CDFG Conducts Heritage Trout Clinic

The following report is contributed by John Burge - a member of the EcoAngler community and a big fan of native trout. I've exchanged email with John on several ocassions about California's Heritage Trout waters. A few months ago he mentioned he would be attending a weekend clinic hosted by C.D.F.G up in the Modoc National Forest area.

Warner Lakes redband

Knowing my level of interest, John agreed to report back on the weekend event with C.D.F.G. He also agreed to let me post it on the web-site and share it with the rest of the angling community. The report showcases the level of outreach that Jeff and Stephanie are making on behalf of the Heritage and Wild Trout Program, and the fishing wasn't too bad either (congrats John).

Goose Lakes redband

The Heritage Trout Clinic was hosted by Jeff Weaver and Stephanie Mehalick, both from CA DFG Heritage and Wild Trout Program. Contact information is at the DFG Web site:

We (six of us from various parts of CA) met on Thursday morning, July 15, at the intersection of County Road 47 and Highway 395, overlooking Goose Lake. Each of us was presented with a notebook chock full of information. We learned about the Heritage and Wild Trout Program itself, program mandates, and program structure. We also received detailed descriptions of the history, geology, and fish of the Great Basin including the Skull Creek Redband, the Poison Creek Redband, the Deming Creek Redband, the Williamson River Redband, both the lake and stream forms of the Goose Lake Redband, and the Warner Lakes Redband. The notebook also included topographical maps of the basin and Modoc National Forest, and distribution charts for the Warner Lakes and Goose Lake Redbands. We were able to peruse life history information, status, native range, habitat requirements, and conservation efforts regarding these fine specimens. Not being a fisheries biologist, I will have to take a little extra time to delve into the additional information about taxonomic relationships.

One of the things I really enjoyed looking through the notebook was the history of efforts to help preserve these fish. Going all the way back to 1958, we were presented with an outline of implemented projects, and proposals for a "desired future condition."

We used the morning to get introduced and filled in on the "data." We then drove up to a creek to spread out and try to land one of those elusive Warner Lakes Redbands. Half of us went downstream and the other half went upstream. Everybody was anxious about helping Evan, the youngest member of our group at age 12. He had come up from Monterey with his father and was very much wanting to land his first Heritage Trout. Unfortunately, not all (including Evan), were able to land and take a picture of the Warner Lakes Redband, but three of us did. And I have to say kudos to Jeff and Stephanie. They had "scoped out" two creeks the day before.

We all then went down to Lily Lake for lunch. It was quite enjoyable to just sit down and chat with other fishermen, fisheries biologists, and enjoy the view. One of our highlights from lunch was watching a bald eagle soar no more than 30 feet overhead. It doesn't get much better!

After lunch, we drove over to another creek, this one holding Goose Lake redband. Stephanie and Jeff showed us the restoration efforts that have been tried at the creek. They were honest in their assessments of what has worked and what has not. It wasn't hard to see how cattle erosion is hurting the creek (the turbidity of the water is pretty obvious in my pictures). We could see that cattle will avoid boulder reinforcement, but just "step over" the juniper reinforcement. It was nice to have a discussion about the cattle and what steps could be taken regarding their grazing.

For what it's worth, we talked about what had been done and what could be done about the cattle moving over and through the whole drainage. It was easy to see paths along the creek where cattle had come over and through some pretty slim areas, tearing down the banks, stirring up the water, and leaving all types of "remnants" of their presence.

Bottom line is, the leases for grazing are granted through the Modoc National Forest, which means THEY are ultimately responsible for where the cattle graze and for how long. I understand ranching families have been in the area for a long, long, time, and want to continue raising their cattle the best way they know. Personally, I don't see why the Modoc National Forest can't still grant a lease for grazing, but keep some of these drainages protected, if even for alternating years or through some other type of compromise.

In answer to your questions Mike about permits or fencing... it looks like it's up to the folks at Modoc National Forest. At this point, I know nothing about cattle grazing leases, how they are granted, to whom they are granted, or even how the process works. But, it'll be a new project for me. I do believe one of the best things WE can do (those who want to protect these drainages and these fish) is to let the Modoc National Forest authorities know about our concern and propose alternatives. To their credit, the CA DFG is very much involved and aware of all factors involving the current and future preservation of these marvelous fish.

Following our review of restoration efforts on this creek, we were taken to the upper reaches of the creek, where, as it turned out Stephanie and her crew had finished a recent survey, and we were turned loose to fish. In very short order I had a Goose Lake Redband on, snapped a picture and was happy as can be, nabbing TWO Heritage Trouts in one day! We all continued to fish (I believe everyone landed at least one Goose Lake Redband, including Evan) until it was time to head back to various hotels. My good fortune was that my "hotel" was a campsite nearby and I could stay and fish until dark. I had more fun than a kid in a candy store. I fished, took pictures, explored, and just reveled in the surroundings.

From a participant's point of view, I couldn't have asked for more. Jeff and Stephanie were friendly, informative, patient, and above all, you could tell their desire was to educate and preserve. Secondary to all of this was actually putting fishermen on to fish. And, just my humble opinion, I believe that's the way it should be. I think the more people know about the uniqueness and just how special these fish are, the better. That's not to say they didn't really help us in achieving part of our HTC. Like Jeff said, "I can put you on the fish, but I can't put the fish on for you." I felt VERY fortunate to be able to land and release more than one Warner Lakes Redband, and more Goose Lake Redbands than I can remember.

John Burge