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The drought & the trout

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POSTED March 2, 2014 8:25 p.m.

Last week, I wrote about conservation efforts to benefit Rocky Mountain Elk and a host of other animals. I didn’t want to neglect the fishes however, hence today’s column.

For about two decades I was actively involved in the conservation of trout and their habitat. I served as a volunteer region manager for a trout conservation group on streams from the Feather River in the North to the Merced River in the South. Through Cal Trout I helped on stream improvement projects to provide better habitat for my beloved trout.

Simultaneously, I volunteered on the Board of Directors of The Tuolumne River Trust to help preserve the Tuolumne from its headwaters in the glaciers of Yosemite to its inflow into Don Pedro Reservoir between Sonora and Groveland. In the process of volunteering for the trout I broadened my appreciation for the ability of Mother Nature to adapt to changing conditions. During the late 1970s California was undergoing a severe drought. I recall expressing my concern for the rare and endangered Paiute Trout that reside exclusively in the upper Silver King Creek West of Highway 395. The fisheries biologist I was conversing with smiled and informed me that the Paiute Trout had been enduring droughts, floods, and ravaging forest fires since the beginning of time. My friend observed that the only danger the rare trout needed to worry about was the activities of modern man.

The giant Pyramid Lake Cutthroat existed side by side with the Native American as neighbors for thousands of years. It wasn’t until the white man came along with his mining, logging, water diversions, and commercial fishing, that the giant trout were driven to the brink of extinction. The beautiful little purple colored Paiute Trout also did just fine until the arrival of modern man with more logging, over-grazing, and introduction of competing species. Now the Paiutes too, have been driven to the brink of extinction.

Is the current drought a serious one? Absolutely. This drought has now become the worst drought in recorded history. Recently I got an email from a buddy in Boise indicating that he’d heard that California was going to outlaw all fishing to help the fish make it thru the drought. He wanted to know if the rumor was true or just more internet BS. Let’s see if I can help shed some light on the current situation. The State of California has indeed closed angling in a few streams in response to the drought. Fortunately, however the closures seem to be restricted to those rivers that hold populations of ocean-going anadromous fish like Salmon, Steelhead, Shad and Striped Bass. The closures are generally restricted to shallow spanning areas, like the American River in Sacramento.

Eventually, this drought will come to an end hopefully sooner rather than later. Eventually our rivers will flow again and the fish populations will rebound. Of course we all need to do everything we can reasonably do to conserve water. We also need more water storage capacity to hold water in wet years. Ultimately, however, the long-term solution to the drought resides where it always has. I see a host of signs popping up all over that spell it out pretty well: “Pray For Rain”.



Until Next Week,

Tight Lines

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