The Man Behind Mammoth Lakes’ Legendary Trout
Sep 02, 2022
To many of the anglers of the Eastern Sierra, Tim Alpers is a name that is synonymous with huge, trophy-size trout. For decades, the scenic Alpers Owens River Ranch produced world-class trout from its hatchery along the breathtaking flanks of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. While he is most known for his contributions to local fisheries, Tim has greatly influenced the region as a Mono County supervisor, author and advocate of the outdoors.
The beginning of the Alpers trout story is deeply rooted within the family cattle ranch, which is located seven miles northeast of Mammoth Lakes at the spring-fed headwaters of the majestic Owens River. Tim’s grandparents first farmed fish during the 1920s, but it wasn’t until the 1970s that Tim and his father developed the Alpers Owens River Ranch trout hatchery.
By the 1980s, Tim was stocking waters throughout the Eastern Sierra with legendary Alpers trout. Alpers trout rapidly gained notoriety and the fish provided many unforgettable moments to anglers in the Eastern Sierra over the next several decades.
What is an Alpers Trout?
When Tim and his father first began to develop the fish hatchery they had one goal—to produce hatchery trout that looked, lived and fought like a native trout. After diligently searching across the West, Tim found the stock he was looking for. The trout were introduced to the clean, spring-fed waters of the Alpers ranch, and Eastern Sierra history was made.
Alpers trout, also known as just plain “Alpers”, are a type of hybridized rainbow trout that were bred for ideal traits for fish farming. The fish are triploid, meaning they have three pairs of chromosomes instead of two due to crossed genes. Triploid trout still retain all the physical characteristics of normal trout, but because of this mutation the trout cannot reproduce, eliminating crossbreeding with native fish.
Tim reared the trout in open pools with moving water, both crucial factors in the growth of strong and healthy stock. In these perfect conditions, the fish fully developed their primeval feeding instincts by supplementing their diet with natural prey such as worms, flies, and grasshoppers. Three years in this environment saw Alpers trout at trophy sizes with energy and health to rival their wild cousins. Alpers trout rapidly gained notoriety and the fish provided many unforgettable moments to anglers in the Eastern Sierra over the next several decades.
Stocking and Eating of Alpers Trout
Tim was a familiar face at many of the local fishing holes around Mammoth Lakes and his large tanker truck meant one thing to anglers—big fish! The majority of Alpers trout released were three-to five-pound fish, although 12-to 15-pound super-trout were also placed into many water bodies. From the Mammoth Lakes Basin above town to the waters of Orange County, generations of California anglers have had the chance to land an Alpers.
Alpers trout are renowned for their pink flesh, which some say rivals salmon in taste and texture. The trout’s firm, dense flesh that made them ideal for dining was another product of the natural ponds in which they were reared. By rearing the fish in natural ponds, the trout developed a For many years the fish were prepared not only by anglers in rustic fishing cabins, but also by award-winning chefs at fine restaurants throughout the Eastern Sierra.
End of an Era
In 2007, Tim and his sister decided to sell the Alpers Owens River Ranch, ending a 101-year family legacy at the headwaters of the Owens River. The sale was not the end of the now world-famous Alpers trout, however. Nearby Conway Ranch hatchery began raising the Alpers line of fish. This surrogate arrangement lasted for a few years until Tim, “the reigning king of fisheries”, decided to hang up his rubber boots for good in 2012.
After retiring from his post as a four-term county supervisor in 2016, Tim began writing a series of books. His first book, My Sphere of Influence, describes his early career as a basketball coach and is currently available for purchase with all proceeds supporting the local boosters club.
Watch this Mammoth Lakes tale about one Alpers trout that became a Mammoth Lakes legend and may still be out there today!