Category Archives: Editor’s Blog

More Drought Issues For Valley Anglers

By Chris Cocoles

I’m heading to the Bay Area this weekend to visit my family, and in talking to a few friends and family this week, they said don’t expect to enter Seattle-like conditions (as in rain and more rain). Actually, the forecast is for possible showers on Saturday, but that won’t help California’s growing drough crisis.

The Sacramento Bee reported the California Department of Fish and Wildlife is being urged by Sierra Salmon Alliance  to shut down the American River to fishing in an attempt to  lower the fishing pressure on steelhead and salmon as the lack of rain continues to keep river levels at historic lows.

Here’s a small sample of Matt Weiser’s report in the Bee:

Salmon season has ended, but steelhead fishing is normally allowed year-round.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation this week is in the midst of curtailing water releases into the river from Folsom Dam, partly to preserve drinking water for suburban Sacramento communities. Flows in the river are expected to fall by Friday to 500 cubic feet per second, a level not seen since 1993.
A fishing closure has happened before on the American River, notably during the 1977 drought. It would have to be ordered by the California Fish and Game Commission following a recommendation from the Department of Fish and Wildlife. Jordan Traverso, spokeswoman for the department, said it has no recommendation yet.
“We have a great number of people looking at this from a number of different angles, and it’s not just the American,” she said.

Here is a statement from Sierra Salmon Alliance on the hopes to shut down the American to anglers.

I remember leaving my Bay Area home for college in Fresno 1989 when California was in the throngs of a five-year drought period. But this is looking like an even worse stretch for the Golden State.

 

Huge SARL Rainbow

Craig 1

Orange County angler Craig Adkinson, who was featured in the December issue of California Sportsman for float tubing Southern California lakes and saltwater bays, is having a good trout season thus far. Adkinson caught what was believed to be the largest trout caught in California thus far. The fish, caught at Santa Ana River Lakes weighed in at 20 pounds, 3 ounces. Adkinson used just 2-pound test line (Izorline XXX) and the new Phenix Dragonfly trout rod. For bait, Adkinson threw out chartreuse PowerBait with glitter combined with salmon beach PowerBait combined into a square. He also had a Trout King worm dipped in Bite-On garlic fish attractant. Great job, Craig!

Craig 2

Craig 3

 

Salmon Loss Likely Unless Coleman Hatchery Fish Are Moved to Better Release Locations

The Golden Gate Salmon Association (goldengatesalmonassociation.com) released this report today on the concern of juvenile salmon surviving in the upper Sacramento River, which like many bodies of water in California are being devastated by the Golden State’s growing drought issues.

Salmon

 Contact:  Michael Coats, 707-935-6203

San Francisco  –  The Golden Gate Salmon Association renewed its call on federal fish hatchery managers to avoid disaster by helping juvenile hatchery salmon survive release into the drought-stricken upper Sacramento River.  Late-fall baby king salmon are scheduled to be released at the Coleman fish hatchery on Battle Creek within two weeks.  Battle Creek is a tributary of the upper Sacramento River between Redding and Red Bluff.  In 2007, a similar low water year, thirty-seven percent of tagged juvenile salmon released at the Coleman Hatchery were lost in the eight miles of Battle Creek between the hatchery and the Sacramento River.  More than 50 percent of tagged baby Coleman salmon perished in the first 50 miles below the hatchery according to a migration study released in 2010.

“Baby salmon become easy pickings for many bird species in low, clear, drought-stricken waters like we have now,” said John McManus, Executive Director of GGSA.  “Predatory fish also have a field day on them so it’s important to give the baby salmon half a chance by at least releasing them a short distance downstream where the Sacramento River is deeper and wider to give them refuge and hiding places.”

“As a scientist, I can tell you the chances of survival of these hatchery fish are low and the adverse impacts on wild fish are high unless they are released at least part way down the Sacramento River,” said salmon scientist Dave Vogel.

Late-fall king salmon, although juvenile, are relatively large, having been reared in captivity for nearly a year before release into the wild.  If released into the drought-stricken upper river, they will undoubtedly attack recently emerging wild winter, spring and fall-run fry.

Because of drought, most wild juvenile salmon, including federally protected winter and spring run, are still rearing in the upper river waiting for rain runoff to aid their downstream migration.  Releasing 750,000 large, hatchery late-fall-run Chinook into the heart of the rearing grounds will result in predation and competition with the wild fish, including the threatened and endangered species.  Releasing the fish farther downstream to the area of Hamilton City would alleviate those problems for the wild fish. Coleman hatchery already moves and releases their juvenile steelhead downstream to minimize those problems.

Even if it rains between now and mid-January, the first few storms are unlikely to result in significant runoff, so the need to release the fish downstream of the hatchery will likely remain.

The Sacramento River wild and hatchery-bred late-fall run salmon have steadily declined in recent years, hitting a dangerous low of 5,716 fish in 2012.  Without a turn around, these fish could be candidates for a listing under the Endangered Species Act.  A listing would create havoc in the salmon industry and also in water deliveries to agriculture and population centers.

Testing new release locations potentially offers substantial population increases while greatly minimizing adult straying. The Mokelumne and Feather River hatcheries have been very successful in implementing these practices and now contribute over 80 percent of the Central Valley hatchery salmon in the ocean.

In the US Fish and Wildlife Service press release of January 3rd, the agency points to the dismal return rates of Coleman salmon trucked to San Francisco Bay in 2007 and 2008 as a reason not to change release locations.  Use of experimental release locations much closer to the hatchery should address this problem while greatly improving survival.

Roger Thomas, chairman of the Golden Gate Salmon Association said, “For decades the Coleman hatchery was the leader in supporting the salmon industry by filling the ocean with fish.  In the current rankings of hatchery production it has now slipped to almost last.  GGSA and the salmon industry strongly support studies of better Coleman release locations to increase production while minimizing straying.  The future of our industry is very much at stake in these considerations.”

Golden Gate Salmon Association (www.goldengatesalmonassociation.org) is a coalition of salmon advocates that includes commercial and recreational salmon fisherman, businesses, restaurants, an Indian tribe, environmentalists, elected officials, families and communities that rely on salmon. GGSA’s mission is to protect and restore California’s largest salmon producing habitat comprised of the Central Valley river’s that feed the Bay-Delta ecosystem and the communities that rely on salmon as a long-term, sustainable, commercial, recreational and cultural resource.

Currently, California’s salmon industry is valued at $1.4 billion in economic activity annually and about half that much in economic activity and jobs again in Oregon. The industry employs tens of thousands of people from Santa Barbara to northern Oregon. This is a huge economic bloc made up of commercial fishermen, recreational fishermen (fresh and salt water), fish processors, marinas, coastal communities, equipment manufacturers, the hotel and food industry, tribes, and the salmon fishing industry at large.

Lake Piru’s Mussel Problems

Lake Piru, a popular Ventura County fishing and boating area just west of Castaic near the Los Angeles County border, was recently found to have invasive dreissenid mussels in its water. The big concern with these non-native freshwater mussels is their attaching themselves to boats used at Piru. Here’s part of the report:

On Dec. 18, Lake Piru Recreation Area staff reported the discovery of potential quagga mussels to CDFW. The mussels were found attached to a Lake Piru patrol boat and several additional mussels were subsequently found on devices deployed in the lake for the purpose of detecting mussels and on the shoreline.

 CDFW staff tentatively identified the mussels, which range in size from one-half to three-quarter inches long, as quagga. Genetic testing is under way to confirm this identification. Lake Piru Recreation Area staff are working to determine the full extent of the infestation.

Lake Piru, which is managed by United Water Conservation District, is located downstream of Pyramid Lake. Lake Piru drains into Lower Piru Creek, a tributary of the Santa Clara River.

 Quagga and zebra mussels, non-native freshwater mussels native to Eurasia, multiply quickly and encrust watercraft and infrastructure, and compete for food with native and sport fish species.

These mussels can be spread from one body of water to another attached to nearly anything that has been in an infested waterbody, or via standing water from an infested waterbody entrapped in boat engines, bilges, live-wells and buckets. People who launch vessels at any body of water are subject to watercraft inspections and are encouraged to clean, drain and dry their motorized and non-motorized boats, including personal watercraft, and any equipment that comes into contact with the water before and after recreating at a waterway.

New Year’s Resolution: A Little Rain?

Since I started on the California Sportsman editor’s gig in August, more than a few fishing and hunting folks I’ve chatted up have shown great concern over the lack of rain throughout the Golden State and the potential for drought-like conditions if this rainy season also disappoints. Now is the time when wet weather should be running amok in California in a normal pattern. But this report from ABC-30 in Fresno (and the Associated Press) is hardly a feel-g00d start to 2014.

Some of the lowlights from the report include dangerously-low waters in San Joaquin Valley lakes:

At Millterton Lake in the Fresno area, a mound in the middle, normally only visible by a few feet, the lake bottom is visible because Millerton Lake is at 43 percent capacity.

 “It comes from here, so if it’s not coming down the mountain, you’ll have to get it out of the ground,” said Judi Silveira of Fresno.

 Silveira and her husband drove to the lake on New Year’s Day to check the levels first hand. They’re worried as growers because they are facing another year with no water allocation and shrinking profits.

Rain totals in both Northern and Southern California are ridiculously below average:

Downtown Los Angeles received a meager 3.60 inches of rain since Jan. 1, the driest calendar year since 1877. Normally, downtown would be soaked with about 15 inches of precipitation.

Similarly, San Francisco recorded just 5.59 inches of rain since the beginning of the year, 18 inches below normal. Sacramento is 14 inches below average after receiving 6.13 inches of rain this year.

This is clearly a bigger issue than just the impact a lack of rain will have on hunting and fishing in California:

Shasta Lake, the state’s largest reservoir, is currently at 37 percent of its total capacity. Folsom Lake recently dipped below 20 percent of its capacity, marking a historic low for the month. This triggered some communities in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta region to issue water conservation orders.

The Northern California city of Folsom recently mandated that residents cut water consumption by 20 percent. Sacramento County asked unincorporated areas to voluntarily reduce water use by the same amount.

State water managers are also discussing transferring water from places with relative abundance to communities facing critical shortages.

Happy? New Year, California.

 

 

 

New Year’s Greetings

Is it really 2014 already? Apparently so. Here is a fishing update from our friend Butch Paddock down at Lake Cuyacama (lakecuyamaca.org) to ring in the new year:

We are half way through our waterfowl hunting season, and so far the ducks are still winning. Lots of different birds frequent the area……mallard, pintail, blue wing teal, cinnamon teal, green wing teal, shoveler, gadwell, widgeon, canvas back, red head, ringneck, buffle head, merganser, ruddy, and blue bill…..to mention a few. Weather is not co-operating, but the hunters are attending. The weather patterns are suppose to remain til the first part of 2014. “THE LAKE CUYAMACA JUNIOR WATERFOWL HUNT” IS SCHEDULED FOR FEBRUARY 1ST. . To qualify just submit a postcard to the “Lake Cuyamaca Junior Waterfowl Hunt”. We need the age of the child, their license number, some contact information, and a little bit about themselves included in the postcard. Preferred ages are 12 to 16 years….some exceptions have been made depending on experience. We are also looking for guides and sponsors for the event. We are hoping that a full month’s notice will bring out some good hunters from the area. Blind draw prizes for each participant will be handed out. Please send the postcards to Lake Cuyamaca Recreation and Park District, 15027 Highway 79, Julian, Ca. 92036.

The trout fishing has picked up considerably with limits taken……some larger fish are now coming out of the Lake. A 6 pounder was reeled in at Lone Pine yesterday along with a 5 pound 6 ounce caught over at the wooden dock at Chamber’s. We are open 7 days a week for fishing…..we even keep the north shore open during the waterfowl hunts…..so, stop by and enjoy the Lake……tight lines

 

 

Waterfowl report from “Feisty Fish”

Friend of the magazine, Scott Feist of Feisty Fish Charters (feistyfish.net), had this report on his winter waterfowl hunting guide opportunities:

 

Waterfowl Report 12-28-2013

 

Duck hunting has dramatically improved over the past ten days… We have been shooting a good number of ducks and geese, and seeing a ton of ducks! With January here in a few days, it’s game on! Today, 12-28-13 we had a few different groups of over 250 birds at a time come in… When this starts, we know the migration is in full swing. On another note, My wife Aimee and myself had our first child on Christmas eve! Lillian River Feist was born at 11:12am at 7.3 pounds! I cant wait to share her with you guys!!! I only have a couple of days available left in January, so if you have been waiting until things get better, now is the time to book!

Call me for an awesome day of Duck Hunting.

I spend a lot of time out in the field but I will get back to you as soon as I’m able. Call to book your trip now!

Captain Feisty

Office (530) 923-2634 Email

Follow me on Facebook for daily updates @ www.facebook.com/FeistyFishGuideService 

 

 

 

New York State of Mind

Our new hunting columnist, Al Quackenbush.

Our new hunting columnist, Al Quackenbush.

Albert Quackenbush (aka “The SoCal Bowhunter“) makes his California Sportsman debut in January with some great perspective on his upbringing in western New York and comparing that to his new experiences hunting in Southern California. Here’s a taste of what is writing about:

How you hunt in Southern California is very different from western New York. A vast majority of the hunting during my East Coast days was out of a treestand. You spent weeks getting the treestands up in the right spots, and then, when it was time to hunt, you had to pick the right stand according to the wind. California hunting is nearly all spot and stalk, or ambush on the ground. In New York, I would always use my safety harness and have to worry about my stand squeaking. In California, if I am hunting a treestand (which does happen on occasion) I will wear my safety harness as well. If I am on the ground, it’s one less thing I have to pack. But now my concern is how much noise am I making and what direction is the wind blowing?
In New York, the deer are walking to you, and in California, you are walking in on the deer. It’s quite the reversal and each has good merit.
Utilizing quality optics was new to me when I began hunting in California. In the Empire State, we used optics 5 to 10 percent of the time. In Southern California, optics is used in 99 percent of hunts, and we know our optics. I didn’t give optics a second thought in New York. I just used what was the cheapest from one of the local sporting goods stores.

Hunting in New York, we would spread out and cover an entire woods, or good chunk of them. It allowed our scent to dissipate more, gave us a better chance of seeing deer, and you knew where your hunting partners were when you had the opportunity to make the shot. The same principle applies for hunting in Southern California. Most SoCal hunters I have encountered will not venture more than a couple miles on foot to hunt. Add in some steep terrain and the numbers drop even more. I like to find a remote, not-so-easily-accessible area. Does it make it more of a challenge? Sure it does, but that is one of the things I love about bowhunting. Personally, the farther I can get away from other hunters and see animals the happier I am. I know that most of the bigger animals are far from roads and people. It won’t make for an easy hunt, but it will make all the difference in killing that buck you have been dreaming about.

Willie Mitchell: Hockey’s Salmon Defender

Willie Mitchell totes the Stanley Cup around his home in British Columbia. (WILLIE MITCHELL)

Willie Mitchell totes the Stanley Cup around his home in British Columbia dressed in traditional First Nation style. (WILLIE MITCHELL)

By Chris Cocoles
Although I’m a diehard fan of the NHL’s San Jose Sharks – and those closest to me know how loyal I am to Team Teal- I have rarely written stories that were more fun than my profile of Willie Mitchell, who just happens to play defenseman for one of San Jose’s most fierce rivals, the Los Angeles Kings. Mitchell provided some great insight on his passion for helping to preserve wild salmon in the waters around his British Columbia, Canada home.

Mitchell’s story in its entirety will be available in the January issue of California Sportsman. Here’s a sneak peek, along with some extra photos Willie was nice enough to send me.

HIS PLAYING DAYS have taken Willie Mitchell all over North America, spending time with his home province’s favorite team, the Vancouver Canucks, the New Jersey Devils, the Minnesota Wild, Dallas Stars, and now the Kings.
But his heart always tugs at him over the natural beauty of his Canadian roots. Mitchell grew up in Port McNeill, a small logging town (population: around 2,700) on the North Island section of Vancouver Island. It’s considered the “Gateway to the Broughton Archipelago,” a maze of islands dotting the mouth of Knight Inlet on the west side of Queen Charlotte Strait.
Mitchell could have moonlighted for the local chamber of commerce the way he proudly described the flora and fauna of this area. It’s one of the most ecologically diverse areas of North America, with large populations of killer whales, harbor seals, sea lions and sea otters.
“Eco-tourism in our area has just exploded in the last 10 years,”
 he says. “That’s just the way of life.”
 And there are the salmon. Lots of salmon. One of young Willie’s memories was his father bringing him a protein-packed salmon sandwich to eat before or after hockey practice at the local rink.
“That’s all I’d eat, every time, fresh salmon sandwiches,” he says with a laugh.
But as Mitchell has discovered over the years, there is concern about the long-term sustainability of the wild salmon that annually enter and exit the archipelago through a series of waterways and rivers.

A nice haul of bass caught by Willie (left) and a fishing partner. (WILLIE MITCHELL)

A nice haul of bass caught by Willie (left) and a fishing partner. (WILLIE MITCHELL)

In case you haven't noticed, Willie Mitchell likes to catch a lot of fish! (WILLIE MITCHELL)

Hoisting the Stanley Cup above the high country in Canada. (WILLIE MITCHELL)

Hoisting the Stanley Cup above the high country in Canada. (WILLIE MITCHELL)

Off in search of another fishing adventure. (WILLIE MITCHELL)

Off in search of another fishing adventure. (WILLIE MITCHELL)