California Contrasts: Salton Sea

I found myself in the desert of California with a meeting in Indian Wells, California this week.  Indian Wells is a delightful community, the commercial areas are carefully landscaped and well groomed as is typical for southern California communities.

Indian Wells - California

Many beautiful desert flowers were in bloom in the landscapes – agave,bougainvillea, sage, cactus and the native Red Bird of Paradise.

Red bird of Paradise - Caesalpina pulcherrima

Before driving back to the coast for my next meeting, I took the opportunity to visit the Salton Sea.  This water body was unintentionally created by water from flooding canals and the Colorado River in 1905.   A strong fishery developed over time and the area was became a popular recreational destination.  As it has no outlet and very few inlets, salinity and levels of other naturally occurring and agricultural chemicals has continually risen.  Much has been written about the current dismal condition of this formerly strong fishery, but it is still a shock to see it first hand.  The recreational development initiated decades ago on the western shore is incomplete, frozen in time and the shores now remind one more of a ghost town.  The stench of baking dead fish fills the air.

  As I approached the beach area, my attention was first drawn to the myriad fish skeletons, bleached white by the sun, indicating that this is not just a recent phenomenon.  In the dry desert heat, decomposition is very slow.  Many of them reminded me of fossils.

I was focused on the skeletons as I continued to move toward the water. The closer I got, the more intact the corpses became.  Most seemed to be Salton Sea Tilapia (Oreochromis mossambicus). I was actually startled when I looked up to see the condition of the water’s edge.

As I drove away, I caught this last glimpse of the Salton Sea.

The 100 Mile List

Mayan Cichlid

As multi-species fisherman, we’re always looking for opportunities to add another species to the lifelist.  Reading reports of awesome catches in what often seem like far away places gets us dreaming of new and exciting trips.  If it’s not a Tangerine Darter from Tennessee, it may be a Warpaint Shiner from North Carolina.  While pursuit of these may be worthwhile trips, we often overlook the opportunities within our own backyard.  Sometimes it is not overlooking what’s there, we just don’t realize what’s there.

I recently decided to take a look at my backyard and measure the opportunities that  live there.  Paging through the Peterson Field Guide to Freshwater Fishes, looking at the distribution maps, soon became laborious (though I do enjoy browsing my reference books!) and I was forced to manually create a list.  Now, I also own a couple other great reference books specific for parts of my backyard that help tremendously with distribution data and maps, but once again processing the information becomes a manual task and they left geographic holes.

It was only after discovering the websites described in a prior post, that I had the tools to accomplish what I had envisioned.  What resulted was a chart of freshwater species that potentially lie within a 100 mile radius of my home and broken down by the watershed in which they occur.  I’ve created a landing page describing the process and giving easy access to the data and sources.  We all need to know what’s in our backyard!  Take a look at mine and let me know what you think!

The Places We Fish

I am always kicking myself when I anxiously review my “fish” pictures and realize that I took no pictures of the neat little creek I just returned from.  Many of these special places I know I will never get the chance to return.   I’m trying to do better, though there is still a awful lot of room for improvement!  Here are a couple places I found myself this week while in North Carolina.

Why……those other fish?

Remember when you were young and it was fun to catch Bullheads, Yellow Perch and small Sunfish with a cane pole?  That creek probably also had some minnows in it and the challenge of catching them consumed hours. This was before you were “educated” to understand that proper fishing was for Trout, Large-mouth Bass and Walleye!  Oh, and it is understood that you should use the finest carbon rods and billet aluminum reels if you wanted to be accepted as an accomplished angler…..and the fish have to be BIG!

Now I really enjoy fishing for big Trout and such, and also have a few pieces of fine equipment which I value and love to use, but there is something to be said for the endeavor and pursuit of all the other fish out there.  The enjoyment of researching the habits and habitats of the Suckers, Chubs, Darters or Shiners of the world to actually catch them,  often with simplified equipment, can be a big part of the overall experience.  Discovering an obscure fishes behavior and biology and then learning how, when and where to present your bait or lure to them can be a very satisfying challenge.

Part of my enjoyment is also learning techniques, equipment and traditions from earlier periods of time and other cultures that don’t hold these fishing biases.  The Japanese simplified method of fly fishing, Tenkara, used in small mountain streams, and their traditions and equipment used in the pursuit of a series of small fish species, the Bitterling or Tanago are a source if inspiration.  Making some of my own equipment is always an interest of mine as well.

I’ve created this site – …those other fish – so I can share my experiences in the preparation and execution of my current fishing whims, whether they be Salmon or Shiners, traditional or non-traditional.  No matter what end of the spectrum of fishing you find yourself, something here will hopefully be of interest and probably fit your definition of …those other fish!

Arlan Ten Kley