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D.P.Lee
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California low flow restrictions?

As is often the case, anglers pay the price for others bad deeds. Number of spawning steelhead are not the major factor that determines number of returning adults. Like many angling regulations, low flow closures are a well-intentioned but naive and ineffectual social and political effort based on sportsmanship and a notion of fair play.

Richard W. DeHaven, retired U.S. Fish and Wildlife Biologist, conducted studies of Gualala River steelhead from 2001 through 2011. He summarized ten years of observations and reported them on his website (Gualala River Steelhead Studies web site). His observations for the river were as follows:

“Restoration efforts on the river to date have failed to increase steelhead populations,
Short-term studies of steelhead on the river fall short in pursuit of truth,
Most life history aspects of the river’s steelhead are keyed to going with the flow (of the stream),
The average annual return of adult steelhead back to the river today appears to be at least a few thousand fish,
The river’s estuary provides an important “hedge” for juvenile steelhead rearing, when drought, excessive temperatures and other adverse stream conditions impact rearing in upstream reaches,
Quality of summertime rearing conditions for juvenile steelhead in upstream areas is a main determinant of subsequent (2-3 years later) adult steelhead spawning returns,
Timber harvesting in the watershed today poses a less severe threat to the river’s ecosystem and steelhead than previously,
Today, grape vineyards pose one of the most serious threats to the river’s steelhead and ecosystem, and preserving any sizeable steelhead population in the river into future decades will require preserving and protecting summertime stream flows from reductions caused by a myriad of developmental activities, including grape vineyards.”


Dennis
 

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Today, grape vineyards pose one of the most serious threats to the river’s steelhead and ecosystem, and preserving any sizeable steelhead population in the river into future decades will require preserving and protecting summertime stream flows from reductions caused by a myriad of developmental activities, including grape vineyards.”[/I]

Dennis
don't forget all the grows up in that watershed, legal and not, that are pulling more water than it can sustain, Cameron
 

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Oddly, the restrictions have a big loophole. They end on Jan 31, so Feb and March aren’t protected by the low-flow closures (most of the coastal rivers close on March 31). My understanding is that Was because they’ve never been an issue in the past. This year, with our first ever no rain February, those fish were really exposed just as they were starting to spawn. If this continues to be the norm those regs may need to be updated.
 

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Too late for me but not for you

At age 74, I will not likely see the renaissance of these lower Nor Cal rivers but its not too late for those of you who have a longer fishing life ahead of you including my own children. Plan for the worst and hope for the best.
 

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I recently walked the upper reaches of the Navarro River, at the headwaters of Rancheria Creek. This is a very remote and highly private land and the watershed is spectacular habitat. Water, deeper pools, shade, gravel bottom, cool spring fed, etc..
Creeping along the edges and observing I identified one steelhead minnow. A bit of a disappointment, especially when there was the usual overabundance of pike minnows. Perhaps the lack of steelhead is due to the cycle of drought we experienced 3 years ago and its effect on returning adults, which the entire coastal fisheries seemed to experience this past season.
I'm all in favor of whatever it takes restoration, especially the low flow regulations. Nothing worse than seeing a large pod of wild steelhead harassed by fishermen while their spotters on the bank direct their casts.
These fish give us so much when we briefly interupt their journey. We owe them a better chance.
 
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