Category: Top 10

On New Year’s Eve, 10 different LA River stories from 10 consecutive years

Photo by Damir Mijailovic on

Much to my surprise, I’ve been writing/curating this blog for the past 10 years. Too legit to quit or something else all together? All I know is I started writing because I was fixated on a river running through Los Angeles that I’d never visited after living here for more than 30 years. Just finding access back in the day was difficult enough, but then to also consider you could catch fish in it seemed improbable at best.

Fast forward to the end of 2021 and our river has become famous, and not just in the movies. Carping the LA is now on fly-fisher bucket lists. That, of course, isn’t because of my writing, but I can say that the blog has grown up in a similar way to our beloved river. As you think about the end of the year, here are 10 winter stories in chronological order I thought you might enjoy.

I’ve made lots of friends through river work and hope you will be lucky enough to do the same. Eventually, some of the concrete will come out, and new habitat will go in. As poet Lewis MacAdams used to say, “We will know our work is done when the steelhead return.” So be it.

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

Dec. 23, 2010 — Carp clubbing takes river to new low

My son and I went out last week for some fishing on the city’s river. As we were leaving the water, we came upon a couple of friendly gents who intimately knew the area. Both had on caps; both had on backpacks; both had good senses of humor; and one should have been arrested:

“You don’t need that rod to catch carp down here,” said the one.

How could you not ask?

“What you need? You need a baseball bat, a Louisville Slugger, that’s what you need — a bat!”

Dec. 10, 2011 — ‘Improvement Overlay’ is Councilman Reyes’s next approach to coaxing money from the feds

Lots of buzz this week about a proposed ordinance to establish the Los Angeles River Improvement Overlay District. That’s a mouthful to say to Washington, “hey, Obama, where’s our money?”

Cash, authorized by Congress, is needed to complete an essential Corps  study that analyzes the effects of ripping out lots of concrete. Currently, the last phase of the study is years behind schedule. Until it’s finished, Reyes’ river project can’t be completed.

Dec. 29, 2012 — Lariverflyfishing rings in New Year with 20,000th visit

I was pretty stoked about that number back then …

Nov. 13, 2013 — Seven tips to follow when stalking LA River carp

My favorite tips is No. 1: Don’t be in a hurry.

Dec. 18, 2014 — FoLAR seeks anglers for Long Beach fish study

Friends of the Los Angeles River (FoLAR) in partnership with the Aquarium of the Pacific will host Phase 3 of a scientific fish study with help from the Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains. We need Citizen Scientists, in this case, volunteer anglers to help us catch what is in the soft bottom section of the Los Angeles River at Long Beach.

This is a rare chance for you to fish in an area that one does not normally access, contact to hold a spot. Fishing will start at 2pm until dusk on Saturday, January 3rd, 2015.

Dec. 15, 2015 — Musings written in pencil: LA River Top 10 laundry list

No. 6 “Off Tha’ Hook” celebrated its second year. It’s become a party down by the banks on Sept. 3, a Dept. of Fish and Wildlife “free day,” when no license is required to fish. Best memory: the number of children fishing at least doubled over last year. I’m a sponsor for next year, so come on down. The entry fee will be reduced, according to FoLAR.

Dec. 2, 2016 — River Health Update: Biologists and volunteers return to work on the Upper River Fish Study

On our return to Sepulveda Basin, to continue the upper river fish survey, we captured 203 fish, a far cry from the more than 3,600 tilapia fry caught this time last year.

Dec. 1, 2017 — Huck Finn retelling along the LA River in debut novel

Dec. 16, 2018 — Holiday Twofer: Zinke out, rockfish in

So, it was with great holiday pleasure that I paged through the print Los Angeles Times this morning, to find two memorable events: Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is following former scandal-plagued Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruit out the revolving Trump door, pursued by a cloud of more than a dozen ethics violations. Here’s a summary of what he did during his close to two years in office. Top of mind for me was his tone deaf response to millions of comments asking him not to recommend shrinking Bear’s Ears National Monument. 

Dec. 13, 2019 — Help restore Southern California Steelhead habitat

Sespe Fly Fishers was awarded a $1,500 grant from Fly Fishers International. The multiple-page grant request was submitted by SFF Conservation Chair Randy Nelson who worked on the application for several days.

The funds were awarded to help Sespe Fly Fishers, in partnership with the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy, to restore the habitat of the endangered Southern California Steelhead along several tributary streams of the Ventura River.

Dec. 29, 2020 — Ten things to cheer about in 2020

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.

Musings written in pencil — LA River Top 10 laundry list

Get to know the river, up close and personal, like this shot under the Sixth Street Bridge. (Courtesy FOLAR)
Say goodbye to the Sixth Street Bridge and hello to its replacement project. (Courtesy FOLAR)

Goodbye 2015, and ‘tis the season for Top 10s. Read through, and you can see there’s plenty of contention about some topics, and for those of us who want healthy waters in which to fish, there’s still plenty of work ahead in 2016.

Noteworthy today is the fact that Congress, although finally getting more public laws enacted (113 this year as opposed to 72 last year, according to Pew) neglected the very important Klamath River dam removal deal.

No. 10 Last week, this site received its 100,000th view, which is incredibly gratifying for me. In 2010, my first post, “Glendale Narrows adventure No. 1” got 51 views – all year! This week, generous readers pushed the 2015 blog total to 32,500.

"Bet you can't do this, hahaha!" (Courtesy Weekly Times Now)
“Bet you can’t do this, hahaha!” (Courtesy Weekly Times Now)

No. 9 “Why do carp jump?” won this year’s most-viewed post. In the last 12 months, 1,125 readers read why these crazy fish do what they do, as well as taken the poll to post their own opinion. The all-time winner, however, “Holy mackerel, Dad caught a largemouth bass” snagged more than 2,900 views last year, with “jump” in seventh place. That piece was a landmark showing the popular game fish indeed lives in our river. By midsummer they came back again after last year’s rain made them scarce for the first half of 2015. In fact, look at the mega-largemouth John Tegmeyer caught yesterday.

No. 8 After the much-publicized death of Fred, the Great Blue Heron, last year, a collaborative effort among Friends of the L.A. River, Trout Unlimited and Berkley Conservation Institute brought fish line recycling tubes to three spots in Glendale Narrows. According to Robert Blakenship, look for a TU-sponsored water temperature survey next year.

No. 7 Expedition found no Arroyo Seco trout. “The year of the bummer” stayed true to its name when this Arroyo Seco

Matus Solobic, one of today's Off Tha' Hook winners, with a sweet hog. (Jim Burns)
Matus Solobic, two-time Off Tha’ Hook winner, shows off a sweet hog. (Jim Burns)

Foundation expedition with contributors Roland Trevino, his son Ansel, Roderick Spilman, found nary a smolt at the headwaters to the Arroyo Seco in the San Gabriel Mountains. Blame the drought, the Station Fire and neglectful, woefully underfunded forest management.

No. 6 “Off Tha’ Hook” celebrated its second year. It’s become a party down by the banks on Sept. 3, a Dept. of Fish and Wildlife “free day,” when no license is required to fish. Matus Solobic again took home first place and lots of bling. Best memory: the number of children fishing at least doubled over last year. I’m a sponsor for next year, so come on down. The entry fee will be reduced, according to FoLAR.

No. 5 Wild Steelheaders United, Trout Unlimited and CalTrout chose Long Beach’s Aquarium of the Pacific to host the Steelhead Science for Anglers event in November. A good antidote to the Klamath River congressional collapse is to watch what NOAA fisheries lists as West Coast wins for the year: both four and a half miles of restored steelhead habitat on Arroyo Sequit Creek in L.A. County and 34 acres of kelp forest habitat off Palos Verdes made the list.

No. 4 FoLAR completed its Long Beach Fish Survey– and moved up to the Valley, where biologists Rosi Dagit and Sabrina Drill lead a dozen volunteers in the fine art of seine netting in late November.

“This is a particularly enterprising survey, William Preston Bowling, FoLAR’s special projects manager told the Los Angeles Times. “But then, surprisingly few studies of fish in the river, natives and nonnatives alike, have been conducted. There’s a lot of learn out here.”

The haul of more than 3,600 fry tilapia thrilled the group, especially after the slim pickings from three trips to Long Beach that netted, by my count, under a dozen carp and other fish. There’s nothing more discouraging that seeing fish swimming at your feet and not being able to land them. The Long Beach segment is most certainly undercounted.

No. 3 President Obama signed into law (2014) the Los Angeles National Monument, but fishermen say “so what”?

I’m one of those tax payers who thought national monument status would quickly fix the West Fork of the San Gabriel River. Naïve, I know, but I’ll ask again: How can the West Fork be classified as a “wild and scenic river” when it is so battered and beaten down? If you want to see where it could end up, drive over to the East Fork. “Mad Max” is an exciting dystopian movie, but not what I want to find in the national monument. Two explainers, here and here.

No. 2 Congress green-lighted L.A. River habitat restoration plan – all $1.3 billion of it (2014), but what does that really mean? Yes, the same Congress mentioned at the beginning of this piece is ready to unload the coffers for Los Angeles, and it remains to be seen which vision of the new river will win out.  If fish and fishing aren’t a major part of that vision, we will have lost out on one of the major urban recreational opportunities in the West this century.

No. 1    “Star-chitect” Frank Gehry outed as rehab river architect.

For those who believe the planning objectives from the Army Corps Los Angeles River Feasibility Study – 1. Restore valley foothill riparian strand and freshwater marsh habitat; 2. increase habitat connectivity; 3. increase passive recreation (meaning recreation compatible with restored environment such as fishing and kayaking) — this phrase, uttered to the Los Angeles Times, makes us very uncomfortable:

“I said, ‘Oh, you want me to be Olmsted,'” a reference to Frederick Law Olmsted, one of the designers of Central Park. “I told them I’m not a landscape guy. I said I would only do it on the condition that they approached it as a water-reclamation project, to deal with all the water issues first.”

Question to Mr. Gehry: Does “water reclamation” jive with the three objectives from the ARBOR Study? The renewed Los Angeles River must be a steelhead trout friendly habitat. Rainbow trout, the same species as steelhead, once planted in its renewed, restored water must be able to make their journey out to the ocean, if that’s what they choose.

See you on the river in 2016, Jim Burns