LAKE Co., 2/21/23 – The Robinson Rancheria Pomo Indians of California and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) have initiated a pilot program to remove nonnative carp and goldfish from Clear Lake in Lake County, part of multifaceted efforts by the tribe to restore the unique species of minnow known as the Clear Lake hitch, or “Chi.”
A combination of predation by nonnative fish, lack of water supply in streams, and streambeds in disrepair landed the Clear Lake hitch the designation of “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act in 2014. The fish is culturally important to indigenous tribes in Lake County, and used to be seen in the tens of thousands. Big Valley Band of Pomo Indians and the Lake County Water Resources Control Board are also involved in the project.
“It’s going to take millions of dollars to restore these creeks back to where they’re habitable for hitch,” Karola Kennedy, water resources manager and interim environmental director for Robinson Rancheria, told The Mendocino Voice by phone. She feels that Lake County’s natural resources have long been “undermanaged” in a way that harms not only the hitch, but other fish in the ecosystem as well.
Kennedy has worked closely with Robinson’s Tribal Council, and a variety of state agencies, biologists, and other partners to take action in protecting the hitch.
“We’re way past the tipping point,” she said, explaining that 89 pounds per acre of carp is considered the upper limit for Clear Lake, but current numbers are closer to 172 pounds per acre. The tribes and partners from CDFW recently completed a feasibility study, determining which nets to use to efficiently pull large amounts of carp from the lake.
An out-of-state firm with experience with fisheries projects in large lakes, WSB Engineering, worked with state and tribal team members to train them to conduct the removal project. Per a news release from Robinson Rancheria and CDFW, carp and goldfish predate on Clear Lake hitch eggs; disturb and circulate nutrients in the lake that can reduce water clarity and foster harmful algal blooms in the summer; and inhibit tule growth, which is problematic as the plant provides important rearing habitat for the threatened fish.
The project will be executed over the summer, so its impacts won’t be seen until next year’s spawning season. But “this is not a one-and-done project,” Kennedy explained. The tribe is also currently working on grants for streambed restoration in Robinson and Clover creeks, and for hitch population surveys. She hopes that, five to seven years down the line, these ongoing efforts at studying and restoring hitch populations will lead to viable management of their habitat.
She also added that tribal nations “keep very busy in Lake County,” championing environmental efforts in the area for decades. When tribal members from Robinson and Big Valley presented before the Fish and Game Commission in August, she saw a sea change in the amount of resources dedicated to the hitch, saying that the commission pushed for a commitment to saving the unique fish.
“We’re in the creeks every day now, watching for the hitch,” she said of her four-person team, one of whom is a local who holds a Master’s degree in fisheries management and two of whom are tribal members. “We’ve got our hands full.”
Why not place a bounty on the carp?? The bow fishermen and rod fishermen would gladly help with the problem! It would also bring more business into the community!! The cost would be less I bet!! Dave