Quick mends: Endangered steelhead spotted in Ventura

This story from the Ventura County Star has gone viral in the last several days, according to Pasadena Casting Club’s John Tobin. As the club’s conservation editor and an enthusiastic environmentalist, he was excited by the sighting of this endangered species, adding, “this could be the L.A. River!”

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STEELHEAD STEALTH:  But researchers still spotted this lone fish near the L.A. County-Ventura border. (Courtesy RCDSMM STREAM TEAM)

I share his sentiment and hope that the push to develop the river doesn’t leave out the most important part — a return of Southern California Coast Steelhead.

Of course, after years of drought, spotting a southern steelhead in a creek at Leo Carrillo State Park is a reason for everyone to cheer. Gone are the days of steelhead runs, when an entire industry sprang up to cater to fishermen who traveled to witness and catch these magnificent fish as they made their way from the ocean to their spawning grounds in our local mountains.

“It was so exciting to find an actual steelhead, as they are rare as hens teeth this year,” said Rosi Dagit, team leader and senior conservation biologist for Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains, by email. “Only four anadromous adults have been documented thus far, and one died in my hands in Malibu on Wednesday. A lot of future hopes are with this lovely fish and we wish her many babies to help recover the population!”

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Twenty-five-inch steelhead trout caught in the Los Angeles River near Glendale, in January, 1940. (Courtesy family of Dr. Charles L. Hogue)

See you on the river, Jim Burns

National Geographic: $50 million in funds to speed removal of ‘deadbeat dams,’ including Ventura’s Matilija

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Dating from 1943, many ask what purpose Brown Mountain Dam serves today. (Jim Burns)

Thanks to Bernard Yin and his Trout Hugger blog for spotting this National Geographic piece, which could spell big news for fly fishers in our area.

“Patagonia, the Ventura-based outdoor clothing and gear company, is working with Hewlett and other groups to raise the funds needed to take out the dam by 2020. It would be the largest dam removal in California history (eclipsing the recent San Clemente project).”

I only wish Brown Mountain Dam behind the Jet Propulsion Laboratory were on the list.

See you on the river, Jim Burns

Quick Mends: The Flyfish Journal focuses on LA River carp

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In its new issue, The Flyfish Journal features carping the LA River, putting our water in the august company of tournament trout in Wyoming, springtime in Patagonia and fly-in fishing the Northwest Territories.

Not bad for a piker, as I tease my wife whenever really good things happen.

LA’s own Daniel Lopez penned the piece with able assists from his posse, which included LARFF guest contributor Greg Madrigal, and a nice photograph from FoLAR’s William Preston Bowling.

In the same issue, writer Andrew Steketee in Confluence: Los Angeles Steelhead Theory tells us:

fullsizerender-2“Historically, Oncorhynchus mykiss were present in Zuma Creek, and fish migrated upstream to spawn in the headwaters before heading downstream as smolts. Dams and diversions have disrupted passage throughout the drainage. Predation from fish, birds, raccoons, river otters, lampreys, pinnipeds and humans. Natural propagation in abeyance. This may be the part where Jesus returns to tell us what to do.”

I guess that’s supposed to be funny. If anyone has a picture of a river otter in Southern California, please let me know.

See you on the river, Jim Burns

Quick mends: Never mind the carp, here come the goldfish!

(Images courtesy of Beauty Motivation)

(Images courtesy of Beauty Motivation)

If you have any shots of goldfish you’ve caught in the river, please send them in. Also, we may be the only river in the country in which hobbyists also take fish home to see what they grow up to be! Come on, you know who you are!

From the story:

“Giant goldfish are becoming a problem in Minnesota lakes, and wildlife officials are warning fish owners who no longer want to care for their pets not to flush them down the toilet or dispose of them in lakes, ponds or waterways.”

 

See you on the river, Jim Burns

 

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Quick Mends:LA River after El Nino’s first storm of the season

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LA Public Works removing debris caught by booms from Ballona Creek after a storm event. (Courtesy Algalita Marine Research Foundation)

 

This Los Angeles Times story, with accompanying photos and visuals, puts me in awe of the fish we have in the river. How do they ever return after an event such as this one? Best quote from the story:

“The namesake settlement of Los Angeles became the second city in California after San Jose, with a water ditch — the zanja madre —  diverting flow to the city.

The river, its tributaries and artesian wells made Los Angeles County one of the biggest cattle and food producing centers in the nation. Fishermen caught steelhead trout in the pools, and waterwheels ran flour mills in the currents.”

 

See you on the river, Jim Burns

Quick mends: New article finds proposed Glendale Narrows habitat restoration plan doesn’t include fish

STEELHEAD imagery abounds on the Los Angeles River, yet plans to reintroduce this endangered species aren't included in the habitat restoration plan. (Jim Burns)

STEELHEAD imagery abounds on the Los Angeles River, yet plans to reintroduce this endangered species aren’t included in the habitat restoration plan. (Jim Burns)

This in-depth piece on different visions and conflicts for renewing the Los Angeles River makes for an engaging read. Check out these quotes from “L.A. Remembers It Has a River” by Willy Blackmore in TakePart, the digital news and lifestyle magazine, and social action platform.

“There’s no keystone species for riparian habitat in Southern California—no iconic, ecologically significant animal whose health and abundance can stand in for that of the larger ecology. But Lewis MacAdams—who cofounded the river’s first dedicated environmental group, Friends of the Los Angeles River, in 1987—has said he’ll know his work is done “when the steelhead trout run returns to the Los Angeles River.” MacAdams and his organization have played a major role in bringing the city’s attention back to its central waterway, and while he has been critical of Gehry’s involvement, MacAdams has been supportive of the Corps of Engineers’ vision for the river.

“Yet the habitat restoration plan for the Glendale Narrows accounts for neither fish nor frog. According to the plan, the restored habitat would help the endangered least Bell’s vireo, a small brownish bird, but the question of steelhead, a member of the salmon family, is couched more in terms of maybe or someday.”

I found the same thing — no plans for fish — during research for my 2012 piece about steelhead.

See you on the river, Jim Burns

Lewis MacAdams is right!! I think that there is an iconic species for this river. If you bring back the steelhead, you solve many issues of the river in terms of ecology and beauty at the same time.

The current statement from Frank Gehry, that it is going to be a ‘hydrology project first, and then a beautification project’ seems to be the same level of logic that channelized the river in the first place – solving one problem. Also its a RIVER. Anyone who has been down into the Glendale Narrows can see that if you give it some freedom, it will naturally meander and create beauty that doesn’t need an architect to design or intellectualize it.

There are many examples of rivers that have been problems when cities built into their rain sheds. the South Platte through Denver always comes to my mind. It has hard edges and intersections with the city and has areas where it runs free and is natural. It also has monster carp and trout in these areas respectively.

Celeste Walter
Celeste WalterHabitat for what? Is it going to be sterile like a city park? Sounds like playing Jenga with half the levels of blocks missing from bottom. As a child I remember hiking with an elderly couple , the woman watched while I did my best to catch a tadpole. She told me tadpoles in the stream were evidence of the health of the stream and surrounding area. Is it different now?
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Quick mends: Will El Nino be able to flush fish invaders from LA River?

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Keith Mosier nabs his first L.A. River carp. Oh, yeah! (Ken Lindsay)

A straight flush? That’s the topic environmental writer Louis Sahagun ponders in today’s LA Times, and the hypothesis being tested in this recent citizen science event: Can nonnative species survive in So Cal’s boom-or-bust water cycles?

For those of us who enjoy fishing them, the answer is “sure, hope so!” But as many of you can attest, the bass, also a nonnative, went away for many months following last winter’s storms.

See you on the river, Jim Burns