Category: News

Malibu’s steelhead habitat restoration ramps up with new money

AT MORE THAN 8,000 acres, Malibu Creek State Park includes the old “M.A.S.H.” television set and the Reagan Ranch. (Credit: Jim Burns)

Malibu’s Las Virgenes Water District was in the news last summer because of gross home watering overuse by celebrities such as Kim Kardasian, Kevin Hart and Sylvester Stallone. But in the shadow of the rich and famous of Calabasas and Lost Hills, conservationist Debbie Sharpton has quietly and insistently been preparing for the return of the endangered Southern California Steelhead, which means first ridding the watershed of persistent invasive species. 

CONSERVATIONIST Debbie Sharpton at Century Lake in Malibu Creek State Park. (Credit: Jim Burns)

One of her prime targets is the invasive red swamp crayfish, better suited to a crayfish boil in New Orleans than in Santa Monica Mountain streams, yet here they are. Sharpton’s current efforts are aimed at eradication of the crayfish, which can devastate native wildlife, including the already threatened California red-legged frog. Crayfish directly compete for resources that native Arroyo Chub, and one day steelhead, need to survive. Other invasives for Sharpton include carp, bass and catfish.

Each month, Sharpton directs removal of these small creatures through baited traps that look like funnels and simulate crayfish burrows. Once inside, a crayfish can’t escape until it is removed by gloved volunteers, it’s fate to become bait for the next round of the trap checking.

As I stand in the low-flowing waters of Tapia Creek assisting young college volunteers to check crayfish traps, I can’t see the remnants of the “M.A.S.H.” television show production set, nor the Reagan Ranch. My focused attention is on not getting my fingers snapped by wary crayfish claws. As we slowly move upstream, our Home Depot bucket is full of writhing crustaceans, along with large mouth bass fry, tiny catfish, stinging spines intact, and juvenile carp. 

“Basically, we go in teams of two, so you have the lead trapper and an assistant trapper,” Allison Linsey says.” “As the trapper, you’re the one who kind of makes the decisions, you decide when traps need to be replaced or taken out. You’re also responsible for entering all the data we collect.”

The traps dot much of the riparian areas of Malibu Creek State Park. Stream areas are divided up into sections, with each section’s traps checked at least every three days. That puts these teams in the water for several shifts per week. 

INSIDE Malibu Creek State Park, a trapping team gets ready to move into another section. (Credit: Debbie Sharpton)

“We start around 8:30 in the morning,” says another volunteer, Amanda Chi.” Then maybe we would end around noon. At first, it was surreal to because it’s my first time doing fieldwork. But just being in the river early in the morning. It was really beautiful.”

Volunteers also include fly-fishers who are committed to conservation. Tools of the trade on any given day might be a fly rod for “catch and take” fishing, seine netting, which forms a barrier across a stream and scoops up its inhabitants (not as easy as it sounds …), and those crayfish traps. 

Financial and technical support for the project comes from California State Parks, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, and the National Park Service, Santa Monica Mountains.

While this slow work may seem akin to David battling Goliath, further south the San Diego Regional Water Board may significantly up the ante in the fight to rid California streams of invasive pests. If passed into law this spring, invasive species would join mercury, lead and other toxics under Section 303 (d) of the Clean Water Act. The plan would enable collaborative watershed planning and restoration activities to be eligible for state and federal funding. 

“I’d like to lobby the L.A. Regional Water Board to move on getting Malibu Creek a TMDL for non-native aquatic species,” Sharpton says.

Meanwhile, the Southwest Council of Fly Fishing International, where Sharpton is the Vice President of Conservation, has received a donation of $5,000 from Sierra Pacific Flyfishers to begin a new conservation program called “Fishing for Conservation: Steelhead Recovery in Malibu Creek.” It will commence this spring after the frogs finish breeding. 

Her years-long conservation efforts, first as Executive Director of Mountains Restoration Trust and now with Environmental Restoration Group, LLC, have reached an inflection point with the anticipated downing of the Malibu’s Rindge Dam. Some two and a half miles from the coast, the dam stops the natural steelhead route from the Santa Monica Bay to Malibu lagoon, inland to spawn.

Built in the 1920s, Rindge was decommissioned in 1967, yet still stands. It is actually part of Malibu Creek State Park, the 8,215-acre gem that includes remnants of the “M.A.S.H” television set, as well as the Reagan Ranch. 

Vistas truly earn the moniker of “breathtaking,” with one peak that soars more than 2,700 feet. California Department of State Parks owns and manages the dam, as well as the park.

For Sharpton, all of this natural beauty includes the flora and fauna that rightfully belong here — and excludes those that don’t. 

“I’m hoping to engage the lake managers by assisting them to reduce the amount of unwanted non-native fish in their waters.  I don’t know the source population, it may be people moving fish for recreational fishing, it may be storm overflows moving the fish downstream,” Sharpton says. 

Three views of a raging LA River

Many thanks to William Preston Bowling, Trout Unlimited South Coast chapter president, for these up close and personal videos of the majesty — and danger — of the LA when it rains.

With our seemingly never-ending drought, we need engineers to come up with a way to secure all this fresh rain water that’s racing out to the ocean, along with tons of trash.

See you on the river, Jim Burns

The largest dam demolition in history is approved for the Klamath River


PacifiCorp’s four lower dams, Iron Gate, Copco No. 1, Copco No. 2 and J.C. Boyle in both California and Oregon are slated for removal. (Credit: Klamath River Renewal Corporation)

U.S. regulators approved a plan Thursday to demolish four dams on a California river and open up hundreds of miles of salmon habitat that would be the largest dam removal and river restoration project in the world when it goes forward.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s unanimous vote on the lower Klamath River dams is the last major regulatory hurdle and the biggest milestone for a $500 million demolition proposal championed by Native American tribes and environmentalists for years. The project would return the lower half of California’s second-largest river to a free-flowing state for the first time in more than a century. READ MORE

First 365-day Cali fishing license available Nov. 15

It costs California residents more to legally catch a brown than in any other state, like this beauty from the Trinity River. Sometimes your goofy hat is free. (Credit: Darren Victorine)

A few weeks ago, I was in Mammoth at my favorite fly fishing store, hoping to get a free replacement 2022 fishing license, since I’d thrown mine out by accident. All those pieces of paper, so little time.

Well, my replacement license cost $11.88, no kindness from the DFW for those of us who throw stuff out by accident.

As I waited to get my new license printed out, I told the clerk how excited I was that next year you could buy a resident license in California and it would be good for 365 days, instead of the way it is now, in which no matter when you buy the license from the first day in January to the last day in December it will still cost you $54. And even after the many efforts of Pasadena Casting Club member Ron Escue to get a senior discount, the state still says, “fuggettaboutit.”

That fifty-four bucks makes it the most expensive fresh-water resident fishing license in the U.S with other Western states (Colorado, $36.71; Arizona, $37; Utah, $34; Montana, $21, for example) much cheaper. So … isn’t it a good thing to switch from the calendar year to the 365 model? Apparently, that’s why Assemblymember Jim Wood (D-Healdsburg) introduced AB 817 in February 2021, because fewer anglers were buying licenses precisely because of this inequity. Since 1980, annual resident sport fishing license sales have declined 55 percent while the state’s population has increased more than 60 percent, according to Wood’s website. Also, apparently we will join the 21st Century with a mobile app for renewal, instead of the annual trek to Big 5.

So, all of this seemed good news to me, but not the guys behind the counter.

“Hey, then you’ll have to remember when you renewed,” said the one.


“And it’s not really that great a deal when you consider all the winter months when we don’t fish anyway,” said the other.

Um, yeah, I guess.

As I paid up, I wondered why all the resistance to a great idea?

Since I didn’t ask, now I don’t know, but I suspect politics must be involved.

Anyway, I’ll gladly take the 365 license, which is available Nov. 15 for 2023, wait for someone in comments to tell me how the app works, as well as hold my breath for that magical senior rate.

See you on the river, Jim Burns

Conservationists stoked by the possibilities of removing SoCal barriers to steelhead migration

CalTrout’s Dr. Sandra Jacobson explains what’s involved in the design stage of the I-5 fish passage in San Juan Capistrano to a group of donors on Sept. 21. Efforts to remove barriers to the endangered Southern California Steelhead are coming to fruition, invigorated by the spotlight on removal of the obsolete Rindge Dam in Malibu, which has blocked steelhead passage from Malibu Lagoon to the Santa Monica Mountains for the past 80 years. (Credit: Jim Burns)

Algae bloom hits Mammoth’s Crowley Lake just ahead of Labor Day

If you are going north for the long weekend, take note.

For Immediate Release: Contact: Blair Robertson – Public Information Officer August 29, 2022

SACRAMENTO – The Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board (Water Boards) are urging fisherman and recreational users to stay out of the water at Crowley Lake located in Mono County. Localized areas of the lake were tested to confirm that the lake is being impacted by Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs). The lake is posted with a recreational advisory of “DANGER” to alert lake users of the elevated risk. Recreators are encouraged to follow the below guidance until further notice.


  • Stay out of the water until further notice, including watercraft.
  • Do not let pets and other animals drink or go into the water, or go near the scum.
  • Stay away from scum, and cloudy or discolored water.
  • Do not eat fish or shellfish from this water.

• Do not use this water for drinking or cooking. Boiling or filtering will not make the water safe.

A volunteer citizen monitoring partner noticed visual observations of a potential bloom while sampling during the Labor Day Pre-Holiday Assessment at Crowley Lake. Sample results confirmed toxins present at danger level thresholds in a sample collected from the marina area. Caution level toxins were present at a second sample collected near the Hilton Creek drainage.

Note that cyanobacteria, a group of organisms that form harmful algal blooms, can produce potent toxins. Health risks are associated with HABs as they produce dermatoxins that can cause skin inflammation, which can cause itching skin and rashes, as well as gastrointestinal distress, headaches, agitation and weakness, or abnormal breathing if HAB material is swallowed while swimming. Dogs and children are most susceptible to exposure because of their smaller body size, increased potential to swallow water while swimming, and tendency to stay in the water longer. If you suspect exposure, wash your children and dog immediately. Due to the size and toxicity of the bloom with increasing temperatures and decreased precipitation this time of year, the bloom may proliferate and alter its potential to produce toxins.

The bloom occurring in the lake appears suspended on the water’s surface. Bloom conditions can change rapidly, as the winds and waves move or concentrate the bloom into different regions of the lake. In some areas, the bloom may concentrate and form a film or scum on the water surface. The color of the water may also appear discolored as bright or dark green and brown.

The Water Boards will provide regular updates to inform the community when postings are removed on the California HAB Reports Web Map.

The Water Boards recommend that people practice healthy water habits while enjoying the outdoors this summer at your local lake, river or stream:

  • Heed all instructions on posted advisories if present
  • Avoid algae and scum in the water and on the shore
  • Keep an eye on children and pets
  • If you think a harmful algal bloom or toxic algal mats are present, do not let pets and other animals go into or drink the water or eat scum/algal mats on the shore
  • Don’t drink the water or use it for cooking
  • Wash yourself, your family and your pets with clean water after water play
  • If you catch fish, throw away guts and clean fillets with tap water or bottled water before cooking
  • Avoid eating shellfish if you think a harmful algal bloom is present Get medical treatment immediately if you think that you, your pet, or livestock has gotten sick after going in the water. Be sure to alert the medical professional to the possible contact with cyanobacteria. Also, make sure to contact the local county public health department. To report a bloom, do one of the following:

• Fill out the Bloom Report form on the HABs Portal:

  • Email:
  • Call the HABs hotline: 1-844-729-6466 (toll free)
  • Contact your County Public Health Office For more information about HABs, please visit: California Harmful Algal Blooms Portal California Department of Public Health Resource Page

Gulch Fire means no East Fork access

From the U.S. Forestry Service (Tuesday, Aug. 30) 

The Gulch Fire is 110 acres with 25% containment and is burning in San Gabriel Canyon near the Morris Dam. The fire started at 11:26 a.m. on August 29, and is burning upslope west and northwest. Warm and dry conditions can be expected across the incident today with gusts pushing the fire northwest.

The Angeles National Forest is aggressively working to contain the Gulch Fire with 179 firefighters diligently working through the day and night alongside air support. Thank you to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and CHP Baldwin Park for their assistance on the Gulch Fire today.  

Due to the Gulch Fire and East Fire, there is no access to San Gabriel Canyon at this time. The fire danger level remains at “Very High” which allows for campfires and BBQs only in designated recreation sites (campgrounds and picnic areas).

While the cause of the Gulch Fire remains under investigation, 9/10 wildfires in the Angeles National Forest are human-caused. Visitors can help prevent wildfires in several ways:
–Please ensure that your campfires and BBQs are completely extinguished before leaving the area.
–Do not stop on the side of the road on or near dry brush.  
–If towing something, make sure your chains are not dragging on the pavement, as they can cause sparks that light dry grasses or brush nearby on fire.
–Fireworks are NEVER allowed in the Angeles National Forest or any other national forest.  

After so many deadly fires, every plume of smoke menaces

After I ate lunch, I got back to the parking lot and a plume of thick smoke, which looked to be right at the narrow bridge to the East Fork parking lot. My heart started racing, so I hopped in my car and drove as fast as I could. Sure enough, there was a very hot brush fire at that location. I asked the bystanders if they’d called 911. “No signal.”

I continued to race down to Azusa to make the emergency call, but, mile after mile, still didn’t get a signal. Also, my “emergency” cell coverage didn’t work. Such a relief when the first green forest service emergency vehicle sped by me, lit up, going in the opposite direction. I never realized it until today, but my cell reception doesn’t happen until I am entirely out of the canyon, even past the subdivision. As our Southern California traditional fire season begins, that is a cautionary tale. (Credit: Jim Burns)
Infrared imagery, taken by aircraft this morning, Friday, Aug. 26, reveals the hottest sections of the #EastFire.  The brush fire in the Angeles National Forest in the East Fork/Glendora Mountain Road area, is estimated at 149 acres with 20 percent containment. There are no evacuations or structures threatened. Very little smoke is coming from the fire today. County road closures in the area remain in place Glendora Mountain Road from Glendora to the East Fork Glendora Ridge Road from Mt. Baldy to Glendora Mountain Road SPECIAL NOTE: San Gabriel OHV Area will be closed this weekend due to fire operations nearby.(Credit: U.S. Forest Service)

DFW ‘Hoot Owl’ recommends include Hot Creek and Deep Creek

“Hoot Owl’ recommendations mean fishing during the cooler hours to preserve healthy fish. (Credit: Jim Burns)

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is asking recreational anglers to begin “Hoot Owl” practices when fishing – voluntarily changing how, when and where they fish to minimize stress and mortality among fish populations suffering from drought conditions.

“Hoot Owl” recommendations reference being active during times of day when owls can still be heard hooting. These times are typically earlier in the day when weather conditions are cooler. CDFW uses the term “Hoot Owl” to describe its guidelines for fishing during a drought which recommend fishing before noon on certain inland waters, as even catch-and-release angling during the hottest parts of the day can greatly increase fish stress and mortality.

“California’s drought cycles require all of us to work together to manage our fisheries,” said CDFW Inland Fisheries Manager Sarah Mussulman. “Multiple years of drought plus fluctuations in the timing of precipitation creates many challenges for our cold-water fish species. Anglers can play a part in lessening impacts to their favorite fishery by not fishing past noon during the hot summer months.”

Coldwater species such as trout, salmon and steelhead have the greatest likelihood of being affected by the drought this year, but low water levels and high-water temperatures can potentially affect all inland aquatic species.

CDFW has introduced a series of voluntary “Hoot Owl” Recommendations – directing anglers to focus their fishing during the cooler “hoot owl” periods of the day when water temperatures are lowest. A watchlist of specific waters anglers should fish before noon is included and will be updated as conditions change. Sustained afternoon water temperatures exceeding 67 degrees Fahrenheit for trout fisheries could trigger additions to the list.

Currently, the list of waters include:

  • Lower Owens River (Pleasant Valley Dam downstream to Five Bridges) in Mono County
  • Hot Creek in Mono County
  • Mill Creek (Walker Basin) in Mono County
  • Lower Rush Creek (Grant Lake to Mono Lake) in Mono County
  • Bridgeport Reservoir in Mono County
  • Deep Creek in San Bernardino County
  • Crowley Lake in Mono County
  • Truckee River (Lake Tahoe to the Nevada state line) in Nevada, Placer and Sierra counties
  • Upper Truckee River in El Dorado County

As conditions change, CDFW will post the updated list on the “Hoot Owl” Water Watchlist page.

Elevated water temperatures, lower oxygen levels, disease, low flows and low water levels are among the drought-related effects impacting many of California’s coastal waters and inland fisheries.

To reduce fish stress during the drought, anglers can:

  • Minimize the time you spend “fighting” the fish and any hands-on handling.
  • Use rubber or coated nylon nets to protect a fish’s slime layer and fins.
  • Quickly remove the hook with forceps or needle-nosed pliers.
  • Minimize the amount of time the fish is exposed to air, especially when the weather is warm.
  • Keep your hands wet when handling the fish.
  • If the fish is deeply hooked, do not pull on the line. Instead, cut the line as close as possible to where it is hooked and leave the hook so it can dissolve.
  • Allow the fish to recover in the net before you release it.
  • If the fish does not stay upright when you release it, gently move it back and forth.
  • Avoid fighting fish from deeper, cooler waters and bringing them into warmer waters at the surface if your intention is to release them.
  • Target fisheries that have stable water levels and species that are more resilient to elevated temperatures.

CDFW suggests all anglers follow these best practices even if anglers are only interested in harvesting fish to eat. Mortality may result from non-targeted species caught and released or fish outside of legal size limits that must be returned to the water.

Board approves River Master Plan over environmental group objections

LEWIS MacADAMS says it best on a bas relief commemorative sculpture at the park, which also bears his name. (Credit Miranda Robin)

From the Los Angeles Times:

After a coalition of environmental groups withdrew support for the L.A. River Master Plan over differences with its recommendations for uplifting the profile of the concrete flood control channel over the next 25 years, L.A. County officials decided Tuesday to move forward with the plan.

The groups had been threatening to walk away since Los Angeles County Public Works included far-reaching proposals submitted by famed architect Frank Gehry to transform the forlorn industrial confluence of the Los Angeles River and the Rio Hondo in South Gate into a cultural park.

Still, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to adopt the final L.A. River Master Plan.