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Steelhead have returned to Arroyo Hondo Creek! 

The creek is flowing at Arroyo Hondo Preserve and steelhead trout are back.

Ten years ago, with grants from the Coastal Conservancy and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Land Trust embarked upon a project to help steelhead recovery efforts and restore steelhead habitat at Arroyo Hondo and the positive effects are evident! The first step involved construction of a fish ladder within the culvert that runs beneath Highway 101 at Arroyo Hondo Creek to enhance the downstream lagoon and improve fish passage for the native steelhead. Now that several baffles are installed in the culvert to slow down the flow of water and provide areas of deeper water and resting pools, the steelhead have an excellent chance for successful spawning. This seelhead was spotted in Arroyo Hondo creek last month.

More about Southern California steelhead

Steelhead trout are one of six Pacific salmon species that are native to the west coast of North America and are currently the only species of this group that naturally reproduces within the coastal watersheds of Southern California.

Steelhead are a unique species. Individuals develop differently depending on their environment. While all steelhead hatch in the gravel bottoms of healthy rivers and streams, some live all their lives in fresh water. These are known as rainbow trout. For reasons still unknown, others migrate to the ocean and spend their lives moving between sea and fresh water. These are steelhead; they grow larger than rainbow trout and become silvery in color. After maturing in the ocean, adult steelhead migrate upstream to reach their spawning grounds. The diversity of these life-history strategies has allowed steelhead to take advantage of different habitats and to persist in the highly variable and challenging Southern California environment.

Steelhead habitat in Santa Barbara County includes Arroyo Hondo Creek, El Jaro Creek, Goleta Slough, Carpinteria Marsh and the Santa Ynez River—all watersheds you’ll recognize as related to the Land Trust’s conservation and restoration efforts. Over the years, steelhead have faced many threats such as pollution, drought, erosion, and the loss of plants and trees along streambanks and physical barriers, including dams and concrete channels, which have prevented them from traveling upstream. It’s a testament to how tough they are that steelhead are still found in Santa Barbara County.

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