Month: July 2021

SCTU offers second free LA River fishing classes, July 27 and 29

THE PREZ SEZ: Former Chapter President Ban Luu makes a point to the crowd about river ecology at an earlier workshop. (Jim Burns)

From South Coast Trout Unlimited:

Vamos a Pescar! Let’s go fishing! We’ll be giving fishing poles* to youngsters and learning to fish at this 2-day workshop. Sign up here!

About this event

Vamos a Pescar! Let’s go fishing! We’ll be giving fishing poles to youngsters to learn to fish, helping to rig up their rods, and demonstrating fishing techniques. On July 27th we’ll be rigging up our fishing poles and learning about knots and river conservation. On July 29th, we’ll be fishing on the Los Angeles River. Join us for both days to get your free fishing rod and reel!

Our second workshop series will be over weekdays!

Day 1: July 27th, 4 PM to 7 PM: the first workshop in an outdoor classroom setting to learn the basics.Marsh Park/Lewis MacAdams Riverfront Park: 2944 Gleneden Street Los Angeles, CA 90039

Day 2: July 29th, 4 PM to 7 PM the second workshop is on the LA River. Pick up your free* fishing pole and hit the river to catch some fish! Marsh Park/Lewis MacAdams Riverfront Park: 2944 Gleneden Street Los Angeles, CA 90039

Day 3: September 4th is the last workshop to learn how to catch the big fish with the pros. CA Free Fishing Day, no fishing license required. Open to all participants! The place to be confirmed, we hope it will be at the New Taylor Yard Bridge!

Face coverings are required to participate in all events to protect you and our volunteers.

Waivers are required for the workshops. If you are under 18 you must have a parent or guardian sign at the on-site registration.

* you must attend the first workshop to get a free fishing pole.


Jeremiah was a bullfrog

It’s another typical summer in the West, too many fires, too little water. Pasadena wants to squeeze the tap further on the Arroyo Seco trickle, and my son wonders if the Oregon wildfires will cancel my fly-fishing trip to the Owyhee River. I wonder as well. Only last summer, after all, I wrote the last piece on fishing the West Fork in the San Gabriel Mountains for California Fly Fisher magazine, before the whole area went up in smoke. The day it published I got emails from two friends saying that the Bobcat Fire was out of control and probably started near Cogswell Dam at the top of the West Fork. Anyone who fishes, bikes or enjoys a hot-day dip mourns its loss and looks forward to the area’s reopening next year.

You never know what you might find along the LA River. (Credit: Jim Burns)

Depressing, that’s what our new normal can be. Depressing and scary, yet few positives come from pessimism, or the claustrophobia that spirals inward from tightly wound negative thoughts. There’s a difference between being a Pollyanna and a realist. That difference is continuing to make whatever difference you can in a difficult world.

With those revolving thoughts circling my head, I knew it was time to visit the LA with my friend, Bob Blankenship, and spend a few carefree hours at a new spot casting for green sunfish. With every year that passes, I feel more joyful about our own misunderstood water: for me, it is a Tide-scented symbol of hope, full of unlikely adventures and positive experiences. For me, it is a place of camaraderie and proof that a simple life far outshines one full of glitz, glamour and complications. It is Los Angeles in all of its complications: fame is here, as is homelessness; some fish for fun, while others fish for a meal. The LA winds through cities without a care to the ocean, beckoning steelhead to come home. And someday they will.

We walked for a bit, then went our separate ways, Bob’s two dogs, Pepper and Ozzie, keeping us company. At one point, Bob shouted as he pointed across the bank, to a shaded spot, “Los Angeles River Bear!” and sure enough Ozzie’s thick black coat looked like one, his gleaming brown eyes catching the afternoon’s intense sunlight. But mostly we fished in silence, absorbing the sweet nature of the place left forgotten for so long.

Bob quickly hooked and released a sunfish, but it was not my day, or my couple of hours. The skunk was on. A group of kayakers kept their distance as I cast across the water to a likely spot. It was a tough technical cast, just long enough to flummox a decent roll cast, and just a narrow-enough target that the weeds and tree stump were ready to help you remember good casting takes more practice than you’ve been putting in. I came away empty as we signaled to the kayakers in their goofy hats and sunglasses to come though. Few things can be as optimistic as kayaking our river.

As we walked toward the bridge, I noticed crazy water action and began reassembling my short glass rod. So much action it seemed like rain drops from a cloudless opal sky. I could feel the fish fever rising in me, as I balanced on rocks, trying to avoid the mud and yuck to get close enough to those raindrops.

A quick cast — nothing.

Another — same result.

A third — no takers.

And then it began to dawn these weren’t fish, but something else living in that backwater pond away from the LA’s main flow. As I got nearer to the water, the raindrops began to pause and I could also feel the life we have all forgotten about in our rush to live. But … what the hell was it?

Time for a net, so back to the car I double-timed in excitement. Within minutes, Bob and I tried to capture one of these creatures to get a better look than what the quarter-second cornea blips offered. We thought we saw — frogs, and they seemed to have red legs, which could mean a hidden cache of the species whose endangered status has vexed many a Cali fly fisher, from the West Fork, to Mark Twain’s The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, the short story from over a century ago. (No fly fishing involved …).

After awhile, it was obvious two grown men were being outfoxed by some quick critters, and as Bob vowed to return the next afternoon with a bigger net, three white Great Egrets moved swiftly, yet awkwardly, to our spot. It was amusing to watch these awesome fishers’ beak-stabs miss again and again. Our underwater friends were fast elusive.

The next afternoon, Bob and Karen Barnett succeeded in netting some, and we texted excitedly about what might be. The cellphone shots showed fat tadpoles, some forming into greenish amphibians, but were those legs red? We fretted, well, as least as much as you can fret on a text — if not the red-legged than what?

Somehow the images Bob send me, biologist and friend Rosi Dagit and several other biologists for identification got into my dreams. Counterbalancing the thoughts of finding a hidden cache of a species that has rapidly disappeared in 21st Century California were disturbing images of amphibians with awful deformities, too many legs, some, another head. After all, Frogtown, a.k.a. Elysian Park, got its name from small toads that were everywhere — sidewalks, car windshields, doorsteps, until disappearing in the mid-’80s. I woke up startled the way a bad dream startles you awake, now dreading what the experts might tell us. Nothing left to do but have a morning cup of tea and wait.

These critters are a lot harder to catch that you might think. (Credit: Bob Blankenship and Karen Barnett)

And that answer wasn’t long in coming — bullfrogs, that was the expert consensus. Not the hoped for endangered California Red-Legged Frog; nor the amphibian deformities caused worldwide by contaminants and parasites. These were bullfrogs, the eight-inch stuff of boyhood dreams. These were bullfrogs, who seemingly against all odds in L.A., were coming up for air, just like raindrops.

See you on the river, Jim Burns

An Urgent Appeal to the SoCal Fishing Community to Save Arroyo Seco Trout

This small rainbow was caught last year before the Bobcat Fire destroyed the West Fork, closing it into 2022. Several hundred rainbows were transported to the Arroyo Seco for safekeeping. With water levels already very low, this is no time to divert more water for use by the City of Pasadena. (Credit Jim Burns)

UPDATE: The Pasadena City Council hearing has been continued until Monday, July 19, 4:30 p.m.

From Tim Brick, Arroyo Seco Foundation:

We need your help to save Arroyo Seco trout now!

The Arroyo Seco Foundation is working to restore conditions for steelhead in the front range of the San Gabriel Mountains. Yes, steelhead – the anadromous form of Coastal Rainbow Trout. We are collaborating with a variety of agencies and organizations on the LA River Fish Passage Program in downtown Los Angeles and on an assessment of watershed conditions in the mountainous reaches of the Arroyo Seco.

Pasadena has prepared an Environmental Impact Report on the Arroyo Seco Canyon Project (ASCP), which will increase water diversions from the Arroyo Seco stream, a major tributary of the Los Angeles River system that is critical to steelhead recovery prospects. ASCP will build a new five-foot dam and diversion facility to divert additional water from the Arroyo Seco stream for domestic use by the Pasadena Water & Power Department (PWP).

The National Marine Fisheries Service has declared the Southern California steelhead an endangered species and prepared a steelhead recovery plan that includes the Arroyo Seco and the Los Angeles River.

The goal of this recovery plan is to prevent the extinction of southern California steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss) in the wild and to ensure the long‐term persistence of viable, self‐sustaining, populations of steelhead distributed across the Southern California Distinct Population Segment (DPS). It is also the goal of this recovery plan to re‐ establish a sustainable southern California steelhead sport fishery.

While the Arroyo Seco was once home to a thriving population of rainbow trout and steelhead, steelhead have been blocked since 1920 from returning to their mountain home in the Angeles National Forest. Native Rainbow Trout have been present since then in the Arroyo Seco, although the Station Fire and the extended drought of recent years have made conditions difficult for those fish.

Based on survey techniques described by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife as inadequate, Pasadena’s ASCP EIR states that there are no fish in the Arroyo. Pasadena’s projections for water availability are based on historical weather and streamflow patterns and do not consider the likely impact of climate change. The design of the new dam and diversion structure do not provide for two-way fish passage around or through those facilities nor for an environmental flow to protect the fish and aquatic species during dry periods as required by CA Fish and Game Code Sections 5901 and 5937.

Throughout the environmental review, the Arroyo Seco Foundation has asserted that Rainbow Trout are still present in the Arroyo Seco and that Pasadena has done an inadequate job of finding and documenting them. The ASCP EIR was tentatively approved by a Pasadena hearing officer on January 6th, but ASF joined with the Pasadena Audubon Society and several individuals to block EIR certification by appealing the decision. The matter was then considered in March by the Pasadena Board of Zoning Appeals, which added a few new conditions to the EIR. ASF and PAS again appealed that decision and forced EIR certification to be considered by the Pasadena City Council. A hearing date for that matter has now been set for next Monday, July 12, 2021.

During the appeal period, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) announced that they had conducted a Rainbow Trout rescue program on the West Fork of the San Gabriel River after the Bobcat Fire last Fall. CDFW personnel translocated 469 native Rainbow Trout into the Arroyo Seco canyon in the area to be impacted by Pasadena’s ASCP program.

Faced with irrefutable evidence of the presence of many Rainbow Trout, Pasadena has not changed its position regarding the design and operation of the new dam and diversion structure that they plan to build. They state that when steelhead passage from the Pacific Ocean is restored, they will evaluate various ways to meet the requirements of the relevant sections of the Fish and Game Code.

The Fish and Game Code requirements for fish and passage and environmental flows, however, are not limited to steelhead trout. They apply to any fish as well as to other aquatic species that would be trapped by the PWP facilities. Clearly it will be difficult and expensive to retrofit the dam and diversion facilities at some distant point in the future when the steelhead return. This is the time to do it to protect the fish that are there now and to establish better conditions for the future.

We are disappointed in Pasadena’s cynical dereliction of its environmental responsibility. We believe that Pasadena and its Water & Power Department must be good stewards of the natural resources they exploit.

Send a Letter to Pasadena Mayor Gordo and the City Council Today

We urge you and your organization to send a letter to Pasadena Mayor Victor Gordo ( and the City Council this week urging them to require PWP to alter the design and operation of any new dam and diversion facilities to accommodate fish passage and to provide an environmental flow during critical periods as required by Fish and Game Code Sections 5901 and 5937.

Please contact if you have any questions or need any further information.

Information about the Arroyo Seco Canyon Project –

How to Contact Pasadena Officials –

Translocation of Rainbow Trout to the Arroyo Seco from the Bobcat Fire Burn Area –

LA Times Article –

Native Fish in the Arroyo Seco –

TU’s LA River Fishing Workshop reels in the fun