The geothermal springs that supply water to Hot Creek Hatchery resulted in constant water temperature of almost 60 degrees, hence the name of the hatchery. This solved a longstanding difficulty with raising fish in the winter as cold water does not facilitate optimal fish growth. For these reasons the then Division of Fish and Game became interested in the area and began construction on two ponds for fish rearing.
A Hatchery High in the Sierra
Situated in a large mountain meadow, 7,100 feet above sea level is the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (CDFW) Hot Creek Hatchery. Located 37 miles North of Bishop and 20 miles South of Lee Vining in Mono County, the hatchery plants 160,000 pounds of trout in Mono and Inyo County watersheds, anually.
An experiment at Work 1928-31
The Hot Creek location was chosen to be California’s first warm water trout hatchery. Experiments in rearing fish to catchable size at a growth rate of about one inch per month were carried on for several seasons.
A Major Production Hatchery
Today, Hot Creek Hatchery is a major broodstock and trout production hatchery; spawning 2,500 pairs of trout for approximately 5 million eggs, raising and stocking one million cutthroat, rainbow and brown trout. The hatchery participates in the remote spawning station at in the Golden Trout Wilderness. Staff at Hot Creek Hatchery also assist Fish Springs Hatchery in their seasonal planting.
A Geological Wonder!
Surrounded by numerous springs, Hot Creek Hatchery is the head waters to Hot Creek, a geological wonder. Four springs on the hatchery grounds feed the production ponds and hatchery buildings. The geothermal activity in the area keeps the water temperature a temperate 52° - 60°F year-round.
The springs provide approximately 9,000 gallons of water per minute and gravity feeds the water through the hatchery. No pumping is required. The water flows through the hatchery and into a ponding basin before entering Hot Creek.
In 1940, the Department of Water and Power in Los Angeles built the Grant Lake on Rush Creek and the Long Valley dam on the Owens River. The city and the Fish and Game Commission entered into an agreement where the city of L.A. granted the Department of Fish and Game permanent use of the hatchery site plus $25,000 to create a permanent installation.
In 1941 construction of the new hatchery began. Consisting of 38 ponds, 10 nursery tanks, and 30 troughs, Hot Creek Hatchery became the first "warmwater" trout hatchery in the state of California, followed quickly by Fillmore Hatchery and others.
Over the years Hot Creek Hatchery has seen improvements as fish culture methods improve and adapt. In the 1980’s the dirt ponds were replaced with concrete raceways. A decade later, two older hatchery buildings were replaced with one both larger and more modern.
At its peak Hot Creek Hatchery produced about 5.5 million catchable trout, nearly a million fingerlings, and 13 million eggs annually.
Distribution of fish produced at Hot Creek Hatchery was restricted beginning December of 2006 when New Zealand Mud Snails (NZMS) were detected at the hatchery. Hot Creek Hatchery currently stocks only local waters that are also NZMS positive.