More than 3,600 tilapia fry netted in upper river fish survey

BIOLOGISTS Sabrina Drill (left) and Rosi Dagit inspect part of the tilapia haul. (William Preston Bowling)

BIOLOGISTS Sabrina Drill (left) and Rosi Dagit inspect part of the tilapia haul. (William Preston Bowling)

By Rosi Dagit

Guest contributor
Looks like we captured 3,699 fish, the majority of which were juvenile tilapia under 1 inch. Based on the few larger (up to 3 inches) fish, most appeared to be redbreasted tilapia (Tilapia rendalli), but that is not yet verified with the voucher specimens.  These fish can breed year around in warm waters, and it was quite interesting to find such young fish at this time of year, but water temperatures were 24-27 degree C. (75-81 degrees F.), which is pretty warm. They can reach up to 18 inches and live for up to seven years.
They are native to Africa, and are primarily herbivores that spawn in the substrate and guard their nests.  They are considered to be competitors with native fish for food and spawning areas, and high densities of fish can negatively impact native aquatic vegetation.
In other areas, they have not survived strong flows or colder temperatures, so it will be really interesting to see if they make it through the winter El Nino.
SEINE NETS yield 3,000 tilapia fry in Haskell Creek above Sepulveda Dam on Friday. (William Preston Bowling)

SEINE NETS yield more than 3,600 tilapia fry in Haskell Creek above Sepulveda Dam on Friday. (William Preston Bowling)

Haskell Creek reveals wonders as well as mysteries

Cormorant (All images courtesy of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County)

Cormorant (All images courtesy of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County)

By Charles Hood

Guest Contributor

With staff from the Natural History Museum in Exposition Park, I was at the Sepulveda Wildlife Reserve the day after the recent “fishing for science” derby. We were not trying to avoid the fishermen — quite the opposite — just a scheduling thing, that we got there a day too late.



Looking for fish in Haskell Creek is a pleasure and yet a unique frustration. We know more about the ecology of wolverines in Alaska than we do about the interactions of the fish in the L.A. River and its feeder streams.

For me, an English major turned birder, I still struggle even with basic identification issues. The little minnowy ones I call Gambusia or mosquitofish, but that’s only because that’s what everybody else says. Do we really know?



And I have eaten carp and tilapia, but am not sure I could tell all the different forms and color phases apart.

Yet as one looks into Haskell Creek upstream from the dam, other questions arise. How long do the fish here live? What is there “pecking order” or resource partition, species to species? What eats them? There is one Belted Kingfisher present here — why not more? (It may be a bit too closed in, in terms of tree canopy, or there may not be enough unrestricted perches. That’s just my wild guess. They may drive one another away: a dominant bird may lay claim to the best part of the creek and see any trespassers off straight away.)

Turtles too come into it. The main lake has a lot of Red-eared Sliders; what’s their role in taking (or not taking) fish from Haskell Creek? In the main lake we saw something that was new to me. A dead coot was floating in the lake while turtles investigated it on each side. Were they trying to scavenge the carcass, but perhaps blocked by the dense feathers?

Red-eared Slider

Red-eared Slider

As the results from the fish survey on the 19th are tallied, we can make one small step toward answering these questions. It will be a long journey, one in which everyday observations from scientists and non-scientists alike have equal parts.

If any blog readers want to share thoughts or observations, do please pass them on: Charles Hood, The museum is working on a book that will be an overview of urban nature, and if you would like to share a perspective or experience, please email me.



First citizen science fishing event tomorrow at Sepulveda Basin


Screen Shot 2015-11-19 at 9.34.43 AM

Here’s an updated message from organizer Rosi Dagit:

Alex and I will meet Bill by 7:45 and see if we can figure out how to open the gate – pending hearing back from MRCA. We will offload all the gear from my truck and stage it there either way.
8 am Meet Bill at the corner of Burbank and Woodley, see attached map where it says PARK HERE
We can direct you back across Burbank to the kayak parking area. Parking here at the Reserve involves a lovely 15-20 minute hike along Haskall Creek, back downstream under Burbank Blvd, through the south reserve and across the river, to grandmother’s house, oops, across the river and back upstream to eventually get to the kayak boat launch area where all the nets will be staged.
We recommend that you bring your lunch, water, etc. in a daypack so that you can carry it over 1 mile and have hands available to help with rods, buckets, waders, etc. (Full details here)
If you get stuck in traffic or have problems please call me at 310.488.6381 so we can sort things out.
Thanks everyone for your patience while we got this all sorted out! Looking forward to a fun day in the river on Friday. Can’t wait to see what we catch!
Cheers, Rosi
You can also email FoLAR’s William Preston Bowling at for more information.
See you on the river, Jim Burns

Quick mends: Local angler profiled in California Fly Fisher

ALL SMILES: Kesley Gallagher hoists an LA River carp in 2014. (Kesley Gallagher)

ALL SMILES: Kesley Gallagher hoists an LA River carp in 2014. (Kesley Gallagher)

If you’ve spent any time on Facebook looking for fellow finny fanatics (who hasn’t?), you may have seen Kesley Gallagher’s smiling face. My favorite shot was one taken in her wedding dress, fly rod in hand. Now comes an extended profile of the So Cal resident in the monthly California Confluences column in California Fly Fisher magazine. I’d link, but it’s print only.

As Gallagher recounts to Bud Bynack, the column’s author:

“I fly fish all the time, both at home and abroad. I live on a lake and kayak with a fly rod for largemouth bass after work. I fish fish the Los Angeles River for carp, and I love pursuing corbina and halibut in the surf. My friend, Al Quattrocchi, and I joke that we need a new tournament here in L.A. called the ‘Fly Fishing Freeway Challenge,’ where an angler has to land a corbina, carp, and halibut on a fly all in one day.”

Now there’s an idea!

See you on the river, Jim Burns


Next up: Fish for science at Sepulveda Dam on Nov. 20

Yucking it up in 1938: Herald-Express photographer Coy Watson Jr. (left) and reporter Fred Eldridge (Courtesy KCET).

Yucking it up in 1938: Herald-Express photographer Coy Watson Jr. (left) and reporter Fred Eldridge (Courtesy KCET).

Update: because of permit issues, this event has been postponed until Friday, Nov. 20.

Hi Everyone,

Attached please find the info for the upcoming fishing day.
We caught more fish in dip nets on our exploratory mission last Friday than we have at all other events. They were juvenile tilapia, but still!

We still need 2-3 more volunteers at least but the more the merrier! Please spread the word!

If some of the anglers want to bring kayaks and or floatie chairs along with their rods, there is a cool place under Burbank to send them.

We will also have lots of seine nets available.

Thanks to Bill for setting this up! thanks to all of you for your help in making it happen! This should be really fun!

If you are interested, please email me at and I’ll send you the rest of the info.

Rosi Dagit
RCD of the Santa Monica Mountains
540 S. Topanga Canyon Blvd
Topanga, CA 90290



Friday, 30 October 2015

PURPOSE: To characterize the fish community near Sepulveda Dam prior to the onset of the rainy season.

7am RCD team meets at office to load truck and carpool

RCDSMM gear to bring:

waders                         8 buckets                                 dip nets

seine nets                    GPS                                         cameras

blocking nets               fish measuring board               fish id books

data sheets                  clipboard and pencils              cooler and ice

meter tapes                 ziplock baggies                        fish labels/scale envelopes

8am Meet Bill and other volunteers at the pull out off Burbank Blvd.

(Directions to follow!)

EVERYONE should come prepared to get wet to the waist.

Close toe shoes required. Lots of algae to slip on so please come prepared.

If you want to borrow some waders, contact Rosi with your shoe size!

Bring lunch, water, sunscreen, hat and change of clothes if you wish.

If you have a valid CA Fishing License, please bring it along.

8-12     FISHING! We will be working between the Sepulveda Dam upstream to the

bridge under Burbank Blvd. If there is time, we would also like to sample at a few locations in Haskell Creek.

12-12:30 lunch on site (Rosi will bring cookies!)

12:30 – 3 FISHING!

3- 3:30 Clean and pack gear and samples. Head home after a fun day in the river!

Yes, fish are actually jumping out of the water

John L says:
October 3, 2015 at 6:06 pm Edit
Yup! Seen that today too! Big carp and Lil bass chasing each other, as if they were spawning again!

Sabrina Burgess-Drill says:

October 3, 2015 at 5:57 pm Edit

It was like that several years ago. Maybe 2005 or 6?

“Catch me, before I disappear in the El Nino river waves.” (Jim Burns)