Counties of Santa Barbara, Ventura and San Luis Obispo

Steelhead Restoration - Implementation Guidelines

Southern California is home to the southernmost extant populations of steelhead rainbow trout. These fish possess unique adaptations, represent and important part of the state's anadromous resources, and serve as vital indicators of the overall health of the aquatic ecosystems of Southern California coastal watersheds (Finney and Edmondson, 2000). In recent years, some new partnerships have been forged, like the Tri-County F.I.S.H. Team, to restore habitat vital to the salmon and steelhead trout resources.

Salmon and steelhead runs have declined precipitously throughout the state in recent decades (California Advisory Committee on Salmon and Steelhead Trout, 1988). The way land is used today directly affects the quantity and quality of water available for salmon and steelhead. Interruption of the water regime through water extraction, introduction of silt from erosion due to road building or other hillside construction activities which destroy steelhead spawning beds and smother developing eggs, and blockage of fish passage as a result of dams have all contributed to the decline of Southern California steelhead. In addition, dams and water management activities often restrict steelhead spawning and rearing to lower elevation stream reaches where summer water temperature is often too high for juvenile rearing (Finney and Edmondson, 2000). However, because of its hardiness and its ability to re-colonize, many biologists and ecologists express a guarded optimism that the southern steelhead population will not be lost.

The conservation of salmon and steelhead trout habitat in California is possible and can be achieved. The development of successful fish habitat restoration methods and protocols by Department of Fish and Game (DFG) allow for anadromous fish habitat to be repaired and become productive again. There are over 30 different types of fish habitat restoration projects funded by DFG for coastal watersheds (i.e., fish passage projects, instream habitat restoration projects, streambank stabilization projects, vegetation management projects, and etc.). Getting a stream habitat enhancement project implemented can be a rather complicated process. To view our step-by-step guide on how to move through this process click here.