Lake near Hemet.

Lake Mathews "is not stocked" with fish, said Rob Hallwachs, an district spokesman. "The lake and some of the land surrounding it has been designated a wildlife habitat and turned over to the state (government) for management."

Until Diamond Valley Lake was created in recent years, Lake Mathews was the district's largest reservoir, Hallwachs noted.
 

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