Tag: Mammoth Lakes

USDA Forest Service Temporarily Closing All California National Forests for Public Safety

Release Date: Aug 30, 2021

Contact(s): Public Inquiries, Media Inquiries

PDF of this news release

Link to Regional Order

VALLEJO, Calif., — August 30, 2021. To better provide public and firefighter safety due to the ongoing California wildfire crisis, USDA Forest Service Pacific Southwest Region is announcing a temporary closure of all National Forests in California. This closure will be in effect from Aug. 31, 2021 at 11:59 p.m. through September 17, 2021 at 11:59 p.m. This order does not affect the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, which is not in the Pacific Southwest Region.

“We do not take this decision lightly but this is the best choice for public safety,” said Regional Forester Jennifer Eberlien. “It is especially hard with the approaching Labor Day weekend, when so many people enjoy our national forests.”

Factors that led to this decision include:

1. By temporarily reducing the numbers of people on national forests, we hope to minimize the likelihood that visitors could become entrapped on National Forest System lands during emergency circumstances.

2. The closure order will also decrease the potential for new fire starts at a time of extremely limited firefighting resources, and enhance firefighter and community safety by limiting exposure that occurs in public evacuation situations, especially as COVID-19 continues to impact human health and strain hospital resources.

3. Due to state-wide conditions, any new fire starts have the potential for large and rapid fire growth with a high risk to life and property. The Forest Service and our partners are absolutely doing all we can to fight these fires and will continue to do so, but the conditions dictate the need for this region-wide closure order.

4. Forecasts show that conditions this season are trending the same or worse as we move into late summer and fall.

5. Although the potential for large fires and risk to life and property is not new, what is different is that we are facing: (a) record level fuel and fire conditions; (b) fire behavior that is beyond the norm of our experience and models such as large, quick runs in the night; (c) significantly limited initial attack resources, suppression resources, and Incident Command Teams to combat new fire starts and new large fires; and (d) no predicted weather relief for an extended period of time into the late fall.

Going to Mammoth? Fish before noon, CDFW says in new voluntary hoot-owl guidelines

PRESS RELEASE: The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is asking recreational anglers to voluntarily change how, when and where they fish to minimize stress and mortality among fish populations suffering from drought conditions.

CDFW is advising anglers not to fish past 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.

“Many of our inland fisheries that rely on cold water habitat will likely be significantly impacted in the short and long term,” said CDFW Inland Fisheries Manager Roger Bloom. “California’s drought cycles have required us to learn to manage fisheries with extreme variations in water flows. The last drought resulted in significant effects to fisheries that took years to recover from. We hope the self-imposed Hoot Owl restrictions by anglers will help mitigate those effects.”

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 angling recommendations – so-called “Hoot Owl” Restrictions – that directs 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 avoid fishing past noon is included and will be updated as conditions change. Sustained afternoon water temperatures exceeding 67 degrees Fahrenheit for trout fisheries could trigger addition 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 (San Bernardino County)
  • Crowley Lake (Mono County)
  • Truckee River (Lake Tahoe to the Nevada state line) in Nevada, Placer and Sierra counties

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

CDFW offers a number of other angling tips to reduce fish stress during the drought:

  • 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.

While theses best practices may not all apply to anglers interested in harvesting their 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.

Ignore the looks, don’t forget the waders

(Courtesy jrabold.net)

MAMMOTH LAKES, Calif. — It’s hard to get psyched about a shuttle ride to go fishing, especially when it’s mandatory. I’ll hike to fish, drive to fish, bike to fish, oh yeah, all of those, but taking public transport to cast a dry, it just seems odd.

For one thing, do you or don’t you wear your waders while on public transport? Showing up with a rod is odd enough, but trudging past Old Joe collecting tickets in your Simms just seems weird.

But there I was descending on the mandatory Reds Meadow Road shuttle to wet a fly in the middle fork of the San Joaquin, a section of the longest river in Central California. I’d heard it was fast, because of a monster snow that had skiers loving slopes this very morning. That’s right Mammoth is still cooking with only 93 days to go until the next opening day!

As we descended into the Devils Postpile National Monument, I surveyed my companions, including the family from St. Augustine, Fla., dressed out for three days of wilderness mountaineering —  dad, mom and four kids all sporting shiny new ice axes attached to their equally first-trip backpacks.

The standing-room-only bus featured all manner of mountain couture, that cowboy hat that’s shrunk and in tatters, a badge of many successful trips; thick-soled boots showing all manner of soles, from new to gnarly; serious eye protection; poles and packs and approach shoes; over-flappy safari hats and their owners all taking in the wonder of 4 million years of mountain uplift. All the words by all of the writers don’t even begin to capture the view.

And there was a fair amount of trepidation as our driver exited the vehicle to coax an overly cautious Range Rover driver around the bus. True, it was several hundred feet down over the Rover side. Parking brake, please.

But for all the thousands of dollars of gear, new and not so, I didn’t spot a single pair of waders, and I applauded my own stick-to-it-ness as I left the bus, hiked a tad, and entered  the intense current of the San Joaquin. Oh, make that the cold, intense current.

IMG_1601
Only a few feet deep, the flow of this water will still put you down hard. Wading staff recommended. (Jim Burns)

I’d brought both floating and sinking lines, expecting this quickly moving cornucopia of water. Because the real joy of fly fishing is casting a dry, I gently unfolded 6x to deliver a size 16 hi-viz caddis in usual suspect water, a simmering pocket edge. Pleasantly, a very small rainbow found it irresistible. My freezing feet were done at that point, but my mind was not.

Switch to the sinking line and two nymphs, one much bigger with rubber legs. Casting into water with this level of intensity was a thrill, as was watching the line unfold around a couple of river bends. A strike. Was it? Nothing.

Later, I realized I’d left my water bottle on the bank some 10 feet up, so I put my rod down with the nymphs still in shallow, currentless water. When I came back, there was pleasant surprise No. 2, another small rainbow wondering where he’d gone wrong. So much for the expertise of fly fishing!

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The current literally unzipped the bottom half of my pants! (Jim Burns)

My toes told me they were happy for this surprise, but it was time to go. But I told them how it was. Once you get a couple of small fish, you just know that there’s a bigger one out there someplace.

They tried to dissuade me by pretending to go numb. Oh, and the river schemed to get me home early by literally unzipping my left pant leg. I looked down wondering why the river drag had suddenly gotten so much worse and — wow, that’s a new one on me.

But there was really no other solution than to find a welcoming log pile, hop on and get zipped up. I kept thinking about my waders, those comfy, nicely fitted, warm, yummy, waders that I’d left behind, so as not to embarrass myself on the bus.

What do men say to themselves in these tender moments?

I admit to struggling with that zipper atop my precarious perch. I admit to muttering certain epithets to my former self, the fussy one who knows a thing or two about bus-riding fashions.

More or less safely zipped up, I couldn’t resist placing my nymphs under and down from the log pile. And there it was — the bigger trout.

See you on the river, Jim Burns

Check out the beautiful colors on this native trout, right, bigger than his cousin. (Jim Burns)

 

 

 

The Sweet Spot: The Gorge

The catch-and-release section of Rush Creek remains a no-go in early summer, unless the water flows change. (Jim Burns).

How’s the old Sam Cooke song go?

“It’s summertime and the livin’ is easy,

Fish are jumpin’ and the cotton is high.”

Jumpin’, that is, everywhere except the eastern Sierra.

Who’s to blame for this atrocity?

Every summer, Bishop, Mammoth Lakes and environs are overrun with bait and fly fishermen, who want to catch as many naturals and plants as possible, from opening day in late April, until season’s end, Nov. 15. You’ll see them wade, float and paddle in the area’s lakes, rivers, streams and private waters. You’ll see them buying up as many worms, dry flies, nymphs and streamers as the sports and fly shops can carry. New expensive rods sell; flashy reels fly off the shelves; tippet and leaders; hemostats and non-felt-bottom boots. Bammo! It’s usually an injection of debit cards and cash for the summer economy.

So this year who’s to blame for fishing that can only be described by this writer as mediocre? That’s after three days on water from the C/R area of Rush Creek, to Hot Creek, to the C/R lower Owens.

Well, here’s the sad truch: It’s not actually who’s to blame, but what.

And that what is Mother Nature.

After a snowpack that was the best in years — 199 percent of normal — and a cool spring, the Tioga Pass, which connects Highway 395 to Yosemite’s eastern gate, finally opened Saturday, June 18. According to the Mammoth Times, Tuolumne Meadows still has a summer blanket of several feet of snow. Rivers are running at ridiculous levels. Maybe some visiting Hollywood producer will make a disaster movie about it in the vein of “2012.”

I mean when’s the last time a guide actually refunded your trip deposit, rather than take you out? It just happened to me.

My son and I watched the white caps on Hot Creek as the water tore through that wind-beaten canyon. You read that correctly — white caps.

So, if you’re headed up for your annual Sierra fix, better check the cfs numbers carefully. The same guide told me he didn’t expect normal flows until August. According to him, last year, which also had unusually heavy snowfall, July was the magical month.

Aside from private waters not affected by the torrent of water coming off the mountains, if you must fish (and if you’re like me, you must), try The Gorge, north of Bishop, off Highway 395. Any fly shop can give you exact directions.

The Browns can be sweet in The Gorge, but you'll work to get down there. (Jim Burns)

Two cautions: it is hot as blazes — expect the high 90s or more — and an unfriendly plant called stinging nettle certainly will make you miserable if you brush against it. Access to the water is down a long, steep, gated road, which means you have to have something left in the tank for the 25-minute or so trudge back up. Long pants, yes; extra water, please, and sunscreen (try the new spray-on from Trader Joe’s. Good stuff.)

Even with the moderate water flows, fishing The Gorge is tough. We managed to catch several browns in several hours; the lengths were more Southern California average than the monsters you’ll find on any local fly fishing Web site. Much as I hate to write this, I probably wouldn’t do it again this season.

As the world’s most honest guide said to me as I signed for my refund, “You fellas are just here at the wrong time, hell, wrong season.”

Which is great news for thirsty Los Angeles after a string of drought years.

See you on the river, Jim Burns