More than 1,000 fish, mostly mullets, were discovered last week floating dead in Malibu Lagoon, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Fish die-offs have been widely reported this summer in Florida and the Gulf Coast due to a persistent red algae bloom. Our own die-off in Malibu Lagoon occurred because of high-than-average water temperatures, at least that’s the suspicion of state park scientists.
Scientists also blame hotter-than-average ocean temperatures for the Southland’s muggy conditions this summer. Temperatures have been recorded around 80 degrees F.
See you on the river, Jim Burns
And now for some gloom-free news: For all of you who have sorely missed FoLAR’s “Off Tha Hook” fishing throwback on the LA River, rejoice:
Trout Unlimited’s South Coast Chapter, based in OC, has been awarded a $20,000 grant from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to provide instruction, equipment, and support for local families to participate in a series of fishing outings on the Los Angeles River this year, according to the TU website.
The funding for this grant comes from the George H. W. Bush Vamos a Pescar Education Fund administered by the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation. The Vamos a Pescar initiative is focused on engaging Hispanic families in fishing, boating, and conservation activities.
As a consultant on “Off Tha Hook,” I’m super excited kids will once again have a structured way to engage our river and catch the passion we all love. My favorite memories of the three fishing throwback years were of kids — kids rushing down the rip-rap to get to the water; kids learning how to knot a hook on a line; kids wondering where in the heck all the fish went; and — blam — kids hooking up on possibly the first fish of their young lives.
As TU chapter president Robert Blankenship, who was instrumental in “Off Tha Hook” along with FoLAR co-founder Lewis MacAdams and former all-star-staffer William Preston Bowling, said in that same post:
“In an increasingly wired world, fishing encourages Americans young and old to discover and connect with the nature around us, even in highly urbanized settings such as the greater Los Angeles area. This grant funding will allow us to introduce dozens of kids and adults to the wonders of fishing who may never have had such opportunity.”
Events begin in May, including one on a no-fishing-license-required day, July 7. Read the post for more information.
See you on the river, Jim Burns
The Arroyo Seco Foundation has received a $50,000 grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to determine the best stream conditions for introducing trout, according to the Pasadena Star-News.
Tim Brick, the foundation’s managing director, adds:
“We’re still look for trout, but the stream is below 1 cubic feet per second again. We need to identify the pools and resting spots where the trout are hiding. Probably Bear Canyon is the most likely spot. Anyone care to go on a trout scout adventure?”
His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Finally, to get a taste of what fishing used to be like here, I’m rerunning my 2014 review of historian Tom Tomlinson’s excellent book, ““Against the Currents: The Unlikely Story of the Southern California Steelhead” below.
If you think you’ve finished your summer reading list, stop! Consider one more book, please.
“Against the Current, The Unlikely Story of the Southern California Steelhead” could not, in truth, be a more unlikely tale. Author Tom Tomlinson takes the reader on an environmental roller coaster ride that matches our region’s boom-or-bust water supply, and throws in plenty of human Greek drama.
What just over a 100 years ago was a region so pristine that Easterners came here to mend their health, through hunting, fishing and soaking up the sunshine, quickly turned into what we have today. As someone who has lived here for over 30 years with no plans of leaving, I’m not complaining, but when you read this book and realize what it once was — especially if you enjoy fly fishing the San Gabes — well, get our your handkerchief.
One fact to prime the tears: In the early 1900s, the then-equivalent of the California Dept. of Fish and Wildlife set the limit of fish taken at … 100. If you’ve ever put boots to dirt and fly to water in our mountains, this should give you a chill. Guests at the local fishing camps regularly hauled in lots of rainbows, and, yes, steelhead. And they hauled, and they hauled and they hauled. Think buffalo in the plains states.
How we got from those abundant fishy beginnings to where we are today is a story of good intentions gone to greed, it’s about that simple.
As for the steelhead once again taking center stage as we enter the Great Los Angeles River Rebuilding, well, this magnificent creature needs our help to get off the endangered species list.
When Congress approves the billion bucks for a river makeover early next year (Update: As of this writing three years later, the federal money hasn’t arrived), I hope every politician, every engineer and every investor gets a copy of this book. They should look up the section on one Henry O’Melveny, lawyer, fishing advocate, Creel Club founder, ice plant owner and, sadly, leader of the pack that done the natural inhabitants of our erratic rivers and streams in. Indeed, he is a figure as defining of Greek tragedy as Oedipus or Agamemnon.
Fast forward to today, and a mayor who is bringing in major bucks from Washington for the river as well as public transportation. I hope that Mayor Eric Garcetti reads this slim volume. It is the most compelling work to date on why the natural habitat can’t take a backseat to our own urban comfort zone. That story already happened.
See you on the river, Jim Burns
Check out this documentary, Sunday, May 28, 3 p.m. on KCET-HD. The producer interviewed me about fly fishing, and I missed it the first time around (The down side of being too anxious to get rid of your cable TV!). All I know is legal fishing season is almost here, starting in the recreational zones Memorial Day. Get your rod, reel and license and get on out there!
Here’s the blurb:
“A Concrete River: Reviving The Waters of Los Angeles” chronicles the importance of the Los Angeles River culturally, economically and ecologically. Supported by a matching challenge grant from Newman’s Own Foundation, the independent foundation created by the late actor and philanthropist Paul Newman, this special telecast takes viewers on a historical tour of the Los Angeles River starting with the native Tongva tribes that lived along its banks before the Spanish arrived, all the way through to the present day.
Co-hosted by Armenian filmmaker Carla Garapedian (Assoc. Producer, “The Promise”) and actor Raphael Sbarge, the special presentation of the documentary treats viewers to various popular activities along the LA River including bird watching, kayaking and fly fishing. The 51-mile-long concrete water basin protects the city of Los Angeles from seasonal floods and, with the enthusiasm and support of many Angelenos, the river is roaring back to life.
The nonprofit Heal the Bay, which publishes the yearly Beach Report Card, Wednesday released a 37-page water study of the Los Angeles River. Weekly water samples from Rattlesnake and Steelhead parks in the Elysian Valley and one in the Sepulveda Basin revealed a fecal indicator bacteria that exceeded federal standards.
“The study shows that popular recreation spots along the Los Angeles River suffer from very poor water quality, which poses health risks to the growing number of people who fish, swim and kayak in its waters,” according to a Heal the Bay press release.
More than six years ago, kayakers proved that the river was indeed a “traditional navigable waterway,” a legal term, and the Environmental Protection Agency invoked the Clean Water Act and triggered its protections.
“EPA is committed to a healthy L.A. River, and we will continue to work with our partners at the state, and other stakeholders like Heal the Bay, to improve water quality, habitat and recreational opportunities,” wrote EPA Public Affairs Specialist Soledad Calvino, in an email. “Water quality is an ongoing challenge in urban rivers, which require monitoring, assessment and measures to address pollutants from stormwater runoff and other sources.”
The EPA was reviewing the Heal the Bay findings at the time of this writing.
Closer to home, Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office lauded the fact that L.A. has made progress “by significantly reducing trashing in our stormwater and reducing spills by 85 percent of the last 10 years.
“However, bacterial levels tend to exceed federal standards, which is not a surprise for an urban river that receives runoff from more than 800 square miles of heavily populated areas,” according to Liz Crosson, the mayor’s water policy advisor.
Earlier this month, an old sewer pipe, built in 1929, ruptured in Boyle Heights, causing some 2.4 million gallons of effluent to spill into the river. Health officials closed both Seal Beach and Long Beach for a time. The largest spill in L.A. history comprised some 30 million gallons in 1998, blamed on El Nino storms.
The spill occurred miles from both recreation zones, which are both upriver.
Based on its findings, Heal the Bay recommends:
- Kayaking and Angling: People should limit water contact, especially avoiding hand-to-face water contact. Users should not enter the water with an open wound, if immunocompromised, or after a rainfall. If there is water contact, rinse off with soap and water afterward.
- Swimming: While many families recreate in the water, particularly on hot days, adults and children should avoid swimming in the L.A. River, particularly submersing their heads under water. We envision a swimmable L.A. River one day but current water quality is not yet at a healthful level. If there is any water contact, rinse off with soap and water afterward.
- Public notification: All groups promoting recreation in the L.A. River should provide water quality information and best practices to all participants, using consistent, accurate and prominent information on all outreach materials, and in multiple languages, consistent with the demographics of visitors.
- Increased monitoring: The City of Los Angeles or responsible municipal agency should institute, at a minimum, weekly water quality testing for fecal indicator bacteria in the recreation zones during the open season (Memorial Day to the end of September), and at other known swimming spots along the Los Angeles River.
See you on the river, Jim Burns