Fall River Conservancy News Letter

February 2020


DEAR FRIENDS OF THE FALL RIVER CONSERVANCY:

We write to report on our progress at the FRC in the past year. It’s been a very active year at the FRC. As many of you who were able to enjoy the pleasures of our beautiful river in 2019 will attest, the river was in very good shape this year and the fish population was robust — many of our friends in the guiding community believe it was one of the best years in quite a few. Fortunately, the Fall River watershed and community was spared from the fires that devastated many other areas of California.

Here follows a report on our initiatives during 2019:

CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE (CDFW) PROPOSED INLAND TROUT ANGLING REGULATIONS

In 2019, the CDFW issued a sweeping set of proposed changes to its Inland Trout Angling Regulations. Some of these changes, if adopted, could have highly negative impacts on the Fall River fishery. Fishing would be allowed year-round, which we oppose, although from October 1 through the Friday before Memorial Day there will be a zero bag limit but artificial lures with barbless hooks would be allowed; during the regular open season (from the Saturday before Memorial Day through September 30) there is a two fish bag limit and artificial lures are allowed (apparently with barbed hooks and the 14 inch limit is eliminated). The FRC, in coordination with our friends at Cal Trout, submitted written comments to the CDFW strongly opposing year-round angling. We noted that, based on our Passive Integrated Transponder Program (PIT), operated in conjunction with UC Davis, some 30% of the fish population moves into the upper reaches of the system to spawn between December and late Spring. We also noted that opening the river to unlimited angling during the waterfowl season clearly presents safety and other concerns. Our bottom line was that allowing angling in the dead of winter on this fragile system makes no sense. As of this writing, we understand that, due to the very extensive public comments submitted to CDFW, the timeline for the regulatory revision has been pushed back well into 2020. The FRC will continue to monitor this situation and may submit further comments depending on the next version of the proposed regulations.

FALL RIVER HYDROLOGIC ASSESSMENT AND LARGE WOOD DEBRIS (LWD) PROJECT

Starting in late 2018 and continuing into 2019, representatives of the FRC have engaged in preliminary planning for introducing a pilot LWD project into the upper reaches of the river where sedimentation from the fires in the 1980’s remains a chronic and serious threat to the health of that part of the river. The introduction of large wood debris in other river systems (notably Hat Creek and Northern California coastal streams) has been shown to have very beneficial effects on the hydrology of the river with consequent break-up of sedimentary deposits. Representatives of the FRC have met or been in contact with various regulatory agencies that will have input on such a project, including the CDFW, the Army Corp of Engineers, and the State Water Quality Board. We have also explored possible sites for the project and have tentatively identified an appropriate reach. Our strategy will be to demonstrate the feasibility of this approach in the context of the Fall River through a pilot project and then seek funding from major donors (such as the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation which provided funding for the FRC’s stream bank restoration project in 2016-2017) for a more extensive placement of LWD in the river. We expect to work closely with our friends at UC Davis in this initiative.

WILD TROUT MONITORING

Working closely with UC Davis, our PIT wild trout monitoring program, which began in 2013, continued into 2019. During the program’s life, we have tagged some 3,000 fish. The science developed clearly benefits our efforts to preserve and protect the river, as noted above in our comment letter to the CDFW on its regulatory revision project. Here are a few notable facts we have developed:

  • Genetic data shows that there are two distinct sub-populations of rainbow trout in the river – One which spawns in the spring-fed reaches of the system (Thousand Springsand Ja She) and another which spawns in the Bear Creek habitat.
  • There is very little apparent gene flow between the two populations even though the populations intermingle in the main stem of the river.
  • The spawning period is relatively extended for the spring-fed population (October-July) while the Bear Creek population has a more typical limited period.
  • Although the drought of 2012-2015 led to some loss through stranding’s in Bear Creek, the population appears to have endured.

Additional Wild Trout Monitoring Resource Information:

Fall River Trout
Monitoring Wild Trout

FRC has been working with UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences and California Trout to monitor the wild trout in the Fall River since 2013. Fish caught by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife have been tagged with Passive Integrated Transponders (PIT tags) and had genetic samples taken. When tagged fish swim through the antenna arrays located at Thousand Springs and Bear Creek, data on that individual fish is recorded. Thus far, in ten tagging events (Spring and Fall of each year), we have tagged over 2600 fish and learned quite a bit about this amazing wild trout population. To find out more visit Fall River Wild Trout Monitoring – over 2600 fish tagged so far!


Pit River Tagging
Fall River Wild Trout Pit Tagging Program

In 2013, the Fall River Conservancy, California Trout, the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife launched the Fall River Wild Trout Pit Tagging Program. It’s been three years since the PIT tagging program was launched and thus far it has provided a wealth of interesting data that will be useful for management decisions to keep this fishery healthy. To find out more visit: Three Years of PIT tagging – What have we learned?

TROUT PASSAGE FROM PIT RIVER TO FALL RIVER LAKE

The FRC has been exploring, with the help of UC Davis, the feasibility of and issues involved with creating a trout passage from the Pit River into Fall River Lake (which would then interconnect with the river itself). This will be under study during 2020. The goal would be to restore the historical connectivity between the two river systems.

MONITORING THE FRC STREAM BANK RESTORATION PROJECT

The FRC has continued to monitor our major project of a few years ago in which the fencing on about five miles of the river was restored with funds provided by the FRC, Cal Trout, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and the Department of Agriculture. We believe that this reach of the river has greatly benefited from the project as evidenced by the regeneration of natural plant life along the river and greatly reduced cattle incursions. It was a win-win project for the FRC, its supporters, the ranch, and most importantly, the river itself.

Find out more about the history of our Fall River Streambank restoration efforts dating back to 2015 where our assessment of bank-damage and a prioritization process allowed the successful rehabilitation of habitat along Fall River. Visit Streambank Restoration Well Underway

PROJECTS FOR 2020

During 2020, the FRC will continue its Wild Trout Monitoring program and seek to implement a pilot program for the Large Wood Debris project. We will also, working with Cal Trout, continue to monitor and comment on the CDFW regulation project. We will also seek to find new reaches of the river that could benefit from improved fencing, and alternative cattle watering facilities. We will also work on the trout passage project from the Pit River into Fall River Lake.

BOARD OF DIRECTORS

The FRC board met every quarter during 2019 and several of our Board members spent many volunteer hours on the FRC initiatives.

We were pleased to add to our Board in 2019 Bob Norman, a long-time resident of the Fall River area, and an accomplished guide. His wisdom and experience with the river is a great complement to our long-time Board member from the guiding community, Art Teter.

Sadly, I must advise of the passing of our dear friend and former FRC president, Dave Powell. He made great contributions to the FRC over his many years of participation on the Board and as FRC president.

We miss him very much.

DONATIONS

I hope you will find this report of great interest as we know of your love for this river. We have some ambitious goals for 2020 which will require your continued support. You can go to the FRC website at Fall River Conservancy.org to donate. We will keep you apprised of our activities in 2020. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me at rodney.peck@pillsburylaw.com.

See you on the river in 2020!

Best wishes to you and your families in this holiday season.

Sincerely,
Rod Peck,
President Fall River Conservancy

Leave a Reply