The Reel Life: Fishing club has a very lucky day

The Reel Life: Fishing club has a very lucky day

Steve Solis caught this native steelhead on the Chetco River in Oregon while fishing with Dillon Paradzinski of Ironhead Guide Service.

Barbara Fetherston of Rutherford made a very generous donation to the St. Helena High School Fishing Club consisting of approximately $2,500 worth of rods, reels, tackle, nets, and even a float tube.

Thanks to Barbara, the club is equipped to catch just about anything that swims, from big tuna down to ultra-light panfish. Many members of the club are particularly interested in learning more about fly fishing and fly tying and can now look forward to learning on the donated fly rods and reels.

The club, led by St. Helena High School teacher Evan Blasingame, is scheduled to take its annual bass and shark trip to San Pablo Bay next week. Hopefully they will have plenty of photos to share for a future column.

Oceans and bays

The Bay Area is home to a variety of crab species, including Dungeness crab and rock crab. The recreational crab season for Dungeness crab is open from Nov. 4, 2023 through July 30, 2024. The daily bag limit is 10 crab, and the minimum size limit is 5¾ inches. Recreational crabbing is not allowed from vessels licensed for commercial Dungeness crab fishing and Dungeness crab may not be taken from San Francisco or San Pablo bays, only from the ocean or Tomales Bay.

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Lakes and rivers

Heavy limits in excess of 27 pounds were the theme at Clear Lake last weekend during the two-day American Bass Association Tournament. The lake remains high at 2.17 Rumsey with varied clarity depending upon your location. The clearest water is at the upper end of the lake near Nice. Numbers and size of bass remain good with little pressure from other anglers. Catfishing continues to be solid, with a number of major tournaments scheduled for 2024. The crappie have yet to show up, as the best action starts in late November.

Drones tackling Tahoe algae threat

As reported by Environmental Systems Research Institute, Brandon Berry has an enviable job. In the morning, he flies a drone to survey Lake Tahoe shores. In the afternoon, he dives into the lake to sample water quality. This hands-on research has its fitness benefits and it would be hard to imagine a more beautiful office.

It is, however, a full-time job and Berry said that in the wintertime, when the water is freezing cold and it is snowing, his colleagues are less envious.

With crabbing open only to recreational anglers, Mark Dorman, Clay Englebrecht and Luken Dorman took advantage of a beautiful day on Bodega Bay.

As ecological researcher for the Tahoe Environmental Research Center (TERC), his work has advanced scientific understanding of algae growth and the invasive Asian clam, both of which contribute to degradation of the nearshore in the famously clear mountain-ringed lake.

Berry began the drone program at TERC five years ago. He has used the combination of drones, water sampling, and geographic information system (GIS) technology to record conditions and address Lake Tahoe’s metaphyton problem; free-floating, nuisance algae that forms mats above the bottom of the lake. Dependent on currents and wave patterns, the algae can wash onshore where it rots.

According to Berry, that metaphyton is heavily linked to the Asian clam, which are about the size of a quarter when mature and microscopic as juveniles. These filter feeders take in water and excrete nutrients that cause big blooms of algae.

Lake Tahoe is so large that it visibly dips toward the center due to the curvature of the earth. With drones, Berry captures imagery to record the clarity of the lake and the presence of algae around its 72-mile-shoreline.

After flying test plots that ring the lake, he dives in to scoop and sample sand to count the number of clams. Data is processed and analyzed with GIS to communicate conditions and collaborate with other scientists to gain an overall understanding of the lake. This data records changing conditions and informs testing of management techniques to address the problem.

“Tahoe is a popular lake, and the majority of people interact with it right along the shoreline,” Berry said. “When there’s rotting algae on beaches, it causes concern. Right now, aesthetics is one of the main concerns.”

Klamath River dam removal

The process of removing the Klamath River dams was expected to start this month and all four are scheduled to be gone by the end of 2024.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved the $450 million project in November 2022. It will be the largest dam removal project in American history. The Klamath River Renewal Corporation (KRRC), which took over ownership of the dams from Pacific Power, is leading the historic project. Preparation work is under way and removal is to begin this summer, starting with Copco 2. Copco 1, the Iron Gate Dam and the JC Boyle Dam are to be removed by the end of 2024.

Removing four dams from any river will result in immediate environmental impacts. The KRRC says it is working with experts to monitor those inevitable impacts the river will see in the coming years.

“We want to wait a little while to allow the river to sort of find its course again,” Bransom said. “Then we’ll come in and add a light touch where it’s appropriate to do so with some restoration that we believe will be beneficial, primarily for habitat and passage conditions for migrating fish.”

The KRRC remains hopeful that by removing the dams, the salmon population will return to the river and thrive once again.

“We’re really trying to create conditions that are more favorable than those that exist today to support a more healthy environment for all the communities that rely on the river,” explained Mark Bransom, CEO of KRRC.

Dam removal is a major win for local tribes and environmental groups, who are also hopeful that the salmon will return. But some residents who live near the dams say they’re concerned their property values will decrease.

Even so, Bransom said, there are more pros than cons when it comes to dam removal.

“While we have some opposition now, I am hopeful and optimistic that over the long term this will really bring significant benefits not only to down-river and up-river communities but everyone in between as well,” he said.

Brent Randol can be reached at or (707) 481-3319.

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