Category Archives: Fishing

Burney Mountain Guest Ranch an oasis for PCT hikers

The Burney Mountain Guest Ranch is becoming a favorite stop for many Pacific Crest Trail hikers.

Main Lodge

The ranch is located just one fourth of a mile off the PCT at mile 1407.2 on the trail. It’s a great place to rest, resupply, and charge up the cell phone. Wi-Fi is available. There are laundry facilities and showers. Because it is so close to the trail, hikers can rise early, have a good breakfast and get off to an early start on their day’s hike.

Mike and Linda Morse bought the ranch in 2014. They did a lot of work renovating the lodge and cabins and installing shower and laundry facilities.

Mike and Linda Morse

Their timing was good. In December 2014, the movie Wild starring Reese Witherspoon came out. The movie is based on the 2012 memoir Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed that reached No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list.

After the release of the movie, traffic on the PCT increased more than three times from 3000-4000 hikers to as high as 14,000 hikers each year.

“The world comes to us at the Burney Mountain Guest Ranch,” owner Mike Morse said.

Packs on the porch

Two weeks ago, I had given three hikers a ride out to the ranch. Today, my wife Linda and I decided to drive out to learn more about it. When we arrived we saw packs on the porch.

Three friendly hikers were resting and chatting outside: Uncle Jesse from San Francisco, Sheagol from France, and Radio from Roseburg, Oregon.

Uncle Jesse from San Francisco

All three were thru-hikers who had hiked all the way from Campo, near the Mexican border, through the desert, over the Sierras, down into the Pit River Basin.

Sheagol and Radio had begun their hikes at the same time and had seen each other early on. Radio said he hikes about 25 miles a day and had taken about 10 zeros on the way. Sheagol likes to pace herself at 30 miles a day but had taken between 20 and 30 zeros. How interesting that after more than 2 months and 1400 miles hiking they ended up sitting together on the same bench at the Burney Mountain Guest Ranch.

Sheagol from France and Radio from Roseburg, Oregon

Radio works for a winery. He had time before the harvest and life was at an impasse. He had never done long distance hiking before, but he decided that he would give the PCT a try.

He said that the experience was both an exciting adventure, meeting the challenges of the trail and seeing new things every day, but also a chance to think about his life. He said that one of the ways in which the hike affected him was that he felt more comfortable meeting people in new situations.

This prompted a discussion about anxiety and fear. Many people are plagued by anxieties and fears which are groundless. When one faces them, one finds that there is “nothing to fear.”

Then Sheagol pointed out the difference between this kind of angst and healthy fear that one feels when there is a clear and present danger or a life-threatening situation. Sheagol is an adventurous young woman who exudes a sense of confidence. She has worked numerous different jobs in France. and she flew over from France to hike the trail by herself.

Hiking the PCT there are lots of times one experiences fear resulting from clear and present danger. They said that while hiking the 600 mile stretch through the high Sierras in late June and early July, about 150 miles of it were still packed with snow. Streams and rivers were high and raging with the waters of the melting snow. In many places the trail is precipitous.

Radio told the story of one girl who was frozen with fear as she was crossing an icy fast moving creek. She came to a point where she could not move. Panic had paralyzed her. Her legs would not move. She just fell down on all fours and was in danger of being swept downstream.

Fortunately, Radio and several other hikers were there to help her to the other side where after a period of time she was able to calm down and regain her composure.

I went inside the lodge and met Mike and Linda Morse. There is a beautiful dining area, a piano, a delightful lounge area. The ranch serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. Outside, there is a nice pool on the veranda with a lovely view.

Hot Coffee from Finland in the dining area

Linda and Mike talked about the operation of the ranch.

“It’s half trail angel and half business,” she said.

Supplementing the amenities at the ranch, they are also trying to develop a network of trail angels to assist the hikers in various ways such as providing rides when needed.

Linda told of a young Irish hiker who had a severe tooth ache. She arranged a dental appointment with a local dentist and gave him a ride into town to see the dentist. The young man had a root infection. The dentist was able to prescribe needed medication. Linda later received a letter from the boy’s mother in Ireland saying, “Thank you for taking care of my son.”

In addition to providing services for PCT hikers, they also cater to fly fishermen and other vacationers. They offer a variety of family-friendly activities for guests, including games, horseshoes, a pool table, and a swimming pool.

Pool area with a lovely view

After chatting for a bit, Mike showed us the store they had built for the hikers. The shelves were stocked with goods that had been suggested and requested by hikers.

Store stocked with trail supples

As well as providing supplies, the store also has postal services. Hikers can have resupply packages sent to the store for them to pick up when they arrive, or they can ship packages.

Then Linda took us on a tour of the grounds and cabins. There is plenty of room for camping.

Plenty of camping area

There is a small building with laundry facilities and showers for the hikers.

As we walked, Linda explained  that the guest ranch is not for everyone. Alcoholic beverages and drugs are not allowed. She said that she has nothing against people partying but this is not the place for it. Their mission and passion is to provide guests with a welcoming, inspiring experience. There are several quiet areas set aside for reflection.

Mike and Linda are also starting a non-profit organization called Rapha Healing. Rapha is the Hebrew word for healing. Linda has a background in counseling and the mission of the organization will be to host leadership seminars and retreats for women’s groups, men’s groups, churches, and other organizations. She wants to have programs for veterans. Already they have hosted one group from Warrior Expeditions, an organization that provides veterans with everything they need to complete a long distance outdoor expedition at no cost to the veteran.

One of the cabins

She showed us two cabins, each of which have one bunk bed room

One of the bunk rooms

and one very nice private room.

One of the private rooms

So hikers have a choice of simply camping outside overnight, sleeping in a bunk, or having a nice sleep in a big bed. Rates vary and the ranch offers several PCT specials that include a meal, laundry, pool use along with whatever lodging they choose.

After the tour, my wife and I enjoyed a delicious hamburger. While I ate I had a chance to talk with Hot Coffee, a hiker from Finland. Hot Coffee had hiked the mountains in Norway, Sweden and Finland. Wanting to try a longer hike, he chose the PCT.

Beginning in the south, he hiked through the desert and then took a four day break to fly back to Finland because there was a special occasion to celebrate with his 15 year old son.

When he returned he went to Dunsmuir and hiked to Ashland, then went back to Dunsmuir and hiked south through Burney Falls Park and then to the guest ranch. He planned to continue south over Hat Creek Ridge and Lassen.

He wasn’t planning to hike the Sierras yet. His whole family was coming over to the US to visit for 10-12 days and they were going together to Washington state, where he hoped to hike in the Cascades for 2 or 3 days with his son.

When his family returned to Finland, he would continue hiking in Washington and then if he had time, return south to hike the Sierras.

Hot Coffee began his PCT adventure on April 12. He was planning to continue hiking until he had to return home on October 31.

After we finished lunch, we went out to say goodbye to the hikers on the porch and met one more hiker from Denver named Snoop.

Snoop from Denver

Friendliness, hospitality, peace and serenity in a beautiful scenic setting. The Burney Mountain Guest Ranch is indeed an inspiring oasis on the trail of life.


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Filed under Burney, Cassell, Fishing, Hiking, Pacific Crest Trail

Fisher couldn’t catch a fish – at least not yet…

After attending the Hat Creek Volunteer Fire Department Deep Pit Barbeque, Linda and I decided to detour a bit on our way home. It was late in the afternoon, so I knew that many of early morning fishermen would have ended their day, but I was curious to see how the fishing was going in Cassel.

We turned off 89 onto Cassel Road. There were lots of cars parked by the property on the right side of the road at Rising River. I expected to see a lot of people down by the water, but the river scene was quiet and beautiful.

Rising River

Rising River

On the other side of the river, Clint Eastwood’s gate was open. Linda and I  had never seen that. It’s usually locked. That side of the river was beautiful too.

Rising River upstream

Rising River upstream

We drove on into Cassel and over the bridge. Two men were fishing on the ramp on the left side of the canal inside the gate. I’d never seen that before either. Where the new fence was by the post office one boy was holding his pole up over the fence fishing.

We turned right toward Cassel Forebay. A few people were fishing up by the campground. We continued toward Baum Lake to Cassel Forebay.

That’s where I met Bill Fisher. He was getting ready to load his fishing equipment into the back of his friend’s bright red pickup truck.

I pulled up and rolled down my window.

“How do you like the enhanced fencing?” I asked.

He said that this was his first time here. He had flown over from Hawaii to meet his friend Larry Thompson from Reno to come up to Cassel to fish. He asked if I fished. I told him that mostly I liked to drive around and take pictures because I write for Pit River Country.

He asked me if I would like to take a picture of the “worst fisherman in the world.” So I obliged him.

Bill Fisher from Hawaii

Bill Fisher from Hawaii

Now, this was where the story gets more interesting. Earlier in the afternoon, Bill and Larry had driven to the bridge in Cassel. It was crowded with fishermen. There was no place to fish. People were lined up and down the stream.

So apparently, people are undaunted by the new fence. Though some may be disgruntled, people adapt in various ways. Fences and regulations are one of the challenges that must be met in order to catch fish.

They came up to Cassel Forebay. Bill said that when they arrived there were 20 people fishing around the pond, both inside and outside of the fence. He and his friend Larry started out fishing on the bank by the parking area because the walkway was crowded.

They were using worms and salmon eggs for bait. They didn’t get any bites but they watched a couple up on the walkway pull out ten really big fish, probably five to seven pounders. Bill said they were pulling out a fish every two minutes.

So when the couple had caught their limit and were ready to leave, Bill and Larry went to take their spot. The man had used Powerbait. After he left, they tried their worms and salmon eggs – no bites.

Bills friend, Larry Thompson from Reno came and joined us. Bill and Larry met 43 years ago at the Marine Corps Drill Instructor School in San Diego. Both of them served as drill instructors in the Marines. Larry retired after 22 years in the Marines. Bill served 10 years in the Marines and then 12 years in the Air Force and retired as a captain. Through the years their friendship has remained intact.

“I’m going to get my picture in the newspaper!” Bill told him.

Larry was a very kind gentleman who said he had come up to Cassel numerous times. He liked to come here with his grandchildren to fish.

He was using a walker with a seat on it. One of the reasons he liked to come to Cassel was because of the easy access. However, he wasn’t disturbed by the new fences. In his opinion, it is a reasonable safety measure.

There is considerable discussion on this amongst people in the community who fish. Many people think that while it may be “reasonable” it doesn’t make sense.

Be that as it may, neither Bill nor Larry were perturbed in the least that they hadn’t caught a fish. They were enjoying the experience and the beauty.

Nor had they given up hope. They were planning on staying in Burney for two more days. The next morning they were going to get out earlier to try again.

So Sunday morning, on my way to the NorCal Road Gypsies car show, I stopped in at Burney Sporting goods. They told me that Bill Fisher and Larry Thompson had just been in to buy some green PowerBait eggs.

Then, on Monday at 11 a.m. I saw Larry parking his red truck in front of Ace Hardware. I pulled over to get an update.

Larry was all smiles. “I caught my limit!” he exclaimed.

They had gotten up at 4 a.m. and were out on the Forebay just after sunrise. Larry caught five fish and Bill caught two. Bill said that that was his personal best! Hooray!

The day before they had caught two fish using the PowerBait.

Bill also said that it was difficult for Larry to make his way through the gravel on the way to walkway and that it would be more accessible if there were a little paved pathway connecting the parking lot to the walkway.

They were planning to get up at 4 a.m. again on Tuesday for one more day of fishing.

As fate would have it, I ran into Bill and Larry again at Anna’s Country Kitchen on Tuesday morning. They had gotten out at 5:30 a.m. and were fishing just after sunrise. By 6 a.m. Bill had caught three fish. A new personal record. Before this fishing trip, he had never caught a trout.

After 6, Bill’s luck ran out and Larry’s began. By 8:30 Larry had caught 4 nice trout. This time they had a little trick. They used night crawlers, but injected the worms with a little bit of water using a syringe so that the worms would float.

Larry had found the process of infusing a worm amusing because he is also a nurse. After retiring from the military in the 1990’s, he had gone to the University of Texas to study nursing. Not only has he worked as a nurse in Oklahoma and Hawaii, he also spent fourteen months in the Philippines assisting in a birthing clinic.

I was amazed. I told Bill he should write a book.

The two fishermen finished their breakfast and didn’t want to keep the fish waiting. Since they hadn’t yet caught their limit they were off for one last fishing fling in Bridge Park.

On Wednesday, they will be headed back to Reno. Once there, Bill will get his truck and trailer and head to Oklahoma to visit family. On September 14, this dynamic duo will meet up again in San Diego to attend the 32nd Annual West Coast Drill Instructors Reunion.

It was an honor to meet these two wonderful men. I’m happy that they enjoyed themselves so much in Pit River Country.


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Filed under Cassell, Fishing

PG&E installs safety fencing in Cassel

PG&E has installed the first portion of new safety fencing by the Cassel bridge near the post office and at Cassel Forebay.

New fence by the Cassel bridge

New fence by the Cassel bridge

In May, PG&E announced that they would be installing 330 feet of railing and fencing near its Hat Creek hydroelectric canals and powerhouses near Cassel as well as at the McArthur Canal diversion at the Tule River fishing access point along the McArthur Swamp. The first phase of installation was completed in June.

Enhanced fencing at Cassel Forebay

Enhanced fencing at Cassel Forebay

The project is still ongoing and is expected to be completed by the end of July.

New fence across the pond at Cassel Forebay

New fence across the pond at Cassel Forebay

According to Paul Moreno, spokesman for PG&E, “This project is PG&E’s idea.  We are taking a proactive approach across our hydroelectric system in identifying areas of potential risk to operations and to the public. In areas identified, we use a suite of controls to decrease the risk.  In this case we are proactively installing railing and fencing at select points along our canals and diversions where there are steep slopes and embankments without decreasing fishing recreation.”

Fisherwoman from Redding fishing below Cassel Bridge on July 4

Fisherwoman from Redding fishing below Cassel bridge on July 4

The canal by the bridge in Cassel and Cassel Forebay are two of the most popular fishing spots in the Hat Creek area. Many people who come to fish enjoy the easy access. The areas are regularly stocked by Crystal Lake Fish Hatchery.

A hard copy version of this article also appeared in the Mountain Echo 7/19/16


Filed under Cassell, Fishing, Hat Creek, PG&E

Fishing season open in Pit River Country

April 30, opening day for the fishing season,  was a beautiful crisp Spring day. I heard that a lot of people attended the fisherman’s breakfast and that Jeff McNeil was there to play guitar and sing for the fishermen.

Linda and I decided to take a drive out to enjoy the lovely day, take pictures, and welcome the visitors to our area. On our short tour we met people from Redding, Shingletown, Santa Rosa, and Happy Valley. So many people from all over the North State love to come here to enjoy some of the best trout fishing in the country.

Fishing from a small boat on Baum Lake

Fishing from a small boat on Baum Lake

We headed to Baum Lake. The parking lot was packed. Everyone we met was super friendly, whether they had caught any fish or not. The beauty was just relaxing and intoxicating. I met a nice blonde lady from Redding who had come up with her family. Her children were down on the boat launch hoping to catch a fish.

Youngun's from Redding getting ready to throw a line in

Youngun’s from Redding getting ready to throw a line in

Pelicans and osprey were busy fishing too.

American pelicans were there

American pelicans were there


More pelicans coming in for a landing

More pelicans coming in for a landing

Out on the pier, Jenni Riddle and Dan Thomas from Shingletown were enjoying the view as their poles rested against the railing. Dan said they were just happy to enjoy a day together out of the house.

Jenni Riddle and Dan Thomas from Shingletown enjoying a day out

Jenni Riddle and Dan Thomas from Shingletown enjoying a day out

One lady paddled by fishing out of a kayak.

Fishing while kayaking

Fishing while kayaking

More people were relaxing as they fished by the picnic table.

Relaxing and fishing from the picnic table

Relaxing and fishing from the picnic table

Linda and I headed up the dirt road across from Baum Lake toward Cassel. Midway we detoured to the high end of Cassel Forebay to check it out. Lots of people were lined up to fish.

Cassel Forebay between Cassel and Baum Lake

Cassel Forebay between Cassel and Baum Lake

We chatted for awhile with a woman from Santa Rosa who had come up to fish and camp at the PG&E campground further up the road. As we talked, Glenn and Angie Riley from Happy Valley up the trail with a nice string of native fish. Four rainbow trout and one nice big brown, all ranging from 14 to 16 inches

Glenn and Angie Reilly from Happy Valley with five nice native trout

Glenn and Angie Reilly from Happy Valley with five nice native trout

They said they were going to smoke them.

Fishermen are happy to be out in nature catching fish. Linda and I enjoy being in the beauty catching our photographs.

We headed on through the campground to the bridge by Cassel. More fishermen lined both sides of the bridge.

Cassel Forebay down by the bridge

Cassel Forebay down by the bridge

Well, that was a fun little drive. Time to head back to Burney.

Mt. Burney from Cassel Road

Mt. Burney from Cassel Road

Isn’t it wonderful to live in a place so blessed with natural resources and awesome beauty?


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Filed under Baum Lake, Burney, Fishing, Hat Creek

Friends Family and Fall Fishing

Autumn has arrived. The days are shorter and the temperatures are cooler. This is prime time for fishing the waters of the Pit River Basin including Hat Creek, Baum Lake, Burney Creek, and the Pit River.

2 Fishermen on Hat Creek

The temperature of the water in upper Hat Creek remains cool year round. The water in Lake Britton, Fall River, Ahjumawi State Park, and Baum Lake, however, rises in the hot months of the summer. During the warm season the bass in Lake Britton and the waters of the Ahjumawi stay in the deep cooler water or swim in the shady areas by the shore protected by logs where they are more difficult to catch. Now, as the water cools, the fish are rising in the open cooler waters.

In the streams, the trout being planted by Crystal Lake Hatchery are more mature and larger and the fishing areas have fewer fishermen because the hunting season has begun.

I stopped by Burney Sporting Goods and talked with Pat Taylor. He said that trout fishing in Hat Creek was good. Several people had caught six and seven pound trout on Hat Creek. Taylor said that the fishing in Lake Britton was fair to good. He also said that people had been catching crappie.

On Saturday, October 3, I drove to the West Fork of Hat Creek in Cassel. Crystal Lake Hatchery had planted the creek on Friday. Upstream from the bridge I met Bob Lee, and avid fisherman who had come up with two friends from Susanville.

Bob Lee From Susanville

Bob Lee from Susanville

Lee said that this is his favorite spot to fish. Usually, he comes up every year on the first weekend in October with his younger cousin. This year his cousin couldn’t come so he brought two friends.

Lee loves the outdoors and hunting and fishing. He has five children. Though his 13-month old has not yet been able to fish, he has already bought her a fishing rod. His three year old son already fishes. Next week he hopes to go to Colorado with his 15-year old daughter to hunt. His daughter got an elk tag and a deer tag and is looking forward to the opportunity to hunt with her great grandfather who lives in Colorado and hopefully get her first elk.

Lee was really excited to be out because he hadn’t been able to fish since June 19 due to a heart attack.  His enthusiasm was rewarded. Almost every time he threw his line out he got a bite. The first few took the bait. He loaded the hook with PowerBait and tossed it in. As we talked, he suddenly shouted, “I got one!”

Reeling it in

Reeling it in

He gently brought the fish in and removed the hook from the lip and held it up for me to catch a photo.

Lee with fish

Lee with fish

That was only the first. A few minutes later he landed another. Lee had arrived only a few minutes before I came and in the short time I had been there had caught two nice rainbow trout.

Meanwhile down toward the bridge another family had arrived.  I walked down and met Ben and Raquel Searcy from San Jose. They had brought their two six-year-old twins Manuel and Samuel, and their eight-year old daughter Annmarie up for the weekend to fish. Manuel and Annemarie were very happy to show me the fish they had just caught.

Manuel and Annemarie Searcy

Manuel and Annemarie Searcy

I could see that the fish were plentiful. I was also infected by the pride and joy the children felt showing their catch as well as the happiness that their parents experienced. The sky was a clear deep blue. The air was crisp and fresh. The landscape was intoxicating. Everyone was happy. It was a taste of heaven.

I decided to drive farther up Hat Creek to see how things were. I stopped in at the Rancheria RV Park and talked with the owner, Busy Ryman. She said she hadn’t heard about any six or seven pounders but that some fishermen had caught five pounders recently. At Rim Rock Ranch in Old Station I received a similar report.

I stopped in at Bridge Park and met Dan Calestini from Dixon, California. Calestini works in the Vacaville area and has some family in Fall River Mills. Whenever he can get off early Friday evening, he grabs his fishing pole and comes up to Pit River country to visit and fish. Bridge Park on Hat Creek is one of his favorite spots. On this weekend he had brought his granddaughter Clara. They had come fishing with his nephew and his grandson, William Klatt, from Fall River Mills.

I asked how the fishing was and he called out, “William! Show the man your fish.”

William raced and proudly displayed two fish. One he had caught using salmon eggs and nightcrawlers. The other his uncle had caught. Once again I felt the glee.

Dan Calestini with his grandchildren William and Clara

Dan Calestini with his grandchildren and fish

Beaming as he talked about his family and fishing Calestini said,  “There’s nothing like this, being with family outdoors in such a beautiful place. There is something spiritual about it.”

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Filed under Baum Lake, Burney, Fishing, Hat Creek, Lake Britton, Old Station, Pit River, Rancheria RV Park

Roy Carver on fishing and old times

Roy asked me over again to talk some about fishing and how things have changed. He fixed a nice peach cobbler to share with Linda and I. After a while sitting in the kitchen, we moved to the living room for our conversation.

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Filed under Burney, Fishing, Pit River, Pit River Area History, Wildlife

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.


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

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

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