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swimbaitMon Dec-10-12 03:35 PM
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#12123, "Declaring Clear Lake Hitch Threatened or Endangered"


  

          

The Center for Biological Diversity is petitioning CA DFG to list the Clear Lake Hitch as threatened or endangered.

Read it:
http://www.fgc.ca.gov/regulations/2012/Clear%20Lake%20hitch%20state%20petition%209-25-12.pdf

The proposed listing is based on two general factors

1. The hitch in Clear Lake being identified as a separate species from other hitch in CA

2. The hitch in Clear Lake declining in numbers substantially from the past.

There's been several posts on WB and Calbassin about this topic and I sense some confusion from the angling community about what this means.

Here is my take...

1. I think the Commission will list the Clear Lake Hitch as threatened, possibly even endangered. A reasonable person will look at how many hitch there are now compared to the past and know that something is going wrong.

2. The question for fishermen is - what does a threatened or endangered listing mean? After studying this in some detail, most of the outcomes are good. A few are debatable and one or two are potentially bad (and at the same time pointless)

Since most fishermen want to see lots and lots of hitch in Clear Lake, the outcomes that most fishermen would agree are good are things like:

- Eliminating barriers to upstream hitch migration where feasible (hitch apparently are not very good at jumping over things like salmon)

- Improve riparian habitat quality (eg lots of nice trees and bushes and such along the sides of the creeks)

- Enforce streambed permitting to prevent people from building structures that will modify stream flow

- No gravel mining in streambeds

Things that most fishermen (but probably not most farmers) would agree on are:

- Don't conduct April / May groundwater pumping for pear orchard frost protection (this causes hitch spawning streams to dry out faster than normal)

- Remove 'temporary road crossings' (gravel pushed in to creeks to allow cars to drive across)

- Enforcement action against illegal direct pumping from creeks

Things that people might disagree on would be:

- Don't spray for knats (food source of hitch, annoyance when driving bass boats at high speed)

- Don't spray weeds or use alternative sprays / methods (clear lake turns in to a giant weed mat on the north end without spraying)

Thing that fishermen will probably disagree with are

- Mitigating actions that include netting or electrofishing largemouth bass and killing them. While these methods aren't explicitly called out in the proposal, it's suggested that "more study" be conducted

It's hard to read between the lines on the 'killing the bass' question but let's have a go... Here's the exact words they use:

"The impact of largemouth bass on hitch populations should be carefully investigated and if bass are determined to be a major source of mortality, an action plan to reduce bass predation should be implemented. Possible measures could be protection zones around the mouths of hitch spawning streams through improved habitat and seasonal trapping and removal of bass."

CBD uses a legal strategy of "layering on" lots of evidence and recommended actions with the foreknowledge that they won't win on all fronts. For example, they might list out 15 things that MUST be done for hitch, knowing that 5 of them won't get done. They also err toward using a lot of ad hominem arguments but that's another topic...

Anyway, it could be that CBD is adding this as one layer in the evidence, knowing that nothing is likely to be done which will make them look like they conceded something.

It could also be that this item is in fact one of their most important mitigating actions and thus they listed it at the very end of the recommendations in an effort to hide it from view.

We won't know which it is and likely won't find out.

The issue is important though because what the CBD plans to push in terms of mitigations affects how bass fishermen should view this proposed listing. Most of what will happen if hitch are listed is great for both sides. But this one issue has a divisive aspect to it that could cause a lot of fighting.

If the CBD is smart, they will realize a few things.

Bass fishing, particularly tournament bass fishing, removes bass from areas where hitch school up year-round at clear lake. If you fished in the 2011 FLW Event last year like I did, and you saw how many boats were sitting on the hitch school mid-lake the first day and you realized how many bass got caught out of that hitch school over a several week period, you know for sure that tournament bass fishermen are helping hitch.

Here is a cool picture I took with my sidescanning sonar of that school
http://www.calfishing.com/dc/user_files/8828-hitch.jpg

Similarly, bass fishermen know that bass congregate around the mouth of the creeks where hitch spawn in the spring and catch thousands of bass using hitch imitating lures. A good portion of those bass, including the largest ones, are moved to other parts of the lake to be weighed in.

All of this fishing activity occurs because bass fishing is GOOD at Clear Lake.

If the CBD convinced FWS, DFG or some agency to net, shock or otherwise kill off bass at Clear Lake, the bass fishing activity would diminish. If DFG implemented regs like at Biwa in Japan to enforce mandatory catch and keep, tournament fishing would likely cease at Clear Lake altogether.

And so the CBD is faced with a choice. A choice between the benefits of putting thousands of bass boats on the lake every year for bass tournaments vs. discouraging that activity and hoping that another method like regulation, or killing off the bass will have a better effect.

If the CBD is smart, they'll drop the bass killing mitigations, convince bass fishermen that the rest of the mitigations are good for everyone and get bass fishermen on their side to have the hitch listed as threatened.

If they don't see the whole picture of how tournament fishing helps hitch, they might make the bass killing issue the focal point of the discussion and fight a pointless fight to no one's benefit.

Interesting, no? The issue will be discussed in front of the Commission Feb 6-7 in Sacramento. The agenda hasn't been posted yet.

http://www.fgc.ca.gov/public/information/participate.aspx

  

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MountainBassWed Dec-12-12 10:52 AM
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#12125, "RE: Declaring Clear Lake Hitch Threatened or Endangered"
In response to Reply # 0


  

          

Nice post Rob.

I want to look into this some more. I will read some of the primary literature, and put in my two pennies.

That said, right now, just having glanced over the petition, I think bass fisherman are not going to suffer from this. Hitch are like trout to the bass of clearlake, a large, spineless energy source that have not evolved any protection agains the predation of LMB. The CBD is now pushing for their protection, which means in an ideal world, their numbers will increase. We also know that it is basically impossible to wipe out an invasive predatory gamefish without killing the entire lake with rotenone. I worked with DFG removing Pike from Lake Davis with elctrofishing boats. Hundreds of pike a day for years didnt remove the population. Its been a similar story with a lot of green sunfish removal attempts, which are pretty close relatives of LMB. So knowing that removal of bass from clearlake is politically and biologically impossible for many reasons, I think they will just have to focus on habitat improvements and water quality and usage mitigation.

Foe has become friend here, but folks are weary over the trout thing. Remember they are not out to get anyone. They are scientists who have devoted their lives to protecting fish, wildlife and the environment in general. They are not our enemies, rather, they are objective in nature, which means they may put forth ideas that we totally disagree with sometimes, and they may do somehting that is totally in our interest other times, such as increasing the number of hitch (something analogous to trout in a trout-free environment), in clearlake.

Ryan Thoni


If people concentrated on the important things in life there would be a shortage of fishing poles.
~Doug Larson

  

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swimbaitWed Dec-12-12 11:11 AM
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#12126, "RE: Declaring Clear Lake Hitch Threatened or Endangered"
In response to Reply # 1


  

          

Thx for taking time to chime in.

A lot of the posts I'm reading wantto paint this as a black and white issue around eliminating all fishing.

I really don't think that's the discussion. Jeff Miller is the CBD staff member pushing the issue. He's the same person who we worked with on the Shadow Cliffs back ponds issue (Hi Jeff).

If the end-game was to ban all fishing, Jeff would have fought to prevent catch and release fishing in the back ponds. He didn't fight it. In fact he seemed quite fine with it and the back ponds were reopened with no opposition from anyone.

For the bass fishermen engaging on this issue, the discussion they should be having is around what CBD's disposition is to bass-related mitigations. Do they really want to go after it? As something that's probably low value and high risk/effort to their cause, is it worth it?


  

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jigndoublewideWed Dec-12-12 08:17 PM
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#12127, "RE: Declaring Clear Lake Hitch Threatened or Endangered"
In response to Reply # 2


          

From everything I have read on Clear lake is that it has an enormous population of 4-7lb bass. Removing bass could definitely improve the fishing for top end bass, coupled with a probable increase in Hitch from all the measures, could make for some really special fishing. Also if less tournaments came to Clear Lake that would probably benefit the fishing too, from a boat traffic stand point. It wouldn't help the local economy but this is a fishing forum.

Also can Hitch be breed in fish farms and stocked other places? From a surviving stand point not a legal or any other perspective. Hitch stocking could be pretty interesting. Re-stocking Clear lake with hitch and maybe other lakes.

  

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MountainBassWed Dec-12-12 09:22 PM
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#12128, "RE: Declaring Clear Lake Hitch Threatened or Endangered"
In response to Reply # 2


  

          

Okay. Lots to say. Should just change my dissertation to this.

First and foremost I think it will be supremely important that a collaborative effort takes place between the scientific community and the angling community. There is something incredibly important to both parties that is seriously at stake here: the Clear Lake Hitch.

To the fishing community, the last unique biological aspect of Clear Lake is the Hitch. This is what makes bass fishing different here. There are entire economies based on the hitch; swimbaits made solely to represent the hitch; Tournaments that have been won by capitalizing on the hitch migration. It is a swimbait sized, schooling, smooth, spineless, fish not adapted to sit-and-wait suction feeding, large-mouthed predators. The ultimate food source for a thriving bass population. And until recently, it was seemingly inexhaustible.

To those concerned with biodiversity, as we all should be as true outdoorsmen who seek the intrinsic value of being on the water, there is alarming concern for the loss of a unique entity. Clear Lake is an absolute power plant of a lake in terms of biodiversity and rates of endemism (species only found in one place). There were historically 4 fish that did not exist anywhere in the world except Clear Lake. The Hitch, may be the last if action is not taken.

How can we restore the Clear Lake Hitch and why?

As bass fishermen, it should be obvious that we need the Hitch, much like the bass in my home lake, lake chabot, need trout, if we want to maintain a trophy bass fishery.

As a scientist, we need it because we are concerned about the rapid loss of aquatic biodiversity. The value of biodiversity is unmeasurable. There is economic value such as the bass fishing industry that is drawn to the trophy bass fishery that exists at Clear Lake. There is the ecological value that the Hitch plays a very specific part in the nutrient dynamics of the ecosystem, which can be traced if any willing scientists care to examine the stable isotopic signature of the Nitrogen fixation of the Hitch. And there is an intrinsic value to maintaining biodiversity. This can be felt when you look out off the kelsey creek bridge in the state park and see fish swarming by the thousands.

So how do we do it?

Through collaborative effort. Removing bass is stupid. If anyone thinks the removal of a veracious predator from a lake this size is anything but quixotic, then they need re-examine the literature. Bass are here to stay. And for that matter, they would also have to take on the following veracious predators and pelagic food competitors: Bluegill, green sunfish, (occasional) smallmouth bass, black and white crappie, channel catfish, white catfish, carp, goldfish and Mississippi silverside. The eradication of just one of those would be nearly impossible without the use of rotenone.

So the CBD needs to work on its PR, and actually get us bass anglers on their side for this one. We can work together to get the following done:

1) Remove major spawning barriers on the currently important creeks such as Kelsey creek and Adobe Creek. Further, these creeks should be monitored to ensure that no illegal dumping or drawing of water occurs. This should be done by state agencies, but hell, whats wrong with doing a little vigilante justice if you live in the area?

1.2) move on to the secondary tributaries, removing barriers and limiting water draws. It is even possible that genetically unique populations of some small tributaries may have already gone extinct :(

2) Ensure that no water removal activities happen during the prime spawning months from the main tributaries.

3) Habitat improvement. We do it when bass are on the line, why not when the best food source of bass are on the line? Get the local bass clubs involved.

4) Ban any commercial harvesting of hitch, and enforce it. call cal-tip. DFG...respond to cal-tip calls!


Here are a couple other suggestions.

Get Tom Steinstra to write an article in the chronicle talking about the "famous and beautiful Hitch run" and watch the visitors and money pour in. I read an article about a little known trial near half moon bay once in the Thursday paper, went there Saturday and had to park a mile away from the entrance! that guy has an active audience. Build the Hitch up as an icon of Clear Lake, take the focus off bass fishing and put it on the habitat degradation, and watch things happen!

Rob, great thinking with the tournament removal of Hitch predation. That is genius and exactly the reason groups like the CBD need to work with us.

I am fizzling out now.

Please keep a positive and active movement here. Dont be a contrarian or close minded like they think us fishermen so often are!

Cheers,
Ryan


Ryan Thoni


If people concentrated on the important things in life there would be a shortage of fishing poles.
~Doug Larson

  

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swimbaitThu Dec-13-12 04:02 PM
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#12129, "RE: Declaring Clear Lake Hitch Threatened or Endangered"
In response to Reply # 0


  

          

Ryan, I think you understand the issue just right. And agree you should change your dissertation :)

Here's something I never understood about biological diversity, wondering maybe if you can explain...

Something like a human seems to take a very long time to show genetic variation and become another species. Hundreds of thousands of years at least.

Something like a fish seems to take pretty long to show genetic variation and become another species. Some fish don't seem to evolve at all (Coelacanth - 65 million yrs) but others vary a lot over shorter periods (golden trout - 15,000 years)

Something like a knat at Clear Lake can evolve resistance to pesticide in a few generations. (5 years?)

Something like a virus can similarly morph and change in to something else in a short period of time. (few months?)

Which of these evolutionary pieces of progress is considered "Biodiversity"?

And the follow on question... If people stock fish in isolated bodies of water and those fish begin to show biodiversity over time, is that valuable or bad?

If it is valuable, should those populations of fish get protection for their future, potential value?

It's interesting to think about.

  

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MountainBassFri Dec-14-12 09:54 AM
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#12130, "RE: Declaring Clear Lake Hitch Threatened or Endangered"
In response to Reply # 5


  

          

Well, this will be sort of confusing without a total understanding of evolutionary biology, so bare with me.

One of the most fundamental, yet widely disputed concepts in biology is what is a species? Unfortunately, for years and years, the convention was that a species is a set of organisms that can reproduce to create fertile offspring. Well thatís just stupid. Different species of sunfish do it. Hell, Hitch probably do too. But we know that a green sunfish is not the same species as a bluegill. Countless plants do it too. I am actually starting to get involved with in the philosophical debate over species concepts, and have spent a lot of time reading and discussing the issue. I feel that the best definition of a species is that it is an entity comprised of organisms that maintain genetic cohesion through time. This accounts for asexual reproducing species, and hybridization. Hybrids exist in nature, but rarely. Why? Because if they hybridized all the time indescriminantly, they would just be a species, they would not show two distinct lineages through time Ė there would be no green sunfish or bluegill, their would just be their hybrid.

Anyways, so the thing that people donít like about that species concept is that any time that the best evidence shows that there is genetic isolation occurring, it may be a new species. So, technically, if you can bring forward evidence that bass in one lake will never share genetic information with bass from another lake, one could potentially name it a new species. Thatís taking it a little far, but a good example is a fish im working with right now. A suckerfish that was in the Rio Grande basin, but maybe 20,000 years ago the headwaters in mexico were captured via geologic activity, and now belong to a pacific draining river. They are genetically isolated, and arguably a new species that diverged from the Rio Grande lineage.

I would also like to mention, most organisms do change over time. A coelacanth from 100,000,000 years ago, I bet, it genetically way different than one today, probably morphologically as well. Things change as environments change. Also just randomly. If a mutation occurs that is neither beneficial nor deleterious, than it can easily become fixed in the species over time. This is called genetic drift. Sometimes a random trait like a set of pigmentation on the body somewhere might be linked with another gene that is more important, and thus this random gene hitchhikes through evolutionary time with the important gene.

Which of those pieces of progress (shouldnít say progress necessarily, itís a random response to a changing environment, not a purifying or constantly improving process) is considered an element of biodiversity? I would say whatever one is alive at the time. We are limited in our abilities to understand biodiversity in that we only have the current snapshot of it.

The question of which element of biodiversity is of greater value is where my objectivity as a scientist ends, and my personal politics began. But personally, I believe that the hypothesis of a novel species is more supported when there is a relatively long-term evolutionary background. This can mean thousands of years for vertebrates, while only a few weeks for bacteria. Its relative to generation time. A man made pond with a distinct variety of mosquito fish doesnít do it for me. Although under the species concept I mentioned it may be argued that it is a new species, I donít think there is any value in recognizing or protecting it. I feel that there is a functional role to natural elements of biodiversity. Every organism is like a cog in a machine. You can trace energy through systems and find that every organism plays a unique role in uptake and redistribution throughout the system. When a lot of dams in CA were built, the soils far up in the hills became deprived of a certain isotopic signature of Nitrogen that came from salmon. Because the salmon were food to bears, and we all know the answer to the age old question, Does a bear #### in the woods?.

Im rambling again....

In summary, biodiversity can be assumed to be current snapshot of species that are extant (not extinct) today regardless of how they may have changed and will continue to change over time. The divergent patterns of evolution will continue to cause genetic isolation in a variety of ways, as we move forward through time. The best we can do to classify units of biodiversity (species) is to make hypotheses that certain sets of organisms are maintaining themselves as a cohesive groups through time. When these hypotheses are falsified, then we reevaluate the group and make a new hypothesis using current information.

I hope this was somewhat useful?

Ryan Thoni


If people concentrated on the important things in life there would be a shortage of fishing poles.
~Doug Larson

  

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swimbaitFri Dec-14-12 11:07 AM
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#12131, "RE: Declaring Clear Lake Hitch Threatened or Endangered"
In response to Reply # 6


  

          

It's interesting. I liked when you said deleterious. I was hoping you would say allele.

'A Fish Caught in Time' is a fun book about the Coelacanth if you have not read already.

Long time ago I went fishing in the upper Kern river. In the creek sections where the water is fast and freezing. The golden trout there were the most beautiful trout I'd ever seen.

When I read Colin Fletcher's 'The Thousand-Mile Summer' and he talked about catching Paiute trout in the Silver King, it was compelling and inspiring to a fish brain like me.

To my way of thinking, those trout have incredible value. Is it biologic value, aesthetic value, or just cool factor... that depends on who you are I guess.

The Hitch is not a beautiful fish necessarily, but it has a similar fascinating "cut off from the world" evolutionary path to those trout. I hope people can find pragmatic ways to ensure they keep on living.

I'm going to get a little bit involved in this one I think. There's a good, reasonable outcome out there waiting to be had.

  

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MountainBassFri Dec-14-12 12:10 PM
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#12132, "RE: Declaring Clear Lake Hitch Threatened or Endangered"
In response to Reply # 7


  

          

I read a fish caught in time in one sitting! Loved that book.

Ya, the Hitch is definitely not as charismatic as say, a golden trout. But the internal workings of that group of fish is pretty cool! They have great acoustic communication. Their swim bladder is like a drum that sends vibrations like a telegraph through a weird series of bones, up through 4 vertebrae and into the auditory receptors. They also have crazy teeth inside their throat and a hard surface with which they pound or scrape the teeth to make the noises that they communicate with.

I am totally in the school of thought that there is just an intrinsic value to biodiversity. Its unfortunate, that not everybody thinks that way. Luckily, there is a logical and utilitarian backbone to preserving biodiversity.

What's also neat to me is that we are fish. On the tree of life, we are right in the middle of a bunch of fish really. We are sarcopterigians - lobe finned fish. see pic below (we are tetrapods)

http://whozoo.org/fish/fishtaxa.jpg

Ryan Thoni


If people concentrated on the important things in life there would be a shortage of fishing poles.
~Doug Larson

  

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jigndoublewideSat Dec-15-12 02:10 AM
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#12133, "RE: Declaring Clear Lake Hitch Threatened or Endangered"
In response to Reply # 8


          

I did not realize this but it is no surprise that the Hitch are exploited.

How legal is it to pump water out of a public lake? This definitely should be banned.

Is there a large market for harvested hitch? There needs to be a moratorium placed on hitch immediately.

Before the dfg does extensive research, kill bass, etc. they need to lessen/stop human exploitation FIRST.

Also those seasonal roads that are packed up need to be outlawed as well, sickening that for a few months of driving convenience a species of fish is adversely affected and I am sure other repercussions occur.

This is a really interesting thread to read, I enjoy the fish talk a lot.



  

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SLMSat Dec-15-12 03:07 PM
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#12134, "RE: Declaring Clear Lake Hitch Threatened or Endangered"
In response to Reply # 1
Sat Dec-15-12 03:07 PM by SLM

          

I think Urban's response to the issue on another forum is an aspect that should be considered:

"I havent read through this issue too much but my knee-jerk reaction is this. Its going to be very difficult to prove that the so-called Clear Lake hitch is actually still present and genetically different enough from hitch to warrant 1) sub-species status and 2) protection under state or federal ESA's. I looked into this years ago and my conclusion was, based on available information, the Clear Lake hitch no longer exists genetically. Any remnant genetics still within Clear Lake are likely so diluted through introgression with the so-called regular hitch that the sub-species no longer exists. I honestly dont even think anybody even has genetic references for Clear Lake hitch (that is, fish collected many years ago that genetically were Clear Lake hitch; these samples would be the only means to determine, through comparison, if the genetics from hitch currently in the lake could be identified as the Clear Lake sub-species). So good luck to those pushing this listing, proving the sub-species still exists through genetics is going to be extremely difficult.

And in the end it doesnt really matter, its not going to effect any of us as bass fishermen anyway."

  

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