Musings written in pencil — LA River Top 10 laundry list

Get to know the river, up close and personal, like this shot under the Sixth Street Bridge. (Courtesy FOLAR)
Say goodbye to the Sixth Street Bridge and hello to its replacement project. (Courtesy FOLAR)

Goodbye 2015, and ‘tis the season for Top 10s. Read through, and you can see there’s plenty of contention about some topics, and for those of us who want healthy waters in which to fish, there’s still plenty of work ahead in 2016.

Noteworthy today is the fact that Congress, although finally getting more public laws enacted (113 this year as opposed to 72 last year, according to Pew) neglected the very important Klamath River dam removal deal.

No. 10 Last week, this site received its 100,000th view, which is incredibly gratifying for me. In 2010, my first post, “Glendale Narrows adventure No. 1” got 51 views – all year! This week, generous readers pushed the 2015 blog total to 32,500.

"Bet you can't do this, hahaha!" (Courtesy Weekly Times Now)
“Bet you can’t do this, hahaha!” (Courtesy Weekly Times Now)

No. 9 “Why do carp jump?” won this year’s most-viewed post. In the last 12 months, 1,125 readers read why these crazy fish do what they do, as well as taken the poll to post their own opinion. The all-time winner, however, “Holy mackerel, Dad caught a largemouth bass” snagged more than 2,900 views last year, with “jump” in seventh place. That piece was a landmark showing the popular game fish indeed lives in our river. By midsummer they came back again after last year’s rain made them scarce for the first half of 2015. In fact, look at the mega-largemouth John Tegmeyer caught yesterday.

No. 8 After the much-publicized death of Fred, the Great Blue Heron, last year, a collaborative effort among Friends of the L.A. River, Trout Unlimited and Berkley Conservation Institute brought fish line recycling tubes to three spots in Glendale Narrows. According to Robert Blakenship, look for a TU-sponsored water temperature survey next year.

No. 7 Expedition found no Arroyo Seco trout. “The year of the bummer” stayed true to its name when this Arroyo Seco

Matus Solobic, one of today's Off Tha' Hook winners, with a sweet hog. (Jim Burns)
Matus Solobic, two-time Off Tha’ Hook winner, shows off a sweet hog. (Jim Burns)

Foundation expedition with contributors Roland Trevino, his son Ansel, Roderick Spilman, found nary a smolt at the headwaters to the Arroyo Seco in the San Gabriel Mountains. Blame the drought, the Station Fire and neglectful, woefully underfunded forest management.

No. 6 “Off Tha’ Hook” celebrated its second year. It’s become a party down by the banks on Sept. 3, a Dept. of Fish and Wildlife “free day,” when no license is required to fish. Matus Solobic again took home first place and lots of bling. Best memory: the number of children fishing at least doubled over last year. I’m a sponsor for next year, so come on down. The entry fee will be reduced, according to FoLAR.

No. 5 Wild Steelheaders United, Trout Unlimited and CalTrout chose Long Beach’s Aquarium of the Pacific to host the Steelhead Science for Anglers event in November. A good antidote to the Klamath River congressional collapse is to watch what NOAA fisheries lists as West Coast wins for the year: both four and a half miles of restored steelhead habitat on Arroyo Sequit Creek in L.A. County and 34 acres of kelp forest habitat off Palos Verdes made the list.

No. 4 FoLAR completed its Long Beach Fish Survey– and moved up to the Valley, where biologists Rosi Dagit and Sabrina Drill lead a dozen volunteers in the fine art of seine netting in late November.

“This is a particularly enterprising survey, William Preston Bowling, FoLAR’s special projects manager told the Los Angeles Times. “But then, surprisingly few studies of fish in the river, natives and nonnatives alike, have been conducted. There’s a lot of learn out here.”

The haul of more than 3,600 fry tilapia thrilled the group, especially after the slim pickings from three trips to Long Beach that netted, by my count, under a dozen carp and other fish. There’s nothing more discouraging that seeing fish swimming at your feet and not being able to land them. The Long Beach segment is most certainly undercounted.

No. 3 President Obama signed into law (2014) the Los Angeles National Monument, but fishermen say “so what”?

I’m one of those tax payers who thought national monument status would quickly fix the West Fork of the San Gabriel River. Naïve, I know, but I’ll ask again: How can the West Fork be classified as a “wild and scenic river” when it is so battered and beaten down? If you want to see where it could end up, drive over to the East Fork. “Mad Max” is an exciting dystopian movie, but not what I want to find in the national monument. Two explainers, here and here.

No. 2 Congress green-lighted L.A. River habitat restoration plan – all $1.3 billion of it (2014), but what does that really mean? Yes, the same Congress mentioned at the beginning of this piece is ready to unload the coffers for Los Angeles, and it remains to be seen which vision of the new river will win out.  If fish and fishing aren’t a major part of that vision, we will have lost out on one of the major urban recreational opportunities in the West this century.

No. 1    “Star-chitect” Frank Gehry outed as rehab river architect.

For those who believe the planning objectives from the Army Corps Los Angeles River Feasibility Study – 1. Restore valley foothill riparian strand and freshwater marsh habitat; 2. increase habitat connectivity; 3. increase passive recreation (meaning recreation compatible with restored environment such as fishing and kayaking) — this phrase, uttered to the Los Angeles Times, makes us very uncomfortable:

“I said, ‘Oh, you want me to be Olmsted,'” a reference to Frederick Law Olmsted, one of the designers of Central Park. “I told them I’m not a landscape guy. I said I would only do it on the condition that they approached it as a water-reclamation project, to deal with all the water issues first.”

Question to Mr. Gehry: Does “water reclamation” jive with the three objectives from the ARBOR Study? The renewed Los Angeles River must be a steelhead trout friendly habitat. Rainbow trout, the same species as steelhead, once planted in its renewed, restored water must be able to make their journey out to the ocean, if that’s what they choose.

See you on the river in 2016, Jim Burns


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