- Just released! Our fall issue of The Current: The lifecycle of #dams and a new era of management. https://t.co/aF8P3seMat ->
- RT @SacValleyCA: Helping salmon find their way in the Sac River. More on Wallace Weir project. @CalTrout @RD108Irrigation https://t.co/3klc… ->
- Big thanks to all who participated in our 2016 #photocontest & congrats to the winners! https://t.co/90toLHPlbO… https://t.co/3e4jnHB11r ->
- Wallace Weir floodplain project to help fish and farms #salmon #cawater @WaterDeeply https://t.co/ExvhDYpiY6 https://t.co/eG1pnrzc9O ->
- #HotCreek trout fishery in decline, blame the #CAdrought. @CaliforniaDFW to the rescue to restore fish populations https://t.co/Qnbezt3S1u ->
- More help on way for the Smith. Support Heritage Trout #CaWater designation – https://t.co/ZBPzk56Vh4 #flyfishing @californiadfw ->
- Support South Fork Smith River designation as @CaliforniaDFW Heritage Trout Water. https://t.co/GHevv2yxLW #cawater… https://t.co/wEXJfDhdNo ->
- Wallace Weir groundbreaking helps Central Valley salmon-puts nature back in mix. CA can have #fishANDfarms #cawater… https://t.co/KeKjUDzaLw ->
- 6th mass extinction occurring now in Bay Area. Time 2 put nature back in mix.https://t.co/wr4SIHiEOK… https://t.co/CS1CsREJ4M ->
An important step toward supporting the rebound of native salmon populations in the Central Valley happened yesterday. The retrofit that is underway at Wallace Weir on the Yolo Bypass is a joint effort of farmers, conservationists and government agencies and will significantly reduce the number of adult salmon that go astray in agricultural drainage canals along the Sacramento River.
The Wallace Weir Fish Rescue project will help prevent adult Sacramento River salmon from swimming into a drainage ditch that leads deep into farm fields where spawning is hopeless. By building a permanent barrier across the Knights Landing Ridge Cut, the agencies will be able to better control farm drainage releases to avoid attracting salmon. A new fish collection facility adjacent to the weir will allow the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to more effectively capture stray salmon and return them to the river to spawn.
Today it would be hard to purposely design a system that would be more hostile to fish than the one we have inherited, It’s time for an update. Right now, levees and weirs separate species from the landscape. This project represents a new way that puts nature back into the mix and will make it possible to re-create fish abundance on this working agricultural landscape. Projects like this are helping to change the conversation in California from fish OR farms to fish AND farms.”
Curtis Knight, Executive Director of California Trout.
The Wallace Weir fish passage projects and others like it are integral to achieving the Brown Administration’s five-year Water Action Plan, which calls for elimination of barriers to fish migration, and the Sacramento Valley Salmon Recovery Program, which is a comprehensive effort by the Northern California Water Association, Sacramento River Settlement Contractors, the Nature Conservancy, American Rivers, and California Trout to help recover salmon.
The Wallace Weir project is part of CalTrout’s Central Valley Fish and Floodplains Keystone Initiative which demonstrates that water infrastructure improvements provide multiple benefits for farms and fish. By allowing fish to access and benefit from functioning floodplains, robust fisheries and self-sustaining populations of wild salmonids can once again be realized in the Central Valley.
California Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) recently released an announcement regarding the status of Hot Creek and actions that the Department will be taking.
Hot Creek, a Wild Trout Water and one of the most popular fishing spots in California’s eastern Sierra, is home to a historically thriving rainbow and brown trout fishery that boasts trophy-sized fish, yet it is currently in serious decline. Kevin Peterson of Hot Creek Ranch initially expressed concern after observing drops in fish size and quantity throughout the last three to four years, prompting DFW to perform a population survey with assistance from CalTrout and local fishing guides in August 2016. Their findings revealed that there were fewer than 1,000 fish per mile of stream. Compared to a 2008 survey that found a record 12,000 fish per mile, DFW determined that swift action is needed to restore the wild fish populations. Hot Creek stream will be supplied with 12,000 fish (8,000 rainbows plus 4,000 browns) yearly until the population reaches a sustainable level.
California’s enduring drought is the proposed culprit behind Hot Creek’s disturbing decline. Low stream flow leads to a build-up of sediment which blocks the cool, deep holes that big fish use for shelter and obscures the gravel streambeds where fish lay their eggs.
According to California Fish and Game Code, Wild Trout Waters (Hot Creek earned this designation in 2007) must support wild trout populations to provide satisfactory catch, considering both size and quantity of fish. The stocked fish, provided by Hot Creek Hatchery, will be sub-catchable size, allowing them to grow naturally alongside their wild counterparts. CalTrout remains an engaged partner in this project, helping to collect data to monitor stream conditions. We support the Department’s actions, believe they are within the bounds of managing Wild Trout designated streams and applaud them for being a proactive partner in the eastern Sierra.
The Sheet, an eastern Sierra local newspaper, covered this story in this week’s paper (found on page 5).
To learn more about CalTrout’s work on Hot Creek, click here.
McCloud River trout are arguably one of the most famous fish in the world. In the early 1870’s rainbow trout from the lower McCloud were taken into a newly built hatchery and transplanted all around the world. Rainbow trout are now on every continent and in just about every mountain range and many have some lineage to original McCloud River rainbow.
Technically speaking, there are two different, genetically distinct types of McCloud River rainbow trout. Trout that lived below the Middle Falls of the McCloud River, an impassable fish barrier, are genetically classified as coastal rainbows. For thousands of years they have been subjected to genetic drift from other populations of rainbows in the form of steelhead. Before Shasta and McCloud dams were built in 1945 and 1965, respectively, steelhead from as far south as the Central Valley and as far north as the Columbia River migrated up the McCloud River. These rainbows share a genetic resemblance to all coastal rainbows and steelhead that have access to the ocean throughout California.
The trout from above the impassable Middle Falls of the McCloud River have been genetically isolated for thousands of years and have evolved into their own distinct fish know as McCloud River redband trout. They are thought to be one of the oldest populations of rainbow trout, called the proto rainbow by some fish biologists. Historically, the range for these unique fish was the upper reaches of the McCloud River system and a few small creeks along the east flanks of Mount Shasta, where the fish have remained isolated for centuries.
Following the turn of the century, fish from the lower river and other strains of rainbow trout had been stocked into the upper McCloud for angling opportunities. Those fish spread throughout the upper basin and readily hyrbidized with McCloud River redband trout, diluting the gene pool. Only a few very small isolated populations of fish survived, unaltered by non-native genetics. After genetic testing by UC Davis and others, these small fragmented populations were identified and eventually became listed by the state as threatened due to the sensitivity of their habitat and the densities of these small populations. These small vestiges of native fish have been monitored and protected for a few decades.
Fish in Peril
The true, pure strain McCloud River redband trout were hit especially hard by the California drought. The creeks that hold pure strain McCloud redband are disconnected from the mainstem McCloud River. These small creeks well up from springs and only flow for a mile or two before going sub-surface again. Due to the nature of the habitats and how they swell with the spring runoff then dry up and become disconnected in the summer, there is always some level of mortality on a few of these creeks. However, in 2013, DFW biologists noticed conditions were reaching critical levels for fish in a large portion of the available habitat. In late summer, dissolved oxygen levels were getting low and temperatures were rising. In the winter, the small creeks are subject to freezing if the water levels and flow are too low. After careful consideration, the hard decision was made to bring some of these fish into captivity to reduce mortality and potentially lose important meta populations in the wild.
The drought continues to be devastating on the populations of these important fish. If we did not take action to save them during the summers, small, independent populations may have succumbed. Our proactive rescue efforts will help maintain this unique species for the future.”
Andrew Jensen, a biologist with CDFW’s Northern Region Inland Fisheries Program
DFW to the Rescue
Fortunately, the DFW has a hatchery facility nearby in the town of Mount Shasta that is run off very cold spring source water, much like the McCloud River redband are used to in their natal streams. A portion of the facility was equipped with a state of the art self-contained Recirculating Aquaculture Systems (RAS). Fish captured from the wild were kept separate in their distinct family groups from each individual stream and treated different than typical hatchery raised fish that are to be released for sport. To keep the McCloud River redband as “wild” as possible, handling was kept at a minimum to avoid association with humans and food and they were fed natural insects to while in the hatchery facility.
Some fish populations were in captivity for over two years. These fish were bred twice, once each year, and produced two generations of offspring while at the hatchery. Genetic testing was done on each fish and they were then cross-bred according to a genetic matrix on a paper drafted by UC Davis to increase genetic diversity while maintaining the purest genetic makeup of the different family groups and meta populations.
Luckily for the McCloud River redband, the winter of 2016 brought above average precipitation and conditions in the creeks improved greatly. Continued monitoring of the creeks have yielded favorable data. That along with projected weather forecasts led to the decision to begin releasing most of the fish back into the wild to their home waters.
Earlier this month, crews from the Department’s Inland Fisheries Division, the Mount Shasta Hatchery, and the Wild Trout program came together to carry out the reintroduction process. This effort was led by Heritage and Wild Trout Program biologist Mike Dege. A week before being released each fish was equipped with a PIT tag, which will allow the DFW to track fish movements and survival rates.
Each day they picked a different creek and went about releasing the different populations of fish back into the habitats from which they were rescued two years earlier. It was a meticulous process with each fish scanned, catalogued and GPS coordinates marked where they were released. Close to a thousand fish were released back into the wild. Some of these fish were the original rescued fish and some of them were the juvenile fish that were bred in the hatchery. Care was taken to release the fish back into the same stretches of creek from which they were rescued. The same family groups were released back into their natal creeks and a 10% addition of fish from the neighboring creeks were added to each system to ensure genetic health for the long term viability of the species.
Over the past few days the reintroduction has gone well. Conditions in the creeks were about what we expected. We have experienced very low mortality rates and the fish seem to be taking well to the natural habitat. Over the course of the next few months, we will continue to monitor the fish to make sure they can transition safely into the winter months.”
DFW field biologist, Mike Dege
It is stories like this of the McCloud River redband trout that underscore the severity of drought in California and its lasting effects on our native fish populations and coldwater ecosystems. It also demonstrates the importance of our mission to ensuring California will always have resilient wild fish thriving in healthy waters.
CalTrout is partnering with Conservation Corps – Orange County and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to remove non-native aquatic species in the Santa Margarita River near San Diego. Non-native species such as bass, sunfish and crayfish compete with native trout that historically populated this river.
This South Coast Steelhead Coalition grant awarded to CalTrout will support habitat improvement for the endangered Southern California steelhead in the upper Santa Margarita River. The river is one of four highest priority steelhead recovery rivers regionally. The goal of this project is to provide suitable spawning and rearing habitat for ocean-going trout over 20 miles inland. This will be accomplished once access is restored by removing two downstream fish passage barriers currently under remediation. Efforts are focused in the headwaters area of the Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve, an exceptional gem of a field station operated by San Diego State University for research, education and wildlife preservation. Funding is gratefully acknowledged from Southern California Wetlands Recovery Project and Earth Island Institute.
Photos by Sandra Jacobson
Application to transfer license filed
The Klamath River Renewal Corporation (the KRRC) announced today that it had filed applications with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to transfer the license to operate four hydroelectric dams on the river from PacifiCorp to the KRRC. The transfer will begin the process of decommissioning and removing the dams.
California Trout is a longtime supporter of efforts to restore the health of the Klamath Basin watershed. Curtis Knight, Executive Director, shared the following:
After years of negotiations and collaboration with a broad group of stakeholders, it is gratifying to see the Klamath River Renewal Corporation’s first concrete step toward the removal of four hydroelectric dams from the Klamath River. Dam removal is an essential first step in the effort to restore a watershed that was once home to thriving salmon and steelhead runs.
- Time to vote for your favorite photo from our 2016 finalists #keepemwet #fishwaterpeople – https://t.co/elSqxHtQhn ->
- It's a bug buffett on the floodplains. Fish need food #nogoingback #cawater #fishwaterpeople https://t.co/ZrRMJ1r1QV https://t.co/ug4mhZ3ceD ->
- California must invest in watersheds, just like dams https://t.co/jJOClgveBX #cawater ->
- "…almost total vindication for the conservation group CalTrout" #cawater #steelhead @EDC_Action https://t.co/ag1dYHDo19 ->
- Watch #NoGoingBack & see how we're putting science into action, changing the way #cawater is managed.… https://t.co/9vJtaKyqU7 ->