The really big fish that have been caught along Bishop Creek – those lunker Alpers trout – could soon be a thing of the past.
Adopt-A-Creek, the group of volunteers that has raised nearly a half-million dollars in the past dozen years to stock those trophy fish, luring the tourists and their money, has lost its major source of funding.
Founder Ron Scira said this week that he’ll make an announcement at the Annual Fishing Opener Press reception, held the Friday before Fishmas, whether the non-profit organization will dissolve or continue.
The program’s major patron, Richard McWilliam, president and founder of the Carlsbad-based Upper Deck Company that specializes in sports trading cards, is unable to make its annual $20,000 donation.
“If we can’t raise this money, it could be the end of” Adopt-A-Creek, Scira said. “And if we don’t make it, nobody’s going to make it.”
Scira, owner of Creekside Resort in the South Lake drainage, explained that fishing is a major, if not the sole attractant of tourists to the area, and the chance to catch an Alpers trout has made the idea of an Eastern Sierra vacation even more attractive.
Tawni Thompson, executive director of the Bishop Chamber of Commerce, called the Adopt-A-Creek program “very important” and invaluable resource for the area as the Department of Fish and Game and private hatcheries struggle, financially, to keep up with demands for sport fish. She also called the group “under-recognized.”
Scira said that not only has the program lost money, it is losing momentum. Scira explained that the idea for the program was born out of competition from Mammoth for tourist dollars in the late 1990s. He said he first conceived the idea while coming back from an Inyo County Board of Supervisors meeting after asking it for money for fish. He said he passed an “Adopt-A-Highway” sign and thought, “Why not do the same for fishing?”
He got help from Alex and Debbie Yerkes at Alex Printing for free banners and letters, as well as from Bob and Pam Wallis, Bill and Barbara Goodman, and Norma Millman and her late husband, Richard.
“Twelve years ago it was really well received,” Scira said. However, he noted that in the last several years, the interest and the donations have dwindled. He said this might be due to tough financial times with people having less extra cash to donate or a simple lack of interest.
The program got a big shot in the arm at last year’s Opening Day Press Reception with a $5,000 donation from Erick Schat of Schat’s Bakkery, but the money is dwindling.
He said there is a “last hope” as Adopt-A-Creek will have a booth at the 36th Annual Fred Hall Show in Long Beach March 9-13. The show, according to its website, is the oldest and largest show in California for fishing and now hunting, too. It attracts nearly 250,000 sportspeople.
Scira said Fred Hall should be a perfect match as most of the attendees are from Southern California, and are the same folks who fish Bishop Creek in the summer looking for those Alpers, and spending money.
Adopt-A-Creek is a non-profit organization with no paid staff, Scira said. “We spend every dollar we make on fish – everything goes back into the program.”
Already the fish size has been scaled back from three-pounders to two-pounders. Scira added that he won’t be able to publish a stocking schedule until he knows if the donations will warrant weekly stocking.
Scira added that when he conceived the program he thought it would be for the good of the community, but he said he’s now afraid everyone in the area will be hurt if the program is allowed to disappear.
Scira added that he’d like to see the county, city or chamber take over the program to secure funding, and try to improve it while retaining the non-profit aspect.
To donate to the program, make checks payable to Adopt-A-Creek and send to AAC, P.O. Box 1455, Bishop, CA 93515.
Adopt-A-Creek plans on setting up a new website soon to provide PayPal services for donations as well.
For more information on the program, or to volunteer at the Fred Hall Show, call (760) 873-8650 or (760) 873-4483.