The Kings River Fisheries Management Program has been dedicated to collecting data related to habitat conditions, stream flows, water quality, water temperature, species demographics, hatchery planting programs and other fisheries studies within the lower Kings River and the Pine Flat Reservoir. The monitoring program’s focus is to assess the status and trends of the fish population and its response to fisheries management actions. Trout, resident fish species and aquatic invertebrates which contribute to the prey base, are all monitored.

Fish Population Surveys

The Kings River Conservation District (KRCD), in cooperation with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and the Kings River Water Association (KRWA), have conducted annual population surveys of rainbow trout Oncorhynchus mykiss and other fish inhabiting the lower Kings River downstream of Pine Flat Dam since 1983. In the fall of 2007 the Fisheries Management Program’s Technical Steering Committee revised the electrofishing survey protocol to a three pass depletion technique with upstream and downstream block seines, which resulted in more confidence and reliable quantitative estimates of fish biomass, density, abundance, age, length and condition metrics for fish inhabiting the lower Kings River downstream of Pine Flat Dam.

Each Fall the program recruits nearly 100 volunteers to take part in the six day, six site survey. Trained staff employs the use of electrofishing equipment as volunteers capture and collect fish for the work up team on shore. The surveys are not only an example of our commitment to scientific monitoring but also the program’s belief in collaborative and community partnership. Results of these surveys can be found in the Reports and Documents section of this website.

Telemetry Study

On October 24, 2005 the Kings River Fisheries Management Program initiated a study of trout habits using radio telemetry. More than 250 trout were surgically implanted with state-of-the-art radio transmitters, each with its own identification code. This technique enabled the Program to discount a commonly held misconception that trout were being swept downstream during high flows due to a lack of refuge from high velocities. It was determined that trout were actually remaining within the fishery even when flows were in excess of 13,000 cubic feet per second. Releases of tagged trout occurred several times each year to study trout under all flow conditions. Data collection concluded in September 2008.

Tagged trout were tracked by Environmental Aides using mobile telemetry receivers. In addition to the mobile tracking, stationary receivers were set up to track upstream and downstream movements around the clock.

The resulting data produced four standalone reports which examine the effects of flow, size-class, release location and management zone on trout residence time, habitat selection, movement and harvest. An additional report describing rainbow trout surgery methods was produced as well as a summary report which addresses the collective findings.

These reports can be found in our Reports and Documents Section.

Water Quality

The Fisheries Management Program recognized the value of hydrologic monitoring to protect, preserve and enhance the river’s resources. In addition to regular monitoring activities, an additional investigation of baseline water quality sampling in the Kings River from Pine Flat Dam downstream to Highway 180 was implemented.

The findings from these studies can be found in the Kings River Fisheries Management Program Water Quality Monitoring Report 2004-2005 and The Kings River Fisheries Management Program Water Quality Monitoring Report 2006-20007 which was completed to supplement the 2004-2005 report with additional data. Subsequent water quality studies have been conducted by the Kings River Conservation District and reviewed by the Program. Water released from Pine Flat Dam and/or running through the Jeff L. Taylor Power Plant is monitored daily for dissolved oxygen (DO), Total dissolved gas (TDG), pH, specific conductivity (EC) and temperature. Management strategies are promptly adjusted if water quality parameters begin moving away from standards put forward by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency or any other applicable regulatory body.

The Kings River Water Association reports daily water conditions on its website. These daily reports consist of hydrologic data regarding water storage, stream flows, water releases and precipitation.

Genetics Study

In order to better understand the rainbow trout inhabiting the tail water fishery and the differences between them and those residing above Pine Flat Reservoir, the KRFMP launched a comparative genetics study in the fall of 2011. One hundred genetic samples were taken from wild rainbow trout residing above Pine Flat Dam and Seventy-three genetic samples were taken from wild rainbow trout residing below Pine Flat Dam. Data collection rested heavily on the efforts of local volunteer fishermen

Samples were sent to the laboratory of Dr. Andres Aguilar at CSU Los Angeles. The KRFMP requested that twelve microsatellite loci be examined in the lab. Generally, species can be accurately differentiated using as few as eight loci. After filtering out monomorphic loci and those that did not amplify consistently across individuals a total of nine microsatellite loci were used in subsequent analyses (Aguilar, 2014).

Of the one hundred samples taken above the reservoir the uppermost included twenty-three from the area around Cedar Grove, eight caught just upstream of Boyden and four caught just above Roaring River at an elevation of 4,850ft. All upper river samples were taken from the South-fork and main drainage of the Kings. Zero trout were captured from the Middle-fork or the North-fork of the river.

Of the samples taken on the lower river, fifteen were collected by Kings River Conservation District (KRCD) staff during routine surveys. All other samples were collected by local volunteer fishermen. The furthest downstream samples were taken from two trout captured at the Greenbelt fishing access at an elevation of about 430ft. The distance between our uppermost and lowermost sample sites was approximately 54miles.

The results of the Kings River Genetics Study Program Year 2011 – 15 can be found in the Reports and Documents section of this website.

Benthic Macroinvertebrates

Benthic macroinvertebrates (bottom-dwelling aquatic insects) are an important element of the aquatic community inhabiting the lower Kings River. They serve as prey for juvenile and adult fish, are an essential element of the food web, convert energy within an ecosystem, and serve as an indicator of habitat and environmental conditions occurring within the water body.

To provide information on the macroinvertebrate community inhabiting the lower Kings River as part of the Kings River Fisheries Management Program, a series of macroinvertebrate samples were collected during 2006-2007 for use in characterizing the aquatic community inhabiting the Kings River within the reach from Pine Flat Dam downstream to Highway 180.