Northern California’s Mokelumne River has officially been designated a Wild and Scenic River, signed into law on June 27, 2018 by Governor Edmund G. Brown, becoming the 12th river in our state with this protection status. The designation applies to 37 miles of the North Fork Mokelumne and main stem running through Amador and Calaveras counties.
Don’t forget a camera on your next outdoor adventure! CalTrout’s annual photo contest submission period is coming up soon. Will you be one of 11 winners? Grand Prize wins a Sage Foundation rod and 2200 Series reel with 20 lb. Rio line. People’s Choice Award gets a Patagonia Refugio backpack embroidered with our logo, a CalTrout neck gaitor, and Echo Carbon XL rod. The remaining 9 Best Photos win a set of 4 CalTrout native fish pint glasses, and playing cards, and CalTrout trucker hat.
Share your best photos of California’s rivers, streams, and creeks and your angling experiences. Photos can include fish, anglers or others enjoying California waters, or be more scenic in nature. Enter for a chance to win some great gear and be featured on the CalTrout website, social media channels, and in issues of The Current.
California Trout and Lomakatsi Restoration Project held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on June 19, 2018 to celebrate the opening of a new pedestrian bridge over lower Hat Creek, one of California’s most important Wild Trout Areas, and commemorate the incredibly productive last three years of restoration work.
The ceremony marks a major milestone in the ongoing ecological restoration of lower Hat Creek. The new bridge symbolizes the work that CalTrout, Lomakatsi Restoration Project, and their project partners have done to bridge cultures and reduce the socio-economic divide in the region, as well as to support the robust native fish populations, healthy rivers, and thriving communities. It also allows anglers and hikers to access both sides of the creek without disrupting the ecological restoration work that has been done to improve conditions for wildlife and aquatic species.
“The Hat Creek project began around the legacy of our organization and fly fishing,” said Drew Braugh, Mt. Shasta/Klamath Regional Director of CalTrout, “but it has turned into so much more. This project provides conservation jobs for tribal members and training programs for young people interested in helping restore their ancestral tribal lands. These jobs are important for engaging the next generation in the long-term stewardship of Hat Creek. It’s also provided a significant socio-economic boost in the Burney area.”
The lower Hat Creek restoration effort is the result of a partnership among several diverse stakeholders: state and federal agencies, the Illmawi Band, landowner Pacific Gas & Electric, and the Stewardship Council, which works to protect and enhance the beneficial public values and uses of watershed lands, and to improve the lives of young Californians through connections to the outdoors. Additional project partners include the US Fish and Wildlife Service, UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences, Waterways Engineering, Inc., National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and Orvis.
Marko Bey, Executive Director of Lomakatsi Restoration Project, noted, “It has been an honor to work with the tribal community and traditional leaders to create a program that brings Traditional Ecological Knowledge together with ecological restoration for the implementation of a cutting-edge habitat enhancement project.” Lomakatsi creates public benefits through restored ecosystems while engaging tribal community members in the stewardship of their ancestral lands. Thirty-five tribal members were employed during the Hat Creek project.
CalTrout and Illmawi Band Elder Cecilia Silvas, along with Key Project Delivery Partner, Lomakatsi, started planning this project work in 2012. They jointly raised funding with the partners and broke ground on the effort in 2015. In addition to restoring the 160-foot historic pedestrian bridge in Carbon Flats, accomplishments to date have included planting more than six acres of riparian corridor with 5,000 native plants, shrubs and trees; constructing/improving nearly three and half miles of recreational trails; and establishing a Tribal Youth Ecological Stewardship Training and Workforce Program through the Inter-Tribal Ecosystem Restoration Network. Indeed, much of the work completed was undertaken by tribal members and supported by Tribal Elders, Tribal Staff employed by Lomakatsi, and Tribal Community Members, who were contracted as Cultural Specialists/Guest Presenters and part of the live classroom experiential learning program.
“Prior to this project, the land around Hat Creek was being abused by people driving ATVs down to the creek, shooting guns, and leaving trash,” said Cecilia Silvas, Illmawi Band Elder of the Ajumawi-Atsuge Nation, whose people are indigenous and have inhabited this land base since time immemorial.
Belinda Brown, Tribal Partnerships Manager with Lomakatsi, said: “We are honored to be part of a successful project that took dedication and teamwork; and more importantly, restored and revitalized the culture, community and economy of elders, youth, and families and the traditional values of working on the land.”
Hat Creek was the first stream in the West to be managed exclusively for wild trout. It is also the birthplace of CalTrout: In 1972, CalTrout fought to restore the creek and won a wild trout designation for Hat Creek. By 1983, it was home to more than 5,000 fish per mile.
But in the late 1980s, tens of thousands of tons of sediment accumulated in the Wild Trout Area, most likely culminating from the 1915 volcanic eruption of Mt. Lassen or through years of bank erosion through grazing. This sediment had settled in sinkholes and lava tubes, and is thought to have been flushed out during the construction of the Baum Lake Dam in the 1980s, directly above the Wild Trout Area, making the creek shallower. During the same period, cattle grazing and invasive muskrat populations caused bank erosion.
Thanks to the restoration efforts being celebrated today, Hat Creek is getting back on track. The river is naturally flushing the sediment slug downstream. Aquatic vegetation, home to the macroinvertebrates that fish eat, is starting to regrow at the tail end of the sediment slug, and especially is thriving around the large woody debris structures, which CalTrout flew in via a Firehawk helicopter as part of the project. Fishing on the Carbon Flats is better than it has been in decades.
Big thanks to CalTrout’s field reporter Mike Wier for beautifully capturing the day’s events.
This month CalTrout joined the Bay Area Youth Fly Fishers for their launch event at the Golden Gate Casting Ponds. Over 40 kids showed up with their families, excited to learn about fly fishing. They had a blast rotating through activities: bug briefing and fly tying, casting, knot tying, and a lesson in fish and water conservation. It was great to see so many people and groups come out and motivate the next generation of fly fishers. In addition to our organization, Trout Unlimited helped as well, along with local fly shop Lost Coast Outfitters, and Bay Area fly clubs, Diablo Valley Fly Fishermen, Grizzly Peak Fly Fishers, Flycasters Inc. of San Jose, and of course the Golden Gate Angling and Casting Club, who graciously allowed us to use their facilities and historic Anglers Lodge.
The Elk River in Northern California has had a contentious past. From the earliest logging of the old growth redwoods on up to the modern era of logging the Elk has been a productive watershed for timber but at the expense of native fish. The Elk was hit especially hard during the Maxxam take over of PALCO and was at the the center point of the Timber Wars in the mid 90’s leading up to the preservation of the Headwaters Forest Reserve. That era of heavy clear-cutting has left a legacy of degradation on the river system and is causing problems for landowners down stream. CalTrout sees an urgent need to address the most pressing problems in the watershed- both ecologically and socially- and has been leading technical studies since 2014 to document the issues facing the Elk River and coordinating with other stakeholders to formulate a plan for recovery.
For more on the Elk River, check out the Spring 2018 edition of The Current:
CalTrout recently explored the Eel River Watershed with some of our partners, members, and Humboldt locals. We toured project sites on Strongs Creek, Rohner Creek, and Howe Creek (all tributaries to the Eel River) where we are implementing fish passage, flood control, and stream restoration projects.
We were inspired to see the City of Fortuna’s work to restoring fish passage, providing quality habitat, and reducing flooding in the middle of Fortuna. From the private landowner perspective, we are glad that excellent stewards of the land like Steve Hackett are out there providing cold clean water for spawning and rearing in the lower Eel River while managing his land for sustainable grazing and timber operations. There are many challenges to getting these types of projects on the ground, but the rewards are worth it.
Many thanks to Eric Stockwell of Loleta Eric’s Guide Service for being our tour guide and thank you to the funders, local expertise, and partnerships for your dedication in providing the best possible conditions for our native and wild salmon, steelhead, and trout.
We hope you will join us for more upcoming events and at the next Watershed Tour of the Eel River Estuary this summer. Tour date to be announced.
Please sign up to not miss any future events!
More pictures of the Eel River Watershed Tour:
Photos by Mary Burke and Eric Stockwell.
We’re excited to announce our partnership with FishOn Energy Co., who have created some sweet CalTrout apparel and are graciously donating 50% of CalTrout sales to our organization. We are very grateful for their support and commitment to help recover native fish populations.
2% for Trout
Working together to protect and enhance our wild fish and fragile angling resources through research, education and advocacy.
California Trout and The Fly Shop have joined in partnership for the 2% for Trout program which will support our fish conservation and restoration efforts. For every trip reservation made through The Fly Shop, either to Alaska, Kamchatka, Argentina, or any other local or worldwide fishing destination, a donation will be made to our organization equal to 2% of the cost of the travel package.
“We are thrilled to partner with The Fly Shop and appreciate their commitment to CalTrout and our work. Together we are ensuring resilient wild fish thrive in healthy waters for a better California.” – Curtis Knight, Executive Director.
Based in Redding, California, The Fly Shop is one of the most recognizable names in fly fishing retail and also operates a full international travel department. Owner Mike Michalak has made a quality reputation over his 40 years in business. “Here at The Fly Shop, it’s always been about people. Since April of 1978, I’ve worked to surround myself with the most talented staff, the best products, and the finest angling travel destinations in fly fishing. Along the way, most of our customers became our friends. Everybody says they’re the best, but my people have been proving it since our doors opened,” explains Mike.
Explore the shop’s website where they include detailed descriptions and photos of each fly fishing destination.
*Required when booking: Mention the 2% for Trout program and specify California Trout as the receiving organization.*
California’s Central Valley floodplains have been largely disconnected from the Sacramento River by levees, which have dramatically reduced the amount of “spillover” space available to the river.
Unfortunately, these little-understood floodplains served as ideal nurseries for juvenile salmon, who grow more quickly and face fewer predators than they do in the faster-moving, less-nutrient-rich, predator-friendly main river channel.
Though we’re not mentioned in this New York Times story, CalTrout is funding part of this UC Davis study on the effects of reconnect rivers with floodplains:
Jacob Katz stood shin-deep in a flooded rice paddy that is often dried out at this time of year. He thrust his hand into a writhing mass of baby salmon in his net and plucked three of the silver fry from the wind-whipped water’s surface.
The flood plain was stocked with baby Chinook salmon.
In late January, five acres of this farmland in Yolo County was flooded and stocked with thousands of weeks-old Chinook salmon. It was the beginning of a three-year experiment that conservationists and government officials hope will provide scientific data to help guide a sweeping transformation of riverfront lands throughout the Central Valley, California’s prolific farming region.
“They were about two-thirds this size when we put them in,” said Mr. Katz, a doctoral candidate at the University of California, Davis, as the plump fry flapped off his palm and into the water. “They’re growing very, very rapidly. They’re looking great. It’s exactly what we want to see.”
It seems clear that floodplains are one of the missing pieces of the anadromous fish puzzle, and equally clearly, it’s not only fish that stand to suffer.
Channelization of large rivers takes away the safety valve of floodplains, increasing the potential for highly destructive levee failures and flooding (both for people and property).
Restoring some of this balance is tricky, and CalTrout supports such efforts when they’re based on the best available science.
To read the entire New York Times article, click here.