Not just any boat ride. We recently joined California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) as staff conducted the last electrofishing survey of the season. These surveys are one of many community-wide efforts to monitor Clear Lake hitch populations, which is a culturally important species to Tribes and endemic to Clear Lake.
This net-working opportunity was twofold: meet key contacts working in the region and net as many Clear Lake hitch as we could for counting. The survey at Clear Lake State Park was one of 10 completed transects across the lake over 10 weeks this year. We volunteered and helped CDFW capture, tally, and release over 100 hitch in 3 hours!
Because hitch use Clear Lake tributaries to spawn, their populations have been impacted by drought, in-stream barriers, water diversions, pollution, and more. Tribal members call hitch Chi, and have been working alongside partners for the fish to get federal protections under the Endangered Species Act. These electrofishing surveys have helped track hitch populations since they became protected by the state as a threatened species under the California Endangered Species Act in 2014.
Volunteering with CDFW allowed us to meet the hitch, whose conservation is at the center of conversations involving many different groups. We’ve learned a lot about the impacts of non-native species like goldfish, carp, and bass, and we were able to identify most of them in just a few short hours. CDFW staff showed how to identify another native fish, blackfish, that can easily be misidentified as hitch. From conversations with community members, one priority for youth is getting on the lake and knowing about these species. For us to be able to include this as part of the project, it’s important for us to build our own connections through experiences like these.
Since starting the project in July 2022, we have been building a better understanding of the Clear Lake region’s environmental issues and connecting to ways for residents – including youth - to get involved through community and citizen science. Cultivating relationships helps strengthen collaboration between the project team and local leaders rooted in the community. Ultimately, experiences like these deepen understanding and relationships that will help the youth community and citizen science materials created for this project better serve the region.
As we are about to enter year 2 of the Clear Lake project, we’re continuing to invite educators in the region to provide their feedback. If you’d like to be involved, find more information on the project page or reach out to Sarah Angulo, firstname.lastname@example.org.