Wow…it’s already been a year since the Prospect Island Fish Rescue. Though we rescued 1,800 striped bass that day, many thousands (the number may have been as high as 10,000+) of adult and juvenile stripers perished in the mud when the island was pumped dry — the effects of which we’ve been feeling in the rivers, Bay and Delta this summer and fall.
Here’s a look back at what happened that icy December day…
It was a cold, wet, muddy job, but 50 of us headed out to Prospect Island on Saturday morning to see if we could save any of the fish stranded there by the Bureau of Reclamation. Team Salvage was made up entirely of volunteers (lead by Bob McDaris and Jeff Nash, who coordinated everything) who gave their Saturday to saving fish. When the smoke cleared and the dust (mud) settled, we captured 1,466 live fish (1,462 striped bass, 2 big largemouth and 2 jumbo cats) and released them into Minor Slough. Though most of the fish were in sad shape from living in 6 inches of skanky, silt-choked water for two weeks, only a couple went belly up after being released back into the Delta.
Here’s my photo log from the day….
After a brief safety meeting and waver signing session, we donned our waders and set out through the muck to the main pool of stranded fish, which was about an 800-yard hike. The mud was so sticky and soft that you couldn’t stop moving — or you’d sink down and have trouble getting your feet free. Several folks took spills into the icy waters and charter skipper Jim Cox lost one of his wading boots.
The first thing we noticed was the carnage — there were dead fish everywhere like this big striper.
Everywhere you looked, there were carcasses — and this is after the Bureau scoped up untold thousands and buried them.
The good news was we found some fish still alive…which was amazing, considering the conditions they were living in. The water was no more than 10 inches deep and so muddy that it was thick. It had the consistency of chocolate syrup. Luckily, the weather’s been cold lately which has helped keep them alive.
First, we set up some barrier nets and then several of us grabbed landing nets and did a “cattle drive” by walking side by side from one end of the pond to the other.
When one’s net was full…
…it was time to schlep the haul over to the holding station, where guys would keep circulating the “water” in an attempt to keep the fish alive until the Buggy arrived for another run.
Bob McDaris got this Buggy on loan for the project and it was a lifesaver — stripers and ours. There’s just no way we could have moved so many fish without it.
After loading as many fish as we could into the makeshift holding tanks on the back of the Buggy, McDaris would hightail it back over to the levee, where the other portion of our hard working crew was waiting to unload…
..and then run the fish up the slippery hill and over the levee.
With little time to spare, the stressed out fish were rushed to the “Exit,” a pipe that dropped them down the other side of the levee and into the clean waters of Minor Slough.
Down the hatch!
If you were a striper stranded on Prospect, this was a welcome sight:
There are still a bunch of fish still out on the island that can be saved. Rescue efforts will continue Sunday and, according to the Bureau’s Jeff McCracken, they’ll keep the property open for as many days as are needed.
For more information, call Bob McDaris, owner of Cliff’s Marina in Freeport, cell 916-769-8047 or office 916-665-1611 or check out www.rescuethefish.org
A HUGE THANK YOU TO EVERYBODY WHO WORKED THEIR ASSES OFF OUT THERE TODAY!!