Category: News

Cause Celebre: How a trout rescue on the q.t. ignited a water war in Pasadena

An incredible story of disappearing water, relocated trout and the thirsty needs of Pasadena.
Once known for its fly-fishing close to home, the Arroyo Seco above Pasadena’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory has become an unwilling poster child for all the calamities trout face: devastating fires, ruinous mudslides, parching droughts and , of course, human pressure. (Jim Burns)

An amazing story from the incomparable Los Angeles Times environmental writer Louis Sahagun: “In an era of increasing drought and nearly back-to-back wildfires, state conservationists have been working overtime in the San Gabriel Mountains to rescue frogs, fish and other species facing potential oblivion by rounding up populations of threatened animals and transporting them to safer areas.

While most of these efforts have occurred in obscurity, one recent mission to save hundreds of doomed rainbow trout has touched off a heated battle between humans and fish over the clear waters of Pasadena’s Arroyo Seco. The controversy has also served to highlight the challenges wildlife biologists now face as they search for havens amid Southern California’s patchwork of urban development, wildfire scars and seasonal mudslides.”

South Gate’s Urban Orchard Project moves closer to reality

From Stillwater Sciences:  We are excited to announce one of our first groundbreaking projects in the Lower LA River watershed in the City of South Gate, the Urban Orchard Park and wetlands with a trout stream!

See video link featuring the Mayor of South Gate, Assemblyman Anthony Rendon, RMC Mark Stanley, TPL Robin Mark, and prominent community and tribal leaders.

The project connects to the LAR Bikeway, Lower LAR Revitalization Master Plan, Metro station, multi-use planned community center, schools, neighborhoods and biodiversity bringing native habitat and species home to South Gate. Stillwater Sciences designed the one-acre native wetland, trout stream, and native habitat for the seven-acre park. We also completed the regulatory permitting for the project approvals.

Disease halts fish stocking from Hot Creek Trout Hatchery

Hot Creek is known to Southern Californians for its challenging fly fishing and pristine views. (Jim Burns)

UPDATE: As of June 17, the hatchery is once again open.

Thanks to guide and Mammoth local Chris Leonard for this news:

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has suspended all fish planting from the Hot Creek Trout Hatchery in Mono County as a bacterial outbreak has been detected at the facility.

“Unfortunately, the timing couldn’t be worse with the holiday weekend coming up, Mule Days taking place in Bishop and a lot of people coming to fish the eastern Sierra this time of year,” said Jay Rowan, Acting Fisheries Branch Chief for CDFW. “We don’t yet know the extent of the outbreak at Hot Creek Hatchery, but we do have the advantage of some additional tools in our toolbox now versus a year ago, including recently developed vaccines that we started rolling out to fish at the three previously infected hatcheries earlier this month.”

 The three other CDFW trout hatcheries in Southern California and the eastern Sierra are the Mojave River Hatchery, Black Rock Trout Hatchery and Fish Springs Trout Hatchery. That outbreak ultimately forced the euthanization of 3.2 million trout at those hatcheries.

With Opening Day in sight, get to know the new fishing regs

Just like you eventually replaced your old neoprene waders from back in the day, it’s time to get up-to-speed on the new fishing regs. (credit: Jim Burns)

From Trout Unlimited California and CalTrout

Dear fellow advocates for California’s trout and salmon,

On March 1st, 2021 the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) implemented new Inland Trout Sportfishing regulations that will change the angling season(s) and experience on many waters. CDFW will also, as directed by the California Fish and Wildlife Commission, changed the general statewide fishing regulations on March 1.The final regulation packet can be found here.

Regulations for your favorite trout streams may have changed so please review this packet before your next visit to the river.As many of you are aware, Trout Unlimited California and California Trout have followed the state’s regulatory change process closely, and engaged in multiple ways with CDFW and the Commission to make sure that our wild trout populations are conserved and that our best special regulations waters retain their unique character and fishing experience.

Since the initial proposal for simplifying the Inland Trout Regulations was released in early 2019, TU and CalTrout worked collaboratively to deliver our members’ values and priorities to both CDFW staff and to the Fish and Wildlife Commission, throughout the public comment period.

Our principal goals were:to protect and enhance populations and habitat of native and wild trout;to support the Department’s goals with respect to establishment and management of designated Wild Trout waters;to support the Department’s goals with respect to the R3 program (which aims to recruit and retain more purchasers of California fishing and hunting licenses, in part through improving angling opportunities statewide);to honor long-established angling traditions and practices for specific waters, where these are consistent with broader resource management goals;To improve access for angling where appropriate or critically needed.Some of our priorities are reflected in the new regulations. In particular, the new general statewide regulations now require catch-and-release only, no-bait practices for the winter and early spring, in all streams.

Such measures are appropriate during that season, when most trout species are vulnerable as they congregate and spawn. Previously, the statewide regulations allowed a 5 fish take, 10 fish bag limit year-round with no gear restrictions.However, the final simplified regulations do not go far enough to protect our wild trout waters, especially given the impacts on coldwater fisheries of the hotter and drier conditions we are projected to experience in California.

We must manage our trout resources more flexibly, with better monitoring of wild and native trout population trends, if we want future generations of anglers to have the same opportunities we do today.Moreover, the State’s focus on “simplifying” freshwater angling regulations limited their willingness to keep some of the special regulations that have helped define the fishing experience on many iconic streams. CDFW and the Commission should re-visit and revise the new regulations for the following to better conserve native and wild trout populations or to enable better access throughout the year (there are likely other waters that also merit adjustments to their regulations).

Upper Sacramento River: Rather than three different regulations for different stream segments for this famous, wild trout-dominated water, we recommend a unified regulation: year-round, 2 fish bag, barbless artificial lures only. This would maintain harvest opportunities while adequately protecting large spawning fish that migrate up from Shasta Lake. Such a regulation would better meet the primary management objective of the 2000 Fishery Management Plan for the Upper Sacramento River (“to develop a world-class wild trout fishery”).

East Walker River: This trophy wild trout water, by long tradition primarily a catch and release fishery, has had a year-round season—until now. The new regulations close the “EW” from November 15th through the last Saturday in April, and allow increased harvest (from 1 trout to 2 trout) for the full open season. For this iconic water we support catch-and-release angling year-round with barbless artificial lures.

Mokelumne River: The new, simplified regulations allow for harvest of wild trouton “The Moke.” Our proposal is for catch-and-release angling year-round with artificial, barbless lures from the Highway 49 Bridge downstream to Lake Pardee at Middle Bar Bridge. That would make The Moke the sole catch-and-release only stream in the Sierra foothills, while maintaining harvest off Middle Bar Bridge (provides angling opportunities for persons with disabilities).

East Fork Carson River: The new regulations allow harvest of wild trout in this river downstream of Hangman Bridge (traditionally catch-and-release only water). We support a return to catch-and-release regulations with artificial lures and barbless hooks from Hangman Bridge to the Nevada state line. This management approach would best meet two primary goals under the 1979 East Fork Carson River Wild Trout Management Plan.

Fall River Complex (includes Ahjumawi, Eastman Lake, Lava Springs, and Bear Creek): This famous fishery, one of California’s few true spring creeks, now allows harvest and use of bait. We support a year-round angling season here with single barbless, artificial lures only and zero take.Lastly, the new, simplified Inland Trout Regulations continue the State’s over-reliance on hatchery production and stocking to provide trout fishing opportunity in many waters. This model is outdated, costly, and inconsistent with other resource management and conservation goals and policies.TU and CalTrout will continue to work with CDFW and the Fish and Wildlife Commission to monitor the performance of the new simplified regulations and to revisit and revise them as needed to protect native and wild trout and the angling experience on certain waters.

We will hold CDFW accountable to do post-regulation change monitoring and creel surveys, provide support for monitoring through our staffs and memberships, and keep an open dialogue with CDFW staff. We will also lead efforts to submit petitions for changes to the new regulations, as needed or appropriate.We appreciate your continued support for our advocacy on behalf of California’s native and wild trout, and to preserve the unique character and angling experience of certain streams.

For more information, or to convey a concern, please contact TU’s Sam Sedillo (ssedillo@tu.org) or CalTrout’s Patrick Samuel (psamuel@caltrout.org).

Biden to review Trump’s changes to Bears Ears National Monument, among others

President Biden may restore Bears Ears National Monument in Utah to its original size, created by President Obama. Under President Trump, the monument lost 85 percent of its land. (Courtesy USDA Forest Service)

If you read my “Ten things to cheer about in 2020,” then you know my No. 1 item was the election of Joe Biden on a climate agenda. The proof is in the pudding as they say. Check out this except from the story on PBS Newshour:

Bruce Adams, who stood next to Trump cheering at the Utah Capitol in 2017 when he signed the declaration shrinking the monument, said Wednesday he thinks it’s a foregone conclusion Biden will restore Bears Ears to the size Obama created, if not make it larger. Adams is county commissioner in the area where the monument is located and said the impact on the county of having to clean up trash and rescue unprepared visitors outweighs any benefit from people spending money at local hotels and restaurants.

See you on the river, Jim Burns

Ten things to cheer about in 2020

Even without the West Fork, you can still find trout in our local mountains. (Credit: Jim Burns)

We’ve never experienced anything like this year that’s coming to a close, both collectively and individually. As my wife and I watched the Christmas star last week, its first appearance in some 700 years, it made me wonder. As a writer, I’m all about signs and portends, so I thought it could either mean the coming apocalypse or a brighter future, as it did so many centuries ago. I chose the latter.

As we have all watched so many of our systems go haywire or barely hang on, there is still much to cheer. Here are my Top 10 in no particular order.  

  1. Election of Joe Biden on a climate agenda
    1. The former president’s environmental record is beyond abysmal. Start with the shrinking of Bear’s Ears National Monument and rushed move to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling. Both are a disgrace to our heritage of enjoying federally owned open lands.  
  2. Women embrace fly fishing
    1. From April Vokey’s podcast, to Montana Rodsmiths’ Aurora Lady Flex, unique rods build for women, to #chickswhofish, the sport is taking on a much-needed feminine side.
  3. Rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement, some major corps pledge to cut emissions 
    1. It may not be perfect, but it’s a beginning with a goal of zero emissions by 2050 or 2060, depending on who you read. Climate change is real and caused by human activity. May disdain for science and disdain for experts now live only in the past. My grandson will thank you. 
  4. Defeating Bristol Bay
    1. Alaska’s Trout Unlimited brought the heat and, as a result of a sustained community effort, the Pebble Mine isn’t being dug. The effort was two decades long, and we should all thank TU’s Meghan Barker for the many days she personally devoted to this defeat. 
  5. Bring down the Klamath Dams
    1. As CalTrout writes “The removal process for the four Klamath Dams will start in 2021 and extend into 2023. We look forward to celebrating the day when the Klamath River flows freely for the first time in over a century, and more than 300 miles of spawning and rearing habitat are once again accessible to native salmon and steelhead.” The Iron Gate Dam will be the largest in history to come down.
  6. New sentiments and community effort: the Eklutna Dam in Alaska falls
    • From Trout Unlimited: “Return to Us chronicles the historic effort spearheaded by Eklutna, Inc. and The Conservation Fund to remove the abandoned Lower Eklutna Dam and kickstart the return of diminished salmon runs to the river in Southcentral Alaska, near Anchorage.” In 2019, 90 dams in 26 states fell, setting a record number. I don’t currently have the 2020 figures.
  7. Beginnings of a fish passage on the Los Angeles River
    • Planning has begun to deepen part of the river to allow the endangered Southern California Steelhead access to its spawning grounds in the mountains. We are still a very long way off from the entire river being navigable for these fish, but it’s a start. 
  8. There are still wild trout in the San Gabriel mountains
    • The loss of the West Fork is a devastating experience for those of us who love the outdoors. I wrote a story for the upcoming “California Fly Fisher” (hard copy only) in which those in the know recommend other spots for fish and enjoy. My last outing, I was surprised to catch three native rainbows in a couple of hours in our local mountains. They were small, cold and beautiful.
  9. The first Native American to be nominated for the Interior Department would replace former oil lobbyist David Bernhardt, as part of Biden’s climate-forward agenda.
    • Plus Jennifer Granholm for Secretary of Energy, Michael Regan for Environmental Protection Agency Administrator, Brenda Mallory for Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality, Gina McCarthy for National Climate Advisor, and Ali Zaidi for Deputy National Climate Advisor would all join Deb Haaland.
  10. LA River Fly Fishing turned 10!
    • I never thought this site would last past a couple of years, but here I am clicking away. The site remains ad-free and has garnered around 235,000 views since I started writing and curating. Thanks for your support over the last decade. We’ll see how the LA River improves in the coming year. 

Happy New Year and see you on the river, Jim Burns

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)