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The Resilient Steelhead and the Zayante Watershed

by Bob Garbarino

Since steelhead are for many of us on our “to-do fishing list” this time of year, I thought I’d include some interesting information about this fish that, despite the environmental challenges it faces, continues to instinctively fight back to survive as a species. What I find really interesting is that steelhead are the same species as rainbow trout. Their lifestyles differ in that steelhead are anadromous (they spend part of their life-cycle in the ocean) and rainbow trout spend their lives in freshwater. An interesting blog appeared this month from FISHBIO about the steelhead’s amazing ability to adapt to unfavorable environmental conditions. Dams are problematic in that they limit spawning and rearing habitat. They also disrupt natural stream flow and temperature patterns. Stream diversions, agriculture and urban development also have an negative impact. And because they move from river to ocean and back they face threats that are difficult to measure. The article expands on the methods and new ideas FISHBIO and other biologist employ to collect data that provide information to help develop plans to improve wild steelhead populations. For more details go to:

In other news, our local Sempervirens Fund received a conservation easement donation to permanently restrict development of 67 acres of property in the Upper Zayante Watershed. The property has second-growth redwood trees and habitat for rare animal species and mountain lions. Isabel Upani creek, where coho and steelhead inhabit, passes through the property on its way to the San Lorenzo River. Although the property still belongs to the landowners, the agreement ensures that the protections are permanent. To read more, go to: