Chi Council for the Clear Lake Hitch
Interim Report on Activities
January 1, 2008

Introduction
In early spring, hitch migrate up streams tributary to Clear Lake to spawn. Longtime residents vividly recall the vast numbers of spawning hitch in every tributary to Clear Lake. Over the past 50 years, the numbers of spawning hitch have plummeted dramatically. In recent years, no hitch have been sighted in some major tributaries during the spawning season.

Early in 2004, the Lake County Group of the Sierra Club organized volunteers to survey the hitch migration. In August of 2004, the Chi Council for the Clear Lake Hitch was formed with the assistance of the Eastlake & Westlake Conservation Districts as a Coordinated Resource Management and Planning (CRMP) organization. The organizers were Sierra Club members, local landowners, tribes, state and local governmental agencies and interested citizens.

As stated in its Memorandum of Understanding, the goals of the Chi Council are to:

  • Study, protect, restore, and maintain the watershed ecosystem leading to a restored population of Clear lake Hitch
  • Study and recognize the "lake effect" on the hitch population by the introduction of nonnative fish, the condition of the shoreline habitat, the effects of pollutants in the water column, and aquatic conditions generally
  • Study the fish population during migratory runs

Streams have been monitored in each of the successive spawning seasons. The data has been compiled by Chi Council and posted on its website at www.lakelive.org/chicouncil.

Summary of Findings

Spring hitch surveys made over the past four years have resulted in the following observations:

  • The numbers of hitch that spawn in the creeks each year appear to be declining.
  • In the major tributaries of Middle Creek and Clover Creek, hitch were observed in 2004 & 2005; none were observed in 2006 or 2007.
  • No hitch have been observed over the past four years in Seigler or Schindler Creeks.
  • Conversely, significant numbers of hitch have been observed in Adobe Creek each year.
  • For over 30 years, physical barriers in Kelsey, Scotts, Middle and Clover Creeks have deprived hitch of access to miles of historic spawning beds.
  • The causes for the decline in the hitch population are not clearly identified or understood
  • The effect of non-native species of fish in Clear Lake on hitch populations is not yet understood.

The Need for Scientific Research

Two of the objectives of the Chi Council are to:

  • Establish scientific protocols for the monitoring of the hitch population, and
  • Encourage scientific research on hitch and their habitat through colleges, universities and other agencies.

While volunteer surveys of hitch spawning have provided significant information regarding current hitch populations and the location of physical barriers to streambed access, scientifically designed and supervised studies are needed to answer fundamental questions regarding the condition and fate of this important native fish. The Chi Council has solicited assistance from the University of California to help organize and conduct such studies.

Removal of Physical Barriers

Modification or removal of physical barriers in the creeks to allow free passage of spawning hitch is a vital first step to restore a viable population of hitch. The Chi Council urges ongoing, focused efforts by governmental agencies and private parties to achieve that end.

Volunteer Support Is Vital

Monitoring of the spring hitch migration is essential to learn more about hitch behavior and establish population trends. The continued participation of volunteers to monitor the hitch spawn is vital to the success of this project. For detailed results of past surveys, log onto the Chi Council's website at www.lakelive.org/chicouncil.

Thank you for your continued support of the Chi Council to save the Clear Lake hitch from extinction.

 

Respectfully submitted,

Peter F. Windrem, Chair
Chi Council for the Clear Lake Hitch

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