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OREGON, CALIFORNIA GOVERNORS PLEAD FOR SALMON MERCY

California Gov. Jerry Brown and Oregon Gogv. Kate Brown combnined on an emergency letter sent to Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross about the dismal salmon projections in the state. (Kate Brown photo by Photo by Sgt. 1st Class April Davis, Oregon Military Department Public Affairs)
(Jerry Brown photo by State of California)

 

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

California Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr. and Oregon Governor Kate Brown sent a letter today to U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross requesting declaration of a catastrophic regional fishery disaster and commercial fishery failure for salmon in their states. The declaration begins the process for requesting federal aid to assist commercial salmon anglers and salmon-dependent business who continue to suffer from declining salmon populations.

Last month, the Pacific Fishery Management Council’s projections for salmon in these states were dire. In the 2017 season, many miles of coastline will be closed to commercial salmon fishing and allowable catch will be greatly reduced, compounding the already significantly lower economic returns seen in 2016.

For more information about declared West Coast disasters, please see The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration list here: www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/management/disaster/determinations/wcro.html

Oregon Governor Kate Brown’s news release

Here’s the full text of the letter:

Dear Mr. Secretary,

We request that you expedite declaration of a catastrophic regional fishery disaster under section 315 of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA), a fishery resource disaster under section 308 (b) and (d) of the Interjurisdictional Fisheries Act of 1986, and a commercial fishery failure under section 312a of the MSA, for the States of Oregon and California for 2016 and 2017.

Ocean salmon fishery restrictions in our states in 2016 and 2017, including full closures in some areas for 2017, have severe effects on already distressed rural communities and the businesses that depend upon these fisheries. Declaring a catastrophic regional fishery disaster and commercial fishery failure will begin the process for requesting federal aid to assist these fishery-dependent communities during this difficult time.

Oregon ocean salmon fisheries in 2016 were affected by reduced allowable catches of Klamath River fall Chinook. While fishing occurred throughout the year in all Oregon waters, commercial opportunity was reduced compared to prior years, resulting in a lower economic return. Additionally, due to anomalous oceanographic conditions, commercial catches along the Oregon coast were less evenly distributed than normal; 74 percent of the Chinook salmon landed by the Oregon commercial fishery in 2016 was landed into Newport. Other ports, such as Astoria and Charleston, experienced significant declines, and fishers incurred higher travel costs in order to reach productive fishing areas.

The overall Oregon commercial ex-vessel value of Chinook was $4.3 million compared to the 2011-2015 average of $7.3 million. Oregon recreational catch of Chinook was 4,100 fish, compared to an expected 9,000 fish, and a 2011-2015 average of 16,400 fish. Similarly, California’s 2016 fisheries significantly under-performed expectations, noting that expectations were already pessimistic due to very low stock forecasts which suggested that statewide catch would fall well below average.

By the year’s end, California’s 2016 commercial fisheries only caught 67 percent of what was expected, with statewide ex-vessel revenues totaling only $5.3 million compared with revenues in 2011-2015 that averaged $12.6 million. Meanwhile, California’s 2016 recreational fisheries also fell short of expectations, with total catch falling below 40,000 fish, and amounting to only three-quarters of what was expected. By comparison, average statewide ocean recreational catch from 2011-2015 was 80,400 chinook.

On April 11, 2017, the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) adopted 2017 seasons. As a result of these seasons, there will be no commercial salmon fishing in federal waters off Oregon’s coast in 2017 from Florence, Oregon south to the Oregon/California border, a distance of approximately 160 miles, or about 50 percent of the Oregon coastline. There will also be no recreational salmon fishery in federal waters from Humbug Mountain south to the border – a smaller but still significant closure area.

These rules will be in effect from April 15-October 31, 2017. The 2017 seasons adopted by the PFMC for waters off California likewise offer only minimal opportunities. From the California/Oregon border south to Horse Mountain – a distance of approximately 130 miles, there will be zero ocean salmon fishing opportunity for both commercial and recreational fishery sectors. Moreover, in response to the lowest projected abundance of Klamath River fall Chinook salmon on record since forecasting began in the mid- 1980s, the California Fish and Game Commission made the difficult decision to prohibit all inriver fishing for chinook salmon in the Klamath-Trinity watershed from August 15 through the end of the year, to protect the few adult fish projected to return to spawn this fall.

Oregon commercial ocean salmon fisheries are projected to result in a total ex-vessel value of $2.7 million for the sale of 29,400 Chinook in 2017; this is 63 percent less than the 2012-16 average of $7.3 million. Fisheries and communities in the southern half of Oregon will be hit hardest, and are expected to generate only 6% of the 2012-16 average ex-vessel value of $479,000 through limited Oregon state managed fisheries. Oregon recreational ocean salmon fisheries are expected to catch 6,700 Chinook, 47% of the 2012-16 average of 14,300.

Commercial ocean salmon fisheries along the entire California coast in 2017 are projected to result in a total ex-vessel value of $4.5 million for the sale of 47,600 fish – 72 percent less than the 2012-16 statewide average of 169,400 fish. Communities in the far-north are expected to be hardest hit. California’s recreational ocean salmon fisheries likewise face both a lack of opportunity and low chances of success in 2017. It is projected that 35,000 Chinook will be landed in the California recreational ocean salmon fisheries statewide in 2017 – 55 percent less than the 2012-16 average of 78,000 fish.

The seasons adopted by PFMC reflect a severely diminished population of Klamath River fall Chinook salmon, following from the very low escapement in 2016. The causes of this stock’s decline are multiple years of drought in California, parasites within the Klamath River Basin, and poor ocean conditions. The causes of the disaster are beyond the control of fisheries managers to mitigate through conservation and management measures, or both. This decline may also continue beyond 2017. The PFMC has provided analyses of the economic impacts of 2017 regulations. Effects on dependent businesses associated with salmon fishing are more difficult to estimate.

There will be negative effects on fish processors, fishing equipment retailers, marine repair and moorage businesses, as well as recreational fishing guides, charter boat operators, bait shops, motels, and other dependent businesses. We ask that you support assistance for all affected businesses in your review of this issue. According to PFMC projections, the 2017 Oregon/California salmon seasons are likely to result in: ? Commercial salmon fisheries from Cape Falcon to Humbug Mountain – which includes the closed area between Florence and Humbug Mountain – are expected to result in total ex-vessel value of $2.7 million which is 40 percent of the 2012-2016 average of $6.8 million for this area.

? Commercial salmon fisheries from Humbug Mountain to the Oregon border – which is closed for 2017 – will have ex-vessel value only from state-waters fisheries, and is expected to generate only $28,000 in ex-vessel value, which is 6 percent of the 2012- 2016 average of $479,000 for this area.

? Recreational fisheries from Humbug Mountain south to the Oregon/California border are projected to result in an economic loss of 46 percent relative to the 2012-2016 average, with the only recreational fishing in this area being in limited state-waters fisheries.

? The full season closure for sport and commercial ocean salmon fisheries from the Oregon/California border south to Horse Mountain means that businesses dependent on salmon fishing in this area will earn zero revenue from salmon fishery activity in 2017. The recreational fishery has been open an average of 116 days in 2012-2016, while the commercial fishery produced an average of $220,000 in ex-vessel revenue over this recent time period.

? In the Fort Bragg area (Horse Mountain to Point Arena), 2017 commercial salmon fishery revenues are projected to decline 93 percent compared to 2012-2016 average revenues of $4.4 million. Meanwhile, in the San Francisco area (Point Arena to Pigeon Point), projected catch will only result in $1.9 million in ex-vessel revenue, a 69 percent reduction from the recent average of $6.3 million.

? The recreational fishery in the Ft. Bragg Area will be closed most of the summer – from June 1 through August 14 – the time of year when recent averages suggest the best sport fishing occurs, and when sport anglers are most likely to engage in ocean fishing activities. Given this substantial reduction in opportunity, projected catches are expected to drop from an average of 8,200 in 2012-2016 to only 1,700 fish in 2017.

Additionally, according to California Department of Fish and Wildlife projections, closure of the recreational fall-run Chinook fishery on the Klamath and Trinity rivers is expected to result in a loss of an estimated $2.5 million in total economic output, with impacts to an estimated 42 California jobs. As you know, salmon are a vital component of Oregon and California’s natural resources and provide significant commercial, recreational, economic, and aesthetic benefits to both states. Salmon are also highly valued by Native American tribes for culture, subsistence, and economic benefits. We are troubled that Tribal salmon fisheries will also face severe restrictions in 2017.

While economic assistance will be essential to address the impacts of closures and restrictions on our salmon fisheries, it is vitally important that federal, state, tribal and local governments continue to work together to recover and restore salmon populations and develop management strategies to ensure the long-term health and sustainability of our salmon fisheries. We have personally visited the Klamath Basin together and heard from Tribes, agencies, fishermen and women, and farmers.

While this joint letter seeks assistance to respond to a salmon fishery disaster, we know that the long-term, public interest in the Klamath River requires our two states to work toward collaborative solutions with people from the headwaters to the ocean, including farmers and irrigators, Tribes, recreationalists, fishermen and women, conservation organizations, and state, federal, and local government. Lauri Aunan has been designated as the Oregon state coordinator for this request. Ms. Aunan can be reached at 503-373-1680. Chris Kern of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife will act as alternate Oregon state coordinator and can be reached at 503 947-6209. Dr. Craig Shuman of the California Department of fish and Wildlife has been designated as the California state coordinator for this request, and can be reached at 805-568-1246.

Marci Yaremko of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife will act as alternate California state coordinator and can be reached at 858-442-3004.

We greatly appreciate your anticipated support and leadership on this critical issue and look forward to a favorable reply.

Golden Gate Salmon Association: executive director John McManus issued this statement in response:

“There is some salmon fishing this year, mostly from southern Mendocino County to southern San Mateo County, thanks to the extra trucking of hatchery salmon GGSA won in 2014 and 2015.  Without that, we’d all be off the water now. But there’s no doubt our overall salmon stocks are badly hurt and some of this could have been avoided but for bad decisions against salmon fishermen made by water managers at the height of the drought.”

“Fishing restrictions we’re now suffering under are due not only to a low number of salmon in the Klamath River, but also to a low number of Sacramento River winter run king salmon.  The damage to both stocks could have been much less if water managers had allotted more water to river salmon during the drought.”

“This type of catastrophic regional fishery disaster and commercial fishery failure will happen again unless we decide we’re going to allot a little more water to salmon, salmon fishing families and coastal communities when drought strikes.”

 

‘WHERE HAVE ALL THE SALMON GONE?’ COMMITTEE MEETS

Trust us when we say there are king salmon migrating to the Sacramento and Feather Rivers. Cooler water temperatures are expected, and especially the Sacramento looks like a decent option to catch ?sh this month. (MSJ GUIDE SERVICE)

(MSJ GUIDE SERVICE)

A California Joint Committee on Fisheries and Aquaculture hearing on Wednesday discussed the anticipated dismal salmon runs in Northern California. As the Eureka Times-Standard reported, rosy pictures were not painted about the struggling salmon projections:

Here’s reporter Will Houston with more:

“Things are going to get worse before they get better,” Pacific Fishery Management Councilwoman Marci Yaremko said at the California Joint Committee on Fisheries and Aquaculture hearing at the State Capitol on Wednesday.

Wednesday’s committee hearing — titled “Where Have All the Salmon Gone?” — brought together a host of fishery experts, tribal representatives, fishermen and state regulators to discuss what led to the low numbers of returning salmon, the impact on fishing fleets and communities and what to expect in the years to come.

The hearing was held nearly a week after the environmental organization CalTrout and UC Davis released a report stating that nearly 75 percent of the state’s 31 salmon, steelhead and trout species face extinction in the next century if current trends continue.

“We can’t afford to make more mistakes,” North Coast Assemblyman and committee Chairman Jim Wood (D-Healdsburg) said.

There was also some really interesting banter about the causes of why the salmon outlook – currently and in the next few years – is so bleak.

More from the Times-Standard:

For the Klamath River Basin, Karuk Tribe Natural Resources Policy Advocate Craig Tucker attributed the decline in salmon to “150 years of bad decision-making”, poor land management and unregulated groundwater pumping and irrigation.

“I think it’s becoming increasingly clear to me that we’re basically allowing salmon to be reprocessed into timber and electricity and gold and alfalfa and, increasingly, marijuana,” Tucker said.

Yurok Tribe Fisheries Director Dave Hillemeier stated that low flows in 2014 and 2015 allowed a intestinal parasite to thrive and infect between 80 to 90 juvenile Coho and Chinook salmon on the Klamath River. Hillemeier said there is a “glimmer of hope” that this year’s heavy rains will allow more juveniles to survive.

This year’s low salmon runs are attributed to the low juvenile survival rates from years past, which are also expected to result in low runs in 2018 and 2019, federal fisheries biologist Michael O’Farrell said.

Overall, this is a really good read and gives you an idea of how frustrating things are in the northern part of the state.

 

CDFW Fits Spring Chinook With Transponders

After the salmon are tagged, they are returned to a holding pond while the anesthetic wears off.

A tiny transponder is placed inside the body cavity of each female salmon. When the fish lay their eggs, the transponders will be expelled, providing scientists with information on when, where and how successful each spawning female is. Photos by Harry Morse/CDFW 

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

On Thursday, May 18, fisheries biologists implanted acoustic transponders into 60 endangered adult spring-run Chinook salmon. The transponders will track their movements and help determine spawning success later this season. The salmon will be released to spawn naturally in the San Joaquin River near Friant over the next three months.

Spring-run Chinook have been absent from the river for many decades. Reintroduction is one of multiple strategies biologists are using to reestablish naturally spawning runs of these fish as part of the San Joaquin River Restoration Project. The project – which is jointly coordinated by CDFW, the Bureau of Reclamation, the California Department of Water Resources, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service – is a comprehensive, long-term effort to restore flows to the San Joaquin River from Friant Dam to the confluence of the Merced River and restore a self-sustaining Chinook fishery while reducing or avoiding adverse water supply impacts from restoration flows.

A total of 120 salmon will be implanted and released at two different times. Biologists will track the fish from each release to determine which is most successful. This release strategy provides the hatchery-raised salmon the opportunity to select their own mates, construct redds (a spawning nest in the stream gravel) and spawn naturally.

 

 

Don’t Forget To Prevent Invasive Species

Quagga mussel-infested pipe. Photo courtesy of California Department of Fish and Wildlife

Our Memorial Day weekend is almost here (and I could use the rest!). After a mostly cold and wet winter and early spring in California, boaters, anglers and hikers will be out in full force throughout the state this weekend. So our friends at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife reminded residents to take preventative steps to help prevent invasive species. Here’s the CDFW release:

California agencies combatting the spread of invasive quagga and zebra mussels remind boaters to remain cautious over Memorial Day weekend.

Quagga and zebra mussels are invasive freshwater mussels native to Eurasia. They multiply quickly, encrust watercraft and infrastructure, alter water quality and the aquatic food web, and ultimately impact native and sport fish communities. These mussels spread from one body of water to another by attaching to watercraft, equipment and nearly anything that has been in an infested waterbody.

Microscopic juveniles, invisible to the naked eye, are spread from infested waterbodies in water entrapped in boat engines, bilges, live-wells and buckets. Quagga mussels have infested 31 waterways in Southern California and zebra mussels have infested two waterways in San Benito County.

To prevent the spread of these mussels and other aquatic invasive species, people launching vessels at any body of water are subject to watercraft inspections and are strongly encouraged to clean, drain and dry their motorized and non-motorized boats, including personal watercraft, and any equipment that contacts the water before and after recreating.

“The public plays a critical role in preventing the spread of quagga and zebra mussels,” said California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Director Charlton H. Bonham. “The public should remember to Clean, Drain, and Dry their watercraft to prevent the further spread of quagga/zebra mussels, and other invasive species.”

To ensure watercraft are clean, drained and dry, many local agencies conduct boat inspections. The CDFW website provides a list of these inspection programs (www.wildlife.ca.gov/mussels), along with additional information about the invasive mussels and what people can do to help prevent their spread in California. Prior to traveling, boaters should contact destination waterbodies directly to check for restrictions and requirements.

Take the following steps both before traveling to and before leaving a waterbody to prevent spreading invasive mussels, improve your inspection experience and safeguard California waterways:

  • CLEAN — inspect exposed surfaces and remove all plants and organisms,
  • DRAIN — all water, including water contained in lower outboard units, live-wells and bait buckets, and
  • DRY — allow the watercraft to thoroughly dry between launches. Watercraft should be kept dry for at least five days in warm weather and up to 30 days in cool weather.

CDFW has developed a brief video demonstrating the ease of implementing the clean, drain and dry prevention method, which can be viewed at www.youtube.com/watch?v=GaeAIPLoK-k. In addition, a detailed guide to cleaning vessels of invasive mussels is available on the CDFW’s webpage at https://nrm.dfg.ca.gov/FileHandler.ashx?DocumentID=4957&inline. Additional information is available on the Division of Boating and Waterways (DBW) website at http://dbw.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=28996.

Travelers are also advised to be prepared for inspections at California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) Border Protection Stations. Over the past nine years, more than one million watercraft entering California have been inspected at the Border Protection Stations. Inspections, which can also be conducted by CDFW and California State Parks, include a check of boats and personal watercraft, as well as trailers and all onboard items. Contaminated vessels and equipment are subject to decontamination, rejection, quarantine or impoundment.

Quagga and zebra mussels can attach to and damage virtually any submerged surface. They can:

  • Ruin a boat engine by blocking the cooling system and causing it to overheat
  • Jam a boat’s steering equipment, putting occupants and others at risk
  • Require frequent scraping and repainting of boat hulls
  • Colonize all underwater substrates such as boat ramps, docks, lines and other underwater surfaces, causing them to require constant cleaning
  • Impose large expenses to owners

A multi-agency effort that includes CDFW, DBW, CDFA and the California Department of Water Resources has been leading an outreach campaign to alert the public to the quagga and zebra mussel threats. A toll-free hotline, 1 (866) 440-9530, is available for those seeking information on quagga or zebra mussels.

 

California Fishing License Bill Idea Hoping For Senate Approval

 

Update:

The folks at the California Sportfishing  League have worked tirelessly to encourage the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to change its policy on fishing licenses and having them be valid for 12 months from the time of purchase (currently, all licenses bought, regardless of when the transaction takes places, will expire on Dec. 31).

Here’s a snippet of the reasoning behind California Sportfishing’s argument to change the rules, from its website:

California’s costly and antiquated fishing license program is in desperate need of reform.

Sales of annual license have declined over 55% since 1980. This is remarkable given that the state’s population increased over 60% during this same time period. And, while California has one of the nation’s longest coastlines, and thousands of rivers and lakes, its fishing participation rate ranks dead-last among all the states (per capita) in the country.

The crusade has picked up steam, and earlier this week, the San Diego Union-Tribune’s wrote an editorial supporting the idea of a change in policy, which California politicians are also prepared to introduce a bill that will be presented to the state senate this week.

Here’s Miller with more:

That’s why the decision facing an appropriations committee chaired by San Diego Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher looms so large for an industry churning out an estimated annual impact of $4.6 billion – with a saltwater anchor in America’s Finest Fin-Obsessed City.

Gonzalez Fletcher’s group will decide by May 26 whether a bill sponsored by Assemblyman James Gallagher (R-Yuba City) survives to see the floor. The legislation could spark economic ripples through lowered fees, incentives for veterans and, most notably, a 12-month license that makes actual sense for consumers.

An online analysis of the bill by the appropriations committee outlines “DFW funding challenges” by citing a $20 million annual shortfall in its Fish and Game Preservation Fund.

The argument pointed out by California Sportfishing is that similar changes to the process in other states like Texas have increased revenue. Here’s more from Miler:

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife shudders at the thought of a depressed revenue rivulet drying even more. There’s no doubt, however, for those doing the actual fishing.

“It’s going to be a good thing for fishermen, because a lot of people don’t start fishing until June or July. If they do that, it’s only good for like six months,” said Doug Kern, co-owner of Fisherman’s Landing.

“The 12-month license is likely to help everybody. It might get somebody to buy a yearly permit who might only buy a daily or a two-day. You might sell a ($47) license rather than a (one day, $15) license.”

There would be subtle benefits in San Diego, as well. An example: A point-of-purchase time clock would bring the state license in line with the system for a Mexican license.

Those purchasing Mexican licenses might be inclined to buy a yearly state license at the same time. It offers convenience and a way to remember when licenses expire, once they’re linked by a common date.

Again and always, action trumps inaction.

As if doubling down on a failed practice, DFW continues to bite the hand that feeds it, for the consequences of this failed marketing plan extends well beyond the future of recreational fishing.

Fishery and conservation programs are also at risk as fishing license sales fuel the Fish and Game Preservation Fund, which is facing an unprecedented $20 million deficit. This deficit will only grow as federal funding, assessed by the number of licenses sold, is reduced as annual license sales continue to decline.

While DFW ignores this reality, an unprecedented coalition of statewide associations representing business, labor, travel, hospitality, marinas and boat manufacturers are calling for reforms. Like throwing chum in the water to attract fish, California’s outdoor industry recognizes that anglers need incentives to continue fishing and the state Legislature appears poised to make change.

To increase fishing participation rates and sales, Sen. Tom Berryhill, R-Fresno, has introduced Senate Bill 187. It will establish a fishing license valid a full 12 months from the date of purchase, very much the same as in 11 states and Mexico.

We’ll know more soon about the bill’s fate and if the senate sends it to the floor.

Endangered Fish Get A Second Chance In SoCal

 

The following is courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Pacific Southwest Region, with quotes from our lead writer Tim Hovey. 

One hundred and fifty-one unarmored threespine sticklebacks (Gasterosteus aculeatus williamsoni) were rescued and then released on the Angeles National Forest this past month.

Nearly a decade ago the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the U.S. Geological Survey, the U.S. Forest Service, and conservation partners came together with the ultimate goal of species recovery, through implementation of the species recovery plan. The plan identifies a goal of reaching sustainable populations, through the creation of additional unarmored threespine stickleback populations, or the reintroduction into new sites.

Chris Dellith (left), a senior biologist with the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service in Ventura, discusses release plans for
unarmored threespine sticklebacks with Tim Hovey,
CDFW. Credit: Robyn Gerstenslager/USFWS

At the time, one of the team’s first actions was to assess the Santa Clara River watershed for potential suitable habitat for unarmored threespine sticklebacks. This proved critical when in June 2016 the Sand Fire burned more than 41,000 acres adjacent to Soledad Canyon, near Santa Clarita, California, threatening a population of unarmored threespine sticklebacks with ash and sediment flow from impending winter rains. These flows create a toxic environment for the fish.

“Whenever you get something like that, you’re really concerned with ash, sediment and debris that will wash into the creek during even minimal precipitation or rain,” said Tim Hovey, a senior environmental scientist, specialist with CDFW’s South Coast Region Inland Fisheries Program. “So when we saw that, we knew that either we immediately pull those fish out of there, or the next rain we get is going to wash debris and ash down there and threaten to kill them all.”

Collaboration between federal and state wildlife agencies was critical.

“It was a fortuitous opportunity, despite it coming about in response to a crisis,” said Chris Dellith, a senior fish and wildlife biologist with the Service in Ventura, California. “We went and rescued fish knowing, based on prior experiences, that we could lose them all.”

Tim Hovey, with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, releases unarmored threespine sticklebacks.  “Usually when species are kind of at the door of extinction their adaptation threshold is really low,” said Hovey. Credit: Robyn Gerstenslager/USFWS

Together, the Service and CDFW planned to collect the fish from Soledad Canyon and relocate them to a new site in the Angeles National Forest that was determined to be suitable habitat for unarmored threespine sticklebacks.

“Finding sites like this one in Angeles National Forest that can sustain unarmored threespine sticklebacks are few and far between in the Santa Clara River watershed,” said Eric Morrissette, a senior fish and wildlife biologist with the Service. “We are hopeful that we will be able to find more sites like this to help achieve the recovery goals.”

Tim Hovey peers into a container of  unarmored threespine
sticklebacks along with biologists and scientists from the
Service and California Department of Fish and Wildlife. The
team rereleased 151 unarmored threespine sticklebacks
into new habitat after conducting an emergency rescue of
the fish. Credit: Robyn Gerstenslager/USFWS

But nature had other plans. A week before the planned rescue and relocation operation, the new site had become unsuitable for the fish. Simultaneously, weather forecasts were predicting rain in the area. Despite not having an available site in which to release the fish the team decided an emergency rescue was warranted.

“It was at that point that we determined captivity may be the only choice because there appeared to be no other options,” Morrissette said.

The team collected the unarmored threespine sticklebacks and moved them to CDFW’s Fillmore Fish Hatchery for safe keeping.

However, heavy rainfall in a short amount of time kept the translocation creek unsuitable for release for nearly six months. And, as the team had feared, winter storms caused post-fire debris and ash to fill Soledad Canyon from where the unarmored threespine sticklebacks were rescued; had they not rescued the fish, they probably would have been lost.

Unarmored threespine sticklebacks at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Fillmore Fish Hatchery. A team of biologists and scientists from the Service and CDFW moved a small population of the fish to the hatchery late last year. Credit: Robyn Gerstenslager/USFWS

Early one sunny, yet chilly, Southern California spring morning the team of biologists and scientists released the tiny unarmored threespine sticklebacks back into the wild, and the fish immediately began to feed and explore their new habitat.

“We were relieved that the rescue worked, and we were able to get them back in the wild. It was great to see how well they responded soon after we put them in the site,” said Morrissette. “We are encouraged that this reintroduction is part of the larger recovery of unarmored threespine sticklebacks that we are trying to work toward for the whole watershed.”

UNIQUE, ENDANGERED SUBSPECIES

Chris Dellith, (left)  watches as John O’Brien, a senior
environmental scientist with CDFW, tests water quality for
its viability to support unarmored threespine sticklebacks.
Credit: Robyn Gerstenslager/USFWS

Unarmored threespine sticklebacks, which are native to Southern California, are federally listed under the Endangered Species Act and are listed as endangered and fully protected by the State of California. They are a unique freshwater subspecies of threespine sticklebacks, which are typically common in marine environments.

“This particular subspecies has developed traits that allow it to morph and change its plates from partially armored to unarmored,” said Dellith. “We have so much yet to learn about this remarkable animal.”

Unarmored threespine sticklebacks remain endangered due to loss of suitable habitat. The fish do best in small clean pools in streams with constant water flow through the pool. Drought, coupled with water reallocation has steadily diminished suitable habitat for the fish, which is only two to three inches in length and breeds frequently. As an annual species the majority typically live for about one year.

HOPE FOR THE SUBSPECIES

The team has begun to monitor the fish and their new habitat, in the hopes that they will soon begin to breed and move toward creating a self-sustaining population of unarmored threespine sticklebacks.

“Usually when species are kind of at the door of extinction their adaptation threshold is really low,” said Hovey. “In other words they can’t adapt to the changing conditions environmentally, and changing habitat. So I look at the stickleback as one of those species. It’s losing habitat, it needs water – and water now in Southern California is like gold.

“If we can start understanding that and finding new areas where they can live and restoring habitat there’s probably hope for them, but it’s all going to come down to places to put them…and in Southern California those places are definitely numbered,” he said.

An unarmored threespine stickleback at the CDFW Fillmore Fish Hatchery. “This particular subspecies has developed traits that allow it to morph and change its plates from partially armored to unarmored,” said Service biologist Chris Dellith. “We have so much yet to learn about this remarkable animal.” Credit: Robyn Gerstenslager/USFWS

Robyn Gerstenslager is a public affairs specialist in the Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office. Biologists and natural resource professionals in the Ventura office work with partner organizations along the central and Southern California coast from Santa Cruz County to northern Los Angeles County to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats.

Heating Up With The Hogs

 

 

 

The following appears in the May issue of California Sportsman:

By Tim E. Hovey

Our late start had us on the property well after sunrise, and the forecast was calling for temperatures in the high 80s, tolerable for those sitting in the shade sipping a cold one but a challenge for doing anything physical outside.

I knew that and so did Jose, but we didn’t care. We each had a pig tag in our packs and we had the rest of the day to fill them. After over a decade of friendship, Jose De Orta and I have had plenty of adventures in the outdoors. When I’m out hunting, I’m usually hunting with him and his son Adrian. They hunt as hard as I do, and I know when the De Ortas are at my side, we’ll hunt in any type of terrain, from sunup to sundown. This would be a big challenge. 

I DROVE TO THE north side of the property where we had planned to hunt. After five solid years of drought, the terrain looked bleak. The lush chaparral and oak woodlands were brown and the hills – covered with dead grass – looked depressing. Swirls of dust wafted across the plains and it seriously didn’t look at all inviting. 

We pulled to a familiar spot, grabbed the rifles and started the hunt. After hiking the hills and kicking through two pig beds, we returned to the truck an hour later, sweaty and empty handed. We sat on the tailgate and chugged ice-cold water from the cooler. I had parked in the only shade around and though the wind was warm, it felt good. 

I glanced further north and saw a huge lone oak near the base of a hill. Behind the oak and halfway up the slope was the only spot of green around. If you weren’t familiar with the area, you’d have no idea that a farm pond sat between the oak and the green patch. That’s where we were headed next.

I drove up slowly and parked below the pond levee. We looked the area over and decided on a quick plan. The dirt mound we were hiding behind formed one side of the shallow pond on the left. The massive oak tree sat near the right bank and provided the only shade around. 

A narrow strip of dark earth was very noticeable on the back bank, evidence of the spring that fed the pond. At the head of the spring and in stark contrast to the parched, brown terrain was the bright green stand of wild grape I had seen from over a mile away.

A year earlier, Jose and I had kicked up a large boar from the green bush, and for obvious reasons we had nicknamed the spot “the pond.” Despite five shots from Jose, that boar had escaped.

The plan was simple and familiar: Jose would set up under the huge oak at the right of the pond and I’d hike around to the top of the spring bush and kick through the bed. If pigs were bedded in the wild grape, hopefully they’d flee towards Jose.

I grabbed my lever-action .30-30 and slung it across my body so I could have my hands free to make the hike. Jose grabbed his rifle and a set of shooting sticks and set up in the shade of the giant oak. He nodded that he was set and I headed out to kick through the bed.

I circled around to the left of the pond. While I walked, I spotted two sets of fresh pig prints in the soft mud near the edge of the water. One set was huge and it looked like a boar had been at the pond earlier that day. 

It took me about 15 minutes to get into position. I was about 30 feet from the pig bed and getting ready to make some noise. The wind was barely moving but hitting me right in the face. I looked through the binoculars to make sure Jose was ready. I knew if we kicked pigs out of the brush, the action could happen quickly. Jose returned my wave.

I unslung my .30-30 and checked the action. While I wanted to push pigs towards Jose, I also wanted to be prepared for whatever was going to happen next.

AS I STOOD ABOVE the wild grape bush, I could see fresh pig sign around the edge. I grabbed a few small rocks and tossed them into the bushes, but nothing moved. The wind swirled and the smell it carried was pungent and undeniable. The musky odor of wild pigs hit me right in the face. Before I could do anything else, the bushes started to shake violently.

A huge boar exploded from a dirt bed deep in the green shrub. For a few seconds the pig bounced around the thick vines looking for an escape. I glanced down to Jose and yelled out the magic word, “Pig!” The huge boar busted through the vegetation and headed downhill towards the pond and Jose.

I took two steps to higher ground to watch the hunt. Instantly, I saw a problem. The pig was on a dead run and headed way left of where Jose was positioned and he wasn’t aiming his rifle. The weeds around the pond were high, so while he could hear the pig busting a path through the dead vegetation, he couldn’t see him. I knew he had no shot to kill this pig.

I pulled the hammer back on my .30-30 and shouldered it. I easily found the dark body of the retreating pig in the scope. Jose was well to my right and safely out of the line of fire. The crosshairs danced on the boar and I pulled the trigger. A puff of dust rose from the pig’s rear. This did nothing to slow him down.

As I kept the rifle shouldered, I ejected the shell and chambered a second. The boar was headed straight away from me and about 90 yards out, so I placed the crosshairs between his ears and again pulled the trigger. The shot felt perfect and the pig stiffened up, tumbled and cart-wheeled to a stop in a cloud of dust.

Jose quickly made his way to the downed pig. I cleared my rifle and took a deep breath. Kicking pigs out of their beds is definitely exciting, and I was happy we finally had meat for the cooler.

I pushed through the dead grass and followed the pig’s last steps. I found blood where I had first hit him. It wasn’t much and I knew the injury wasn’t lethal. The second shot hit the boar right between the shoulder blades, killing him instantly. 

I looked back to the bedding area and then over towards the pond. The tall grass made it hard to see the water. The dead vegetation surrounding Jose’s set-up spot made it impossible for him to have seen the escaping pig.

We dragged the large boar into the shade of the large oak and got things ready to part it out. The pig was a fighter and displayed deep scars on his back and a split ear. He had lengthy cutters, one of them chipped and jagged. Once boars reach their second year and start fighting other boars, they usually become solitary and bed up alone.

After I tagged the pig, we laid out a tarp and began parting out the boar. I pulled the truck close, and with the exception of dragging the large pig 40 feet into the shade of the oak, the field dressing and meat handling were very easy. It was a satisfying end. 

WE PACKED THE COOLERS full of wild pork and stowed the gear. With the temperature closing in on 90 degrees, we decided to call it a day. Back at our pickup spot, we split up the meat and, as always, talked about when we could get out again.

To me hunting is all about who I hunt with. I pay very little attention to filling tags or taking limits. When I think of trips past, I remember good times, camaraderie and great friends. I seriously doubt I would ever run the hills looking for pigs without Jose. 

Hunting wild pigs in California is challenging and exciting (not to mention open throughout the year). Seeking out bedding areas near watering holes when the weather heats up is a great place to start. If you decide to kick through their beds, be prepared for fast action and stay safe. Lone boars are alone for a reason – I never approach a pig bed without a loaded firearm and an escape plan.

The meat is lean and can be prepared a variety of ways. Above all, make sure you head out with good friends. I remember this particular trip for a number of reasons. However, the most vivid memory of this exciting pig hunt will always be having my good friend Jose there with me. CS

 

CDFW Big Game Draw Deadline Approaching

Photo by CDFW

 

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

Time is running out for California hunters to apply for the 2017 Big Game Drawing. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is accepting applications for elk, pronghorn, bighorn sheep and deer tags as well as fundraising random drawing tags.  Applicants must complete the sales transaction before midnight June 2, 2017. Applications may be submitted anywhere California hunting licenses are sold.

The following resources are available to assist hunters in applying for the 2017 Big Game Drawing:

  • 2017 California Big Game Hunting Digest – Includes proposed seasons, application instructions and drawing statistics. The digest is available online at wildlife.ca.gov/publications/hunting-digest.
  • Big Game Tag Quotas – Approved 2017 tag quotas can be viewed on the species webpages located at wildlife.ca.gov/hunting. Severe winter weather resulted in high mortality of deer in the Eastern Sierra. For this reason, 2017 tag quotas were significantly reduced for the X9a, X9b, X12 zones and archery hunts A16, A17 and A20. Before applying, hunters should check access restrictions to hunting areas since some roads were washed-out due to winter storms.
  • Online Licenses Sales and Service – Purchase licenses, apply for the big game drawing, review your existing applications and preference points, or find a license agent near you at www.ca.wildlifelicense.com/internetsales.   
  • Telephone License SalesPurchase licenses and submit drawing applications by telephone at (800) 565-1458.

Junior Hunters

Any hunter who is under 18 years of age on July 1, 2017 qualifies for a junior hunting license. Junior hunters who are 12 years of age or older on July 1, 2017 may apply for apprentice deer, elk and pronghorn antelope hunts. Hunters must be at least 16 years of age on July 1, 2017 to apply for bighorn sheep tags.

Fundraising Random Drawing Opportunities

Any person who will be 12 years of age or older on July 1 may apply for fundraising random drawing tags, except that applicants for bighorn sheep tags must be 16 years of age on July 1. Applicants may apply as many times as they wish. The application fee is $5.97 per entry. Applicants do not need a valid hunting license to apply, but a hunting license must be purchased prior to issuing the tag. Fundraising tags will be issued at no additional cost. For 2017, four fundraising random drawing tags will be available:

Open Zone Deer Tag

The open zone deer tag allows the hunter to hunt during the authorized season dates of any hunt, using the specific method and meeting any special conditions of the tag for that hunt.

Owens Valley Tule Bull Elk Tag

The elk tag is valid in all elk zones within the Owens Valley, with any legal method of take. The hunt dates are from July 29, 2017 to Aug. 27, 2017.

Northeastern California Pronghorn Tag

The pronghorn tag allows the hunter to hunt in any of the northeastern pronghorn antelope zones (Mount Dome, Clear Lake, Likely Tables, Lassen, Big Valley and Surprise Valley) with any legal method. The hunt dates are from July 29, 2017 to Sept.17, 2017.

Marble/Clipper and South Bristol Mountains Bighorn Sheep Tag

The bighorn sheep tag is valid only in the Marble/Clipper and South Bristol Mountains hunt zones. If drawn, the hunter must attend a mandatory orientation to receive the tag. The hunt dates are from Nov. 4, 2017 to Feb. 4, 2018.

Are Days Numbered For California Trout, Salmon?

Photo by CDFW

 

Here’s some good news – waves sarcasm flag – for your Thursday: The San Diego Union-Tribune has a report on the future of California’s trout and salmon populations (outlook is not so good):

Three quarters of California’s trout and salmon are at risk of extinction over the next century because of climate change, drought and other threats, a report by UC Davis and CalTrout warned Wednesday.

The report reviewed all 31 species of the state’s native trout, salmon and steelhead — together known as salmonid fish — and concluded that 23 of those are likely to disappear within 100 years. Of those, 14 species could go extinct within 50 years, the report stated.

Among the most imperiled is the Southern Steelhead, an ocean-going trout native to Southern California waterways, including several creeks and rivers in San Diego and Orange Counties. Others include commercially important salmon runs in Central and Northern California.

The potential loss could damage the state’s salmon fisheries and $7 billion inland sportfishing sector, and also herald broader environmental crises, said Curtis Knight, executive director of CalTrout.

“If you love fish, you love to go fishing, that’s a concern,” he said, but added, “These are more than just resident fish. Their health indicates the health of our waters, which are important for all Californians.”

Here’s a link to the report from UC Davis and CalTrout. Have a great night!

 

A Backcountry Hike To Remember

 

 

The following appears in the May issue of California Sportsman: 

By Nancy Rodriguez

What is it that draws us to the backcountry? With sweat-soaked clothes, endless bug bites, burning muscles and lungs begging for oxygen, the appeal can be confusing to the uninitiated. 

Is it the desire to sleep on dirt, tuck into a claustrophobic mummy bag and surround ourselves with a paper-thin home away from home? Maybe it’s the exciting  – OK, maybe frightening – sudden lightning storms that roll through the high country on warm summer days. Perhaps it’s the hummingbird-sized mosquitoes that latch onto every inch of exposed skin and try to drain us like an unwilling juice box. 

It’s clear that spending time in the backcountry is a paradox. It’s a balance between discomfort and the pleasure of feeling completely at ease and at “home.” For me, the real draw to this adventure is some backcountry fishing! It’s the call of a high mountain lake that glistens in the morning sun, dimples disrupting the surface as trout slurp bugs from below. It’s the challenge of figuring out what lure, depth, and speed of retrieve is most appealing on any particular day. It’s the thought that you are part of something few people have laid eyes on, a connection to nature, and an opportunity to slow down time and just breathe.

IT WAS SUMMERTIME, AND my husband Joe and I were in need of some backcountry therapy, so we ventured into the Eastern Sierras on a hiking and fishing excursion. Our hike would take us to several lakes around 10,000 feet in elevation. It would be a great way to get our legs and lungs ready for the hunting season ahead and hit some lightly visited high mountain lakes at the same time.

As the miles passed under our boots, Mother Nature’s beauty encompassed us and I knew there was nowhere else I would rather be. Huge rocky spires still covered in snow towered above. Spring rains had brought vibrant lush green foliage and Skittle-colored wildflowers to the surrounding hills. Yellow, orange and purple butterflies danced about while they guided us up the mountain. Birds sang, played, and bathed in the trailside snow runoff. A fluffy marmot scurried across a granite boulder in front of us. Nature’s beauty acted as a mild anesthetic, numbing the pain on our bodies – if only for a little while. 

As we crested the final ridge we began to feel energized. There before us lay an electric and blue high-mountain lake with sunlit diamonds dancing across the surface. Avalanche chutes were carved in the snowpack as waterfalls poured from them into the lake below. I’m not sure why, but colors always seem more brilliant in the backcountry. The view nearly took my breath away. Before long I saw a ripple break the surface of the water and felt an overwhelming urge to wet a line, but the fish would have to wait for now. With dark clouds building on the ridges above, we scrambled to find a campsite before the skies opened up. 

We two tired and happy backpackers weaved in and out of the dense pine forest and climbed across large granite boulders until we found a site. A perfect flat spot amongst the short green grass and wildflowers called to our tent. The spot had a 360-degree unobstructed view of pure beauty and would make a perfect home for the next four days. We quickly set up our camp like we have done a hundred times before. The tent was set, the water purifier hung, bear containers packed with food, and our essentials tucked away in their temporary homes. Looking out across the lake, we embraced the peace and solitude. But it was time to fish. 

 

THE SCRAMBLE DOWN TO the water’s edge was full of excitement and childhood wonder. Our lines were tossed in unison as we tried to decide what the fish would hit. Our spoons and jigs danced through the water until one of us felt the unmistakable tug on the line and a beautiful trout broke the surface. “Fish on!” echoed through the silence as I looked down the shore and watched Joe smile as he reeled in the first fish. Many more were to follow.

As the sky started its nightly sunset ritual, we sat crossed-legged on the alpine grass and enjoyed the show. We dined on a gourmet meal of fresh brook trout amid the backdrop of twinkling stars appearing in the night sky and the moonlight reflecting across the lake. We snuggled together, listening to the distant waterfall and took in this perfect summer night. 

After a blissful sleep, the morning birds started to sing and gently stirred us from our mountain slumber. The cool air filled my lungs; I wiped the sleep from my eyes and heated water for my morning coffee. Joe and I perched ourselves on a rock and cradled warm mugs as we watched the mountains wake up. I swear that my coffee had never tasted so good. After breakfast, we laced up our boots, threw on our packs and grabbed our fishing rods.

We hiked several miles from camp and decided to try our luck at a lake just under 11,000 feet in elevation. I tossed an orange-and-silver Krocodile spoon into the mercurial water, counted to 10 and began a pulsing retrieve. Suddenly, my line telegraphed a hit and the rod tip bounced in response. 

I gently leaned back and watched the rod arch under tension. I reeled in a vibrant blaze-orange-bellied brook trout that almost glowed in the crystal-clear water. With wet hands and a gentle release it shot back into the depths of its frigid home. Joe and I continued fishing along the snow-covered shore and selected a few brookies we caught for a shore lunch. We climbed to a clifftop perch and fired up the backpack stove. We sat in Mother Nature’s living room and ate a fresh trout lunch and gazed out across the lake below. We smiled and knew this memory would last a lifetime.

WITH FULL BELLIES FUELING us, we descended back to camp, stopping to try our luck at every lake we passed. We hit a total of five on our way back, and each one produced vibrant brookies and an occasional rainbow. 

Joe spotted a small creek entering one of the lakes and we couldn’t get there fast enough. The anticipation built as we scrambled across granite boulders and climbed through thick brush to get there. Our lures shot out across the water simultaneously, and as if on cue our rods bent in unison. The double hook-up made us smile from ear to ear. With light line, our drags screamed as the deep-shouldered brookies ran for deep water. 

Time drifted by as we fished the inlet and caught more fish than we could count; each one seemed more vibrant than the previous. Mottled green backs gave way to bright red, vibrant orange and deep burgundy sides accented by white-tipped fins and colorful spots. 

As the sun started to set, our feet were tired from the day’s mileage, our faces and hands a little red from the high-altitude sun and our bodies fatigued from the thin mountain air, but we wouldn’t trade this feeling for anything. 

The backcountry had recharged our batteries, and we were ready to head back to reality. We left it behind for now, but we knew it wouldn’t be long before we’ll return. CS

Editor’s note: Nancy Rodriguez lives in Cool, just east of Auburn outside Sacramento, with her husband Joe. She is an outdoor enthusiast who loves to fish, hunt and backpack. Nancy is on the hunt staff for Prois Hunting & Field Apparel for Women and enjoys inspiring women to get outdoors.