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TROUT OF STEEL


State Street is no longer the only place where Santa Barbarans can catch a glimpse of the endangered steelhead trout. Live fish — an approximately 16-inch adult and several juvenile smolts — were recently spotted in a stretch of Mission Creek near the downtown area. The sightings — which have been enjoyed by neighborhood residents and several city council officials in recent weeks — mark the fifth time in the past seven years that the embattled steelhead has been seen swimming in Mission creek. In a perfect world, adult steelhead swim upstream from the ocean to lay their eggs; the newborns later make their way out to sea to start the cycle anew. However, humanmade impediments, such as the concrete flood controls in Mission Creek, make it virtually impossible for the fish to make their annual pilgrimage, forcing them to struggle to reproduce — with little success — in the pools created by the humanmade structures. As the adult fish hasn’t had a confirmed sighting since last Thursday, Santa Barbara City Creeks Advisory Commission member Davis Pritchett suspects the trout has returned to the ocean to try again next year or to try out a different creek. It remains a positive sign that steelhead — who once thrived in the Mission Creek area — still consider Santa Barbara home, and continue to carry out their traditional reproductive behavior despite a depleted population. This month’s visit also offers additional fuel to slow-burning plans for a Mission Creek Steelhead Restoration Project.  — Ethan Stewart



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