Tag Archives: featured content

CDFW Meeting To Discuss Central Valley Wildlife Areas

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

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) will host a public outreach meeting on Saturday, Aug. 17, 2019, in Los Banos regarding Central Region Type A wildlife areas. CDFW will take comments and recommendations and provide updates on habitat conditions, availability of water for wetlands and possible impacts to hunter access on these public lands.

State wildlife areas to be discussed include Mendota, Los Banos, Volta and North Grasslands, including the Salt Slough, China Island, Gadwall, Widell/Ramaciotti and Mud Slough units. Federal refuge personnel will also be available to address the Merced National Wildlife Refuge, including the Lone Tree Unit and the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge, including the Kesterson, Blue Goose, East and West Bear Creek and Freitas units. The Grassland Water District will make a short presentation on refuge water supply.

The meeting will take place from 9 a.m. to noon at the Grassland Environmental Education Center located at 18110 W. Henry Miller Road in Los Banos. Please email Sean Allen if you are planning to attend so enough seating and refreshments can be arranged.

CDFW annually provides an opportunity for licensed hunters to comment and make recommendations on public hunting programs, including anticipated habitat conditions in the hunting areas on Type A wildlife areas through public meetings and outreach.

CDFW’s Central Region encompasses 12 counties in Central California and is one of seven CDFW regions in the state.

Trout Plants Replenish Lake McClure Fishery

Photo courtesy of Lake McClure

The following press release is courtesy of Merced Irrigation District Parks and Recreation:

As part of its long-term environmental stewardship efforts, Merced Irrigation District is undertaking actions to restore the Lake McClure trout population that was severely impacted during the recent multi-year statewide drought. This last week Lake McClure was stocked with more than 150,000 pounds of rainbow and brook trout as a crucial and immediate step to recovery. 

Lake McClure was stocked in the past but fresh plants have not occurred until MID’s recent action. Prior to the drought, among the worst in the modern era, Lake McClure had been a premiere trout fishing destination. 

The lake had both a natural fishery and a stocking program. Although the reservoir recovered after the drought, the trout population has yet to reestablish itself to abundant pre-drought conditions. “This stocking is an absolutely superb step in restoring Lake McClure’s fishery, supports MID in meeting numerous objectives and restores an incredible opportunity for fishing on Lake McClure,” said MID General Manager John Sweigard. 

Over the years, MID has consistently advocated for the health and scientific management of fishery populations on the Merced River and within Lake McClure. This includes advocating and supporting efforts to restore natural riverine habitat for salmon-rearing after it was altered by historic mining on the Merced River. 

The trout stocking will also help MID in supporting recreation and trout management at Lake McClure as part of its relicensing process through the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The trout stocked in Lake McClure included thousands of pounds of trophy-sized fish reaching up to 18 pounds. More than 6,000 trout were planted that were over four pounds and more than 20 inches in length. 

More than 1,500 were planted weighing at least 8 pounds and measuring up to 30 inches. The average trophy trout size is about 10 pounds and 2 feet in length. As part of the trout plant, six fish were tagged and will each be worth a significant cash prize to be announced in the coming days. 

“We encourage anyone and everyone to visit Lake McClure,” said MID Parks and Recreation Director Brooke Gutierrez. “Come on out, stay at our campgrounds, and see if you can bring in these tagged trout and a trophy-sized fish.” 

Gutierrez also encouraged anglers to stop by the kiosks and have photos of their catch taken. MID expects to develop a long-term partnership with Calaveras Trout Farm, located on the Merced River downstream of the reservoir, to ensure the long-term health of the trout populations in MID’s lakes and recreation areas. MID will monitor angler success and look to maintain an excellent fishery into the future. 

For more on Lake McClure recreation, visit www.LakeMcClure.com. There are plenty of campsites available to reserve this summer.

Strong Salmon Run Expected On Feather, Sac Rivers

Photos by MSJ Guide Service

 

The following appears in the July issue of California Sportsman:

By Chris Cocoles

Massive Lake Oroville and the dam that feeds the Feather River below can be a make-or-break variable in how much cold, deep water greets returning king salmon. 

“The lake is plum full. So they’re going to have to start releasing (water). And with that snow runoff they’ll have to continue releasing,” guide Manuel Saldana Jr. says. “So we’re all pretty excited about the run coming up on the Sacramento and Feather Rivers.” 

Saldana, based in Yuba City, owns MSJ Guide Service (530-301-7455; msjguideservice.com) and is a veteran at reading and fishing these waters. But while projections for 2019 dictate a pretty solid number of fish returning, Saldana and colleagues know that the water has to cooperate to keep the fish happy and eager to head upstream and bite.

“These fish come in when that water cools off,” Saldana says. “Hopefully this year we’ll have all that snow runoff and a little bit of cooler water, so we’ll get them in a little sooner than later.”

By mid-August, when the fish are in theory really entering the main rivers from the Delta, an ideal water temperature is about the mid-50s, or at worst around 57 or 58 degrees. That’s a far cry from what anglers have encountered in years with less water flowing down the Feather. 

At times, late summer has still meant the salmon in uncomfortable if not dangerous water (65 or so degrees). But with a heavy snow year expected to raise the water level at Oroville even more, the state will have even more need to release some of that cooler water.

FISHING THE FEATHER

The much larger Sacramento River features long straightaways with consistent depths of around 20 feet with sandy or clay bottoms. 

“The Feather River is a lot flatter and not nearly as wide or long. But it’s also more shallow and these fish are going to hang in these holes,” Saldana says. “You can’t treat the Feather River like the Sacramento River.” 

So Saldana, who hits the Feather regularly when it’s productive, “pocket” fishes his preferred river. Back-trolling sardine-wrapped plugs – Saldana likes size KF16 Brad’s KillerFish – is one of his favorite tactics. 

“We’ll put those right in front of their faces, and when they start tugging we’ll set the hook,” Saldana says. “You can also drop down some eggs or boondoggling – keeping the boat sideways and just kind of dragging the eggs and using the current.”  

Photos by MSJ Guide Service.

TAKE IT TO THE LIMIT 

One promising change to 2019 is that the two-fish limit (four in possession) was reinstated. Last year’s outlook was bleak enough for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to institute a daily limit of just one king per angler.

“I probably lost a good 40 to 45 percent of my business,” says Saldana, citing potential customers’ hesitancy to book trips with the usual two-fish bag limit cut in half. 

“Last year was a decent year. We had our fish come in but in smaller pods. They didn’t come in as a big wave or anything. A little pod here and a little pod there. This year we were happy that they gave us back the two-fish limit like the old days. So we’re looking for a good, good run.” CS

Sidebar

NORCAL LAKES GET STOCKINGS OF FINGERLING KOKANEE, LANDLOCKED KINGS

One of guide Manuel Saldana Jr.’s more recent ventures has been taking clients out on Lake Oroville, which has a sizeable population of landlocked king salmon (California Sportsman, June 2018). 

The fishery’s success has been boosted by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s aggressive planting of fingerling salmon in Northern California lakes such as Oroville.  

“They were going to dump them in Oroville for about the fourth year in a row,” Saldana says. “I’m super excited about that.”

In late June, CDFW announced it was stocking a combined 1.45 million landlocked Chinook and kokanee to various waters. 

“This year’s stocking consisted of releasing 792,942 fingerling kokanee salmon into 16 waters and 672,734 sterile, fingerling Chinook salmon into eight waters,” the press release said. “Additional allotments of the sterile – or ‘triploid’ – Chinook salmon are scheduled to be released later this fall into Northern California’s Lake Oroville, Lake Shasta and Trinity Lake.”

CDFW says within two or three years these fish will grow into catchable size. Oroville has been producing good-sized kings for years now. And for Saldana, who in the past has mostly focused his MSJ Guide Service business on spring stripers and fall-run Feather and Sacramento River salmon, Oroville and adjacent lakes have allowed him to branch out for trips. 

“I’ve been watching the (fishing reports) and (anglers) have been catching some nice holdovers now. Last year the biggest one I caught was 22 inches and (recently) they’ve been catching some of those at like 26 or 28 inches. Oroville is doing really well with lots of water and they’re putting in more and more fingerlings in there. That ensures that 2020 is going to be good as well.” CC

 

Feds Agree To Expand Yolo Bypass Fish Migration Corridor

The following is courtesy of the California Department of Water Resources: 

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The Department of Water Resources (DWR) has secured final state and federal approval for a project that will expand a migration corridor for fish to the Yolo Bypass, the Sacramento Valley’s main floodplain. The project is part of the largest floodplain restoration action on the West Coast and demonstrates a commitment by DWR, the State Water Contractors, and the Bureau of Reclamation to protect native fish in California, while safeguarding agriculture.

The project aligns with Governor Gavin Newsom’s recent Executive Order calling for a Water Resilience Portfolio that creates a suite of actions to secure healthy waterways and ecological function through the 21st century. The project, formally entitled the Yolo Bypass Salmonid Habitat Restoration and Fish Passage Project, will enhance flood plain habitat for endangered species while protecting current agricultural and flood management uses of the bypass.

“This is the quintessential multi-benefit project,” said DWR Director Karla Nemeth. “It improves fish survival and habitat while preserving the Yolo Bypass as a vital hub for agriculture and flood protection. We look forward to working with the region’s landowners on this win-win project for people, farms, and fish.”

The approximately $190 million project will construct a two-way fish passage gateway at the head of the Fremont Weir, a 1.8-mile concrete wall that provides flood protection to Sacramento and surrounding communities. The 100-foot-wide gateway, or “big notch,” will open each winter, allowing juvenile salmon to move from the Sacramento River onto the floodplain and then back into the Sacramento River at Cache Slough. Providing fish access to the food-rich floodplain will expand survival rates for native fish on their migratory journey to the Pacific Ocean.  The project will also allow adult salmon, steelhead, and sturgeon to more easily access the Sacramento River from the bypass.

“California’s threatened fish species are the result of a water and flood system built before people understood how rivers worked or how fish used them,” said Jacob Katz, Senior Scientist with California Trout. “This first-of-its-kind, multi-benefit project integrates a 21stcentury scientific understanding of fish and rivers into water management and allows baby fish onto floodplain wetlands to grow, and adults to re-enter the Sacramento River to spawn. It’s a win-win-win for fish, farms and flood control.”

This week, the project’s environmental impact report received final approval from state and federal permitting agencies, allowing the project to move forward with final design and permitting before construction begins in 2021. This project is funded by the Bureau of Reclamation and through State Water Project funds supplied by the State Water Contractors.

“We are very supportive of the efforts to increase fish access to floodplain habitat, a step towards meeting the state’s goals of protecting the natural environment while managing water supply,” said Jennifer Pierre, General Manager of the State Water Contractors. “Greater access should help salmon grow bigger and increase their survival as they travel through the Delta and into the ocean, hopefully translating to increased populations.”

The project meets requirements of the state and federal Endangered Species Act, including the National Marine Fisheries Service 2009 Biological Opinion on the Long-Term Operations of the Central Valley Project and the State Water Project. The project will be a critical component of obtaining the Incidental Take Permit of the California Fish and Game Code for the long-term operations of the State Water Project.

The Golden Gate Salmon Association reacted to the news:

 

 

Biologists’ Calculations Give Cali Salmon Some Hope In Water Fight

Thomas Dunklin/NOAA

Farmers want Central California’s water. Conservationists think the state’s iconic Chinook salmon would be doomed without most of that water. President Donald Trump is siding with the farmers and not the fish.

Now, a study completed by federal biologists has given those who want to protect kings some hope. Here’s the Los Angeles Times with more:

According to information provided to The Times by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, federal sources familiar with the work said the fisheries service met the deadline. On July 1, it completed a biological opinion that was signed by multiple staffers and cleared by service attorneys.

The opinion concluded that the proposed delta pumping would jeopardize the continued existence of endangered winter-run Chinook salmon, threatened spring-run Chinook and threatened Central Valley steelhead, as well as endangered Southern Resident killer whales that dine on salmon.

Not only would a so-called jeopardy opinion make it difficult to shed pumping limits imposed under Obama-era opinions, it might impose new ones.

Paul Souza, the regional fish and wildlife director who is coordinating work on the salmon opinion and a separate one for delta smelt, said “it’s premature for us to talk about conclusions.”

 

Boone And Crockett Club Speaks Out On California Lead Ammo Ban

Illustration courtesy of the National Park Service

The following is courtesy of the Boone and Crockett Club:

MISSOULA, Mont. (July 15, 2019) – The Boone and Crockett Club released a position statement today in light of California’s statewide ban on lead ammunition for hunters, which took effect on July 1, 2019.

Triggered by concerns for the endangered California condor, which inhabit some regions of the state, a bill was signed into law in October 2013 banning all lead ammunition for the taking of game anywhere in the state.

“The history of wildlife conservation in North America has been shaped by the choices sportsmen make to benefit wildlife and their habitats,” said Timothy C Brady, president of the Boone and Crockett Club. “Unfortunately for the sportsmen in California, legislators have made the decision about the use of lead even in areas of California where condors aren’t present.”

Studies have shown that lead bullet fragments left in the remains of harvested big game animals can unintentionally increase the risk of sickness or mortality when ingested by condors. In other states where condors exist, state wildlife agencies are offering hunter education and providing non-lead ammunition for use in those areas. Sportsmen themselves are opting to use non-lead ammunition in certain situations to reduce the probability of unintentionally impacting scavenging raptors. These efforts have met with success, both in acceptance from sportsmen and reductions in lead fragments left in the field.

The new position statement reads in part that:

Scientific wildlife management recognizes that while the mortality of an individual bird is a concern, it may not necessarily indicate a threat to an entire population  and warrant a blanket nationwide or statewide ban of lead ammunition.

The Club believes that if an individual state wildlife agency decides that lead exposure represents a population-level issue for a particular species in a given area,  it should be up to that agency (not federal/state legislators or voters) to implement  targeted solutions that do not unnecessarily restrict hunting or shooting opportunities,
including hunter education, voluntary programs, or mandatory programs using suitable ammunition alternatives.

Brady explained, “The science and the steps that need to be taken to protect bird species from ingesting lead needs to be interpreted by wildlife professionals and limited to the geographic areas and population levels where the problem exists. The Club believes California has taken an overly broad approach to addressing the problem of lead fragments where condors exist, but there is no scientific basis to support nationwide or statewide bans.”

A century ago, sportsmen supported limiting harvest and regulating hunting seasons so game species would recover and thrive. Sportsmen chose to tax themselves to supply a reliable stream of funding for conservation and game management. As a result other actions and contributions by sportsmen, regulated hunting has become an irreplaceable mechanism for conservation.

Brady concluded, “As sportsmen, we take great pride in our legacy of doing what needs to be done and adapting as the science of wildlife health continues to evolve. Lead is a proven threat to condors. History shows that politicizing wildlife conservation and taking it out of the hands of trained professionals can be just as harmful.”

The full position statement can be read here.

About the Boone and Crockett Club
Founded by Theodore Roosevelt in 1887, the Boone and Crockett Club is the oldest conservation organization in North America and helped to establish the principles of wildlife and habitat conservation, hunter ethics, as well as many of the institutions, expert agencies, science and funding mechanisms for conservation. Member accomplishments include enlarging and protecting Yellowstone and establishing Glacier and Denali national parks, founding the U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service and National Wildlife Refuge System, fostering the Pittman-Robertson and Lacey Acts, creating the Federal Duck Stamp program, and developing the cornerstones of modern game laws. The Boone and Crockett Club is headquartered in Missoula, Montana. For details, visit www.boone-crockett.org.

 

 

Charter Boat Hooks Giant Shark In S.F. Bay

The above video was posted on ABC7 (KGO) in San Francisco. The Golden State Sportfishing boat had quite an adventure when it reeled in (and quickly released) a giant great white shark near Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay.

But it’s probably worth your time to watch the chaotic six-minute, 54-second full video below. 

 

Sharks have been in the news around the Bay Area. KGO also reported that shark warnings were posted around Half Moon Bay following another great white sighting.

Central Valley Water Plan Gets A Changeup From Federal Government

KQED, San Francisco’s PBS affiliate, reports that the Trump Administration’s plan for diverting Delta water to Central Valley farmers, which has gotten plenty of opposition from conservationists,  has created new controversy.

Here’s KQED’s Lauren Sommer with more on a new panel will evaluate the situation as both farmers and environmentalists debate how to allocate the water rights:

Just days before federal biologists were set to release new rules governing the future of endangered salmon and drinking water for two-thirds of Californians, the administration replaced them with an almost entirely new group of lawyers, administrators and biologists to “refine” and “improve” the rules, according to an email obtained by KQED.

Environmental groups said the Department of the Interior is interfering with the science and that bringing in a new team to re-write the scientific documents was, to their knowledge, unprecedented.

“This is an outrageous assault on California’s fish and wildlife, and the thousands of fishing jobs that depend on their health,” said Doug Obegi of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

CDFW, Trinity County Sheriffs, Target Marijuana Operation

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

On June 25 and 26, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and the Trinity County Sheriff’s Office served 15 warrants in the Hayfork area of Trinity County. Support for the mission was provided by U.S. Forest Service, National Guard, Trinity County Environmental Health and the State Water Resources Control Board.

The Duncan Creek and Barker Creek watersheds were specifically targeted due to the presence of critical habitat for winter run steelhead, foothill yellow-legged frogs, western pond turtles and other species. Each watershed had unauthorized water diversions which significantly impacted instream flow and the amount of available resources for these sensitive aquatic species.

A records check confirmed that none of the parcels were permitted by the county nor were they licensed by the state for commercial cannabis cultivation. In addition, none of the sites had taken the necessary steps to notify CDFW, which is a requirement in the licensing process.

“These missions were a highly coordinated effort between local, state and federal entities who worked tirelessly to protect California’s natural resources,” said David Bess, CDFW Deputy Director and Chief of the Law Enforcement Division.

The two-day operation yielded 12,548 black market marijuana plants, 801 pounds of processed marijuana, 15 firearms and $435,875 in U.S. currency.

Forty-four combined Fish and Game Code violations were documented among all grows, which included illegal water diversions, pesticide and petroleum products placed near streams, sediment discharge and garbage placed near waterways. Twenty-three suspects were detained during the operation.

“Trinity County is known for its outdoor activities and its beautiful environment, which should always be treated with respect and appreciation,” said Donna Daly, Trinity County District Attorney. “Those who blatantly damage our county’s natural resources should and will be held accountable.”

CDFW’s cannabis program consists of scientists and law enforcement officers and is a critical component of California’s transition into a regulated cannabis industry. Staff members work with cultivators to bring their facilities into compliance, provide assistance in remediating environmental violations, and facilitate enforcement actions with other local agencies to remove illegal grows. Learn more about CDFW’s role at www.wildlife.ca.gov/cannabis.

CDFW encourages the public to report environmental crimes such as water pollution, water diversions and poaching to the CalTIP hotline by calling (888) 334-2258 or by texting “CALTIP”, followed by a space and the message, to 847411 (tip411).

California Winemaker Pitches In On Fish Barrier

The following is courtesy of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration:

A vintner in Northern California is upgrading a concrete fish barrier to return native salmon and steelhead to valuable spawning habitat that has been blocked for nearly a century. A cooperative “Safe Harbor” agreement between the landowner Barbara Banke, Chairman and proprietor of Jackson Family Wines, and NOAA Fisheries and other state and local agencies has fostered the improvements. These agreements provide incentives to private landowners who help recover threatened and endangered species.

twom women standing at side of a stream

Katie Jackson of Jackson Family Wines (left) and MaryAnn King of Trout Unlimited (right) inspecting the newly created step pools replacing a 100 year old fish passage barrier in Yellowjacket Creek. Photo: courtesy of Jackson Family Wines

The story begins in the late 1800s, when two real estate speculators, F.E. Kellogg and W.A. Stuart, bought part of a Spanish land grant in Sonoma County and built a post office, general store, school, cottages, a hotel, and a diversion structure on a nearby stream to provide water for residents and visitors to the town.

Bypassed by the railroads, however, the little town of Kellogg eventually faded away, its remains razed by a wildfire in the 1960s that left only a handful of homes, agricultural buildings, and the water diversion structure and associated water system. Like many such remnant barriers, the concrete barrier reduced stream flow and blocked native fish, such as Central California Coast (CCC) steelhead and CCC coho salmon, a critically endangered species, from reaching their spawning habitat.

Fulfilling the recovery plan

NOAA Fisheries considers restoration of Yellow Jacket Creek an essential component in the Central California Coast Coho Recovery Plan.

Today Yellow Jacket Creek, a tributary to the Russian River, provides water to the Kellogg vineyard and associated property uses on a 1,350 acre property.

Biologists were thrilled when Katie Jackson, the Senior Vice President of corporate and social responsibility at Jackson Family Wines, approached NOAA Fisheries in Santa Rosa to discuss improving fish passage at the diversion on Yellow Jacket Creek, which would reopen access to nearly two miles of prime spawning and rearing habitat.

“My parents envisioned a family-owned, multi-generation business. Part of that long-term vision is the preservation of resources entrusted to our care,” she said.

Recovering threatened and endangered anadromous fish – which once thrived in creeks, streams, and rivers along the West Coast – depends in part on private landowners taking action to improve and protect habitat. As land stewards with this in mind, Jackson Family Wines is contributing to the large-scale recovery effort. NOAA Fisheries’ salmon and steelhead recovery plans, developed collaboratively with state and local government and private partners, help prioritize such improvements.

“The most enjoyable part of this project was building a relationship between the federal government and a family-owned business,” said Dan Wilson, fisheries biologist for NOAA Fisheries’ West Coast Region in Santa Rosa. “Building that bridge is really important for salmon recovery on the Central California Coast because it’s really small entities and families that own the majority of property where these fish spawn, rear, and fulfill their life cycle.”

“One of the most exciting aspects of re-opening this particular stream to coho salmon is the additional restored habitat they will have, as well as the cold water flow they need,” said Wilson. “Even during the California drought, Yellow Jacket Creek produced orders of magnitude greater flow than other tributaries within the Russian River watershed.”

Protection for landowners

One fear landowners interested in improving their land stewardship and conservation practices may have is that improving their property for local wildlife will attract endangered species onto their land and bring new regulatory restrictions with them.  Landowners may wonder: What does it mean for their liability under the Endangered Species Act? Will it hinder future land development, or other activities on their land?

Fortunately, the Endangered Species Act provides tools and incentives for landowners to make such habitat improvements with little risk. One such tool, a Safe Harbor agreement, provides this regulatory assurance to participating landowners

NOAA Fisheries and Jackson Family Wines began working on a Safe Harbor agreement several years ago, paving the way for replacement of the diversion structure and increased stream flows during fish migration seasons.

“Managing our lands responsibly to ensure the ongoing viability of ecosystems in the foundation of how we farm and make wine. My hope is that my children will be able to watch once-endangered fish swim alongside our vineyards at the Kellogg Ranch,” said Jackson.

Trout Unlimited, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, NOAA Fisheries, and Jackson Family Wines all contributed to the reconstruction of the stream and removal of the concrete fish barrier, which was completed in October 2018 just before the winter rains. Future plans include stocking the stream with coho salmon from the Warm Springs Hatchery in Geyserville, with the expectation that many will return as adults two years later.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Safe Harbor agreement Frequently Asked Questions

NOAA West Coast Safe Harbor Agreements