Category: Citizen science

Next up: Fish for science at Sepulveda Dam on Nov. 20

Yucking it up in 1938: Herald-Express photographer Coy Watson Jr. (left) and reporter Fred Eldridge (Courtesy KCET).
Yucking it up in 1938: Herald-Express photographer Coy Watson Jr. (left) and reporter Fred Eldridge (Courtesy KCET).

Update: because of permit issues, this event has been postponed until Friday, Nov. 20.

Hi Everyone,

Attached please find the info for the upcoming fishing day.
We caught more fish in dip nets on our exploratory mission last Friday than we have at all other events. They were juvenile tilapia, but still!

We still need 2-3 more volunteers at least but the more the merrier! Please spread the word!

If some of the anglers want to bring kayaks and or floatie chairs along with their rods, there is a cool place under Burbank to send them.

We will also have lots of seine nets available.

Thanks to Bill for setting this up! thanks to all of you for your help in making it happen! This should be really fun!

If you are interested, please email me at and I’ll send you the rest of the info.

Rosi Dagit
RCD of the Santa Monica Mountains
540 S. Topanga Canyon Blvd
Topanga, CA 90290



Friday, 30 October 2015

PURPOSE: To characterize the fish community near Sepulveda Dam prior to the onset of the rainy season.

7am RCD team meets at office to load truck and carpool

RCDSMM gear to bring:

waders                         8 buckets                                 dip nets

seine nets                    GPS                                         cameras

blocking nets               fish measuring board               fish id books

data sheets                  clipboard and pencils              cooler and ice

meter tapes                 ziplock baggies                        fish labels/scale envelopes

8am Meet Bill and other volunteers at the pull out off Burbank Blvd.

(Directions to follow!)

EVERYONE should come prepared to get wet to the waist.

Close toe shoes required. Lots of algae to slip on so please come prepared.

If you want to borrow some waders, contact Rosi with your shoe size!

Bring lunch, water, sunscreen, hat and change of clothes if you wish.

If you have a valid CA Fishing License, please bring it along.

8-12     FISHING! We will be working between the Sepulveda Dam upstream to the

bridge under Burbank Blvd. If there is time, we would also like to sample at a few locations in Haskell Creek.

12-12:30 lunch on site (Rosi will bring cookies!)

12:30 – 3 FISHING!

3- 3:30 Clean and pack gear and samples. Head home after a fun day in the river!

Aquarium to host ‘Steelhead Science for Anglers’ event

imageWant the latest word on steelhead?


Trout Unlimited’s Wild Steelhead Initiative is partnering with California Trout to offer a workshop on native steelhead trout in southern California this September.

Check out this afternoon of education and fellowship as leading steelhead scientists provide updates and answer questions about steelhead populations, recovery activities, and angling considerations in southern California.

This interactive workshop will:

·         inform anglers about the latest scientific data and understanding of steelhead biology and populations

·         discuss the impacts of drought and human water use on steelhead

·         review the history of southern steelhead restoration efforts as well as current recovery plans and actions

·         clarify fisheries management obligations, policies, and regulations

·         discuss implications of southern steelhead recovery efforts on angling opportunities

·         provide extensive question-and-answer opportunities

·         offer a complimentary snack and beverage social hour

The panel of steelhead experts represents some of the world’s foremost authorities on steelhead biology and management – and some are avid steelhead anglers, too. They will help workshop participants to better understand how steelhead science is helping to protect wild populations, identify priority restoration objectives, and engage the angling community to help enhance and sustain steelhead fisheries.

Event Details:

Date: Saturday, Sept. 26

Time: noon – 4 p.m.

Location: Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, CA (100 Aquarium Way Long Beach, CA 90802)

Cost: FREE **Free admission is on the honor system.  If you are only attending the event, please tell the entry staff that you are here for the steelhead science workshop.  If you plan to come early or stay after the event to enjoy the Aquarium, please purchase an admission ticket.

RSVP: Please register HERE

Next FoLAR citizen scientist event slated for Aug. 15

Nick Faught of Corona snagged this 8-pounder, his first carp on the fly. (Jim Burns)
Nick Faught of Corona snagged this 8-pounder, his first carp on the fly. (Jim Burns)

Happy summer all!

We are hoping to have a dinghy to help pull a small trawl net in addition to working the banks. 
Kayaks, floating fishing chairs are welcome!  Please spread the word.
Hope to see you on the river in August!
Thanks, Rosi
Rosi Dagit
RCD of the Santa Monica Mountains
540 S. Topanga Canyon Blvd
Topanga, CA 90290

Calling all Citizen Scientists!!!

We are looking for a few good people – a few means 30 – to help Friends of the Los Angeles River (FoLAR) in Partnership with the Aquarium of the Pacific, Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains & the University of California Cooperative Extension to help in the Fish Study @ Long Beach.

This event will take place at 7:30 a.m. at the Willow Street Bike Path Entrance on 25th & De Forest in Long Beach – Saturday, Aug. 15.

We are looking for anglers with their own gear and non-anglers to help assist our biologists on shore identify, weigh and measure caught species, before returning them into the river.


Until then…

Check out what FoLAR is doing to help curb wildlife injury from discarded fishing line along the L.A. River…

Attention Anglers – Don’t miss the SECOND ANNUAL – L.A. River Cath & Release Fishing Derby – “Off tha’ Hook” – Register now – Limited Spots Available – KIDS FREE

Exploratory expedition fails to find Arroyo Seco rainbows

By Roland Trevino
Guest Contributor

For months, Jim Burns, Roderick Spilman, and I had talked about going to the Upper Arroyo Seco to cast a fly and see if any rainbow trout had survived the devastation of the Station Fire of 2009. We had spoken with Tim Brick of the Arroyo Seco Foundation and he expressed interest in any rainbow trout sightings within the Arroyo Seco system.

After a couple of significant rain events, our schedules magically aligned, and we scheduled a date certain for our expedition.

On Saturday, we arrived at Switzer in the San Gabriel Mountains at around 10:30 in the morning. A heavy mist hung in the air and the threat of rain was imminent. My son, Ansel (12), joined us for the adventure.

SAD, BUT TRUE: The deepest water didn't hold a thing. (Roland Trevino)
SAD, BUT TRUE: The deepest water didn’t hold a thing. (Roland Trevino)

Jim was armed with a nice 3-wt. fiberglass fly rod, Roderick had his trusty 3 wt., and Ansel and I had taken our 4 foot, 2 inch Redington Form game rods — novelty practice rods that actually work great in tight quarters. We also had a small pair of scissors and a container in which to keep any DNA samples we might collect.

As we walked, a thick, wet mist bathed us in dew, and we wondered if we had been unwise to leave the rain ponchos in the Jeep. Sometimes at home or even hiking, my kids and I practice casting for fun and accuracy. I cast for a while as I hiked –- sans fly. As I hiked and cast, I imagined the river as it was –- the Arroyo Seco before the fire.

Ever since I can remember, I have lived near the lower reaches of the Arroyo Seco and hiked its many trails and canyons. Even today I live off of the Millard tributary. I have fond memories of stalking rising trout since the days of my youth. I would pack a lunch, grab my 3 wt. fly rod, my mountain bike, and head out for a day on the river. I always brought a supply of barbless Elk Hair Caddis and Griffith’s Gnats, my go-to flies for the system.

Ansel Trevino, in his trademark cowboy hat, gets ready for lunch. (Roland Trevino)
DEJECTION: Ansel Trevino, in his trademark cowboy hat, surveys the sad scene. (Roland Trevino)

The Arroyo Seco was rarely large water, and remained a skinny stream most of the year. During periods of high rain, the river would rise dramatically, but usually there were times and places where the river would retreat underground, only to re-emerge. I welcomed the wildness of the forest, and listened to the wind in the trees and the gurgling of the brook.

Sometimes, I would see brightly shining trout circling each other around the red submerged roots, so entranced in their mating dance they would not notice me. Occasionally, a trout would break the mirror stillness of a nice pool. These were wary fish and the larger ones generally took up residence in bridge pools, large undercuts, the dam pool, or sometimes, small, yet deep, pocket pools.

This was really fishy water from the headwaters of the Arroyo Seco below Red Box, down to the lower portion of the Arroyo Seco above JPL. I had a chance to fly-fish many sections of the Arroyo Seco, or to spy a trout holding in the stream as I shot by on a mountain bike. It is amazing to think that before the Devil’s Gate and Brown Mountain Dams, large steelhead even swam in these tributaries.

At first we talked and laughed happily, enthralled at the excitement of our quest and the impending discovery of large holdout rainbow trout. As we walked, our gaze trained on the river. Not a single pool to be seen. All features of the river have been erased. Tons and tons of sand and pebbles filled the area that had once provided great habitat for fish.

Saturday, the stream was a rapid, narrow band of water that descended in a straight line toward the sea. As we walked on, our spirits remained up, but short pockets of silence punctuated our hike. I think during these times, we each may have contemplated the reality that there were likely no fish in this part of the system. We stopped atop the falls and ate our sandwiches, trail mix and tangerines. Roderick went on a quick, exploratory scouting mission to ensure that we were not missing any incredible pools just beyond the next bend. He returned a while later with the news that the creek looked the same beyond the falls.

After lunch, we packed up our trash and headed back to the waiting Jeep. As we approached the car, we agreed to salvage the rest of the day by wetting a line on the L.A. River. After all, I had found a promising new spot I wanted to check out.

Although this expedition had not turned up any rainbow trout, we had enjoyed a fun adventure and still remain hopeful they may exist somewhere in the Arroyo Seco system. It is incredible how much devastation the Station Fire and the record rainfall that followed it did to the Arroyo Seco system. Massive walls of mud, burned logs and debris made their way down the river, destroying everything in their path. While there is a certain resilience in nature, it would appear some things cannot undo themselves … at least for the time being.

Yet, I fervently hope that there, unseen by us, among submerged twigs and rocks, swim the next generation of rainbow trout – waiting for the protective embrace of dusk to emerge for their nightly insect feast.

Three’s a charm for Long Beach fish survey

Nick Faught of Corona snagged this 8-pounder, his first carp on the fly. (Jim Burns)
Nick Faught of Corona snagged this 8-pounder, his first carp on the fly. (Jim Burns)

In almost all things, three’s a charm, and so it was yesterday for the twice-denied Long
Beach leg of the important Friends of the Los Angeles River fish study. Last year’s two attempts came up mostly empty, but yesterday afternoon’s fishing by about 25 conventional and fly fishermen netted three common carp and two smelt. If the number leaves you shaking your head, that 25 skilled anglers would have such a lean haul on a near-perfect winter fishing afternoon, you’re not alone.

Fishers threw every manner of enticement to their prey, including carp carrot flies, woolly buggers, artificial worms, real worms, and a ” fish-licous”concoction of garlic and masa, the cornmeal used to make tortillas. But for the most part, this estuary where fresh and salt water mix has yet to fully reveal what lives below.

“Well, at least it’s better than last time,” said Sabrina Drill, a UC Cooperative Extension biologist, who along with fellow scientist Rosie Dagit has been periodically mapping the river’s fish population since 2008. But her face showed the disappointment that the yield of this event — monikered “Fish for Science” — wasn’t full of the expected gold doubloons.

WHOOPSIE DAISY: Unfortunately, snagging a big carp and landing him are two different things. (Jim Burns)
WHOOPSIE DAISY: Unfortunately, snagging a big carp and landing him are two different things. (Jim Burns)

An optimistic Trout Unlimited’s Bob Blankenship had emailed several participants before the event that “Maybe this storm will bring with it a few migrating steelhead to Long Beach?” And we all heartily agreed.

True, Nick Faught of Corona left a happy man. He’d purchased a new 5 wt. specifically for catching carp, and the beast that later weighed in at over 8 pounds gave him all he could handle.

“I’m used to catching trout in the Sierra,” he said, dripping wet, while managing to get his fish into an orange Home Depot bucket in the middle of a lagoon. Faught had hooked and lost what was most likely this fish, then hooked it again. Between the slippery submerged rocks, the powerful and slippery carp, and his desire to get the fish to the biologists some 100 yards away, he went for a swim — saved his fish again, frying his cellphone in the process. Even soaked to the skin through his waders, Faught smiled as he held his carp later safely on shore for a trophy shot.

His grit and enthusiasm really characterize many of the participants who came to help the professionals map the river before restoration begins. Each event brings more anglers.

These are very serious, big-money times for an urban river that is famous for all of the wrong reasons, like Kim Kardashian. It’s as iconic as the Hollywood sign, yet after years of appearances in movies such as “The Terminator” and “Grease,” in which 51 miles of concrete form more undulating racetrack scar than ambling waters, the Army Corps of Engineers — yes, the same agency that excavated and paved it — now has recommended to Congress a $1 billion makeover, or “make right,” depending on your point of view.

In other words, once Congress approves the money, it will be billion-dollar boots on the ground in L.A. And that’s what has Dagit, a senior biologist for the Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains, anticipating better days. Dagit, Drill and other biologists have tracked river species, first with the FoLAR fish study in 2008 and now with an extension of that study focused on the river’s estuary.

SITTIN' PRETTY: Greg Madrigal of Sierra Nets, left, and Stan Adermann sit among orange collection buckets. Madrigal landed one of the three carp caught during the event.
SITTIN’ PRETTY: Greg Madrigal of Sierra Nets, left, and Stan Adermann sit among orange collection buckets. Madrigal landed one of the three carp caught during the event.

Bets are on that Dagit, Drill and company will be back for another round. After all, the 2008 study, conducted in Atwater Village north of downtown found some 1,200 fish, including carp, tilapia and bass.

“This is a gateway,” Dagit said during the October attempt, while looking toward Long Beach Harbor. “and you can’t underestimate the importance of this section. Having a baseline of understanding which species are present and where will be is a really important tool to help us gauge the success of the proposed restoration efforts once they are initiated.”

Citizen Science Hall O’ Famers

Three large carp (22-24 inches), thanks to Steve Simon, Nick Faught and Greg Madrigal.

Greg Armijo added two topsmelt to the day’s catch.

See you on the river, Jim Burns

What the heck is a pacu and what was it doing in the LA River?

EXOTIC: This pacu, usually hanging out in the Amazon, got hooked on the L.A. River. (James Czasonis)
EXOTIC: This pacu, usually hanging out in the Amazon, got hooked on the L.A. River. (James Czasonis)

LARFF gets a fair number of fish and beauty shots coming across the electronic transom, but this one definitely takes the cake. Know what it is?

A pacu.

What’s a pacu?

As the fly fisher who hooked it said via email, “I caught that exotic fish and posted it on my Facebook, and a lot of friends told me it was a pacu, not native to here, and it matched photos from the Internet.”

James Czasonis went on to write that it looked like a big pirahna, but the teeth were more flat. Although the teeth aren’t visible in these shots, the host of “River Monsters,” Jeremy Wade, explains here that the flat teeth are used for crushing seeds, unlike a pirahna’s that are sharper and used for tearing apart flesh. Both are native to the Amazon River in South America.

Pacus have been found in Papua New Guinea, and much closer to home in Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, and now in Los Angeles.

How’d that happen?

A relative of the well-known -- and feared -- pirahna, the pacu has flatter teeth. (James Czasonis)
A relative of the well-known — and feared — pirahna, the pacu has flatter teeth. (James Czasonis)

Apparently, some unaware aquarium owners believe these fish will only grow “so big” because of the glass confines of their watery cages. But, that logic turns out to be a myth and when the pacu overstays its welcome, it gets dumped into local waterways.

And, yes, it is illegal to dump nonnative exotic fish.

Authorities in Ohio aren’t overly concerned about a pacu takeover because the fish dies out once the weather gets cold.

As for the potential threat here in warmer climes, Czasonis said this was the only one he’d seen or caught, and “I still didn’t want to hold it up and let it back into the river.”

See you on the river, Jim Burns

News Flash! Rare Leather Carp needs a name

Mirror, mirror on the wall What name should this carp we call? (Ryan Anglin)
Mirror, mirror on the wall
What name should this carp we call? (Ryan Anglin)

Last week, a local fly fisher sent me a crazy hero shot, saying “One of the fish I caught today looks like a Mirror Carp. Your thoughts?”

Anxiously, I paged down to view the snap and promptly dropped my coffee cup. Ryan Anglin not only had a beautiful 5-pounder, but also a type I’d never seen on the river. I enlisted the help of our resident biologists, Rosi Dagit, Sabrina Drill and Camm Swift. Here are their comments:

— Pretty clearly a Mirror or perhaps more precisely, Leather Carp, mostly lacking scales.  Mirror Carp refers to those with more enlarged, irregular scales that have a shiny appearance, and this fish is more of what is often called Leather Carp with a thick leathery skin.  — Camm

— In several fishing trips on the L.A. with either Camm, Jonathan Baskin, or both,  I have observed a wide variety of scale patterns on carp — both what I would call “leather” and “mirror”  — though I actually had not heard this terminology! I believe they are all C. carpio,but am interested in Camm’s answer. Can goldfish also vary this much in scale pattern? — Sabrina

— Wow, it is hard to tell exactly, but definitely has that kind of look …  Did he keep it? I wonder if there is a photo with the dorsal fin extended? — Rosi

She goes on to ask that when folks catch something really unusual they keep and freeze, and let her know (via LARFF) so the experts can actually figure all this out. Also, don’t forget you can join the iNaturalist project and post.

Now, there’s a side benefit to catching these kinds of crazy fish: you can name them just like the Brits. Consider this headline: “Anglers mourn Benson, lord of the lakes.” Benson was a 25-year-old Common Carp who weighed a mere 64 pounds and was worth around $40,000. Her companion, Hedges, died in 1998. Meanwhile, the largest Mirror Carp, who as far as I know is still living, outweighs Benson by 3 pounds and goes by the handle, Two Tone.

So, let’s vote on a name for Ryan’s catch!


See you on the river, Jim Burns

Biologists tentatively ID mystery L.A. River bass

Our mystery bass. (Roland Trevino)
Our mystery bass. (Roland Trevino)
Another view of the mystery bass. (Roland Trevino)
Another view of the mystery bass. (Roland Trevino)

One of the best parts of fishing our river is you never know what you’re going to pull out of it. In the old days, this comment would elicit some snark about a “really brown trout,” haha. But today, we discuss what in the heck are these crazy bass that Roland Trevino pulled from one section?

Take a look at his pics and see how white the sides are.

Rosi Dagit, Senior Conservation Biologist and Certified Arborist for the Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains, agreed that they were “strange-looking bass” because “the white-side blotches are quite noticeable” in the pics we showed her.

She enlisted the help of Camm Swift, emeritus PhD from the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles.

“These appear to be very faded out largemouth bass, but it would be good to see both dorsal fins elevated. Maybe they came from fairly turbid water,or were held in a white bucket for a time and lost lots of color?” he wrote in an email to Dagit.  “There is a slight possibility they are white bass or white perch, Morone chrysops or M. americanus, but they have much larger anal fin spines than largemouth bass and do not appear to be present in these fish.

“Both of these species are from the eastern United States (as are largemouth bass for that matter!) and the white bass is known from a few places in central California but unlikely in L. A.   Thus, without some other convincing evidence I would call them largemouth bass.”

Swift also offered some advice on how to help the experts positively ID a mystery fish.
“If it’s hard to keep the fish, a good photograph from the side with the fins spread is useful to get close, anyhow.  Putting them in a water-filled Ziploc or one of those small plexiglass boxes like fish photographers use can suffice.  Usually the fish will expand its fins when swimming or resting in  one of those.”
For my part, I’m still not so sure. If anyone catches another white mystery bass, let’s get a better shot and see what the biologists say.
See you on the river, Jim Burns