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Stocked trout splash in mostly ice-free Diamond Lake

Recent rains melted away most of the ice on Diamond Lake, allowing for the first trout stocking of the season during the Memorial Day weekend.

Friday's high-elevation rains helped dispose of floating ice beds just as a private hatchery stocked the first 6,800 of the 50,000 legal-sized trout set for stocking in Diamond Lake over the next two weeks in preparation for Free Fishing Weekend, says Holly Truemper, an Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist working on the lake's restoration.

Those fish are raised and released by two private aquaculture facilities — Desert Springs and Island Springs hatcheries, Truemper says.

Another 6,600 rainbow trout running 17-18 inches long are set for stocking Friday at the lake's North Boat Ramp near the Diamond Lake Resort.

Along with the estimated 50,000 hold-over trout stocked last year, the lake is brimming with trout just as the majority of the lake's ice succumbed to rain and wind over the weekend, Truemper says.

"It was nice that we got the ice off," Truemper says. "It's like the lake got the memo and decided to melt over the holiday weekend."

Though fishing at the lake was somewhat slow Saturday, catches were markedly better Sunday as water temperatures rose into the high 30s and floating masses of broken ice disappeared.

Another 15,000 Eagle Lake rainbows are set for stocking there in July, along with 200,000 fingerlings released in early and mid-June. Those fish likely will be large enough to meet the 8-inch minimum length for "keeper" trout by fall.

A large cattle ranch near Lake Creek and an Eagle Point-area private rancher won recognition recently from the Oregon Hunters Association for their efforts in helping kids transition into hunting.

The C-2 Cattle Co. and the Kuyper family of ranchers corralled the Corporate Landowner and Citizen Landowner of the Year from the 11,000-member OHA, which is Oregon's largest hunting organization.

C-2 garnered the recognition for opening about 2,000 acres of its cattle ranch for youth-only deer, elk and turkey hunts. The agreement came through an Access and Habitat Program proposal.

The Kuypers donated five spring turkey hunts on their property during April's youth-only spring turkey season.

The awards were unveiled May 17 at the OHA's statewide convention in Lincoln City, says OHA spokesman Duane Dungannon in Medford.

Presentations to C-2 representatives and the Kuypers are expected at the upcoming meeting of the Rogue Valley Chapter of the OHA set for June 11 in Medford at the Red Lion Hotel, 200 N. Riverside Ave., Medford.

Wildlife biologist Jeff VonKienast from the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest was honored for his work in enhancing elk habitat in the High Cascades Ranger District.

Reward recipients are determined by the OHA's statewide board.

The best road access between both ends of the Lower Rogue Canyon is open for vehicle traffic now that U.S. Forest Service crews have rid the pavement of snow — for now.

Forest Service Road No. 23, which is better known as Bear Camp Road, was opened last weekend, the historic start of heavy use among floaters and boaters through the Rogue's Wild and Scenic Section.

"People going over Bear Camp Road can still expect to encounter some snow, but it's open and safe," says Patty Burel, spokeswoman for the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest.

Snow drifts of six feet or more line the roadway, which could fall victim to slides as the snow melts, Burel says. The roadway will be checked periodically and cleared of any debris that crews encounter, she says.

The roadway links Galice with Agness, connecting the remote Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest lands in Josephine and Curry counties. It is the preferred access route for floaters who wish to return to the Rogue Valley after negotiating the 34-mile Wild and Scenic stretch.

Bear Camp Road is a one-lane paved road with turnouts. Motorists are urged to use caution and to drive slowly over this route, which includes detours and occasional log trucks, according to the Forest Service.

A two-foot-diameter hole near milepost 22 on the Galice side was fixed over the weekend, Burel says.