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Wednesday, February 20 , 2019, 4:13 am | Fair 41º


Captain’s Log: Waiting for Steelhead in San Jose Creek

I’m waiting anxiously for anadromous ocean-run trout called steelhead to have the best chance they have had in many decades to make successful spawning runs through the Goleta Slough and up San Jose Creek. We’ve done what we can and we’ve done a lot to be proud of but now Ma Nature must provide the water to make it happen.

Every time we get a slug of rain I keep a close eye on the sand berm to the east of the Goleta Beach County Park parking lot, waiting for the runoff to be sufficient to burst through the berm and flow into the ocean.

That will get the attention of the steelhead in the ocean, then when we have sufficient rain for the flows to run high, those steelhead will swim into the waterway and begin their long fight to the spawning grounds up near Cathedral Oaks and beyond.

It has been a very long time since there was a successful spawn up the San Jose Creek, partly due to the drought, but also because back when we got good rains the fish had a nearly insurmountable obstacle ... a very long cement ditch with nothing to give the fish a respite before continuing to power their way up the swift-flowing water.

I do remember seeing steelhead in the creek and watch their fry grow, but that was many years back.

Our communities and governments did some very good habitat engineering work to rebuild that long cement ditch alongside the 217 freeway. Now it has intermittent structures that disrupt the forceful flow of runoff water and create resting pockets where steelhead can do the equivalent of catching their breath.

Above Hollister Avenue and especially above the 101 freeway, the creek is more natural and conducive to spawning runs. We could use some better holding pools and grow-out pools along the upper portion of the creek bed above the 101 freeway, but as it is the fish have their best chance in decades.

I doubt we will have a fishery we can extract sustainably from in my lifetime, but that’s okay. Let’s keep building for the future when we can.

Meanwhile, I want very much to see steelhead in the creek and I’ll be right there happily cheering them on.

— Capt. David Bacon operates WaveWalker Charters and is president of SOFTIN Inc., a nonprofit organization providing seafaring opportunities for those in need. Visit softininc.blogspot.com to learn more about the organization and how you can help. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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