Monthly Archives: August 2015

Late afternoon fishing at Bridge Park

Driving back from Reno, about 4 p.m. on Saturday August 30, I decided to pull off of Hwy 89 into Bridge Park on Hat Creek for a little break. The park was quiet. There was one truck there but no one was present. I stretched my legs over by the creek and sat down at one of the picnic tables. The water was as clear as glass. As I looked more closely through the stream, I thought I saw a trout flash by.

Bridge Park is serene. If you look below the bridge you see white water. The flow just below the bridge is deep enough to swim in. Further down the logs that have fallen across the stream create a wondrous patchwork of eddies, dips, and swirls dotted by small islands of luscious tall green grass.

There is a nice trail for hikers and fishermen downstream from the park area. As it descends the stream is lined by ponderosa, cedar, and aspen. The changing light gives the scene a magical aspect accented by the music of the water and the wind. A perfect place to pause, before driving on.

As I was about to depart, I heard voices. Across the highway there is a campground. Three young men and one young woman from the campground were walking up the highway and crossing the bridge. They had come up from Reno to camp and fish. One of them, Jason was swinging a nice 13 inch brook trout on a line. He had just caught it and now they were going to try their luck by the bridge.

Jason showing his catch

Jason showing his catch

Since they had come up from Reno, I asked them if they had ever gone up Red Rock Road between Hallelujah Junction and Doyle to see the red rocks. The young lady told me they knew the road but there were no red rocks.

Red Rocks by Red Rock Road

Red Rocks by Red Rock Road

Linda and I had just been there and I told her we had seen some gorgeous rock formations there.

Red, green brown and white rocks

Red, green, brown and white rocks

Meanwhile, Jason’s two other friends were busy getting their lines in the water, hoping that they too would land a nice trout.

Fishing below the bridge

Fishing below the bridge

As we were talking, two more cars full of people drove up and began unloading their fishing gear.

Young man from Reno fishing Hat Creek

Young man from Reno fishing Hat Creek

The park was now full of folks who had come to enjoy the late afternoon and evening fishing at Bridge Park on Hat Creek.

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Filed under Fishing, Hat Creek

Fishing McCloud Lower Falls

Driving up to Mt Shasta on August 26, I asked my daughter if she would like to see the Lower Falls of the McCloud River. She said she would, so we turned off of Hwy 89 onto the McCloud River Loop and headed down to the falls, also called Fowler Falls.

Fowler Falls

Fowler Falls

Oftentimes when I visit these falls in the summer I see lots of young people diving or jumping off of the rocks into the pool, but on this day I saw no swimmers. Instead, I witnessed four young men fishing from the rocks by the waterfall.

Fishing the falls

Fishing the falls

The McCloud River is the traditional home territory of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe. History of Lower FallsThe Wintu name for the falls is Nurunwitipum, which means “falls where the salmon turn back.” During the warm summer season, there was a village here and the Winnemem Wintu fished and hunted around the Lower Falls. The McCloud continued to be rich in salmon, steelhead and native wild trout until the closing of the gates of Shasta Dam in 1943.

Since that time, salmon have been unable to migrate into the Upper Sacramento, Pit, McCloud and other tributary streams, eliminating a large portion of the best salmon habitat in the Sacramento basin. Shasta Dam also flooded 90 percent of the traditional territory of the Winnemem Wintu people.

Shasta Dam has provided a lot of electricity, facilitated water management, and provided jobs and recreational opportunities for the people of California, but my heart and tears pour out for the native Wintu people.

Nowadays, the gorgeous area continues to be a popular site for hiking, swimming, camping, and fishing. The river is stocked with rainbow trout for the licensed fishing public. I watched the young boy diligently fishing from above the falls.

Boy fishing by Fowler Falls

Boy fishing by Fowler Falls

As time went by, one of the fishermen assumed a more relaxed posture.

A relaxed fishing style

A relaxed fishing style

Meanwhile above the falls, visitors were enjoying hiking, walking their dogs, taking pictures, meeting one another and conversing.

Humans and dogs above the falls

Humans and dogs meet above the fall

As I was taking pictures a local resident came up to watch, wondering whether or not I might toss him a little treat.

Feed me

Feed me

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Filed under Fishing, McCloud River, Shasta Dam, Waterfalls, Wintu

Cowboy Poetry at Diamond Mountain Casino

I figure folks up here might enjoy some cowboy poetry. This is a show I did at Diamond Mountain Casino back in October 2012. Some is original and some are standards from great cowboy poets. Hope you enjoy.

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A delightful day along Hat Creek

On Monday August 25, my wife Linda and I needed to go to the Inter-Mountain Fairgrounds in McArthur to submit our photography, poetry, and art exhibits for the upcoming fair. My daughter HanaLyn and her friend Jamie Barrows are visiting from Maryland, so they came along to see some of the beautiful Pit River Country.

After taking care of the business with the helpful Inter-Mountain fair staff, we stopped at the Frosty in Fall River to pick up some sandwiches and drinks. We then headed to Hat Creek Park on Hwy 299 for a picnic on our way home.

As we were walking to the picnic table, I spied a heron standing in the middle of the creek. HanaLyn headed down to the bank. Linda hastily pulled out her camera.  I raced back to my car to get mine, hoping that the heron wouldn’t fly away before I could get a picture.

Hana Lyn and the Heron

HanaLyn and the Heron

The heron wasn’t even phased by us. He simply dipped his beak into the water and came up with a frog.

Catching the frog

Catching the frog

He got a good grip and then down the gullet it went. Then he strutted a bit in satisfaction.

Satisfied after a meal

Satisfied after a meal

After watching Mr. Heron enjoy his lunch, we decided to sit down and enjoy ours. However, before we could even open the bag, we were swarmed by yellow jackets. Jamie is allergic to bee stings, so we hastily retreated back to the car and headed over to Baum Lake and the Crystal Lake hatchery to enjoy our lunch at the picnic table there.

We met a friendly couple from Redding at the picnic table. They were enjoying a cool ride on their motorcycle through the beautiful country making a loop up 299 through Burney, heading down Baum Lake Road to Cassel, then continuing  down Hwy 89 to Lassen Park, and finally riding back down through Shingletown to Redding.

After lunch, HanaLyn and Jamie had fun photographing some of the albino Eagle Lake Rainbow Trout. Each year, out of the millions of eggs hatched at Crystal Lake Hatchery a few albino mutations occur. The hatchery does their best to nurture and raise these albinos. Some of them are now also on display at the Turtle Bay Museum in Redding.

Pointing out the albinos

Pointing out the albinos

Linda had some photos to give to the staff at the fish hatchery so we stopped in for a brief visit to drop them off and then crossed over to Baum Lake. White pelicans were swimming in the lake. Ospreys were flying overhead.

American Pelicans on Baum Lake

American Pelicans on Baum Lake

Also, a fisherman, Michael Hurdle from Richmond, Texas had just arrived. Hurdle was traveling from Sacramento to Likely, California, a town of 99 people south of Alturas to visit his sister. He saw a sign for a fishing lake on the highway so he detoured to enjoy a brief respite fishing.

“Well, you’ve just come to one of the best fishing lakes in the country.” I said. The pelicans patiently feeding from the lake and the ospreys overhead testified to the veracity of my statement.

Michael Hurdle from Houston

Michael Hurdle from Texas

While in Sacramento, Hurdle had spent some time fishing the American River. He said that the water was low and mentioned that a portion of the Merced River had been closed due to the drought.

I told him that the waters here were fairly normal because Hat Creek and Fall River were fed from a giant aquifer, a honeycomb of underground lava tubes that gave rise to many springs in the area. I also told him that the hatchery across the road regularly stocked the lake, though I wasn’t sure when they had stocked it last.

Hurdle did another cast with his fly rod, taking measure of the wind and current in the lake. He smiled and said he wasn’t overly concerned whether he caught a fish or not.

“What better way is there to enjoy an hour break before I continue on my way?” he asked with a blissful smile.

I wished him luck and went down to the boat launch area to rejoin Linda and our guests. I heard a truck pull up and looked to see Kristen Idema, a friend of Linda and mine from Redding. We hadn’t seen her for several months and hooped with joy at our surprise meeting.

After hugs, I introduced her to my daughter and Jamie and she introduce us to her friend from Michigan, Deborah, that she had known since she was in the fourth grade. Deborah and her husband had come for a week of camping at one of the campgrounds on Hat Creek. Kristen had driven up from Redding to spend the day with them. They had just visited Burney Falls.

Relaxing by the lake

Rendezvous by the lake

Deborah let her two beautiful labs out of the truck to enjoy a swim, while Kristen and I caught up on the past few months.

 Labs going for the ball

Deborah and her dogs

Finally, we drove back to Burney via Cassel Road so we could show Hana Lyn and Jamie the Rising River. As we sat around the pool enjoying salsa and guacamole and discussing the pros and cons of cilantro, I thought,

“There are so many delightful things to see and do in this area. It just blows my mind!”

 

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Filed under Baum Lake, Burney, Crystal Lake, Fall River Mills, Fishing, Hat Creek, Intermountain Fair, MacArthur, Wildlife

Inter-Mountain Fair Coming September 3-7

­­­ The 97th annual Inter-Mountain Fair will be held at the Inter-Mountain Fairgrounds on State Highway 299E in the town of McArthur from September 3-7.

Strolling the fairgrounds

Strolling the fairgrounds

The fair will begin at 8 a.m. on Thursday. Events will feature a horse show, Ladies Lead and a sheep show. On

Charlie the pygmy goat

Charlie the pygmy goat

Friday, there will be a swine show and a junior beef show. Saturday the fair will host The Inter-Mountain Junior Rodeo, a small animal show, sheep and swine pee wee showmanship, and master showmanship. Sunday will feature team branding. On Monday there will be a buyer’s breakfast and a junior livestock sale.

Prize livestock

Prize livestock

Exhibit buildings featuring baked goods, fruits and vegetables, hand-made crafts, flowers, art and photography will be open on Thursday through Sunday at 12 noon. On Monday exhibit buildings will open at 10 a.m. There will also be vendors selling crafts and other items.

Lots of exhibits and vendors

Lots of exhibits and vendors

There will be entertainment on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. On Friday the Burney Lions Club will hold a benefit concert from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. The concert will feature performances by Matthew Songmaker from 2:00 p.m. till 3:00 p.m., Turn A Blind Eye from 3:30 p.m. till 4:30 p.m., End Of Time Lions from 5:00 p.m. till 6:00 p.m., Will Drewry from 6:30 p.m. till 7:30 p.m., Delaney from 8:00p.m. till 9:00p.m., and Ashes to Empire from 9:30 p.m. till 10:30p.m. Tickets for the concert are $20.

On Saturday at 7:00 p.m., there will be Truck Pulls and Monster Trucks for $20 a ticket and on Sunday, at 7:00 p.m., a Destruction Derby. Tickets for the derby are $18 for Grandstand seats and $16 for Bleacher seats.

Fun for all ages

Fun for all ages

The fair also has a carnival. As a new feature this year, the fair is offering a “Golden Ticket” for $75.00. Ticket purchasers get five days unlimited rides and 1 drink and 1 sandwich each day from the Carnival Concession.

Since its beginning in 1918, The Inter-Mountain Fair has become a major tradition in the Intermountain Area. It prides itself as a country fair with a hometown atmosphere that people of all ages can enjoy. The fairgrounds provide a setting of green lawns and beautifully landscaped flowers. About 30,000 people from near and far come to enjoy the fair each year.

For more information or event tickets, call the Inter-Mountain Fair office at 530-336-5695.

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Filed under Fall River Mills, Intermountain Fair, MacArthur, Music, Pit River Country Events

Pit River Whitewater Draws Kayakers

From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on August 15 and 16, PG&E  increased water flows to 1500 cubic feet per second (cfs) from Pit 5 to the J.B. Black Powerhouse. Fifty-five kayakers came from as far away as Reno to enjoy the opportunity to ride class III, IV, and V rapids over the 9.3 mile stretch.

Kayakers from Reno

Kayakers from Reno

Kayakers entered the Pit at the Madesi River Acccess and paddled downstream past Big Bend to a take out point at J.B. Black Powerhouse.

Madesi River Access

Madesi River Access

I was hoping to get some good shots of young adventurers navigating the whitewater. I couldn’t get away on Saturday or early Sunday. However, knowing that the flow would be high until 4 p.m., I left Burney at 2 p.m. hoping to get the last kayakers as they rode the rapids above the bridge at Big Bend.

White water flows above Big Bend

White water flows above Big Bend

I heard a lady squeal as she splashed in and out of the cold water under the bridge. I also saw a man wading into the river for a dip up at the bend above the rapids. I waited patiently for half an hour, but no kayakers came.

Man wading into the Pit for a dip

Man wading into the Pit for a dip

I walked over to the Big Bend store to ask where the kayakers were putting in. There I met Colby Elliot who had just finished his last run and was getting ready to drive back to his home in Chester. He was beaming. I asked how the ride was. He said, “Awesome.”

Colby Elliot from Chester

Colby Elliot from Chester

I met more kayakers exuberated by their experience and got directions to the Madesi River Access. I had never been there. It was still only 3:30 so I decided to drive up and take a look.

When I arrived, I met a woman named Susan Stalcup. She was sitting at a picnic table filling out forms on a clipboard. Stalcup told me that she had been monitoring the event.

Pit River Reach Whitewater Flow

Pit River Reach Whitewater Flow

She works for Spring Rivers, a company that provides biological and physical assessments of aquatic and riparian ecosystems. When PG&E raises the flow and kayakers come to ride the whitewater, PG&E subcontracts to Spring River to monitor the event. They monitored the event at three locations. Susan recorded the kayakers as they entered the river. There was one person below the bridge at Big Bend. The third recorded the kayakers as they came out of the river. This serves two purposes. It measures use and it provides a safety aspect.

Stalcup said that the kayaking was finished for the day. Twenty-seven kayakers had come on Saturday and 28 had participated on Sunday. Kayakers began gathering at the Madesi access at 8 a.m. and started kayaking around 10 a.m.. On Saturday, they continued kayaking until 4 p.m., but on Sunday, because they needed to drive home, they left earlier. That’s why I missed them.

After Stalcup left, I decided to just sit and enjoy the river. It was wonderful to see the river so high and the current so strong. PG&E periodically provides these whitewater flows in compliance with their licensing provisions for the “Pit 3, 4, and 5 Project” under the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

High river flow below Madesi

High river flow below Madesi

As I sat musing, a camper, Nick O’Neill, drove in and went over to read the whitewater notification sign posted by PG&E. He had come up from the East Bay Area with a dozen or so of his buddies to fish and go tubing. They hadn’t been able to go tubing because of the high flows. I told him that PG&E had begun to decrease the flows at 4 p.m and the flows gradually return to about 450 cfs.

Nick O'Neill from Calistoga

We stood watching the river. No apparent decrease yet, but we saw four or five large fish jumping in the river. He was looking forward to fishing. His friends were eager to go out on the river in their tubes.

On September 12 and 13, PG&E increases the flows again to 1200 cfs for another whitewater event. I will be there and I will come early.

Kayakers ride the Pit

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Crystal Lake Fish Planting Going Well

Article by Alex Colvin photos by LACE photography

Entrance to Crystal Lake Hatchery

Entrance to Crystal Lake Hatchery

Counties served by Crystal Lake

Counties served by Crystal Lake

This year The Crystal Lake Fish Hatchery will stock 1.8 million trout. In addition to the 16 counties in California which they normally supply, they are also supplying fish to the Darrah Springs Trout Hatchery east of Redding and the Mount Shasta Fish Hatchery, both of which were quarantined in June because of infection by whirling disease.

On Thursday August 13, my wife Linda and I visited the Crystal Lake Hatchery. I had an appointment for an interview with Shane Overton, the manager. As well as learning about the general functions and processes of the hatchery, I also wanted to get information on planting this year, the effects of the drought, and impact of the whirling disease.

Shane Overton, MaShane Overton, Mary Elizondo, and Debbyry Elizondo, and Debby

Shane Overton, Mary Elizondo, and Debby

Shane Overton, his assistant manager, Francisco Cabral, and their staff were all very friendly and helpful. As we entered the grounds we met Mary Elizondo who oversees the hatching and early development of the trout. She directed us to the office where we were greeted by Overton and his secretary, Debby.

Moose head on the wall 2

Moosehead on the wall

Overton ushered us into the meeting room, where we had an hour long discussion on this year’s operation of the hatchery.  The walls of the meeting room are lined with a remarkable display of wildlife taxidermy including a moose head, a wild turkey, an American Pelican, a buck, and a wide assortment of local birds.

The drought has had some effect on planting. In areas such as Modoc and Lassen Counties, where streams and lakes rely on snowmelt for water, the hatchery planted the waters earlier. In April, they planted 20 percent of their stock.

Menagerie in the meeiting room

Menagerie in the meeiting room

No fewer trout were planted this year, but because of temperature and water conditions, the earlier plants contained fish that were smaller. As the year has progressed and the fish at the hatchery have matured, the size of fish being planted has returned to normal.

Trout Raised at Crystal Lake

Trout Raised at Crystal Lake

The waters in Eastern Shasta County have not been so affected by the drought. In Fall River Valley and Hat Creek the waters are fed by springs coming from underground lava tubes in addition to snowmelt, so even in drought the water levels have remained relatively consistent.

Concerning the whirling disease, there has been no trace of the disease in the Crystal Lake Hatchery or the waters planted by them. Trucks from the Darrah Springs and Mount Shasta hatcheries regularly come to be loaded with fish. Before they enter the hatchery they are decontaminated to ensure that there are no bacteria.

Darrah Springs and Mount Shasta hatcheries are both still under quarantine. Overton said that the cause of the infection was not yet certain but it is suspected that an otter infected with spores got into a stream which supplied water. The hatcheries are still being decontaminated and it is hoped that they will reopen sometime next year.

In the meeting room

In the meeting room

The entire interview was very pleasant. Overton has worked at the plant for 20 years. His father also worked for Fish and Game. When he was a boy he would often go out with his father to plant fish. He and Elizondo are knowledgeable about hatchery operations not only at Crystal Lake but throughout the state. Toward the end of our conversation, we were joined by assistant manager Cabral who also added his insight.

Everybody obviously enjoyed and took pride in their work. Overton said that he was happy to “serve the licensed fishing public” and explained that most of the funding for the hatcheries comes from the sale of fishing licenses.

California State Fish Hatcheries

California State Fish Hatcheries

There are 22 state fish hatcheries. Eight of them are anadromous Salmon and Steelhead hatcheries and 14 of them are Trout. In addition to receipts from licenses, some hatcheries are mitigated by funding from various agencies and corporations. The Crystal Lake Hatchery receives some funding from PG&E to compensate for stocking certain waters where normal fish migration has been affected by PG&E development.

Overton also ridded me of a myth that I had picked up from an angler on Burney Creek. After an employee of Crystal Lake Hatchery had just poured a bucket of fish into the stream and left, the fisherman told me that those fish wouldn’t bite for awhile because they were “drugged.”

Overton laughed and said that that story had been going around since he was a child. He and Elizondo assured me that they do not anesthetize the fish before they are transported for planting.

Grounds of the fish hatchery

Grounds of the fish hatchery

After the interview was over, Linda and I thanked everybody for their hospitality and help and went out to take pictures of the facility. We were in for a special treat.

Elizondo followed us out and asked if we would like a tour of the hatching process.

Eagle Lake Trout

Eagle Lake Trout

Elizondo has earned the nickname “Mama.” In addition to other responsibilities, she raises millions of Eagle Lake Trout from egg to catchable fish. Beginning in 1959 from 16 fish, the Eagle Lake Trout program has become one of the hatchery’s major success stories. The program allows the restocking of Eagle Lake with this unique native species. It also enables the planting of Eagle Lake Trout in other selected waters of the Pit River basin. As with planting of other trout species, this not only provides a catch for fishermen but also helps to maintain the survival of native wild trout that would otherwise be depleted by overfishing.

She took us through two buildings explaining the process. The eggs are incubated in trays until the eye develops. Then a machine separates the healthy eggs from those that did not survive. Next she transfers the eggs to a trough where they develop through the larval stage.

Elizondo explaining to Linda Colvin about fry

Elizondo explaining to Linda Colvin about fry

When juvenile fish have developed, they are transferred to deep water tanks where they grow as fry and finger fish. Once they reach sufficient size they are transferred to the outdoor tanks. There the fish continue to mature into small catchable trout, large catchable trout and the very large trout that grow to over 14 inches in length.

Inside the hatchery

Inside the hatchery

It takes about 18 months for a trout to develop from egg to a trout that can be planted in a stream. As mentioned before, the hatchery this year will provide 1.8 million trout to be harvested by the licensed fishing public. This week alone more that a hundred thousand pounds of fish will be planted in Lake Alomar.

Albino Rainbow Trout in the Fish Tank

Albino Rainbow Trout in the Fish Tank

After our informative tour, Linda and I took a few more photos, rested a bit in the pleasant picnic area provided by the hatchery, and then headed home reflecting on how delightful it is to visit the Crystal Lake Hatchery.

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Filed under Crystal Lake, Fishing, PG&E, Wildlife