By John Goraj
I wanted to give you a quick update on the initial “trout scout” that Arroyo Seco Foundation and volunteers did last week at Switzer’s Falls on Feb. 11. Please keep in mind that this first trip was not meant to be a technical, scientific survey, but rather to get a general idea of the habitat conditions for native trout and stream ecology/hydrology at the moment. But, the next few trips will become more technical as time goes on, employing GIS, DNA extraction and using snorkeling and wetsuit gear to look for trout.
We walked about two miles down the trail, stopping several times along the way to survey conditions and look for evidence of life. One thing is for certain — the Arroyo Seco has not flowed this turbulently in several years! I would guess that the streamflow was close to 50-75 cubic feet per second. It was so wonderful to see. We had to jump over the stream on rocks and downed logs several times along the way. There were several three-to-four-foot-deep pools as we made our way through the canyon. Many of these pools possessed some critical habitat features needed for rainbow trout: clean gravel beds; in-stream woody debris and boulders that create additional pools, turbulent, cool water and overhanging vegetation creating cover. Additionally, the strong root systems of white alder and cottonwood trees that line the stream have established solid banks, which is another key component of healthy mountain streams needed to sustain trout species.
Although we did not see any fish this time, the most salient observation I can make right now is that I do believe some trout are living up there. All or most of the necessary habitat conditions are present and I think it’s only a matter of time before we see some fish.
The next survey will focus on going deeper into the Bear Canyon area. I have heard from several anglers that they have seen trout up here prior to the 2009 Station Fire. The combined effects of the fire and the recent five-year drought had made seeing trout in this area improbable. But I don’t think this is case anymore. The Switzer Falls/Bear Canyon area is recovering quickly and now with all the rain and snowmelt, conditions have changed for the better.
Thank you for your interest as always and feel free to email me with any questions or comments at: firstname.lastname@example.org.