Category Archives: Editor’s Blog

Former NHLer Willie Mitchell Catching Big Fish!

Willie Mitchell celebrated his Stanley Cup day by taking it fishing off Vancouver Island. (WILLIE MITCHELL)

Retired National Hockey League defenseman Willie Mitchell loves to fish, as he shared us with us in this 2014 profile. So it’s no surprise that Mitchell is spending life as a retired hockey player and Stanley Cup champion fishing (and landing some trophies).

Mitchell, like he talked about in our feature story on the former Los Angeles King, is also a dedicated conservationist who has tirelessly worked to protect wild salmon in his native British Columbia. He’s a really informative follow on Twitter (@Willie_Mitch33). Keep up the good work, Willie.

 

Adult Hatchery Coho Released Into Marin County Creek

A biologist releases coho salmon into Marin County’s Redwood Creek. (CDFW)

 

The following press release is courtesy of the California Department   of Fish and Wildlife: 

In an effort to boost the population of spawning coho salmon in Marin County’s Redwood Creek, biologists from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and the National Park Service (NPS) today released nearly 200 adult coho salmon in the creek at Muir Beach.

The released coho salmon were collected as juveniles from Redwood Creek in the summer of 2015 at an age of 6 to 8 months and reared to adulthood at the Warm Springs Fish Hatchery in Geyserville at the base of the Lake Sonoma Dam.

The release of coho salmon this winter is the culmination of the Redwood Creek Coho Salmon Rescue and Captive Rearing Project. This project, a collaborative effort by CDFW, NPS, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the California Department of Parks and Recreation, was initiated in 2014 with the goal of preventing the extinction of the coho salmon, which is listed as an endangered species under both the California Endangered Species Act and the federal Endangered Species Act.

Prior to 2014, fewer than 10 adult coho salmon were estimated to have returned to Redwood Creek annually to spawn. The long decline of coho salmon in Redwood Creek has been accelerated by recent periods of poor ocean survival combined with the prolonged California drought. Coho salmon are more sensitive to habitat degradation and poor water quality than other Pacific salmon species since they rear as juveniles in freshwater for a year or more.

Biologists hope that the released fish will migrate upstream and spawn in the creek. NPS monitoring staff will survey the creek in the summer of 2018 and collect tissue samples from juvenile fish. Genetic analysis of the tissue samples will indicate how many of the released adult fish produced viable offspring.

The first major release of adult coho salmon in Redwood Creek occurred in the winter of 2016. A third and final release of adult coho salmon is planned for the winter of 2018-19.

More information about the Redwood Creek Coho Salmon Rescue and Captive Rearing Project can be found on the CDFW website at wildlife.ca.gov/Drought/Projects/Redwood-Creek-Coho. The Redwood Creek coho restoration project is part of a broader effort to sustain and restore coho salmon runs along the central and northern California coast.

 

 

Steelhead Coming Back To The ‘Moke’

Mokelumne River photo by Brad Hall

As part of our 2016 April trout opener preview coverage, we profiled the Central Valley’s Mokelumne River, a rather underrated fishery that produces some good trout catches and an improving Chinook run based on last fall’s count.

Now as winter steelhead gets going – usually most popular along the Northern Coast’s river systems, the “Moke” as locals call it has been emerging as a steelhead river on the rise again.

Here’s more from the Stockton Record: 

For decades after Camanche Dam was completed in 1964, the steelhead run at the Mokelumne River Fish Hatchery, operated by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), averaged only 100 fish and no steelhead returned to spawn many years.

This has all changed in recent years. The hatchery staff reports one of the best steelhead runs on record, with 983 fish, including 489 adults 18 inches or over, trapped as of Monday.

Fishing success for the river’s steelhead and resident trout since the river reopened to fishing on Jan. 1 depends on who you talk to.

“Some experienced anglers report doing well while others aren’t catching anything,” said William Smith, hatchery manager. “Most fish being hooked are in the 18 to 20-inch class.”

Bank anglers and boaters are employing salmon eggs, spinners, spoons and flies. The top fly patterns are those that imitate salmon fry emerging from the gravel.

The two major public fishing accesses are at the hatchery and Stillman Magee Park in Clements.

The all-time record for steelhead at the facility was set last year with 1,121 steelhead, including 719 adults. This number could be exceeded this season, Smith said.

Time will tell if more fish are recorded in the Mokelumne going forward, but any promising news in fire- and mudslide-ravaged California should be  welcomed.

Commercial Crab Season In NorCal Finally Set To Open

CDFW file photo

The following press release is courtesy of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife: 

The northern California Dungeness crab fishery in Mendocino, Humboldt and Del Norte counties will open 12:01 a.m. on Monday, Jan. 15, 2018. The opener will be preceded by a 64-hour gear setting period that will begin at 8:01 a.m. Jan. 12, 2018.

California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Director Charlton H. Bonham had delayed the season a total of three times after crab quality test results in November and December indicated that crab were not ready for harvesting. Jan. 15 is the latest the Director can delay the season due to quality testing.

Any vessel that landed crab from other ocean waters prior to the season opening in Districts 6, 7, 8 and 9 (Mendocino, Humboldt and Del Norte counties) is prohibited from participating in the crab fishery in Districts 6, 7, 8 and 9, for 30 days following the opening of those areas. In Districts 6, 7, 8 and 9, the 30-day wait period ends on Feb. 14, 2018. Please refer to the latest CDFW Frequently Asked Questions for the current 2017-18 season concerning how the 30-day wait period also applies to Oregon and Washington’s delayed season openers.

“Although we have witnessed delays in the opening of the Dungeness crab commercial fishery in recent seasons due to domoic acid, a delay in the northern portion of the fishery due to quality isn’t unprecedented. The last time the northern season opener was delayed due to quality occurred with the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons and both those seasons started on Jan. 15,” said Christy Juhasz, CDFW Environmental Scientist.

There were also two areas in the north that were under a health advisory issued by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) due to domoic acid since the recreational fishery season opened on Nov. 4. These were lifted last month by CDPH after continual sampling of Dungeness crabs by CDPH showed the amount of domoic acid had declined to low or undetectable levels.

Recreational crabbing remains open in California statewide.

All anglers are strongly encouraged to download the 2017-18 Best Practices Guide and observe best practices to reduce incidences of whale entanglements with crab trap gear. This guide was developed by the Dungeness Crab Fishing Gear Working Group, a collaborative effort between commercial crabbers, state and federal agencies, and non-profit organizations.

For more information on health advisories related to fisheries, please visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/Fishing/Ocean/Health-Advisories.

More information on Dungeness crab, please visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/crab.

How Would More Delta Water Pumping Affect Fish?

MCalamari /Wikimedia

Here’s a good report from New Deeply’s Water Deeply website on the potential impact on the Sacramento-San Joaquain Delta’s fish population as the Trump administration suggests more water will be distributed to farmers.

Here’s some of Alastair Bland‘s piece:

While the state’s agricultural community has welcomed the proposal, issued by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation on December 29, fishery advocates have not. They warn that pumping more water out of the Delta will threaten the survival of imperiled salmon runs, as well as the critically endangered Delta smelt.

“Chinook salmon and other fish and wildlife species native to California are already teetering on the brink of extinction because too much water is being diverted from the Delta,” said John McManus, executive director of the Golden Gate Salmon Association, which lobbies to protect rivers, salmon and fishers. He said further reducing the amount of water flowing through the Delta could directly reduce the survival of young salmon, which are born in the upper reaches of the Central Valley’s rivers and depend on strong outflows to safely reach the sea.

Erin Curtis, a spokesperson for the Bureau of Reclamation, says her agency will collaborate with federal and state fishery agencies to ensure that endangered species are not harmed by changes to pumping operations in the federally run Central Valley Project, which she says could occur within a year.

In its late-December “Notice of Intent,” the bureau described a plan “to maximize water deliveries and optimize marketable power generation.” Following this would require “potential modifications to the operation of the Central Valley Project, in coordination with California’s State Water Project.” The Central Valley Project is a system of pumps and canals that handle about half of the water that is diverted from the Delta. The State Water Project, operated by the California Department of Water Resources, also exports Delta water and sends it mostly to cities.

The Trump administration’s bid to take more water from the Delta, which would mostly benefit farmers on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley, could cause friction between different regulating agencies. The State Water Resources Control Board has considered reducing total pumping by updating its Water Quality Control Plan, a document aimed in part at protecting salmon and other fish. In 2015, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service discussed taking formal action to boost struggling salmon populations.

It’s a good full read.

Here’s The California Upland Bird Stamp Winning Entry

Jeffrey Klinefelter’s winning painting in the California upland bird stamp contest. (CDFW)

The following press release is courtesy of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife: 

A painting of a Wilson’s snipe has been chosen by a panel of judges as the winning entry in the 2017-2018 California Upland Game Bird Stamp Art Contest. The painting was created by Jeffrey Klinefelter of Etna Green, Ind.

Sponsored by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), the annual contest is held to determine the official design for the upcoming year’s California Upland Game Bird Stamp.

Artists submitted their own original depiction of a Wilson’s snipe (Gallinago delicate), a charismatic, diminutive migratory game bird. The individual artists determined the setting and details, but entries had to include at least one Wilson’s snipe and be representative of the species’ natural habitat in California if a background was included.

Crawford 2017-2018 upland game second place

The entries were judged Wednesday by a panel of experts selected for their knowledge in the fields of ornithology, conservation, art and printing. Designs were judged on originality, artistic composition, anatomical accuracy and suitability for reproduction as a stamp and print.

The judges cited the anatomical accuracy of the representation of the Wilson’s snipe, and one judge praised the impressive “juxtaposition of the fine detail in the foreground with the almost dreamy background.”

Klinefelter created the painting based on his photograph of a Wilson’s snipe – after simplifying the original habitat with the intent of highlighting the bird.

Simons 2017-18 upland game third place

“That is where artistic license comes in,” said Klinefelter, a wildlife artist who also won the 2009-10 California Duck Stamp Contest. “The important thing when you are painting for a stamp is to avoid having your painting cluttered as that can take away from the visual impact of the species.”

Broderick Crawford of Clayton, Ga., placed second, Lawrence Simons of Lebanon, Ore., placed third and Erik Fleet of Julian (San Diego County) received honorable mention.

An upland game bird validation is required for hunting migratory and resident upland game birds in California. The validation replaces the stamp through CDFW’s Automated License Data System, but the stamp is still produced and available to hunters upon request. Money generated from upland game bird validation sales are dedicated solely to upland game bird-related conservation projects, hunting opportunities and outreach and education. CDFW annually sells about 175,000 upland game bird validations and distributes approximately 17,000 stamps.

Fleet 2017-18 upland game contest honorable with ribbon

Examples of recent CDFW projects funded by upland game bird validation sales include:

Estimating Factors That Influence Population Vital Rates and Space Use Patterns of Pheasant in the Central Valley of California. The ring-necked pheasant was introduced and established in North America during the 1800s and has long been a popular game bird for hunters. Although pheasants flourished in California during the 1900s, changes in agricultural and land-use practices in the latter half of the 20th Century reduced the amount and quality of habitat available to wild birds in the state and hunter harvest declined. This project uses telemetry to monitor pheasants and estimate population rates in different regions of the state. This information helps the support and maintenance of wild pheasant populations. For more information, please visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/conservation/birds/pheasant.

Habitat Development and Enhancement Projects at Gray Lodge Wildlife Area. The project will improve approximately 149 acres of upland nesting and foraging habitat for pheasants, turkeys, doves, quail and other upland wildlife species at CDFW’s Gray Lodge Wildlife Area in Butte County. These improvements will enhance the department’s ability to manage water and increase the recruitment and survival of wildlife. The project will improve items such as nesting and foraging cover, and should result in higher pheasant, turkey, dove and quail populations. As all of the fields are located in the hunt area, the project will provide additional hunter opportunities. For more information, please visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/grants/upland-game-bird/projects.

Any individual who purchases an upland game bird validation may request their free collectable stamp by visiting www.wildlife.ca.gov/licensing/collector-stamps. An order form is also available on the website for collectors who do not purchase a hunting license or upland game bird validation or for hunters who wish to purchase additional collectible stamps.

 

 

New NPS Director Won’t Get A Warm Welcome

 

These days, anything that goes on in Washington D.C. creates a buzz, no matter what side of the aisle you prefer to view your political theater from. So the reported new director of the National Park Service, P. Daniel Smith, probably wasn’t going to be met with no comments, or in his case, significant resistance.

It’s not even 3 p.m. on a Monday, so expect more backlash, but Smith’s connection to controversial Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder is trending.

 

Here’s more from the New York Daily News:

 

Smith retired from NPS in 2014, but a decade earlier he got into hot water as special assistant to the agency’s director.

He reportedly acted as middle man when Snyder wanted 130 trees removed at Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park so he could have a better view of the Potomac River from his Maryland mansion.

He told staff at the park “Snyder was not happy with the pace of negotiations with NPS concerning the scenic easement,” according to National Parks Traveler.

The inspector general for the Interior Department in 2006 found Smith “inappropriately used his position to apply pressure and circumvent NPS procedures” to get the trees cut down.

Snyder wasn’t accused of wrongdoing for removing 50,000 square feet of trees, which were replaced by saplings, in the 2006 inspector general’s report, according to the Washington Post.

Smith, however, was accused of forcing subordinates to give the clearing a greenlight without allowing environmental experts or the public to weigh in.

By that point, he’d been moved to Colonial National Historical Park. Smith told the Washington Post in 2006 he’d been reprimanded but committed “nothing tawdry.”

“It was a legitimate request by a landowner who had a legitimate issue with the Park Service,” he said.

Twitter had a field day with Smith’s reported appointment by the Trump administration:

Lake Del Valle Fishing Update

 

Joe Mello of Fremont with a 7-pound trout. (LAKE DEL VALLE)

Daryl Hill of San Jose caught this 6-pound rainbow

The following is courtesy of Livermore’s Lake Del Valle:

Fishing Report for Lake Del Valle for 1/1/18-1/8/18
 The weather here at Lake Del Valle has fluctuated with some days being warm and sunny and other days are super cold and windy and rainy. Fishing has been tough this week with the low pressure systems rolling through.
  For trout most anglers are using either Powerbait, Power eggs or nightcrawlers. I also recommend using either Kastmasters, small spinners, or small jerk baits. Fish shallow sand flats and coves.
 Catfish are doing good this week most anglers are using either chicken liver, night crawlers or mackerel. Fish deeper water around rock walls and points.
  Stripers are starting to show up a little with a few anglers having luck. Most anglers that fish for stripers right now are using either anchovies or night crawlers. I would also recommend using some kind of jig either hair raiser, chatter bait, or spoon.
Also try:
(925) 449-5201

Sacramento-Area Local Outdoors Shop Closing

I have a pet peeve that whenever I travel with friends and family that whenever possible I’d rather avoid chain stores, restaurants and other retail outlets. Sure, sometimes it’s hard to avoid, especially here at home. But it’s nice to check out someplace local whenever possible.

Which brings us to a sad story coming out of Orangvale, a Sacramento suburb. In an outdoor retail world where giants like Bass Pro Shops make it difficult for the mom and pop stores to survive, the Sacramento Bee reported that a local fishing and hunting institution will shut its doors.

Here’s Bee reporter Chuck Fletcher with more:

Few businesses are as synonymous with their community as Wild Sports is to Orangevale, but after four decades of selling guns and fishing gear to northeast Sacramento County hunters and anglers, the retailer says it is closing.

“Store closing: huge sale,” screamed the yellow banner hanging outside the nondescript building this week.

Prominently situated at the intersection of Greenback Lane and Main Avenue, Wild Sports is one of the few retail stores outside of tire shops in Orangevale, a semi-rural suburban community of 34,000 people.

The store has been liquidating merchandise for weeks. Earlier this week, half a dozen patrons combed the 12,000-square-foot store, ringed with mounted animal trophies, for deals. Much of the remaining boots, gloves, scopes and outdoor gear was marked down by 30 to 40 percent. It’s not clear when the last day will come.

No comment” was the official word from a man in the back store room, who did not come out.

Wild Sports was big box sporting retail before the category existed.

“They were kind of an institution,” said Gary Voet, a former Sacramento Bee outdoors columnist. “The only place if you wanted to get any fishing-related stuff near Folsom was Wild Sports.”

As the news broke online, Orangevale residents expressed sadness that a community fixture would be leaving.

“Wild Sports was one of the last neighborhood outdoor sporting goods stores around. I shopped there all the time, and the fishing guys there were always super helpful,” said Hank Shaw, an award-winning outdoors author who lives in Orangevale.

Why the owners, listed in legal documents as Fligge Fligge Fligge, have chosen to close their business now is left to speculation with the owner declining to discuss. New gun laws and competition from online retailers are common theories.

Whatever the reason, it’s tough to see a local outdoors community’s beating heart taken off life support.

 

 

 

Reaction To White House’s Oil Drilling Statement

“The Conductor”/Wikimedia

 

Today, the Trump Administration announced plans to essentially allow offshore drilling in almost all federal waters. Here are some reactions involving California waters.

California U.S. Senator Kamala Harris:

State Rep. Grace Napolitano:

The governors of three West Coast states, including Jerry brown, released the following statement:

Washington Governor Jay Inslee, California Governor Jerry Brown and Oregon Governor Kate Brown today issued this joint statement following announcement that the U.S. Department of Interior would seek to open the Pacific Coast to oil and gas offshore drilling for the first time in decades:

“This political decision to open the magnificent and beautiful Pacific Coast waters to oil and gas drilling flies in the face of decades of strong opposition on the part of Washington, Oregon and California – from Republicans and Democrats alike.

“They’ve chosen to forget the utter devastation of past offshore oil spills to wildlife and to the fishing, recreation and tourism industries in our states. They’ve chosen to ignore the science that tells us our climate is changing and we must reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. But we won’t forget history or ignore science.

“For more than 30 years, our shared coastline has been protected from further federal drilling and we’ll do whatever it takes to stop this reckless, short-sighted action.”

Here’s the San Francisco-based Golden Gate Salmon Association:

“Looks like salmon fishermen can expect 2018 to be a year of trying to hold the line against destruction of California salmon by the federal government.  Last week the federal Bureau of Reclamation declared war on our Central Valley salmon stocks by moving to greatly increase water diversions from Central Valley rivers and the Delta to agribusiness in the Western San Joaquin Valley.  Today we hear from the White House that our coastal salmon fishing grounds are being targeted for neighborhood blight in the form of offshore oil rigs. When does their war on salmon fishing families end?”

From the other perspective, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke were excited: