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


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