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.

Dragonfly

Dragonfly

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?

Tilapia

Tilapia

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, chood@avc.edu. 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.

Midges

Midges

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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 web@folar.org for more information.
See you on the river, Jim Burns

California Killifish surprise catch for fish study

I don’t know how biologist Rosi Dagit does it but every time she calls a meeting of the fishing-for-science clan, the mercury breaks another record. Today was no exception, as around 25 sweating volunteers traveled to Willow Street in Long Beach for the last effort to see what could be caught in this important area where the Los Angeles River runs into the ocean.

We saw a dozen or so mullet, as they danced around our side of the lagoon, bobbing and weaving to invisible underwater music. Four of us tried everything in the flybox, from San Juan worm, to topside stimulator. What goes into the record book is but a shadow of what’s really in the water.

The kayak crew, pulling a net, came up empty, a disappointment.

John Tegmeyer fashioned his own boilies — like the Brits do, but with a dose of Tapatio Sauce thrown in for color — and came very close to landing a large carp.

Meanwhile, Zino Nakasuji fooled a 7-pound common carp with a pale egg pattern.

But Dabin Lee of Los Angeles handscooped the most important catch of the day — a tiny California Killifish, which is a native and lives in brackish water.

“I do it all the time,” Lee said, referring to her habit of catching small fish in her hands. It made for a remarkable end to four attempts over the last year and a half to document exactly what lives in this part of the river.

The great hope is to spot a steelhead.

“I just recently  got a picture of one from Cabrillo Pier,” Dagit said.

And, of course, that is the lofty dream of so many of us, that the Southern California Steelhead, currently an endangered species, will make its comeback in tandem with the river renewal. With the anticipated El Niño this winter, we may yet get that opportunity, when fish return from the ocean, hoping to ride high water in to their inland spawning grounds.

And if you missed this part of the survey, you’ll have another opportunity. Next year, Dagit is targeting the Sepuveda Dam area in the San Fernando Valley.

Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy this silly video from the day.

 

See you on the river, Jim Burns

 

 

 

 

 

Three’s a charm for Long Beach fish survey

Nick Faught of Corona snagged this 8-pounder, his first carp on the fly. (Jim Burns)

Nick Faught of Corona snagged this 8-pounder, his first carp on the fly. (Jim Burns)

In almost all things, three’s a charm, and so it was yesterday for the twice-denied Long
Beach leg of the important Friends of the Los Angeles River fish study. Last year’s two attempts came up mostly empty, but yesterday afternoon’s fishing by about 25 conventional and fly fishermen netted three common carp and two smelt. If the number leaves you shaking your head, that 25 skilled anglers would have such a lean haul on a near-perfect winter fishing afternoon, you’re not alone.

Fishers threw every manner of enticement to their prey, including carp carrot flies, woolly buggers, artificial worms, real worms, and a ” fish-licous”concoction of garlic and masa, the cornmeal used to make tortillas. But for the most part, this estuary where fresh and salt water mix has yet to fully reveal what lives below.

“Well, at least it’s better than last time,” said Sabrina Drill, a UC Cooperative Extension biologist, who along with fellow scientist Rosie Dagit has been periodically mapping the river’s fish population since 2008. But her face showed the disappointment that the yield of this event — monikered “Fish for Science” — wasn’t full of the expected gold doubloons.

WHOOPSIE DAISY: Unfortunately, snagging a big carp and landing him are two different things. (Jim Burns)

WHOOPSIE DAISY: Unfortunately, snagging a big carp and landing him are two different things. (Jim Burns)

An optimistic Trout Unlimited’s Bob Blankenship had emailed several participants before the event that “Maybe this storm will bring with it a few migrating steelhead to Long Beach?” And we all heartily agreed.

True, Nick Faught of Corona left a happy man. He’d purchased a new 5 wt. specifically for catching carp, and the beast that later weighed in at over 8 pounds gave him all he could handle.

“I’m used to catching trout in the Sierra,” he said, dripping wet, while managing to get his fish into an orange Home Depot bucket in the middle of a lagoon. Faught had hooked and lost what was most likely this fish, then hooked it again. Between the slippery submerged rocks, the powerful and slippery carp, and his desire to get the fish to the biologists some 100 yards away, he went for a swim — saved his fish again, frying his cellphone in the process. Even soaked to the skin through his waders, Faught smiled as he held his carp later safely on shore for a trophy shot.

His grit and enthusiasm really characterize many of the participants who came to help the professionals map the river before restoration begins. Each event brings more anglers.

These are very serious, big-money times for an urban river that is famous for all of the wrong reasons, like Kim Kardashian. It’s as iconic as the Hollywood sign, yet after years of appearances in movies such as “The Terminator” and “Grease,” in which 51 miles of concrete form more undulating racetrack scar than ambling waters, the Army Corps of Engineers — yes, the same agency that excavated and paved it — now has recommended to Congress a $1 billion makeover, or “make right,” depending on your point of view.

In other words, once Congress approves the money, it will be billion-dollar boots on the ground in L.A. And that’s what has Dagit, a senior biologist for the Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains, anticipating better days. Dagit, Drill and other biologists have tracked river species, first with the FoLAR fish study in 2008 and now with an extension of that study focused on the river’s estuary.

SITTIN' PRETTY: Greg Madrigal of Sierra Nets, left, and Stan Adermann sit among orange collection buckets. Madrigal landed one of the three carp caught during the event.

SITTIN’ PRETTY: Greg Madrigal of Sierra Nets, left, and Stan Adermann sit among orange collection buckets. Madrigal landed one of the three carp caught during the event.

Bets are on that Dagit, Drill and company will be back for another round. After all, the 2008 study, conducted in Atwater Village north of downtown found some 1,200 fish, including carp, tilapia and bass.

“This is a gateway,” Dagit said during the October attempt, while looking toward Long Beach Harbor. “and you can’t underestimate the importance of this section. Having a baseline of understanding which species are present and where will be is a really important tool to help us gauge the success of the proposed restoration efforts once they are initiated.”

Citizen Science Hall O’ Famers

Three large carp (22-24 inches), thanks to Steve Simon, Nick Faught and Greg Madrigal.

Greg Armijo added two topsmelt to the day’s catch.

See you on the river, Jim Burns

FoLAR seeks anglers for Long Beach fish study

WILDFLOWERS: Become a citizen scientist and help FoLAR document what's in the Los Angeles River. (William Preston Bowling)

WILDFLOWERS: Become a citizen scientist and help FoLAR document what’s in the Los Angeles River. (William Preston Bowling)

Hello Anglers,

We need You, to help Us, Catch Fish in the Long Beach Portion of the Los Angeles River.

Got your attention?

OK, now, here are the details.

Friends of the Los Angeles River (FoLAR) in partnership with the Aquarium of the Pacific will host Phase 3 of a scientific fish study with help from the Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains. We need Citizen Scientists, in this case, volunteer anglers to help us catch what is in the soft bottom section of the Los Angeles River at Long Beach.

This is a rare chance for you to fish in an area that one does not normally access, contact WPB@FoLAR.org to hold a spot. Fishing will start at 2pm until dusk on Saturday, January 3rd, 2015.

The fishing is limited to adults as this area of the L.A. River is difficult to access, yet, on the shore The Los Angeles River Rover – FoLAR’s Mobile Museum & Education Center – will be open from noon until dusk on Saturday, January 3rd, 2015 for everyone to enjoy. Click on the link below to see what the River Rover has to offer…

http://folar.org/education/river-rover/

The FoLAR study of fish began in 2006 and after collection and identification of hundreds of fish in the Elysian Valley portion of the L.A. River, the 2008 fish study was born. To our surprise, we discovered eight different species of fish, that were pretty healthy, low in mercury as well as low in Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) compared to ocean fish studies. The fish that were discovered/identified in the study were Carp, Tilapia, Fathead Minnow, Black Bullhead, Amazon Sailfin Catfish, Green Sunfish and one Largemouth Bass. You can view or download this study from the below link…

http://folar.org/wp-content/uploads/studies/fish-study-2008.pdf

The 2008 FoLAR Fish Study was just one section of the L.A. River, what lives in the waters of the Sepulveda Basin, the tributaries or Long Beach are unknown, until now. In May and October of 2014, FoLAR went back on a fish hunt, deciding that Long Beach would be a great start of a new scientific fish study. As with the Elysian Valley study, it could take up to 2 years to collect accurate and representative data.

ALL IN: Are you ready to discover fishing in a restricted area of the river in Long Beach? 9William Preston Bowling)

ALL IN: Are you ready to discover fishing in a restricted area of the river in Long Beach? (William Preston Bowling)

As a volunteer angler, you agree to be a Citizen Scientist while experiencing the thrill of fishing in an area that is not normally fished. After you hold your spot with WPB@FoLAR.org you will be directed to the location via a follow up e-mail. FoLAR will not provide equipment, you will have to bring your own. The choice of equipment will be up to each angler, either come with rod and reel and bait, or even go the lengths of bringing waders or other equipment you are familiar with. Once you catch a fish, you will then put it in a provided bucket of water and bring it to one of the three biologists from the Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains, Rosi Dagit, Sabrina Drill or Lizzy Montgomery. They will weigh, measure and photograph the species. Dr. Richard Gossett from Cal State Long Beach will be on hand to test the toxicity of the fish as he did in the 2008 study of the Elysian Valley fish.

If you cannot make it, we will have plenty of other fishing opportunities on the Los Angeles River throughout 2015, including the second annual FoLAR Catch & Release Fish Derby, “Off tha’ Hook”…

http://www.laweekly.com/informer/2014/09/10/you-can-fly-fish-the-la-river-and-its-pretty-damn-cool

If you fish on the Los Angeles River you can help us establish what species reside within these waters by downloading an app or using the web through iNaturalist.

iNaturalist is a place where you can record what you see in nature, meet other nature lovers and learn about the natural world. Lizzy Montgomery from the Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains developed a Fish of the L.A. River page where you can upload a photo of the fish you catch and where you caught them. This will help us understand better the biodiversity with the Los Angeles River watershed. iNaturalist can also be fun for any parts of Los Angeles by uploading Birds, Lizards and Insects as well. Join iNaturalist today by clicking on the link below…

http://www.inaturalist.org/projects/fish-of-the-la-river-peces-del-rio-de-los-angeles

We hope to see you at Saturday afternoon January 3rd.