fishing for words

(and tossing out random thoughts)


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is one California too much, or how do you feel about buying multiple fishing licenses?

Though it’s a remote possibility that the proposal by Silicon Valley venture capitalist Tim Draper to divide California into six states would make it over the many required hurdles — from gathering signatures of 807,615 registered voters to put the measure on the ballot to final congressional approval — it presents a conundrum for a native Californian.

This is a big state, one of diversity. Every once and a while that diversity bubbles to the surface; one example is the Jefferson state movement that is revisited every decade or so. Boards of supervisors in Modoc and Siskiyou counties, which are near the Oregon border, approved measures in support of the Jefferson state declaration. Tehama County, one county south of Modoc and Siskiyou, has placed a similar measure on the ballot.

California is one of the few places where five major climate types can be in close proximity. From my home, it’s a four-hour drive to the high Sierras, the Humboldt redwoods or the southern coastline. The same goes with fishing: steelhead to the north, Striped bass to the east, trout to the northeast and southeast, saltwater fish to the west.

Setting aside all the pros and cons about and difficulties of creating smaller California state, it raises the possibility, just to fish for trout in place I enjoy, that I’d have to buy three separate licenses. Saltwater fishing could require a fourth. This may be an accepted part of living in smaller states, but not something I look forward to.

One upside might be the possibility that the proposed state I would live in, “North California,” could regain its water rights. I’m sure we’d set a fair price for all that water needed down south.


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it’s ugly here

With our latest rain, I’m hoping it won’t be 1975 all over again. Then and now, precipitation was routed around California by a high pressure ridge for months. December of that year was the beginning of two years of drought conditions. Our reservoirs are now lower than at the same time in 1977, which was preceded by two dry years. Jerry Brown was governor back then; irony or conspiracy?

Without non-stop rain through the rest of our rainy season the coming summer will be one of dirty cars and brown lawns. Communal showering may become de rigueur, perhaps followed by an uptick in births.

Back then I wasn’t fishing as much as I do now. There are a few small streams — only shared with the most trusted — that will go unvisited this year. It’s a given that low reservoirs will push more fisherman to moving waters that remain open which, more likely, will be tailwaters.

Automatic readings last Thursday show the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada is now at 15 percent of normal, up from 12 percent on Jan. 30. At this rate, we only need 28 storms of similar magnitude to reach normal levels. And that still won’t be enough.


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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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two birds, one stone

I tend to keep the soapbox tucked away when writing for this modest blog, but sometimes errant thoughts are worth sharing, particularly when they might just benefit all of us while making the most use of federal tax dollars. The following is presented without further editorializing.

Gun Control Proposals Marriage Control Proposals
Require universal background checks for all gun sales, including those by private sellers that currently are exempt. Require universal background checks for all marriages, especially those performed by private Las Vegas chapels.
Limiting ammunition magazines to 10 rounds. Limiting marital arguments to 10 rounds.
Financing programs to train more police officers, first responders and school officials on how to respond to active armed attacks. Financing programs to train more marriage officiants on how to respond to and dissolve ill-advised engagements.
Starting a national safe and responsible gun ownership campaign. Starting a national safe and responsible marriage campaign.
Send a letter from ATF to licensed dealers with guidance on how to facilitate background checks for private sellers. Send a letter from The Library of Congress to licensed marriage facilitators (civil, religious and otherwise) with guidance on how to facilitate background checks AND DNA TESTS for both engaged parties.
Remove barriers that prevent states from reporting information on people prohibited from gun ownership for mental health reasons. Remove barriers that prevent states from reporting information on people prohibited from marriage for mental health reasons.


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a little fishwrap on Friday

I’m in the doldrums…taxes need to be done, it’s another four weeks before the Trout Opener, the cold, rainy November weather we didn’t get in November is here now…and seems to be hanging on in Vermont while Hendricksons are hatching early in the East. The anticipation of our Opener usually brings about a focus, but the gear’s long been sorted, flies tied, new reel set up…with little to do but wait, my attention span seems pretty short these days.

I can’t resist and The Wife chuckles knowing that it’s never going to be in the budget, but I would gladly own a vehicle for every day of the week; and two for Sundays…as long as I had the garage space. I can’t buy but can still look, and anyone my age as young as I might love their next fishing vehicles to be one of these recent concepts from Jeep.

Jeep J-12

The Jeep J-12 Concept…a knock off of the always macho J-20…

Jeep FC

The FC concept is as a tribute to the unique Jeep Forward Control that was sold from 1956 and 1965.

You could, however, get your mitts on this oldie but goodie…I remember the first one I saw, in Tuolumne Meadows I believe, in green.

A 1970 Jeep Jeepster Commander…with a special and patriotic Hurst package…

A 1970 Jeep Jeepster Commander…with a special and patriotic Hurst package…

On stopping a damn dam: Could it be that all those Californians that long-ago brought a housing boom to Washington State brought more than their luggage? We in the not-anymore-so Golden State are too familiar with the fight over water and the damming of rivers, and now Kirk Werner of UnaccomplishedAngler.com is asking for help…and we should give it. A movement is afoot to stop in the preliminary permitting process a small hydroelectric dam proposed for an upper section of Washington’s Skykomish River. I’ve not fished the Sky, but have hopes that as the years wear on that I might get to know it and other Washington rivers in my pursuit of a native westslope cutthroat.

…And you can’t help but like the little guy, but maybe I pushed my luck actually following through with the threat that I’d drop by to get his signature on a set of “Olive the Woolly Bugger” books…but Kirk seem more than willing to sign copies of his books without you hovering over him if you make a Kickstarter pledge that could launch an Olive iPad app…a good idea for fly fishing fathers who figure they could receive the wife’s approval to get more new gear if only they could only pass their current gear down to their kids. I don’t need the books but I’m keen on something that might keep me entertained in the off season interest kids in the hobby.

I lied, so forget what I wrote. I will buy some new gear at the club auction next week, if I can fend off other bidders. A club member (and fantastic woodworker) donated some nice handmade nets big enough for optimism but more in keeping with the size of fish I land. I’m guessing I’m in for some combat bidding.


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can calling it a native fish make it so? or: how you can learn to stop worrying and love the fish that eats a fly

This week, I might be stepping into quicksand. If nothing else, it’ll be entertaining for the rest of you to watch.

While a good many local anglers applauded the California Fish & Game Commission’s decision at its Feb. 2, 2012 meeting to strike down proposed changes to striped bass regulations, changes that, at the very least, would degrade the quality of a fishery that supports considerable segments of the local economy, there was a curious footnote to the proceedings.

A desire to declare striped bass, introduced from the East Coast, as a ‘native’ California species.

California Fish & Game Commission’s then-Director Daniel W. Richards summed up the issue:

Another great comment that I heard today was this issue of what is native. [California Department of Fish & Game] Director Bonham and I had great conversation just yesterday about this. We are regularly, and just several months we were being challenged with a frogs and turtles matter of non-native species…it’s controversial and there’s both sides to it, and these striped bass have been here for 130 years. At what point in time do we…and some of the analogies we gave I thought were terrific, especially when you take it down to the human level, who’s a native Californian and who’s not. I thought it was really very apropos. I mean, they’ve been here 130 years, that’s, I don’t know, what is that, that’s three or four generations I think you’d probably call that. [Striped bass] starts to be fairly native to me.

After that, then-President Jim Kellogg, after pointing out that he worked on the first pump station on the Delta (1966-’69) and saw the numbers of fish those unscreened pumps dumped into the canal announced in his last act as president:

…because nobody’s got an answer as to how this is done, or who declares it or something like that, I’m going to declare the striped bass a native species in the state of California.

Central to the proponents of the new regulations painted striped bass — asking it be considered an invasive species — as largely responsible for the decline of the state’s salmon stocks. Opponents cited striped bass’ long history in the California Delta (declared a sport fish in 1935) and its coexistence with salmon and Delta smelt over that time. (The definition of ‘coexistence’ may be considered ill-defined in the absence of any hard, long-term, historical data.)

While most will agree that these proposed changes to the striper regulations was a thinly veiled water grab, it does bring to light a conflict that can arise between native and now wild populations of introduced fish, particularly without a firm scientific understanding that can overwhelm any argument from either side of the debate. And while the predation of introduced species changes ecosystems, there’s no scientific model to predict the consequences of eliminating such a long-entrenched species.

In the short span of our lives, does ‘native’ becomes anything that was here before us? Big brown trout and competitive rainbows have so well supplanted Lahontan cutthroat trout — it and the Eagle Lake Rainbow were once the only trout in the Easter Sierra — that rarely does one hear of an angler landing a decent Lahontan, expect those in Crowley Lake and the Upper Owens River. And it’ll be a shame when Lahontan cutthroat no longer exist in California, which is likely to happen.

But it’s hard to label the non-native trout that provide us so much recreation as ‘invasive.’

In any case, might these naturally reproducing fish populations better fit a status similar to that of ‘historical (living) landmark?’ Is there an appropriate measure of time before anyone can declare an introduced species to be a ‘naturalized citizen?’ And will the difference between native and naturalized fish populations eventually become indistinguishable, legally or otherwise?

Regardless of the answers, I’ll be the one overlooking the illegal immigration status of the trout that eats my fly.


If you’re interested, the video recording of the meeting can be found here; click on the link for Feb 2, 2012 and fast forward to about 1:35:00 for the start of the striper discussion.