[env-trinity] Brown trout management up for debate

Tom Stokely tstokely at att.net
Wed Apr 17 08:13:15 PDT 2019


Brown trout management up for debate
   - By Sally Morris The Trinity Journal
   - 1 hr ago
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Brown trout management plans are causing some discussion in Trinity County.
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German brown trout were introduced into the Trinity River in the 1890s and began thriving on their own in the 1930s, but debate over their future is heading to the California Fish and Game Commission this month where the Hoopa tribe and other fishery managers will be arguing for a management plan focused on removing the voracious fish from the river.

Long concerned about how the brown trout impact native and hatchery produced salmon and steelhead trout in the Trinity River by consuming large numbers of juvenile fish before they can migrate to the ocean, the Hoopa Valley Tribe worked with Humboldt State University to fund a university graduate study completed in 2017.

The study by master’s degree student Justin Santiago Alvarez examined the brown trout dietary impacts on wild and hatchery fish populations in the Trinity. It concluded that approximately 7 percent of the annual hatchery production and about 20 percent of the annual natural production of native salmonids are currently consumed by brown trout.

The study also concluded that large brown trout, greater than 20 inches long, are largely fed by hatchery production which makes up more than 60 percent of their diet.

It acknowledged that a community of recreational anglers is invested in brown trout in the Trinity River system, especially when other species are not available for sport fishing. However, it concluded that brown trout in the Trinity may impede restoration of native and tribally important species such as chinook salmon, steelhead trout and endangered coho salmon.

Among the study’s recommendations are periodic electrofishing specifically targeting brown trout to keep the population low and size of the fish small to minimize impacts on the native and hatchery fish populations.

The study and its findings have been discussed at recent meetings of the Trinity County Fish and Game Advisory Commission which endorsed the proposed development of a brown trout management plan to reduce the population and encouraged the Trinity County Board of Supervisors to do the same.

There is no draft plan, but a set of possible actions is headed for the April meeting of the State Fish and Game Commission to consider. They include brown trout removal not only by electrofishing, but also by increasing take limits for anglers and even the organization of a derby event to increase fishing pressure by motivating anglers to pursue brown trout in March through July when other fishing opportunities on the Trinity are limited.

The Board of Supervisors last week also approved a letter of support for the brown trout management plan being proposed by the Hoopa Tribe, noting the primary target for anglers in the Trinity River are chinook salmon and steelhead trout.

The letter notes that in light of declining numbers of salmon and steelhead and the work being done “to ameliorate the effects of Trinity and Lewiston dams, we are concerned about the threat brown trout pose to the salmon and steelhead that inhabit the Trinity River.” It adds that predation “could be enough to prevent the recovery of the native fishes and impact the angling success of fishermen.”

The board’s letter is supportive of efforts to bring managers and stakeholders together to draft a brown trout management plan and says “we support the proposed management actions that involve the direct participation of the fishing community. We would ask that any fish harvested for management purposes either be consumed by those that harvest them, or a process where they are made available for consumption by the less fortunate members of our community be part of any plan.”

Not everyone was on board. From the audience, John Vorpol of Weaverville argued about the merits of the study, noting that another study contradicts many of the findings.

“You’re being asked to support removing a significant portion of the brown trout from the river with electro-fishing on the theory they are adversely affecting native salmon and steelhead, and doing so will devastate a world class brown trout fishery,” he said.

He said that speaking as a fisherman, “a huge brown trout is the fish of a lifetime for many. There’s no question they consume a lot of salmon fry, but the issue is the return of the salmon and how that’s impacted. I’ve tried to find the proposed management plan and don’t know where to find that. And I agree angling is the best way to manage, but good luck with that. They are notoriously hard to catch.”

Urging board support of the management recommendations, Trinity County Fish and Game Advisory Commissioner Kyle De Juilio said the Humboldt State study also documented a decline in brown trout numbers during the years of the study “and even in that suppressed state, those were the estimates of what they eat. And if you want to suppress a population, it’s most effective to do it when it is already suppressed.”

He added there is no draft plan, but only a bulleted list of suggested actions and “we can only recommend actions. One is to encourage anglers. Others are more drastic like electro-fishing, but we stayed silent on that. It’s up to Fish and Game.”

Sup. Keith Groves said the most important thing for the county to worry about is keeping the other fish off the endangered species list, “and this is taking a step that doesn’t put bulldozers in the river to do questionable environmental damage. This is an easier, less drastic measure that can bring benefit and I am going to support it.”

The board’s letter of support was approved by a unanimous vote.
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