FIELD SAVVY…

 Indian Creek below Antelope Lake; the fall splendor is made more remarkable by the contrast with the burn scars of the Antelope Complex Fire.

Indian Creek below Antelope Lake; the fall splendor is made more remarkable by the contrast with the burn scars of the Antelope Complex Fire.

The other day myself and a few other Feather River Trout Unlimited folks had the opportunity to volunteer with California Department of Water Resources and California Department of Fish and Wildlife for a day of electrofishing on Indian Creek below Antelope Lake. I like to look at such efforts as representing a willingness to assist those that have helped with the development of my own work over the last year.

 You’ve heard of cattle drives? This is what a trout drive looks like. Perhaps a few too many cooks in the kitchen though.

You’ve heard of cattle drives? This is what a trout drive looks like. Perhaps a few too many cooks in the kitchen though.

Even if it required a few hours of work the preceding weekend, a day in the field was a nice respite from the long hours spent at the computer drawing fish maps, developing assessment frameworks, and planning eDNA sampling. While fish numbers in the creek were not so great, it was overall a lovely day for the task at hand and I learned and relearned a few harsh lessons about fieldwork.

First, a brief history of the reasons why we were there to monitor the fish populations in the first place. Antelope Lake was constructed as mitigation for the lost recreation opportunities that stemmed from the creation of the State Water Project, i.e. Lake Oroville. Part of that mitigation was the maintenance of a fishery on Indian Creek below the lake, for which minimum in-stream flows were established. California Department of Water Resources has been regularly monitoring the fishery since the early 1970s in accordance.

 Feather River Trout Unlimited Members assist DWR staff with processing fish, taking measurements and weights.

Feather River Trout Unlimited Members assist DWR staff with processing fish, taking measurements and weights.

With the recent severe drought, flows from Antelope Lake have decreased below their regular minimum making it more important than ever to monitor the fishery. I had the opportunity to volunteer last year as well, where results showed a decline in fish abundance compared to years prior. With the near-normal winter of 2015-16 I hoped that things would have improved but, sadly, they had not. Fish numbers were even lower than last year, illustrating the long-term impacts of drought and importance of maintaining annual in-stream flow to support fisheries below reservoirs.

The lessons of the day were not wholly scientific though. It seems time at the computer desk has allowed me to grow a bit soft to the field (although I netted my fair share of fish!). Lesson one: if you leave your dog in the car, place your fly rods in their cases! Lesson two: know where your keys are at all times! Lesson three: make time to enjoy a cup of coffee!

That’s right, while my young lab-spaniel mix, Bolt, managed to stay calm during electrofishing at the first station, results at the second station were not as positive. Forced to content himself with a rawhide while I was out of sight down at the creek at the first station, Bolt had a clear view of the work at station two and apparently it was just unbearable… unacceptable… that he might not be allowed to join in whatever fun we were obviously having down there. Result: two thrashed fly rods!

 Indian Creek tends to be predominated by brown trout rather than native rainbows, although the mix is usually just about even. Sampling produced some healthy fish, as seen here, but the numbers were just not as good as they should be.

Indian Creek tends to be predominated by brown trout rather than native rainbows, although the mix is usually just about even. Sampling produced some healthy fish, as seen here, but the numbers were just not as good as they should be.

AND… yes, later on, after cleaning up the mess of broken graphite in my car (such that Bolt might not be tempted to take the next step and actually consume the pitiful fragments of my evening plans) I discovered something grave! My keys were in neither pocket of my jeans! Nor were they in either boot of my waders!

Long story short, after a generous ride from California Department of Fish Wildlife staff, I found myself sitting in my waders in downtown Taylorsville sipping possibly the most delicious latte I’d had in years as I waited for my spare key.

 Bolt. Promising youth, psychological warfare ninja

Bolt. Promising youth, psychological warfare ninja

From the perspective that all experiences are to be learned (or relearned) from, I’m chalking the day up to a success! While the fish numbers we not as good as I had hoped, it’s always nice to get out in the field, see some beautiful weather and landscapes, keep up with the fish Jones, and make a warm cup of coffee all the more worthwhile. I needed a new fly rod anyways…