There’s more than salmon in the news. Native trout are returning to the Kern, Pescadero steelhead get a much-needed break, sturgeon survey is completed and crabber gets busted for poaching in this week’s news and notes:
Native rainbow trout reintroduced to Kern River
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is reintroducing native rainbow trout to the Kern River.
Four water wells were recently drilled to serve as a back-up water source during adverse river conditions in preparation for the reintroduction.
“This is an important phase of the project and represents a significant milestone in preserving the heritage species in the Kern River,” said CDFW senior fisheries Environmental Scientist Brian Beal. “Upgrading our facility to reintroduce native trout will offer great fishing opportunities, while providing economic benefits and encouraging tourism.”
The reintroduction program will focus on Kern River rainbow trout, a strain of rainbow trout endemic to the Kern River. Because of heavy angling pressure and non-native introductions over the last century, the native fish can only be found in remote isolated areas of the Kern River.
As the program evolves, CDFW also plans to replace the existing non-native trout plants in the main stem Kern River and surrounding area with native trout. These non-native species include brown and other strains of rainbow trout that were planted over the years but not native to the river.
Additional planning is underway to collect the purest native trout from remote locations in Sequoia National Park during the fall of 2013. Collection of these wild fish will provide fertilized eggs and serve as future foundation brood stock.
Funding for the project comes from both a Southern California Edison Company trust fund set-up in the mid-1990s and CDFW.
In addition to Southern California Edison Company’s financial support, the U. S. Forest Service, Kern River Fly Fishers, Southern Sierra Fly Fishers, Kaweah Fly Fishers, Friends of the (Kern River) Hatchery, the County of Kern and the local community have all made significant contributions and are working together to help make necessary improvements for this program.
Pescadero steelhead experiment proves successful
From Bay Area News Group
An experimental project to prevent steelhead trout from dying by the hundreds in Pescadero Marsh was so successful it will likely be tried again next year, federal officials said.
In the fall, volunteers dug a channel through a sandbar that forms every year at Pescadero State Beach on the southern San Mateo County coast, trapping water in the lagoon to the east. The trough improved water quality in the marsh, officials said, preventing the "fish kills" of the federal threatened species that for nearly 20 years have occurred when winter storms arrive.
"It was an unequivocal success," said Patrick Rutten, regional supervisor for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. "We had no kill
Chuck Bonham, director of Fish and Game, left, and Patrick J. Rutten, regional supervisor for NOAA, take part in a briefing at Pescadero State Beach south of Half Moon Bay, Sept. 12, 2012, about plans to manually breach a sandbar that contributes to stagnant conditions. (Patrick Tehan)
and the lagoon responded exactly like we expected it to."
The pilot project, the result of long-sought cooperation between state and federal wildlife agencies, was hatched after years of stalemate.
Steve Simms, president of the Coastal Alliance for Species Enhancement, said he is pleased by the success of the project and cautiously optimistic that further action will be taken to fix ecological problems at the marsh, which the alliance claims began when California State Parks botched some restoration work there in the 1990s. The alliance has for now retracted a lawsuit it filed against the agency over the fish deaths.
"I do think we have some momentum now," said Simms. "What is really good about all this is that the agencies are all working together."
The purpose of digging the channel this fall was to alleviate the buildup of oxygen-depleted water and hydrogen sulfide that in recent years has surged throughout the lagoon when the rainy season comes and the heavy flow of water cuts through the sandbar.
Last year, observers counted 235 dead steelhead after the sandbar breached; Simms said the actual number of fish that died was much higher. So far this year, no fish deaths have been reported following the breach Nov. 30.
Crab poacher busted
A Pillar Point Harbor fisherman has agreed to pay $12,500 for illegally dropping crab traps inside a marine protected area, according to the San Mateo County district attorney’s office.
The 1999 Marine Life Protection Act created a system of reserves off the coast of California where it is prohibited to catch sea life, except for sanctioned research projects.
Deputy District Attorney Todd Feinberg said the persistence and extent of the poaching indicated the incident was not a simple mistake. The boundaries of the marine protected area are well publicized, and the fisherman should have known he was violating the law, he said.
California Fish and Game wardens reportedly caught the fisherman with five crab pots inside the boundaries of the Montara State Marine Reserve. A total of 58 Dungeness crabs were captured in the traps.
Feinberg indicated other investigations were underway of more fishermen suspected of catching sea life in marine protected areas.
Sturgeon tagging program completed
The Department of Fish and Game (DFG) has completed its annual sturgeon tagging program in Bay Area waters. The tagging operation is used to help manage California’s green and white sturgeon populations.
The tags are white plastic disks that are smaller than a dime. Anyone who catches a DFG tagged fish is encouraged to return the tag. DFG pays a reward for the return of certain tags, and those tags are clearly labeled. Additional details about the tagging program can be found here: https://nrm.dfg.ca.gov/FileHandler.ashx?DocumentID=34559
Information received from anglers about tagged sturgeon complements the details submitted on sturgeon fishing report cards as well as data from party boats, creel surveys, surveys for juvenile sturgeon and various special studies.
“Protecting the white sturgeon fishery and the sturgeon populations requires research, management and enforcement,” said DFG Program Manager Marty Gingras.
This year’s sturgeon tagging efforts were led by DFG Environmental Scientist Mike Harris and the crew of the research vessels Striper II and New Alosa. The Striper II was constructed in 1966 and has been used several decades for this purpose.
Working in Suisun and San Pablo bays from Aug. 1 to Oct. 30, the crews tagged 170 white sturgeon and 13 green sturgeon, and collected information on nearly as many sturgeon that were either too small or too large to tag.
Sturgeon can live more than 100 years and weigh over 500 pounds, but anglers most-often catch sturgeon 3-4 feet in length. The Sacramento-San Joaquin river system is the southern-most spawning grounds for both white sturgeon and green sturgeon. The sturgeon fishery in California was once closed for decades due to overfishing.
Commercial harvest of white sturgeon is not now allowed. Recreational harvest of white sturgeon is now regulated by size limit, a daily bag limit and an annual bag limit. Green sturgeon is a threatened species and neither commercial or recreational harvest of those fish is now allowed.
Serialized tags are provided with each sturgeon fishing report card to help enforce the annual bag limit. To enable law enforcement to cross-reference the tag with a particular card, anglers must permanently fix a tag to each kept white sturgeon until the fish is processed for consumption.