Fish and Game Wardens Tag

Mount Whitney Fish Hatchery, which is featured in "Crowley Trout Opener," a chapter in Badges, Bears, and Eagles--The True-Life Adventures of a California Fish and Game Warden by Steven T. Callan.

Crowley Trout Opener

Mount Whitney Fish Hatchery, which is featured in "Crowley Trout Opener," a chapter in Badges, Bears, and Eagles--The True-Life Adventures of a California Fish and Game Warden by Steven T. Callan.

Mount Whitney Fish Hatchery. Photo by Kathy Callan.

The last weekend in April marked the opening of trout season in California’s Eastern Sierra Mountains. This annual spectacle rivals the Mardi Gras in New Orleans or spring break in Palm Beach.

Highway 395 out of the Los Angeles basin was jammed with a steady stream of cars, trucks, motor homes, and trailers, all the way to Bridgeport. Every motel in Lone Pine, Bishop, Mammoth Lakes, Lee Vining, and Bridgeport was booked and every campsite was full. What Christmas is to department stores, trout opener was to businesses in the Eastern Sierras. Fish and Game wardens from all over Southern California were commandeered to leave their own manageable districts and spend three days in virtual chaos.

Ring-necked pheasants were plentiful in and around the rice fields of Butte County during the 1950s.

The Road Hunter

Ring-necked pheasants were plentiful in and around the rice fields of Butte County during the 1950s.

Ring-necked pheasants were plentiful in and around the rice fields of Butte County during the 1950s. Photo by author.

“That’s strange,” said Berg, pulling to a stop and reaching for his binoculars. “What’s that fancy new car doing out here in the middle of all these rice fields?” It was mid-morning in early August 1954, and the enthusiastic young rookie warden was patrolling for pheasant poachers near the Northern California farming community of Biggs.