Category Archives: Editor’s Blog

Drought’s Homicidal Ways Killing Trees

All Californians should be leery about conserving water as much as possible during the drought, but even the most conscious residents who hold off on watering lawns, washing cars or excessively long showers can’t stop carnage like this report:

But in California’s 33 million acres of forest, the starkest evidence of the drought’s toll is a brick-colored pine tree, its needles brittle and broken.

Each red tree is a dead tree. And drought-stricken California now has 12.5 million of them.

That’s according to a recent survey from the U.S. Forest Service, which examined more than 8.2 million acres of Californian forest last month and found dead trees on nearly 1 million of them as a result of the recent extreme weather — a swath of devastation about the size of Rhode Island.

“The national forest is stressed out,” William Patzert, a climatologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, told the Los Angeles Times.

[Wild animals in drought-stricken Western states are dying for a drink]

The aerial survey used a digital mapping system to track the devastation in California’s many state and national forests, as well as some private land. The vast majority of dead trees were in the Sierra Nevada (home to Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks, among others), though about 15 percent of the trees were in forests in southern California.

“When you start thinking about what it takes for a tree, which is usually a fairly hearty type of plant to die off, it’s telling you a pretty clear signal of just how intense the drought has been,” Brian Fuchs, a climatologist with the National Drought Mitigation Center, told San Diego’s KPBS.

Lots of victims in this mess.

 

 

 

 

 

Pressure’s On Delta Smelt?

(USFWS/Peter Johnsen

(USFWS/Peter Johnsen

 

Everyone in California is trying to figure out how to solve the state’s water issues.

Perhaps the key is a tiny fish, the Delta smelt, which has been in the news lately.

Here’s Fox News weighing in:

Endangered since 1993, the plankton-eating silver minnow is blamed by farmers, lawmakers and water officials up and down the Golden State for locking down billions of gallons of water that otherwise would go to them. That’s because, since the smelt’s listing as a protected species, biologists have tried saving the fish, in part, by withholding fresh river runoff annually to maintain smelt-friendly temperature and salinity levels. 

Farmers and downstate cities — already suffering the effects of the drought — claim that water was allocated to them, and withholding it for a fish with no commercial purpose is bad policy.

“California fruits and vegetables are sent all over the world,” said Republican state Assemblyman Travis Allen. “When we are diverting our water to save a few pinky-size fish and leaving hundreds of thousands of acres fallow – there is something wrong with our priorities.”

But major farm organizations are exploring a new option in the increasingly contentious fight, as the fish population continues to plummet despite conservation efforts: Declare the species extinct, and delist it as an endangered species, thus allowing regulators to turn on the pumps that appear lethal to the tiny minnows.

The numbers suggest the delta smelt, indeed, could be wiped out soon anyway. 

 In a March 2012 trawl survey, wildlife officials found 296 fish. An identical sampling a month later found 143. But in April 2015, officials found a single fish, not enough to propagate the species. 

Ocean Restrictions Could Help Sac River Chinook Run

All the drought-related signs have pointed towards what could be a difficult spawning run for Northern California’s king salmon as they will begin their migration later this summer into the fall.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife has created a contingency plan to help the winter run of Chinook from the Pacific into rivers like the Sacramento. Here’s the CDFW report:

Commercial salmon fisheries off most of California will open May 1, though seasons for both commercial and sport fisheries will be shorter in several areas this year.

The California Department of Wildlife (CDFW) and state fishing industry representatives of the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) worked together to recommend additional actions to protect endangered Sacramento River winter-run Chinook, which have been impacted by California’s severe drought.

“We needed to do more than what the bare minimum of the law required,” said Marci Yaremko, CDFW’s representative to the PFMC. “Methods used to forecast salmon stock abundance or run sizes don’t yet incorporate many of the environmental variables or other data streams we believe are indicative of poor salmon survival.”

The sport and commercial fishing seasons approved by the PFMC are expected to reduce impacts to winter-run Chinook to 17.5 percent, less than the maximum allowable impact rate of 19 percent prescribed by the National Marine Fisheries Service, pursuant to the Endangered Species Act. In recent years, federal guidance aimed at protecting winter-run Chinook from ocean fisheries has come largely in the form of this allowable rate cap. The rate limits the incidental harvest of winter-run Chinook, which co-occur in the ocean with other healthy salmon runs that fishermen are looking to target.

“Looking at the rate cap alone did not seem to be enough,” Yaremko said.

Earlier this year, CDFW scientists and managers examined data from dockside and at-sea fishery sampling programs to look for trends, with the goal of designing fishing seasons to avoid times and areas where contact with winter-run Chinook is most likely. During their time in the ocean, winter-run Chinook appear to be concentrated south of Pigeon Point, especially south of Point Sur, during the late summer and early fall. These analyses prompted CDFW to recommend shortened fishing seasons and size limit restrictions in some high-risk times and areas to the PFMC, in order to minimize  the chance of harvesting adult winter-run Chinook. The measures also are expected to reduce catch-and-release mortality of sub-adult fish, which become susceptible to fisheries in the fall.

“Throughout this process we have been concerned about the impacts of the drought, and in particular the effects the drought is having on our salmon stocks,” said Dan Wolford, President of the Coastside Fishing Club and the PFMC member representing California recreational fishing interests. “With the loss of the 2014 winter-run brood year it was apparent that we had to take extraordinary measures to help recover these fish.”

Commercial salmon trollers were also in support of reducing fishery impacts and were “prepared to follow CDFW’s recommendation of a maximum 17.9 percent impact rate for this year,” as stated by Dave Bitts, California commercial representative on the PFMC’s Salmon Advisory Subpanel and President of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations.

From Pigeon Point to Point Sur, the commercial season opens May 1 and runs through Aug. 15, which reduces fishing opportunity by approximately six weeks in August and September. From Point Sur to the U.S.-Mexico Border, the season is open May 1 through July 31, a reduction of almost nine weeks in August and September.

In the sport fishery from Pigeon Point to Point Sur, the season runs through Sept. 7, reducing fishing opportunity by approximately four weeks in September and October, while from Point Sur to the U.S.-Mexico Border, the sport fishery runs through July 19, reducing the season by approximately 11 weeks between July and October. The San Francisco (Point Arena to Pigeon Point) sport fishery closes at the end of October, reducing fishing opportunity by eight days in November in that area.

For complete ocean salmon regulations, please visit CDFW’s ocean salmon webpage at www.dfg.ca.gov/marine/oceansalmon.asp or call the Ocean Salmon Regulations Hotline at (707) 576-3429.

 

Commercial Sardine Fishing Shut Down

 

From the California Department of Fish and Wildlife:

All large-volume commercial sardine fishing in state and federal waters off California has been prohibited as of Tuesday, April 28, 2015. The closing will remain in effect until at least July 2016.

seine vessels

“This may be an end of an era, but fortunately, the tough management decisions were made several years ago,” noted Marci Yaremko, CDFW’s representative to the Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council), and fishery manager for coastal pelagic species, including sardines.

At its April 12 meeting, the Council recommended regulations that prohibit directed commercial fishing for Pacific sardine (Sardinops sagax) in California, Oregon and Washington for the upcoming fishing season, which would have begun July 1, 2015, and run through June 30, 2016. In light of revised stock biomass information and landings data for the current season, the Council also requested the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) close the fishery in the current season as quickly as possible. This closure takes effect today.

“The stock is in a state of decline, and now is too low to support large-scale fishing,” Yaremko explained. “Industry, government agencies and those looking out for non-consumptive interests have all worked together over the years to develop the harvest control rule we are using today, which defines when enough is enough.”

The Pacific sardine fishery in California was actively managed by the CDFW until 2000, when it was incorporated into the Council’s Coastal Pelagic Species Fishery Management Plan. Since then, the fishery has been actively co-managed by the Council, NMFS, CDFW and Oregon and Washington’s Fish and Wildlife agencies.

California’s historic sardine fishery began in the early 1900s, peaked in the late 1930s and then declined rapidly in the 1940s. A 20-year moratorium on the directed fishery was implemented in the late 1960s. In the 1990s, increased landings signaled the population’s recovery. Numbers have since dropped again, significantly.

The Pacific sardine fishery continues to be a significant part of California’s economy at times. At the recent fishery’s peak in 2007, 80,000 metric tons (mt) of Pacific sardine was landed resulting in an export value of more than $40 million. The majority of California commercial sardine landings occur in the ports of San Pedro/Terminal Island and Monterey/Moss Landing.

The Pacific sardine resource is assessed annually, and the status information is used by the Council during its annual management and quota setting process. The Council adopted the 2015 stock assessment, including the biomass projection of 96,688 mt, as the best available science. Current harvest control rules prohibit large-volume sardine fishing when the biomass falls below 150,000 mt. The Council recommended a seasonal catch limit that allows for only incidental commercial landings and fish caught as live bait or recreationally during the 2015-16 season.

The decrease in biomass has been attributed, in part, to changes in ocean temperatures, which has been negatively impacting the species’ production. While the estimated population size is relatively low, the stock is not considered to be overfished. The early closure of the 2014-15 fishing season and the prohibition of directed fishing during the 2015-16 season are intended to help prevent the stock from entering an overfished state.

“Hard-working fishermen take pride in the precautionary fishery management that’s been in place for more than a decade,” said Diane Pleschner-Steele, Executive Director of the California Wetfish Producers Association. “Thankfully the Pacific Fishery Management Council recognized the need to maintain a small harvest of sardines caught incidentally in other coastal pelagic fisheries. A total prohibition on sardine fishing would curtail California’s wetfish industry and seriously harm numerous harbors as well as the state’s fishing economy.”

Pacific sardine is considered to be an important forage fish in the Pacific Ocean ecosystem and is also utilized recreationally and for live bait in small volumes. CDFW protects this resource by being an active participant in this co-management process. CDFW has representatives on the Council’s advisory bodies, works closely with the industry to track Pacific sardine landings in California and runs a sampling program that collects biological information, such as size, sex and age of Pacific sardine and other coastal pelagic species that are landed in California’s ports. These landings and biological data are used by CDFW in monitoring efforts and are also used by NMFS in annual stock assessments.

For more information about Pacific sardine history, research and management in California, please visit CDFW’s Pacific sardine webpage at www.dfg.ca.gov/marine/cpshms/.

 

 

CDFW Valor Awards For Officers

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CDFW wildlife officer Kyle Kroll/CDFW

From the California Department of Fish and Wildlife:

Six wildlife officers from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) were awarded the California Medal of Valor, the state’s highest honor, at a ceremony today. The six are among 52 state employees receiving the medal for demonstrating extraordinary acts of bravery and heroism in order to save the life of another.

Governor Brown’s Executive Secretary Nancy McFadden presented the awards.

“All of our officers are trained and ready to take on any challenge while working in a remote county, on a river or the ocean or patrolling in an aircraft,” said CDFW Chief of Law Enforcement David Bess. “The officers whose actions are being recognized represent the integrity of the entire CDFW force and we are very proud of them.”

There are more than 400 wildlife officers responsible for protecting California’s natural resources, often working alone on nights, weekends and holidays. They face many challenges as they enforce the laws relating to fish, wildlife and habitat within the state and its offshore waters.

The following officers are being recognized:

Crew of the Patrol Boat Bluefin
On Feb. 10, 1996, while patrolling waters off the Santa Cruz coastline aboard the department’s 65-foot patrol boat Bluefin, Lt. Doug Huckins (now retired), Wildlife Officers Gary Combes and John Ewald and U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer First Class Richard King, overheard a radio call about a capsized boat in the area.

After a 15-minute dash to the scene, they found the white hull of an overturned boat in the surf line and several people in 50 degree water, including two surfers who had paddled out to assist the victims. The crew could see the surfers taking turns holding up four of the five victims. Both surfers and victims were nearing exhaustion and waving frantically for help in the 12-foot waves.

With no real training on how to affect a rescue of that nature within the surf zone, the entire crew risked themselves to save lives.

Huckins backed the Bluefin just off the surf line, while Combes and Ewald launched a rigid-hull-inflatable skiff. They maneuvered into the surf zone riding the backs of the swells, and managed to pluck three of the victims from the water. They rushed them back to the Bluefin before returning to locate the other victims, but none were found. Huckins and King recognized that all three victims were in advanced stages of hypothermia after having struggled in the frigid waters for almost 45 minutes, and got the men into the crew’s survival suits for added warmth. The men were then airlifted by helicopter to a nearby hospital.

The two surfers had managed to get one victim to shore, but sadly a fifth victim drowned.

The rescued victims later visited Huckins. One of them told of becoming so exhausted he could no longer stay afloat – he sank once, then fought his way to the surface for what he knew would be his last breath, and as he began to sink for the last time, a wildlife officer’s hand came “out of nowhere” and pulled him to safety.

Wildlife Officer Kyle Kroll
On June 17, 2011, Wildlife Officer Kyle Kroll was patrolling the North Fork of the Feather River when he heard a 911 call over the county fire department radio. A vehicle had gone over a ledge and into the Feather River. Kroll was only five miles away and the nearest other rescue personnel were 45 minutes away.

Kroll arrived on scene and saw the vehicle was off a steep embankment and resting precariously on a rock in a section of the river with dangerous rapids. A severely injured husband and wife occupied the vehicle. Kroll determined he could not risk moving either passenger as the weight shift would have caused the vehicle to slip into the river. Kroll provided first aid and relayed pertinent information to emergency responders who were still many critical minutes away.

Kroll then secured the damaged vehicle with a tow strap and chain from his truck. He carefully waded into the swiftly moving river and attached them to the front and rear axles of the car. Assisted by a PG&E worker, Kroll tied the strap and chain to a tree and a rock in order to stabilize the vehicle and prevent it from falling into the river.

Rescue personnel and California Highway Patrol officers then arrived on scene. Because of the continued risk of the vehicle falling into the river, they provided Kroll with another chain, and he again went under the car and attached it to the axle, then to a tree. Only after securing additional straps and cables could the team work to extract the victims from the car and get them to safety.

Lt. Tony Spada
On July 24, 2013, Lt. Tony Spada was off-duty, riding his mountain bike on the south side of Ash Slough in Madera County. A woman ran from the bushes alongside the slough shouting, “My baby was swept away, help me!” Despite the fact he had no rescue equipment available, not even a life jacket, Spada dropped his bike, surveyed the scene and dove into the slough. He swam with the current approximately 50 to 70 yards downstream where he found two small girls hanging onto a branch to keep from being swept under a section of the slough with dense vegetation. Spada swam to their location and found it too difficult to rescue both children at the same time.

He located a safe exit point on the opposite side of the slough. Taking the smallest girl first, he placed her arms around his neck and proceeded to swim her across the slough to safety. He exited the waters, ran up stream and dove back into the water to rescue the second child in the same way.

Spada escorted the children over to officers of the Chowchilla Police Department who were waiting nearby. Both girls were treated for a mild case of hypothermia and shock.

Without Spada’s heroic actions, there is no doubt these two young girls would have lost their lives.

Wildlife Officer Arthur Golden
On Oct. 12, 2012, Wildlife Officer Arthur Golden was driving home from training when he came upon a vehicle accident near Corcoran. A small pickup truck had gone off the road and down a steep embankment.

A bystander reported that the victim was pinned in the vehicle and not breathing. Golden quickly checked on the driver, then radioed for help at his vehicle and went back down the hill to the heavily damaged vehicle. Inside, the driver was unconscious and bleeding. The truck was perched precariously on a slope and ready to slide down, potentially rolling over.

Putting himself in great jeopardy, Golden reached through the smashed driver’s side window to assess the victim’s injuries and provide immediate medical care. While Golden was half-inside the truck, it slid several inches down the hillside. Golden pulled the driver toward him to relieve the pressure on the downside truck door and stabilize the vehicle from rolling over onto both of them.

Shortly after, local fire and rescue arrived and fully extracted the man from the vehicle and got him to safety.

 

Klamath River Chinook Regulation Changes Adopted

Photo by Chris Collard

Photo by Chris Collard

 

Apologies for not getting this out sooner. Deadline beckoned in the middle of last week, and then sickness kept me out of the office on Thursday and Friday. But Klamath River fishing changes were adopted by the California Fish and Game Commission for this year’s Chinook

Here’s the CDFW release:

The California Fish and Game Commission adopted changes to the Central Valley and Klamath River basin salmon sport fishing regulations for the 2015 season on Friday, April 17. The changes include fall-run Chinook quotas, bag and possession limits, and restrictions at the mouth of the Klamath River (spit area) and in the main stem Klamath River in the vicinity of Blue Creek. The only change to the Central Valley regulations is an increase in the possession limit from two to four salmon. All other Central Valley regulations remain unchanged from last year.

The Klamath basin sport fishing quota for adult fall-run Chinook salmon is 14,133 fish. This represents a 250 percent increase over last year’s salmon quota and allowed for an increase in daily bag limit. The daily bag limit for fall-run Chinook salmon is three fish, no more than two adults (greater than 22 inches) and the possession limit is nine fall-run Chinook salmon, no more than six adults. The 2015 sport fishing season for fall-run Chinook salmon will run from Aug. 15 through Dec. 31 on the Klamath River and Sept. 1 through Dec. 31 on the Trinity River.

The Commission adopted two new restrictions for Klamath anglers, one recommended by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) in regard to the spit area and one in the main stem Klamath near Blue Creek recommended by the Yurok Tribe. The new spit area restriction limits anglers to “catch and keep” for all legally caught Chinook salmon. Additionally, once anglers have retained two adult Chinook salmon greater than 22 inches or their total daily bag limit they must cease fishing in the spit area.

The Commission reviewed two key proposals for Blue Creek. CDFW’s, which requested a joint focused study to determine hook and release mortality in the Blue Creek area and the Yurok Tribe proposal to implement a conservation closure. The Commission selected the Yurok Tribe proposal to close all non-tribal sports fishing in the Blue Creek area from June 15 through Sept. 14 from ½ mile below to 500 feet above the confluence of Blue Creek and the Klamath River. From Sept. 15 through Dec. 31 the closure is 500 feet above and below Blue Creek. The Commission adopted the proposal as a conservation measure.

The Klamath fall-run Chinook quota is subdivided into sub quota areas within the basin.   The lower Klamath River (mouth to Weitchpec) will receive 50 percent (7,067 fish) of the quota, the upper Klamath River (upstream of Weitchpec) will receive 17 percent (2,403 fish) of the quota and the remaining 33 percent (4,663 fish) is allocated to the Trinity River, split between the lower (Trinity confluence to Cedar Flat) and upper Trinity (upstream of Cedar Flat). The mouth of the Klamath River (spit area) will receive an allocation of 2,120 adult fall-run Chinook which is inclusive of the lower Klamath River sub area quota.

Jennings Lake Update

Photo courtesy of the Lake Jennings Facebook page

 

Here’s an update on San Diego’s Lake Jennings from the Helix Water District:

TROUT BITE

The trout fishing was fair this past week. Anglers reported catching trout primarily from the shoreline. Anglers were soaking PowerBait and nightcrawlers. We will be stocking 1,200 pounds of Tailwalkers this week. Stop by the bait and tackle shop for up to date fishing techniques and information.

BASS BITE

The bass bite was fair to good this past week. Anglers have been targeting bass in Half Moon Cove. Pitching plastics and drop shot have beenthe best method to landing the largemouth. Bass have been seen cruising the shoreline in 5 to  8 feet of water.Shoreline fishing is available from the campground everyday to 5 p.m.

Contact info:

(619) 443-2510

www.facebook.com/LakeJenningsRecreation

www.lakejennings.org/fishing/fishreport

Three Abalone Divers Drown

Our abalone report from last year reported on the dangers and risks of abalone diving. Tragedy again struck the sport when three Northern California divers drowned.

Here’s Reuters’ report:

Three men drowned as they dived for abalone off the rocky coast of Northern California’s Mendocino County after becoming trapped by pounding surf in a narrow channel, authorities said on Monday.

The Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office said the accident happened after five men entered Caspar Anchorage Bay on Sunday afternoon to dive for red abalone, a large, edible mollusk hunted for sport along the coast north of San Francisco Bay.

Witnesses said rough waves made for poor diving conditions, with swells 7 to 8 feet tall, Sergeant Joseph Comer of the sheriff’s office, said in a statement.

A fisherman alerted rescuers, who arrived by boat and helicopter and pulled two of the victims onto Caspar Beach, police said. Despite life-saving efforts, both were pronounced dead at the scene, Comer said. Four hours later, the body of the third victim was found floating in a nearby cove.

 Our thoughts are with the families of the victims.

Lake Isabella’s Big Buck$ Derby Winner

David Agular with this very valuable Lake Isabella trout.

David Aguilar with his very valuable Lake Isabella trout.

From George Stahl of the Kern River Valley Chamber of Commerce:

David Aguilar of Bakersfield caught a 23 1/2-inch trout which won the longest trout award at last weekend’s Lake Isabella Fishing Derby  David was wearing an official 2015 Derby T-shirt when he caught the fish, so his first-place, $5,000
prize doubled to land him a cool $10,000!

There are still plenty of the 10,000 pounds of 1- pound to 13-pound  trout – with some as big as 16 pounds – left in Isabella Lake. Even though there is no money attached to any of them now, they are still worth the trip to the Kern River Valley for a great day
of fishing and fun!

CDFW Emergency Meeting Tonight

 

 

 

 

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The drought conditions in California don’t seem to be getting better anytime soon and things could worse before they get better. So it’s not surprising that officials are concerned about the Sacramento River’s king salmon prospects this summer:

Here’s the California Department of Fish and Wildlife release on the possibility of closing a portion of the Sac’s run of early kings:

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is holding a public meeting to solicit comments on a proposed closure of 5.5 miles of the Sacramento River above the Highway 44 Bridge in Redding to Keswick Dam. CDFW has determined this closure is necessary to protect endangered winter-run chinook salmon. The anticipated dates of closure are April 27-July 31.

“At the department, it pains us to propose this action for the state,” said Stafford Lehr, CDFW Fisheries Branch Chief. “But we are in unchartered territory here, and we believe this is the right thing to do if we want to help winter run and be able to fish for big rainbows in the long-run.”

The meeting will be held Tuesday, April 7, from 4:30-6:30 p.m. at the Redding Public Library,1100 Parkview Ave. in Redding (96001).

CDFW is proposing a complete fishing closure in this critical holding and spawning area to ensure added protection for the federal and state endangered winter-run chinook, which face high risk of extinction. Given the gravity of the current situation, it is imperative that each and every adult fish be given maximum protection. Current regulations do not allow fishing for chinook salmon, but incidental catch by anglers targeting trout could occur.

An estimated 98 percent of the in-river spawning is occurring in the 5.5 mile stretch under consideration for closure. This reach is the principle spawning area in these extraordinary drought year conditions. This section represents only 10 percent of the waters currently open to fishing upstream of the Red Bluff Diversion Dam.

In 2014, approximately 95 percent of eggs and young winter-run chinook were lost due to elevated river temperatures. Given current drought conditions, it is likely the 2015-year eggs and young salmon will again be subject to extremely trying conditions.

CDFW is tasked by the Governor to work with the California Fish and Game Commission to determine whether fishing restrictions in certain areas are necessary and prudent as drought conditions persist. The proposed closure is also in accordance with the state and federal Endangered Species Acts.

Governor Brown has called on all Californians to reduce their water use by 25 percent. Visit  saveourwater.com to find out how everyone can do their part, and visit drought.ca.gov to learn more about how California is dealing with the effects of the drought.