fishing for words

(and tossing out random thoughts)


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the outdoor apocalypse: boobies everywhere

Settle down, it’s not what you think.

Blue-footed boobies have apparently adapted decided to move north, showing up north of San Francisco for the first time in almost 30 years.

From the Los Angeles Times

Blue-footed boobies, which rarely venture north of Imperial County’s Salton Sea, are suddenly “all over the place,” said Kimball Garrett, manager of the ornithology collection at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.

But like Hitchock’s film, this boobies invasion could be an ominous warning:

Some scientists are wondering if the visiting boobies are somehow related to a recent series of distressing biological mysteries in Southern California’s coastal waters.

“There’s a lot of weird things happening out there,” Dan Anderson, a professor of wildlife biology at UC Davis, said. “No one is sure of what the cause is.”

If a species moves of its own accord, is it invasive?

Blue-Footed Boobies


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you may have to carry a fire extinguisher to hike high enough to find Sierra Nevada trout

ICCC Report CoverFollowing up its good news/bad news report on Lake Tahoe, the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment paints a bleaker picture in its August 2013 Indicators of Climate Change in California.

To sum it up, analysis of monitoring data and scientific research from throughout the state outlines the effects of climate change: The spring runoff in the Sierra Nevada has declined over the last century. The period of time when winter temperatures in the Central Valley are cold enough for the development of fruit and nut tree flowers has been decreasing since 1950. River runoff declined during the 20th Century:

River Runoff Percent Decline
in 20th Century
Sacramento River System* 9%
San Joaquin River System 6%
Kings River 6%
Kern River 8%
Mokelumne River 7%
Trinity River 8%
Truckee River 13%
Carson and Walker rivers 5%
*includes the Sacramento River and major tributaries, the Feather, Yuba and American rivers.

Changes in average temperatures have led to die-offs of native vegetation at the lower range of various species’ elevation range (during the last six decades Sierra Nevada conifers have clearly retreated upslope) and is pushing about half of the small mammals in Yosemite National Park to higher elevations. The annual acreage burned by wildfires in the state increased since 1950, with the three largest fire years occurring during the last 10 years. The acidity in the coastal waters around Monterey Bay is increasing at a rate greater than that in the open ocean near Hawaii. The average annual temperature in mountain lakes, including Lake Tahoe, has risen over the last few decades.

And butterflies are emerging earlier during the spring in the Central Valley.

Yet, there’s no real trend that can be discerned from the data. The rise in the sea level rise along the California coast is bucked the global pattern and has be relatively constant during the last two decades.

Cheery stuff.


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maybe you’d better fish those Sierra lakes while you can

The good news is that the clarity of Lake Tahoe improved last year. The bad news is the whys. Precipitation in 2012 was only 71% of average and there was a lack of “deep mixing” during the winter.

While the lack of precipitation means pollutants flowing into the lake, the lake will lose shoreline with any prolonged drought.

And, maybe you'd  fish those rivers, streams and creeks a bit earlier in the year.

And, maybe you’d fish those rivers, streams and creeks a bit earlier in the year. Snow in the Tahoe Basin is melting nearly a month earlier than it did in 1960.

The lack of deep mixing – cool surface water sinking and forcing nutrients deeper in the lake to the surface, also know by fishermen as “turnover” – suppresses algae growth, which would otherwise cloud the water — but that also means warmer water temperatures. The annual average surface temperature of Lake Tahoe last year was nearly 53 degrees – the highest ever recorded.

Perhaps the scary part is a few lines in the intro to the report written by Geoffrey Schladow, Director of the UC Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center:

“While Lake Tahoe is unique, the forces and processes that shape it are the same as those acting in all natural ecosystems. As such, Lake Tahoe is an analog for other systems both in the western U.S. and worldwide.”

You can read the relatively short report update here.


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Sportsmen Descend on DC to Save Bristol Bay (guest post)

Though I’m taking the offer lazy way out and throwing up this guest post by Trout Unlimited on the Outdoor Blogger Network, please put in the effort to click the link below. It’s more than worth our time to fill out the form and pass along our desire to Save Bristol Bay by Stopping Pebble Mine.


The following is a guest post available to all outdoor bloggers who have an interest in the Pebble Mine/Bristol Bay issue. Please feel free to you use it on your blog.

Photo by B.O'Keefe

Photo by B.O'Keefe

Starting Monday, April 16, more than 30 sportsmen from around the country are traveling to the nation’s capitol to let their elected officials and the president know that protecting Bristol Bay is a top priority for hunters and anglers.

This is an important week to show the folks who have the power to protect Bristol Bay that sportsmen are in this fight. We’ve got folks from Alaska, Montana, Michigan, Colorado, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Texas, Wisconsin, Washington, North Carolina, California, Missouri, New York, and Virginia representing this great country and the millions of people who want Bristol Bay to be protected and left just like it is today–pristine and productive.

A recent report by the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation shows that there are 34 million hunters and anglers in the U.S., and we’re a powerful constituency. Every year, we pump $76 billion into the economy in pursuit of our passion, through our spending on gear, licenses, gas, lodging, meals and more. All of that spending and activity directly supports 1.6 million jobs in this country.

We are also an influential group because 80 percent of sportsmen are likely voters – much higher than the national average. And, we also contribute the most money of any group toward government wildlife conservation programs. So, hopefully if we care about an issue and show our support, the decision makers will listen to what we have to say.

In just a few weeks, the EPA will be releasing a draft of its Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment. This huge scientific assessment will likely guide future decisions about large-scale mining and other industrial development in the Bristol Bay region. If they find that disposal of waste from the mine would adversely harm the surrounding clean waters or natural resources, the EPA can deny or place restrictions on a required dredge and fill permit. If warranted, we hope the Obama Administration would take that step to protect Bristol Bay.

You can support the fight for one of planet Earth’s finest and most productive fishing and hunting destinations by taking action today. Fill out this simple form that will send a letter to the President and your members of Congress asking them to protect Bristol Bay. Let’s carry our sportsmen into D.C. with a lot of momentum.


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trying to keep it simple (or, call me cheap)

A time comes in every fly fisherman’s career when it becomes clear that he (or she) has too much gear.

An outsider will recognize this long before the fly fisherman, but it seems that at some point, the vast majority of fly fisherman will eventually talk about simplifying. This may mean using a lanyard instead of a vest, carrying a single fly box instead of three, or taking up tenkara, which itself requires the purchase of more gear.

There’s an irony to the oft-told story of the boy who started fishing with cane rod, then grew into the fly fisherman who owns a small-brook rod, a small-river rod, a medium-river rod, a large-river rod, single- and double-handed salmon/steelhead rods, a stillwater rod and maybe a saltwater rod. And a few spare rods just in case. Each rod, of course, needs a matching reel. While there is legitimate need for a range of rods, this same fly fisherman will fondly recall the remarkable enjoyment, and simplicity, of chasing bluegill, bass, trout or some other fish with that cane rod of their childhood.

It’s been posited that a fly fisherman moves through four stages in how he approaches the sport, and the same might be true of gear:

  1. The first stage entails learning to cast with a rod that was passed down as a gift or was simply inexpensive enough to warrant an attempt at fly fishing. The first fish caught on this rod will likely be remembered forever. A fly box — probably a small, free one from the fly shop — and forceps fit into any available pocket. A broken branch serves as a wading staff.
  2. Stage two entails replacement of that first rod and reel with counterparts that are shiny and new, both of which are more of a personal choice, and not a choice necessarily predicated on budget. Then there’s the vest; two, three or five more fly boxes and the flies to fill them; a decent mesh net; a wading staff; and maybe waders and felt-sole wading boots.
  3. It all peaks in the third stage. A preference for a specific brand means new rods, new reels (with back ups for both) and new lines for every type of water fished or species chased. The vest may be replaced with a chest or sling pack. A rubber net is a must have, as is a lightweight, high-strength composite alloy collapsible wading staff. New rubber-soled wading boots include carbide cleats. A multitude of flies are purchased or tied, and if tied, enough materials to last three lifetimes must be bought.
  4. The stage of simplification. It’s not so much about catching fish anymore, it’s the act — the gear is secondary. Maybe an attempt to recapture the pure joy of that first fly rod-caught fish, or perhaps avoiding hauling so much stuff around the river. Perhaps the rod is one built at home…not perfect but nice looking enough, and mated to a reel chosen for no other reason than it’s a favorite. The single fly box may not be filled, but it has every fly that’ll be needed.

If the level of a fly fisherman is measured by his gear, I’m still an amateur. Coming into the hobby later in life hasn’t afforded me the years that many spend accumulating equipment.

I did, however, purchase a new net at the club auction this week, for many reasons. Sure, it’s lighter than my current net and more “appropriately sized” for the trout I land. Crafted by a club member who’s also a skilled woodworker (so, made in America), it’s one of a limited set with the club logo (in enamel and metal) worked into the handle, and my winning bid will go into the pool of money the club donates to many conservation organizations.

Fly fishing is not stuff, it’s what you do. (And it really shouldn’t matter what you use to do it.)

Net Detail

Close up of the enamel badge...


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restoring environmental damage, one criminal at a time

I’ve always thought that lacking a contemporary ‘Australia’ to which convicted lawbreakers might be shipped, widespread use of chain gangs might be a better answer than sending less violent criminals to prisons in which privileges once used to encourage good behavior have become expected and perhaps undeserved perks. Sure, some states charge for the cost of incarceration, but work instead of cash would be better and more direct method of repayment.

This thinking resurfaced while I watched ‘Wild Justice’ on television a few nights ago. I’m convinced that there is no risk that the poachers, idiots and outright criminals suspects shown on ‘Wild Justice’ will learn much from their televised arrests; after all, ‘COPS’ has been on the air for 23 years and still the stock answer from nearly any suspect is either “they’re not my pants” or “only a couple of beers.”

A segment showing California’s Fish & Game wardens clear out a Mendocino County marijuana ‘grow’— with an estimated street value of $28 million, cultivated by surfers and a woman who claimed to have grown disillusioned when trying to reconcile the salary she was paid as a college graduate in corporate America with the money to be earned growing ganja — was a reminder of the often overlooked environmental damage inflicted by these criminal operations. This was a particularly nasty one; a gravity fed irrigation system delivered all sorts of chemicals to the grow, ultimately trickling downhill into the local watershed.

Toxic Marijuana

In addition to 300 pounds of pesticides, the cleanup of 335 California national forest marijuana grows (note this was only in national forests) in 2010 entailed the removal of 130 tons of trash, 5 tons of fertilizer and 260 miles of irrigation piping.

Even just the illegal grading of roads into these grows and the denuding of hillsides is now seen as having an impact on salmonids equal to that caused at the height of logging in Del Norte, Humboldt, Mendocino, Trinity and Siskiyou counties. The profit margin is huge, and the lure, for a mix of growers: Mexican nationals with or without cartel or gang connections, Emerald Triangle natives growing just enough without attracting law enforcement attention, and a network of smaller growers.

Much of it is grown on national and state forest and park land, and with no cost to use the land or siphon off the water that flows there, it’s a high-margin crop made more lucrative by a distribution network that’s grown with the state law allowing limited possession of marijuana for medicinal purposes and an apparent reduction in marijuana crossing the border. (A Mendocino County-commissioned study estimated that marijuana accounts for up to two-thirds of the local economy. It’s also estimated that three quarters of the marijuana sold in the U.S. is grown in the Golden State.)

Without taking a position on either the growing or use of marijuana (or the collision of state and federal laws), I can’t help but think that the folks who wreak this environment damage — suspecting that some of the home-grown variety may be self-styled environmentalists — might be better ‘re-educated’ in cleaning up of the mess they leave behind. Besides, they’ve already built hovels in which they can be housed during the clean up. But, if they want one, they’ll have to pony up their own cash for the hazmat suit.