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Lake Ralphine fishing practices under fire

  • Fisherman crowd together at the boat ramp on Lake Ralphine after Fish and Game stocked trout early Tuesday morning.

    (John Burgess/The Press Democrat)

You've heard the phrase "like shooting fish in a barrel"?

That's about what it seemed Tuesday at Lake Ralphine in Santa Rosa's Howarth Park, when a batch of hatchery trout delivered by the California Department of Fish and Game ended up crowded into a shallow weed bed at the edge of the lake.

Massed in a small area above a slanting concrete boat ramp and surrounded by thick underwater weeds that rise almost up to the surface, the fish were unable or unwilling to disperse into the rest of the lake as more than a dozen fishermen on shore cast their lines over and over into the pool.

"The fish don't have a chance today," said one of them, Cody Gardner of Santa Rosa.

"It's almost not even fishing when they put them down there," fisherman Matt Marocco said.

Mike Ficele, hatchery manager for Fish and Game, said he was confident the rainbow trout would swim through the weeds into open water.

Ficele said he'd instructed his driver to unload them off the boat ramp rather than the usual spot off the dam because the earthen structure had been undermined by squirrels and, with the rain, was slippery, as well.

"We don't want to take a 26,000-pound truck on a dirt dam up there, so for safety we just take them to the boat ramp, which is common practice at every other reservoir," Ficele said.

But several longtime Lake Ralphine regulars were incensed by the mishap, saying it would encourage anglers who already claim more than their fair share to be even greedier.

"They should be for the kids," said Dave Punger, who was there with his young son, Richard.


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