Northern California Spring Creek Fisheries
In the American West, a region characterized by an arid climate, reliable sources of cold, clean water trump all. Few water resources in northern California generate as much reliable, cold, clean water as spring-fed rivers and streams. The Fall River, for example, generates over one million acre feet per year or 890 million gallons a day.
As the climate continues to change, spring systems are becoming particularly important for supporting cold-water aquatic ecosystems. Why? Cold-water spring resources bestow nature with a fall-back in an increasingly hostile environment.
According to the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences, as runoff dominated rivers begin running low and warm, spring-fed rivers act as refugia for cold water species such as wild trout, steelhead, and salmon. Research shows that spring-fed rivers resist variation in volume and temperature better than watersheds that rely on surface run-off watersheds.
Fall River and Hat Creek
Few streams typify the “spring creek” fly-fishing experience better than Northern California’s Hat Creek and the Fall River. Known for their crystal clear water, exceptional scenery, and challenging angling, these streams exemplify what spring creek fisheries are all about.
In 1971, Caltrout worked with the Department of Fish and Game to designate Hat Creek as the state’s first protected “Wild Trout Area” (WTA). Thanks to the new management guidelines set up under the WTA, Hat Creek quickly became one of CA’s most productive fly-fishing waters and notable accomplishments in Caltrout’s 40 year history.
Unfortunately, now more than 40 years later, habitat conditions in both Hat Creek and the Fall River have once again began to deteriorate. Both rivers are suffering from habitat degradation caused by over-sedimentation and the collapse of native aquatic plants.
- In the Fall River, invasive Eurasian watermilfoil continues to outcompete and overtake native aquatic plants, which in turn negatively affects macro-invertebrate food sources and overall fish populations.
- In sizeable areas of Hat Creek, aquatic vegetation has almost completely disappeared, taking with it important sources of food and shelter.
Given our history and connection to these streams, Caltrout feels a strong responsibility for reversing the current decline. This summer, Caltrout plans to begin a comprehensive long term campaign to restore these fisheries by improving critical habitat, managing invasive species, and installing monitoring systems that will track changes in conditions over time.