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)

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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)

River fishing nicely after record rain

WITH A BIKE and a fly rod, you can cover lots of territory quickly. (Jim Burns)

WITH A BIKE and a fly rod, you can cover lots of territory quickly. (Jim Burns)

Tuesday Angelinos woke to a record rain that dropped more than 2 inches in a matter of hours on our thirsty basin. Check out this news report to watch rescues, as well as a swollen river with water speeds estimated at 35 m.p.h.

Today, I wanted to assess what this would mean for fishing, and was surprised not to find the river blown out, but instead to be greeted by clear water, normal levels and hungry fish. Mature tilapia and feisty green sunfish rose to both a chartreuse and to a purple (!) hi-viz Parachute Adams. I only wished I’d brought my 3 weight, as the 5 was too big for these undiscriminating fish. You have to choose your target rod: lighter for the littler guys, bigger and badder for the carp.

Bottom line: With the predicted monster El Nino possibly coming our way, these next few weeks are an excellent time to enjoy fall fishing, because once the water begins to drop in earnest, there’s not enough structure between the rip-rap banks to keep a fav spot the same. We waited for months for the bass to come back after last winter.

Also, on my way to some sweet water, here was a fly fisher who got his wheels there before I did. Technology trumps shank’s mare. (Sorry for the image quality …)

Any fishing and biking stories you’d like to share?

See you on the river, Jim Burns

Guess who’s back?

'BASS-A-NOVA': Yup, they're bacl! (John Tegmeyer)

‘BASS-A-NOVA’: Yup, they’re b-b-b-ack! (John Tegmeyer)

Last summer, there were bass — lots and lots of bass — as well as aggressive tilapia. And as just about anyone who has fished the L.A. River will tell you, both species are a heck of a lot easier to catch than our crafty carp. Targeting bass, you can do dumb things like muff your cast or take some drag on your line, and still recover and hook up. With carp, mostly, it’s one and done.

Then “poof.”

After last season’s first rain, all the bass disappeared. Because our river is currently more of a causeway without significant structure, what was solid fact one day vanished the next, as uneven flows swept away everything in their paths, including the bass that many of us watched grow to healthy sizes. That’s one of the beauties of catch and release: you can actually watch the fish mature through the season.

“Wonder where they went?” asked John Tegmeyer, which was truly said in hindsight, as yesterday he found a new Motherlode.

Maybe we can all file our “what the heck happened?” under the line from an old Joni Mitchell song, “Big Yellow Taxi”:

“Don’t it always seem to go
You don’t know what you got
Till it’s gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot”

In the case of our river, the opposite will hopefully be true: our paved parking lot will gradually become something entirely more heavenly.

So, until fall’s predicted El Nino teaches us what rain really feels like, and the bass once again go missing, get out there.

Roland Trevino has been consistently hooking up on prince nymphs, instead of his usual fav, white poppers.

See you on the river, Jim Burns

Drum roll, please … yes, we have a winner!

imageThe challenge: Hook up on two L.A. River species, same fly, same day. Take a pic, write a story, submit.

The prize: One fabulous LARFF T-shirt.

The winner:  B. Roderick Spilman

The Quote: “Within three casts, I had a small bass.  A couple more casts and I had a green sunfish.  Then, the fun really started.  A nice-size tilapia struck the fly hard.  Several more of varying sizes hit the same fly.  Each time, they were hooked perfectly on the lip, so that I had to barely touch the fly to remove it.”

See you on the river, Jim Burns

Osprey shows the way for father-daughter fly-fishing team

By B. Roderick Spilman

Guest Contributor
My friend, Roland Trevino, is an avid fly fisher, and he had been bugging me to try this new spot on the river.
I’m a creature of habit, and had, thus, stayed mostly on my stretch of the river till then.  Last Sunday morning, he called me and said that he and his son, Ansel, were going fishing for bass at the aforementioned spot.  I had not yet caught a bass on the river, so I decided to join him with my daughter, Julia.
I had my 2 wt. and she had her spin rod.  I put on a fly that I don’t even know the name of.  Within three casts, I had a small bass.  A couple more casts and I had a green sunfish.  Then, the fun really started.  A nice-size tilapia struck the fly hard.  Several more of varying sizes hit the same fly.  Each time, they were hooked perfectly on the lip, so that I had to barely touch the fly to remove it.

Julia Spilman put her dad's 2 wt. to good use, enticing her first tilapia. (B. Roderick Spilman)

Julia Spilman put her dad’s 2 wt. to good use, enticing her first tilapia. (B. Roderick Spilman)

Meanwhile, my poor daughter had had a few sad tugs.  The worms were not working, so I actually put a small beadhead with a split shot and a strike indicator.  That had worked before for her to catch sunfish downriver.  But no luck!  We waded up the river where Jim Burns and his son had been fishing earlier and had caught some tilapias.
As we were walking in the shallow, warm water, I shared with my girl the craziness of what we were doing, wading through the Los Angeles river, a place that most Angelenos think is devoid of life.  It was far from devoid of life. Flocks of sand pipers scurried along, as if skating on the water.  Egrets eyed us suspiciously.  Seagulls stood as statues. Black-necked stilts glided nervously from one spot to another. Two ospreys patrolled the channel.
We got to the spot, and, indeed, there were significant schools of tilapias.  We were not having much luck, but then, we saw something that will be indelibly stamped in our memories.  Not more than 20 feet away from us, an osprey smashed into the river and struggled to take flight again.  Clutched in its talons, a tilapia was wriggling.
I decided to be a good dad and gave up my fly rod. We went back to our first spot, and, after a few casts, Julia was proudly holding her first tilapia.  Soon after, I saw Roland and his son wading back from their expedition.  Apparently, they had caught a good number of bass.
The river never ceases to amaze me.  In one day, I had caught a green sunfish, a bass, and many tilapias.  More importantly, I had spent an unforgettable day with my daughter.
Editor’s note: And Roderick is now the proud owner of a LARFF T-shirt for winning the twofer challenge. Great job!

At long last … L.A. River tilapia

Yes, Ernest, the tilapia also rises. (Jim Burns)

Yes, Ernest, the tilapia also rises. (Jim Burns)

Who knows if it’s true, that the city planted tilapia in the river in the 1970s to combat mosquitoes. Whatever, great story. All I know is that I’ve been waiting for what seems like forever for a LARFF commenter to send in pics of the critters — basically the same ones that grace Trader Joe’s frozen foods section.

Well, today, after Will and I watched three red-tail hawks, who in turned watched us from the high sycamores. And after they awed us with their fishing ability, in which they literally descend and pluck their prey from the moving water, without missing a wing beat, Will hooked up. Result: tilapia.

See you on the river, Jim Burns