Management Recommendations: After a long period of neglect, there has been considerable interest in conserving populations of this unusual trout and those of other endemic fishes in the Goose Lake Basin. During the 1987-1994 drought, a proposal was developed to list the Goose Lake fish fauna as threatened under the federal ESA. In response, the Goose Lake Fishes Working Group was formed in 1991, made up of representatives from both California and Oregon of private landowners, state and federal agencies, nongovernmental organizations, and universities. The organization signed a Memorandum of Understanding in July 1994 to protect and, where needed, reestablish native fishes in the Goose Lake basin. In 1995, the Goose Lake Fishes Conservation Strategy was completed. According to USFWS (Congressional Record, March 20, 2000:65 (54): 14936)
The goal of this strategy was to conserve all native fishes in Goose Lake by reducing threats, stabilizing population numbers, and maintaining the ecosystem. The Conservation Strategy identified factors in each stream that were affecting fish and provided a list of actions since 1958 that were implemented to benefit potential problems. Since publication [of the conservation strategy] in 1996, a number of additional projects have been completed or long-term projects begun. These include 2 culvert improvements, 11 diversion or passage projects, 10 fencing projects, 16 habitat improvement projects, 11 fish surveys, and road improvement project to reduce sedimentation.
In the lower reaches of most streams, major actions included making road under-crossings passable to trout. A fish ladder was installed over a major diversion dam on Thomas Creek in 1992 by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. In Willow and Lassen Creeks, the California Department of Fish and Game has removed natural and artificial migration barriers. Headcut control, bank stabilization, fencing of streams, planting of riparian vegetation, changed grazing practices and other protective measures have also been undertaken on a number of streams in recent years. These measures have greatly improved habitat and water quality in the streams, including the lower reaches that flow through agricultural land. Monitoring of water quality, insects, and fish demonstrate the improvements (Tate et al. 2005). However, continued effort is needed to maintain (and ideally increase) the populations of trout and other fish, especially during periods of severe drought.
Some of the management actions that are needed (not in order of importance) include:
1. Identification and modification of barriers to fish movement, especially diversion dams.
2. Identification, protection, and improvement of reaches of stream that are critical for spawning and rearing of lake-strategy trout and for their survival through periods of drought. Currently identified as important for management are Cold Creek (tributary to Lassen Creek) and Buck Creek (tributary to Willow Creek). At present, a diversion structure often diverts the flows of lower Buck Creek.
3. Regular quantitative monitoring (every 3-5 yrs) of fish populations in both upstream and downstream reaches of Lassen and Willow Creeks, and at least qualitative monitoring of fish in other streams.
4. Improved management of headwater areas to protect streams from livestock grazing and other problems in addition to managing and protecting coldwater resources, particularly under predicted climate change scenarios.
5. Ban the presence of non-native fish in the Goose Lake basin, including eradicating existing populations where possible. From the perspective of the trout, the abundant tui chubs and lake invertebrates have been an excellent food resource which presumably contributes to the large size attained by lake-dwelling trout. Introductions of alien fishes or invertebrates that could alter the forage base or add another predator should be banned, including the planting of hatchery trout in Oregon.
6. Because of the small size of spawning streams and the large size of adult trout, spawning redband trout are susceptible to poaching. Therefore, regular checking by wardens and others should be done each year to prevent poaching as adults mass in pools and in shallow spawning areas.
7. The Goose Lake Fishes Conservation Strategy should be fully implemented and revisited periodically to make sure it is up to date. The continued involvement of private landowners and public agencies is crucial for this effort, as is the continued involvement of University of California Cooperative Extension, which has provided coordination and scientific studies to support the conservation efforts.