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High mountain frogs, trout angling don't mix
The addition of two more amphibians to the state's endangered species list under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, has the potential to impact the trout angling industry.
On Friday, the Fish and Game Commission voted unanimously to protect two species of native frogs, the Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog and the Southern Mountain yellow-legged frog. Collectively the two species of frogs are commonly known as the mountain yellow-legged frog.
Under protection afforded listed species by the Endangered Species Act, harming or capturing of mountain yellow-legged frogs will be illegal without prior authorization from the Department of Fish and Game.
Mountain yellow-legged frogs live in lakes, ponds, streams and meadows in the Sierra Nevada, Transverse and Peninsular mountain ranges of California.
High mountain bodies of water closest to Tehama County that have a mountain yellow-legged frog population sit directly east of Corning in the Bucks Lake Wilderness, said Mitch Lockhart, of the Department of Fish and Game Fisheries Branch.
"That is the most northern area impacted by the listing," he stated. "There is a frog species, the Cascade frog, in other areas of the Lassen National Park that is designated special species concern, but they have no formal protection."
According to Fish and Game, the mountain yellow-legged frogs have disappeared from more than 75 percent of their historical habitats, largely due to the introduction of trout to high elev tion water bodies, and the spread of a potent fungal infection implicated in amphibian extinctions worldwide.
The stocked trout feed on the frogs' tadpoles, Lockhart said.
In response to the decline in the frogs' numbers, authorities have reduced the number of remote mountain lakes stocked with trout from 617 to 113. Those lakes are all above the 5,000-foot elevation.
"The lakes impacted by the new listing are the aerial stocking program lakes, sites that are stocked by plane due to the remote locations. Those are the ones where we fly over and drop the fish into the waters," Lockhart said. "That is a very small slice of the bodies of water the Department of Fish and Game stocks."
He explained the trout stocking of most bodies of water is done by truck delivery.
"We understand that the listing of the mountain yellow-legged frog will impact the trout angling industry because every lake is somebody's favorite fishing hole," Lockhart said. "What we are attempting to do is to offset those lost opportunities by making improvements to other trout stocked water bodies."
At one time almost all high mountain lakes in the Sierra Nevada were fishless, but very much alive with native amphibians and aquatic vertebrates such as the mountain yellow-legged frogs, according to the Department of Fish and Game.
Fish and Game's High Mountain Waters program has been at the forefront of mountain yellow-legged frog conservation and management efforts since the mid-1990s.
The program has collaborated with federal agencies to restore mountain yellow-legged frog habitat, support important research and provide recreational angling opportunity in a manner that does not conflict with mountain yellow-legged frog recovery efforts.