A Chance to Thrive
A word from CalTrout’s ED, Curtis Knight
For me the end of the year is always a reflective time. Looking back on the past 12 months, I have fond memories of several trips to my favorite river in California—the McCloud. For so many reasons my favorite, the beauty, the history and, of course, the fish. Drew Braugh, our Shasta/Klamath Director, got some footage (see below) of what turned out to be our collective effort to bring in this huge brown trout. As many of you know, these big browns migrate between Shasta Reservoir and the river, and get to be quite big.
When I hook one of these big browns it always reminds me of the bull trout (actually a charr) that used to ply these waters. In many ways, the non-native brown trout have filled the niche of top predator that bull trout used to fill. The bull trout is now gone, last seen in 1976. To date it is the only salmonid to be extirpated in California. It is a sad tale. But in that thread I see reason for hope.
California harbors 32 different kinds of trout, steelhead and salmon—more than any state in the lower 48. We’re now down to 31, with the loss of the bull trout population in the McCloud, which was the southern-most extant of bull trout in the world. What gives me hope is that we still have 31 different kinds even as California population has nearly doubled to 38 million people since the last bull trout was seen in 1976. For all the dams built, water diverted, growth of cities, compromised water quality, and invasive species introduced, our state’s trout, steelhead and salmon have remained amazingly resilient—they are hanging on.
But of course, for many of our species populations are down. The recent drought has been especially hard on winter-run Chinook, coho salmon and Southern steelhead. Yet they are still here. Waiting for a chance to thrive. This is what motivates us here at CalTrout, to focus on innovative and large scale projects—taking down four dams on the Klamath, a watershed wide approach to the Eel River, using rice fields to mimic lost rearing habitat in the Central Valley, ripping out Matilija Dam on Ventura River, restoring Sierra Meadows in the Sierra. We must double down now, think big, give fish a place to thrive in a California that is fast changing.
I believe we are at a crossroads, especially over the next 10 years, to determine the fate of some of our most at risk species as climate change and increased water demands test the bounds of survivability. Like the bull trout, California’s remaining salmonids are at the southern-most extant of their range. My grandfathers generation saw abundance, my father’s generation saw decline. I see persistence. And my daughters have the opportunity to see a return to abundance.
So as we flip the page on 2016, I reflect on my trips to the McCloud (if only I had a net!) and the opportunity ahead. At CalTrout we are as fired up as ever to take on the challenge and your support makes it happen.
Happy Holidays to you all and thanks for being a part of our team.