Category: News

West Fork San Gabriel update: Closure extends to April 1, 2022

Better times on the West Fork, before the Bobcat Fire virtually destroyed this beautiful fishery. (Jim Burns)

Letter to the Editor from California Fly Fisher: I much appreciated Jim Burns’s story on the West Fork of the San Gabriel, which did a good job of capturing the character of a place that I have been visiting for decades. (“The West Fork of the San Gabriel,” September/October 2020.) Unfortunately, shortly after the issue came out, much of that river’s watershed was reduced to charcoal and ash by the Bobcat Fire.

By the way, readers of Cal Fly Fisher might like to know that the Oct. 13 issue of the Los Angeles Times has a great article on the ecological devastation wrought by the fire, and it noted that the river also faces additional harm from mud flows when the rains of winter arrive. That’s a helluva one-two punch against this little fishery. Only time will tell whether it has been KOed for keeps — Fred Martinez, Los Angeles.

A typical hand-size rainbow from a trip I made in May to the West Fork. (Jim Burns)

Dear Fred,

Thanks for the props. I loved the West Fork, as I can tell you did. I thought you would appreciate this update from John Clearwater, a public affairs officer with the U.S. Forest Service:

In the course of four major fires we lost 23-percent, or nearly a quarter, of the Angeles this year.  To include some of our most beautiful areas.  It’s been a tough, heartbreaking year. 

Regarding the closure of the West Fork, the Bobcat Fire closure area extends to April 1, 2022. I don’t anticipate that the West Fork will reopen much sooner than that.

I was in there a few weeks ago with LA Times reporter, Louis Sahagun.  The area is near the origin site for the Bobcat Fire, and one of the areas that was most impacted by the Fire. 

Unfortunately, much of it now looking like an ashen lunar landscape.  It was clearly once a mountain paradise.  Now it’s heartbreaking to see.  This winter I suspect the road may disappear in a number of places due to the lack of vegetation and likelihood of runoff coming down the mountainsides.  During my time in there recently we encountered a number of rock slides breaking loose, rolling off the cliff tops and impacting onto the roadway, with rocks varying in size from that of a baseball to a soccer ball.  Any of which would have been fatal if it had struck someone on the head. 

Regardless, there is much work that will be required in the West Fork for public safety, forest recovery and habitat protection.

As for plans for the trout in the West Fork, I’ve spoken with the District Ranger team and they said the California Department of Fish & Wildlife is planning to soon relocate a number of trout from the West Fork to other areas of the San Gabriel river.  They could not provide a lot of details. 

See you on the river, Jim Burns

Fishing paradise Mammoth inundated with Creek Fire smoke

BEFORE AND HEARTBREAKING AFTER pictures of Twin Lakes, above Mammoth Lakes, Calif., from July 21 and today. The Creek Fire, which is not in Mammoth, has burned more than 338,000 acres with full containment expected by Halloween. (Courtesy BiBi Photography)

‘We’re going to turn this place into a trout stream again’

Twenty-five-inch steelhead trout caught in the Los Angeles River near Glendale, in January, 1940. (Courtesy family of Dr. Charles L. Hogue)

From Los Angeles Times environment writer Louis Sahagun:

Biologists and engineers are setting the stage for an environmental recovery effort in downtown Los Angeles that could rival the return of the gray wolf, bald eagle and California condor.

This time, the species teetering on the edge of extinction is the Southern California steelhead trout and the abused habitat is a 4.8-mile-long stretch of the L.A. River flood-control channel that most people only glimpse from a freeway.

The brutal vista of concrete and treated urban runoff exists as an impenetrable barrier to ancestral spawning grounds in the San Gabriel Mountains for the estimated 400 federally endangered Southern California steelhead left on Earth.

The Los Angeles River Fish Passage and Habitat Structures Design Plan, which is being championed by Mayor Eric Garcetti, aims to change all that with a carefully calibrated retrofit.

Read the whole story here. The Council for Watershed Health has launched a webpage allowing people to keep up with the progress of the fish passage project. Read my 2012 thoughts about the possible return of steelhead here.

See you on the river, Jim Burns

Angeles National Forest remains closed through Oct. 8

Due to extreme fire conditions, the Angeles National Forest, along with six other forests in California, will remain closed through Thursday, Oct. 8. This is because of a combination of extreme heat, dry conditions, significant wind events and firefighting resources that are stretched to the limit, the U.S. Forest Service said. The Bobcat Fire has burned for 26 days and is about 63 percent contained after tearing through almost 155,000 acres. Nine hundred ninety two personnel continue to fight the conflagration. (Courtesy @mrcalparks)

Thank you, tireless firefighters

There are currently 45 fires buring in California, including the Bobcat Fire in the San Gabriel Mountains that has burned for five days and consumed more than 26,000 acres. (Courtesy National Forest.)

Firefighters remember the Sept. 11 anniversary to ‘Amazing Grace’ played on the bagpipes, the most famous song played at fire and police funerals. (Courtesy Angeles National Forest)

Goodbye, Pebble Mine

Bristol Bay is safe.

I know you’ve heard that before, but this time, it’s for real, done in by the Clean Water Act. After watching the Trump Administration finalize plans last week “to open up part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska to oil and gas development, a move that overturns six decades of protections for the largest remaining stretch of wilderness in the United States,” according to the New York Times, I thought Bristol Bay would share a similar fate. Not so.

Check out the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers statement and be happy:

This administration supports the mining industry and acknowledges the benefits the industry has provided to the economy and productivity of this country, from job creation to the extraction of valuable resources, which are especially important as we recover from this pandemic. The Pebble Mine project has the potential to fulfill all of those needs; however, as currently proposed, the project could have substantial environmental impacts within the unique Bristol Bay watershed and lacks adequate compensatory mitigation.

Given these concerns, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers finds under section 404 of the Clean Water Act that the project, as proposed, would likely result in significant degradation of the environment and would likely result in significant adverse effects on the aquatic system or human environment.

See you on the river, Jim Burns

During the pandemic, the river calls to a new generation of fishers

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FIRST FISH on the LA River for L.A. Times reporter Lila Seidman. We had a blast on the water. (Courtesy Lila Seidman)

 

From the Los Angeles Times: Despite its concrete casing, installed in the late 1930s to rein in once-frequent flooding, signs of the natural river persist. Besides birds of many feathers, it’s home to beefy carp, small-mouth bass, tilapia and — once upon a time — steelhead trout. If you tilt your gaze in just the right way, away from the overpasses and concrete shores, it could be Georgia.

There are grander digs to fish — rushing rivers with glittering trout in Mammoth Lakes and Kern County — but they lack one of the L.A. River’s greatest strengths: convenience.

Read the whole story here (paywall). 

‘Fishmas’ fugetaboutit until May 31

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The Browns can be sweet in The Gorge, but you’ll work to get down there — and wait May 31. (Jim Burns)

As requested by county officials, California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Director Charlton H. Bonham delayed the start of the trout opener in Alpine, Inyo and Mono counties. The director made this decision in consultation with California Fish and Game Commission President Eric Sklar.

The trout season was scheduled to open in these three counties this Saturday, April 25. The delay to the opener in these counties expires May 31.

Meanwhile, more fishing for shut-ins, this time at Brooks Falls – Katmai National Park, Alaska.

Cal’s fishing season cancelled? Nope, just ‘delayed a bit’

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Washington State has closed fishing until May 4 on more than 7 million acres of public land; Oregon put the kibosh on recreational hunting, fishing, crabbing and clamming to non-residents, due to concerns about travel to Oregon to participate in these outdoor activities; for now, there’s no fishing, diving or boating in Florida’s Keys; meanwhile, free-wheelin’ Texas has declared fishing an essential activity; but what about California, home to more than 1 million resident fishing licenses?

Because of pandemonium during the call this week, the California Fish and Game Commission abruptly canceled a teleconference Thursday morning of more than 500 participants amid cries of “make fishing great again!” and “fascists!” before it could consider authorizing a limited ban on sportfishing in some areas, according to the Sacramento Bee.

The statewide heat got so hot that fishing was one of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s points during his Thursday briefing,

“I’m passionate about fishing myself and I’m getting inundated by people that are concerned that we’ve canceled the fishing season,” the governor said at his daily COVID-19 briefing. “That is not the case, we are not canceling the fishing season in California.”

He added the state wants “to delay, not deny, the season,” according to KTLA.

Trout fishing season begins the last Saturday in April and runs through Nov. 15 every year. Opening Day, aka “Fishmas,” is Saturday, April 25, in Mono County.

As California more likely proposes a county by county system,  it could be a model of what to expect as the state goes back to work.  This is pure conjecture on my part, of course, but eventually we will have to find a way to safely ease our “shelter in place” restrictions.

When the meeting is rescheduled it will be posted on the commission’s website.

See you on the river (eventually), Jim Burns