California’s First Wild Trout Area
In 1972, CalTrout worked with the Department of Fish and Game to develop the concept of the state managed Wild Trout Program and Wild Trout Areas. Since its inception nearly 40 years ago, the Wild Trout Program formalized specific management practices intended to protect unique, highly productive wild trout waters. Many of these designated streams progressed into California’s premier fly-fishing destinations. Hat Creek for instance—the first official Wild Trout Area—became the quintessential wild trout fly-fishing experience in California in the 1970s and ’80s
Reports from the early 1900’s suggest that Hat Creek was once California’s premier spring creek fishery. Despite the beginning of major hydropower operations on the Pit River and Hat Creek in the 1920’s, the fishery maintained an excellent trout fishery for many years. By the 1960’s, however, the fishery collapsed due to invasive non-game fish and heavy angling pressure.
Past Restoration Efforts
In 1968, Caltrout and the Department of Fish and Game led an effort to restore wild trout populations that included: 1) constructing a fish barrier across the lower stream to block Sacramento suckers from overtaking the system 2) chemically treating the stream from Baum Lake to the barrier to eradicate invasive fish populations 3) restocking the stream with suitable strains of wild trout 4) decreasing potential overharvest of wild trout by reducing the limit from 10 to 2 trout per day. As a result of these actions, Hat Creek became one of northern CA’s best fly-fishing rivers.
The Current Problem
The restoration efforts described above were remarkably successful and in 1972 Hat Creek was designated by the California Fish and Game Commission as the state’s first Wild Trout Area (WTA). But today, the fishery has collapsed once again due to habitat degradation caused by hydropower infrastructure: fish population surveys from 2010 observed less than 2,000 fish per mile and native aquatic vegetation has almost completely disappeared.
Protect for future generations the extraordinary recreational and ecological values of northern California’s first officially designated Wild Trout Area: Hat Creek
Conservation Objectives (Wild Trout Area):
- Improve and maintain wild trout populations at no less than 5,000 fish per mile
- Restore geomorphology and habitat conditions including large woody debris, native aquatic vegetation, and fish passage
- Protect and maintain adequate water quality parameters: temperature range: 8˚C-15˚C, dissolved oxygen: 9-12 mg/l, turbidity: 0 to 2 NTU, dissolved solids 70-100 mg/l
- Engage the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences in monitoring and assessment to prioritize threats and objectives
- Build a coalition of stakeholders represented by the Hat Creek Resource Advisory Committee (RAC) to recommend and guide restoration actions
- Finalize a Hat Creek Restoration Plan endorsed and peer reviewed by the Hat RAC
- Transfer ownership of Wild Trout Area (Hat Creek Planning Unit) from PG&E to a conservation entity
- Implement direct restoration projects outlined in the Hat Creek Restoration Plan