DFG News 020812
Mountain Yellow Legged Frogs
News, analysis and opinion from the Yellow-Legged editor
The California Department of Fish and Game has made a determination it has to do something about the Mountain Yellow-Legged frog. The determination under the California Endangered Species Act finds the Southern Mountain Yellow-Legged frog endangered, and the Sierra Yellow-Legged frog threatened. The frogs are collectively called “Mountain Yellow-Legged frogs”. Sierra County is “lucky” in that it has the Sierra Yellow-Legged frog.
The Department of Fish and Game was prompted to action by the Center for Biological Diversity, a name that many rural people fear. CBD filed (of course) a lawsuit to force DFG to take action on protecting amphibians in the state, and MYLF is certainly one of the prime candidates. CBD filed to prevent DFG from planting in 175 lakes and streams until an Environmental Impact Statement was filed. The DFG complied.
The frogs used to be pretty common in the high country. Their decline is blamed on several factors: climate change, higher UV levels, a fungus which eats the frogs’ keratin body parts, pesticides and most of all, trout. Trout simply love tadpoles, and because of the high altitude and cold weather, MYLF often stay tadpoles for two years, giving trout plenty of time to yummy them up.
Most of the pro-frog websites specify “non-native trout” but this reporter has been told by a fairly reliable source that there were no trout at all in Sierra Nevada lakes above 6,000 feet.
One thing the determinations will almost certainly do is cease trout planting in high altitude rivers and lakes. It costs nothing to stop planting fish, and it’s the main thing pro-frog supporters want.
Which, once again, puts wildlife at odds with rural people and recreational users of the wilds. We like to fish in the lakes, but nobody wants to see the little frog disappear forever, though many of us haven’t missed it so far. Who does a sane person side with? Turns out there’s probably room for both.
Fish planting is a 20th Century response to more fishermen than fish. Since fish were going to be planted anyway, why plant local varieties when there were hardier fish that grew faster. “Growing faster” for trout means eating more voraciously. California is by no means the only state to plant fish, and it is literally possible in the US to fish for a Brook trout, as here, where they are planted and do quite well, while here you can’t generally keep a steelhead, whereas in some places the native Brook Trout have been replaced by planting Rainbow so you can’t keep one, and in other places, the Steelhead has been introduced and replaced other native fish. In recent times, in an effort to maintain populations of vanishing native trout DFG has planted trout from hybridized stock. Against this backdrop of shifting zeitgeist, and the harsh realities of nature, not planting something seems like a novel, workable approach. Let’s not do something and see if that helps.
Will it save the alpine Yellow Legs? It’s possible not. It is possible that a warmer climate, more UV and a hungry fungus might be enough to diminish the range of the frog, which, after all, represented its range under ideal conditions. Still, the National Science Foundation says removing trout saves the Yellow Legged Frog.
What will it mean for anglers that the DFG no longer drops trout from the sky into high mountain lakes? For some anglers and the businesses that live from them, times will be a little harder. On the other hand, when people stop fishing for trout because they rarely catch them, the trout will rebound, and when they do, they’ll enjoy bumper crops of delicious yellow legs.
Will owners of creek and lake front property experience unpleasant side effects of the listing? It’s always risky to own property with water on it.
Maybe DFG could poison a few pristine alpine lakes. It’s worked great for Lake Davis.
Cal Trout’s recommended policy:
1. Do not plant lakes that have self-sustaining fisheries.
2. Do not plant non-native fish above populations of native trout or other native fish species.
3. Set a target of not more than 10% of lakes having planted trout to be eradicated over the next 10-year period.
4. Make use of lakes already barren of trout for reintroduction of amphibians to the maximum extent feasible
5. Select for removal only lakes bearing species exotic to California such as Brook or Brown to the maximum extent feasible.
6. Select for removal only lakes without reproducing trout to the maximum extent feasible.
7. Select headwater lakes or isolated water bodies near known populations of amphibians until all habitat types have been tried to determine what is best for recovery of frogs.
8. Select only lakes without a history of high angler use or of producing trophy fish (16" or better for the High Sierra), and with low trout productivity to the maximum extent feasible.From HERE
Waters in Sierra County evaluated for fish planting, though fish are not necessarily being planted there.
Spencer Lakes, Upper
Deer Lake, Big
Salmon Lake, Lower
Deer Lake, Little
Young America Lake
Sardine Lake Upper
Sardine Lake Lower
Salmon Lake, Upper
Little Truckee River Hwy 89
Yuba River North Fork
Yuba River North Fork,