The Current Magazine Fall 2016 - Page 34

Photo by Mike Weir


Returning Home

Luckily for the McCloud River redband, the winter of 2016 brought above average precipitation and conditions in the creeks improved greatly. Continued monitoring of the creeks have yielded favorable data. That along with projected weather forecasts led to the decision to begin releasing most of the fish back into the wild to their home waters.

Earlier this month, crews from the Department’s Inland Fisheries Division, the Mount Shasta Hatchery, and the Wild Trout program came together to carry out the reintroduction process. This effort was led by Heritage and Wild Trout Program biologist Mike Dege. A week before being released each fish was equipped with a PIT tag, which will allow the DFW to track fish movements and survival rates.

Each day they picked a different creek and went about releasing the different populations of fish back into the habitats from which they were rescued two years earlier. It was a meticulous process with each fish scanned, catalogued and GPS coordinates marked where they were released. Close to a thousand fish were released back into the wild. Some of these fish were the original rescued fish and some of them were the juvenile fish that were bred in the hatchery. Care was taken to release the fish back into the same stretches of creek from which they were rescued. The same family groups were released back into their natal creeks and a 10% addition of fish from the neighboring creeks were added to each system to ensure genetic health for the long term viability of the species.

It is stories like this of the McCloud River redband trout that underscore the severity of drought in California and its lasting effects on our native fish populations and coldwater ecosystems. It also demonstrates the importance of our mission to ensuring California will always have resilient wild fish thriving in healthy waters.