Clear Lake Hitch - Endangered?


This small fish has become a hot topic around Lake County, California, with Clear Lake the center of the debate. Depending on who is writing on the subject you will see many differing views and the content, along with the “spin”, of the articles you read will vary. Everything from articles sounding like the “Hitch” is already on the Endangered Species list and almost extinct to articles without too much definitive information because of the lack of true scientific studies to validate the state of the species. The first kind of article seems to this author to be extreme and premature. The second kind of article is more on point because even the Fish and Wildlife biologists don’t even know exactly what the status of the Hitch is.

To say that this is a very complex and controversial issue is an understatement. The varying special interest groups each have their own stake in this debate. Some groups want the environment returned to basic native species only. These groups will promote that any non-native species of plant or animal life needs to be eliminated from the environment. This can be taken to any degree of extreme so that group gets it’s primary goal achieved, whatever that is. We have read about premature listing’s of “endangered species” based on initial “scientific findings” only to be proven false by new scientific findings produced after more time has elapsed. For example, the report that was used to list the spotted owl on the endangered species list and the devastation of the logging industry was years later found to contain false “findings”. For example, the first report indicated that the spotted owl could only nest in “old growth” forest. Then this author saw a picture approximately 15 years later of a spotted owl nest on the top of a power pole with live power lines on it. This kinda disproves the earlier findings that cost the economies of many Oregon community’s millions of dollars and lots of jobs. Then there are other groups who only care about their special interest like fishing or farming without any concern for all issues that affect the balance of the whole environment and I believe we need “balance” concerning all sides of any issue.

In my opinion, there are groups out there using any governmental agency any way they can to stop all hunting and fishing activities. There are many instances where this has been done in other areas with minimal studies and agency’s arriving at premature conclusions without more than one study by multiple scientists from both sides of the issue. Then when later facts and follow up studies prove that the original studies were based on “false science” the damage is done. The part of this scenario I mention that I really disagree with is when an endangered species listing if found to be wrong, the species listing is not then removed from the list and future impact of a false listing seems to continue.

I think this issue will take a lot of time to study and without previous factual historical basis we will still end up with a hypothetical conclusion.

From the outset I believe it is obvious the case can be made that bass eat Hitch, farming damages streambeds, water flow and water quality, which impact the spawn of the Hitch. To be realistic the Pomo Indians don’t need to eat the Hitch to survive in these modern times but still need to be allowed to harvest some. In one article published, “climate change” is listed as a “man made” issue that affects the Hitch. If we look at the climate changes that have taken effect over history, ice ages and volcanic ages for example, I think a case could be made for global cooling just like in the volcanic ages a case can be made for global warming. Then the slight changes when coming out of an ice age for example is global warming but this is not man made. It’s nothing more than a natural phenomenon.

These natural phenomenon’s have an affect on various species of plants, animals and fish. These affects cannot be manipulated by legislation. Some things come and some things go, it’s just the way nature works. As for the “Clear Lake Hitch” and the “Clear Lake Splittail” which is believed to be the cousin of the Hitch and considered to be extinct, we need to cautiously proceed with decisions that impact all parties with a vested interest in said decisions. Also above, is a photo of a fish in my hand from Lake Lopez that looks like a “Clear Lake Hitch” to me. I have seen these same fish in another lake on the central coast but didn’t take any pictures. I submit that the “Hitch” either from Clear Lake, or any other lake that is connected to the coastal range that runs down the length of California could be related and not endangered. Any of these streams or impoundments on these streams could have “Hitch” in them. If they are in three different lakes, then they could be more prevalent than previously thought or at least admitted to.

Above is a picture of a government issued and posted sign warning the public that the “Hitch” in Oso Flaco Lake are not fit for human consumption because of possible contamination. Hmm, there are Hitch in Oso Flaco Lake, approximately 250 miles south of Clear Lake in California?

I found a history of Clear Lake in a search on the internet that came from an education web site;

In this study; Gregory A. Giusti, from the University of California Cooperative Extension, wrote this on March 2009. On page 10 of this report, Mr. Giusti reports that smallmouth bass were introduced to Clear Lake in 1875 and Florida Strain Largemouth in 1967. The “small native minnow” of which I can only assume included the Hitch swarmed by the thousands and were a “problem”. Now with a balance in the lake with the introduction of predator species to keep all these previously perceived “problems” in check a new agenda has come up and now after over 45 years the largemouth bass is a problem? Or is there something else behind this endangered species listing?

This subject has a long way to go before an honest and truthful conclusion can be arrived at. Alot of studies and discussion will be gone over to do the Hitch and all affected parties’ justice on this matter. I hope history will not prove this endangered species event to be another time where there was a rush to a decision before the truth is found.

This is only the opinion of this author and my take on what I have seen take place over the past several decades. I was born, raised and still reside in Paso Robles California. I am an avid hunter, fisherman and outdoor enthusiast. I may be biased to one side of this issue but I believe there have been abuses in the past of some government policies and don’t want to see these policies misused in the future.