Putah Creek 2/20: Lightning Does Strike Twice


Well-Known Member
Over the past couple weeks, weather permitting, I have been diligently fishing lower Putah Creek in Davis for pikeminnow and suckers for our respective studies, with very little luck. Even weeks after the storms, the water was still turbid—not quite chocolate milk, but not exactly Aquafina® either. Weekend after weekend, I blanked, nary a fish in sight. With the end of the academic year looming ever closer, the risk of not being able to collect enough data was becoming increasingly real. Not that I would sit around and do nothing about it. On one particularly warm Monday afternoon, I went through the motions again. Walk to Putah, hike upstream to a familiar, still pool, rig up, pitch a fat nightcrawler at a logjam (barbless artificial only restriction is only between Berryessa and the Solano diversion dam), and wait. I wasn't expecting much, if the last few weeks were any indication of what today would be like. Even in late February, it was warm enough for the first mosquitoes of the season, but apparently the fish didn't get the memo. At least not the ones I was looking for. After a slow half an hour of waiting, I saw something I hadn't seen in weeks: a bite. A good one too. I set into solid resistance, and the fight was on. The fish made some spirited runs and headshakes; surely a pikeminnow. But after the first few runs, it didn't give up like the average specimen. It continued to struggle, even pulling some drag. Then the fish materialized near the surface, giving me my first glance at it. Another rainbow trout. But this time, even further downstream, so far down that the possibility didn't even cross my mind. Soon, even without a landing net, the fish came to hand. Immediately, I noticed it was hooked deep; too deep. The possibility of accidentally killing such a special fish made me sick to my stomach; how horribly ironic would it be that in my quest to understand these fish, I would be their undoing. But it wasn't bleeding. There was no time for pictures, no time to brag, all I could do was clip the hook and pray for the best. Back in the water, the fish kicked off strongly and disappeared into the depths, into an uncertain future. Not only for itself, but for the creek as a whole. Not even half a mile downstream, schools of carp kicked up clouds of sediment in their endless search for food, disturbing benthic communities and catalyzing algal blooms. I couldn't fault them; they were doing the only thing they knew how to do. The carp didn't choose to come here, that was by our hand. Yet now the creek, had to face the consequences of our actions, just as that trout would have to bear the weight of mine.

I was a bit hesitant to post this, especially the last part about having to clip the line. But in retrospect, that's just how life is, and as much as it might eat at me, I don't think there's anything I could really have done in this situation. At least now I know to expect the unexpected, and take precautions to avoid similar situations. At least as much as I am able. With my luck, I'll end up accidentally hooking a salmon smolt or something stupid.


Active Member
That is really cool. More water can't hurt.
There is a saying. One is a dot, two is a line, three is a pattern.
Hopefully you see a pattern develop.
Good luck with your data collection.