All of These Monster Invasive Fish Came Out of One Small San Francisco Lake

by on March 20, 2014

 
Jonathan Young, Presidio Trust
 

 
 

On the Map

 

Jonathan Young, a San Francisco State graduate student in biology and ecological restoration intern at the Presidio Trust, has the job of trying to restore some semblance of native life to Mountain Lake, in San Francisco’s Presidio. But as this sequence of photos shows, the native three-spined sticklebacks and Pacific chorus frogs he’d like to restore would face some ferocious predators lurking in the watery depths. So it’s Young’s job, for now, to try and get the predators out.

It’s a tough — perhaps impossible — task for a lone man with a fishing net. Mountain Lake covers about 4 acres and is around 10-12 feet deep, small in the grand scheme of things, but that doesn’t seem to have harmed its ability to support, for example, this very very big carp:

Photo courtesy Jon Young, Presidio Trust.

Courtesy Jonathan Young, Presidio Trust.

Young says a single carp can have two million eggs … in a season. There are probably 30-70 carp in the lake, he says, and if you remove 20 of them, as he did last year, well, “you do the math.”

Carp, bass, and mosquitofish are the main invaders in the lake. They didn’t get there on their own: most were released intentionally back when fishing was allowed on the lake, or by pet owners. (Young and others at the Presidio Trust have plenty of fishing already on their resumes and ask please please please don’t dump any more aquarium goldfish out there.) Sometimes people come into possession of rare, incredible monster fish, so unfortunately it follows that sometimes a rare, incredible monster fish shows up in the Mountain Lake net. Like this sturgeon.

Photo courtesy Jon Young, Presidio Trust.

Courtesy Jonathan Young, Presidio Trust.

“I have this tiny little inflatable raft, just for one person, and half of you hangs off in waders,” Young said. “I was out there early morning, all by myself, and this dinosaur comes out of the depths. It was bigger than the boat was, and it was freaking out. It was like a rodeo.”

The scene, he said, was simultaneously chaotic and hysterical: “I had to collect this five-foot long fish going crazy on my lap in this tiny boat I totally could have fallen off of. Very awkward, but very comical at the same time.”

The carp, sturgeon, many other big fish, and a wide variety of nonnative turtles that Young has collected over the years have been kept in pens and then shipped north to Sebastapol, where a distributor sends them to live out their lives in retirement in small ponds in the vineyards of Napa and Sonoma. Don’t worry if you haven’t received yours yet; Young says there’s plenty more where that came from.

“I pulled up a net the other day with a sturgeon scale bigger than the one the size you saw,” he said. “There’s a huge giant monster in there that got stuck in the net and ripped itself out. Who knows what’s lurking down there. It makes me freaked out every time I step in there in waders by myself, like something’s going to suck me down.

Part of what makes this photo series so compelling has to be Young’s expressions. There’s a Mona-Lisa-esque quality about his look. Is that uncertainty? Fear? Amusement? Derision? Boredom? Here is Young, for example, the corner of his mouth just curling downward —  sfumato or just San Francisco fog? — his eyes slightly wide, as he holds up a half-dozen netted largemouth bass. 

Courtesy Jon Young, Presidio Trust.

Courtesy Jonathan Young, Presidio Trust.

Maybe that’s because each photo is a surprisingly complicated act, Young says. Running through his head is the probable-impossibility of the task, the grandeur of the vision the task fits into, the humanity of yanking another living thing out of the water (even if it’s meant to live on elsewhere), the necessity of yanking the thing out so that some other thing can move in, the weirdness-with-just-a-touch-of-silliness about the scene of a guy in waders holding a monster prehistoric fish.

“A lot of people when they take pictures, they just automatically smile,” he said. “But I’m not happy about it. It’s just like, let’s take this picture and get it over with. It’s not like I’m flaunting this trophy.”

Bay Nature previously covered Mountain Lake’s renewal in February 2013: http://baynature.org/articles/bringing-life-back-to-mountain-lake/. For more on the project, see the Presidio Trust’s Mountain Lake project page: http://www.presidio.gov/about/Pages/mountain-lake-remediation.aspx.

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28 comments:

Josiah Clark on March 20th, 2014 at 12:24 pm

Great pictures and thanks Jonathan Young!

barbz on March 20th, 2014 at 1:58 pm

Two words: fishing derby. I no longer fish for native species, but like pig hunting, it’s a way to satisfy your human hunting instinct with helping the environment.

Joseph Kinyon on March 20th, 2014 at 5:15 pm

Way to go Jonathan! No alligators this time!

Liam O'Brien on March 21st, 2014 at 9:39 am

Eric, if Hemingway were alive today I think you would have made him proud. His “The Old Man of the Sea” and yours – “The Young Man of the Lake” Both struggling with leviathans in tiny boats. Excellent piece.

Monster fish removed and relocated out of Mountain Lake | Richmond SF Blog on March 21st, 2014 at 2:35 pm

[…] One Presidio Trust intern is still on the hunt for non-native fish, and this week he shared some unsettlingly monstrous photos of what he’s been fishing out of the lake with baynature.org. […]

Photos: Check out these beastly fish being pulled out of Mountain Lake | Richmond SF Blog on March 21st, 2014 at 2:36 pm

[…] One Presidio Trust intern is still on the hunt for non-native fish, and this week he shared some unsettlingly monstrous photos of what he’s been fishing out of the lake with baynature.org. […]

Dan Bennett on March 21st, 2014 at 3:49 pm

If there is a way to volunteer to help Jonathan, I would be interested in getting more information! I live right down the street.

Mark Jerome on March 21st, 2014 at 5:31 pm

I fear for Jonathan’s safety, as somewhere in that lake, the creature known by locals as Gigantus is waiting. Biding it’s time, until the right moment when it can catch him unawares. My ears still ring with the screams from 1981′s paddle boat disaster, with Gigantus devouring everyone aboard as we watched helplessly from the shore.

Lisa Paul on March 21st, 2014 at 5:45 pm

Why on earth would he send those invasive species to ponds in Sonoma and Napa? The native chorus frogs and Western Pacific Pond turtle (the only freshwater turtle native to the West Coast)are under siege by exactly these invasives. Species that don’t belong here should be destroyed when caught.

Dong on March 21st, 2014 at 8:45 pm

@lisa what do you think the native Americans of the Bay Area were saying back in the day? Same thing about us as an “invasive species?”

Ron Cabral on March 22nd, 2014 at 1:10 am

Catch and release… good going and very interesting about Mountain Lake.

Leigh Fonseca on March 22nd, 2014 at 10:52 am

Keep up the good work! Love you attitude, appreciate your work.

Adam on March 22nd, 2014 at 3:26 pm

@Dong Such a ridiculous comment.

Judy P. on March 22nd, 2014 at 9:22 pm

what is that, large, fish in the first picture?
what is supposed to be in the lake?
Could the sturgeon come and live in the Sacramento Delta?

Laz on March 22nd, 2014 at 9:44 pm

Is this guy for real ? Are you people morons? A carp that has 2 million eggs? That would be a whale size carp….and the monster sturgeon….? WTF?

Kelly Runyon on March 22nd, 2014 at 10:41 pm

I know a young teen in that neighborhood who is a voracious fisherman and would probably like to help. If that’s a possibility please let me know.

Chris Moore on March 23rd, 2014 at 5:54 am

Can’t you stun the fish with electricity? I saw this done on a documentary about a river keeper in England who removed all of the pike from his stretch of the river so that the original species could regenerate.

Dan on March 23rd, 2014 at 12:48 pm

Why don’t they open the lake up for fishing temporarily? There’s nowhere else decent to fish and here’s the perfect opportunity

Joan on March 24th, 2014 at 12:42 pm

Send the sturgeon back to the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania. They are endangered there.

ChuckL on March 24th, 2014 at 1:46 pm

I cringed when I saw the photos and read the description of Mr. Young, in a small boat, on a lake ten to twelve feet deep, struggling with large fish, while wearing an unclipped PFD, with no crotch strap, and heavy waders and boots. That is a disaster waiting to happen.

If you fall into the water wearing that gear, the waders and boots will fill with water, and the PFD will float up around his head and neck, offering very little, if any, flotation. Trying to tread water with your legs will be impossible, and using your arms to tread water will he hampered by the free-floating PFD. This is not a guess, … it’s from personal experience and from watching others during swimming pool tests with safety gear.

The PFD harness clips MUST be adjusted to fit, securely fastened, with at least one crotch-strap used to prevent PFD ride-up when in the water. Boots should be loose enough to easily kick off in the water. A better solution would be to use an auto-inflatable collar type of PFD, which will allow you to work easily, but will offer much more positive flotation.

The fact that you’re in a small lake means nothing. With the gear Jonathan is shown wearing, he would struggle to swim twenty feet.

I’ve already seen one dead body in the lake. No need for more.

Barbara Keller on March 25th, 2014 at 12:23 pm

I’d go fishing with him!! Beauty and the beasts! …good work!!

John Gray on March 26th, 2014 at 8:44 am

I grew up there and played around Kane as a kid. We used to jump off the top swing- fish- go rafting- and used to get a bunch of kids together to wade in a line in the shallow end between the submerged fence and the beach and corner done pretty giant carp. We used to catch turtles- minnows and sticklebacks.

Myrte the swan lived there- so did the alligator that made people aware there was actually a lake there.
We fed the ducks with the Gardner for many many years- I forget his name- but 1 guy managed to take care of the whole park before there were u deft round sprinklers. He even mowed the grass.

It was an urban park that many kids loved. All those “invAsive” things that are being removed are a part of evolution. Hawaii was a big volcanic nothing- but birds settlers and Polynesians brought everything that is there now. Perhaps we should return Hawaii to its natural state- lava fields.

Also- since presidio trust removed the eucalyptus next to the freeway- the lake is no longer tranquil and calming. All you hear is traffic- the trees blocked the noise- but unfortunately the debris from the trees caused damage.

The presidio trust is way to draconian in its efforts to go back 500 years. The soil has all been amended from sand- which is the natural habitat. All the cypress and bushes next to baker beach have been removed that were a natural habitat for rare birds and wildlife to hide. Now we have predatory birds preyi g on smaller birds- we have coyotes killing raccoons- rabbits- and squirrels and other small animals.

I used to walk my dogs in back of the public health hospital – and naturalists used to break eucalyptus and other plants they determined were not a part of gods plan. Now- the presidio trust has realized it is virtually impossible to rid the area of these trees that are wind barriers and provide shelter for small birds.

Moviing the sand from the excavated deyoung garage- and putting a sign up stating “rare sand dunes” is an example of how the presidio trust is spinning their policies.

Oh- and off leash dogs ? Park rangers and other equestrians riding freely through the park is in alignment with nature. Dogs have found dead bodies I. The presidio and on the beach- dog guardians are more responsible than any other park users- and should be allowed to walk their dogs under control off leash.

Science news & reports: Watershed momentum, lower food web dynamics, IEP Annual Workshop, monster invasive fish found in San Francisco lake, and more » MAVEN'S NOTEBOOK | MAVEN'S NOTEBOOK on March 27th, 2014 at 7:02 am

[…] All of these monster invasive fish came out of one small San Francisco lake:  “Jonathan Young, a San Francisco State graduate student in biology and ecological restoration intern at the Presidio Trust, has the job of trying to restore some semblance of native life to Mountain Lake, in San Francisco’s Presidio. But as this sequence of photos shows, the native three-spined sticklebacks and Pacific chorus frogs he’d like to restore would face some ferocious predators lurking in the watery depths. So it’s Young’s job, for now, to try and get the predators out. … “  Read more and check out the pictures from Bay Nature here:  All of These Monster Invasive Fish Came Out of One Small San Francisco Lake […]

The Sunday Best: Last week’s most popular posts and out-clicks » MAVEN'S NOTEBOOK | MAVEN'S NOTEBOOK on March 30th, 2014 at 2:01 am

[…] All of These Monster Invasive Fish Came Out of One Small San Francisco Lake, article from Bay-Nature […]

patrick on March 30th, 2014 at 4:45 pm

Dkn’t see why such effort and care is being taken. with non native invasive fish. Just dump in some rotenone and tbey will float to the surface.

Sheldon Bachus on March 31st, 2014 at 4:50 pm

The acts reported by this article reflect neither good science nor rational environmental policy planning and implementation. The taking and killing of a white sturgeon (Acipenser transmontanus) contravenes California Fish and Wildlife regulations unless specifically excluded as part of the Presidio Trust’s environmental permit to restore Mountain Lake. Most importantly, A. transmontanus is not an invasive species, and has been present in California certainly since the end of the Pleistocene. BayNature’s sense of “invasive”, and by implication that of both the Presidio Ttrust and Jonathon Young as well, is at best histrionic and at worst both specious and self-serving.

trollolo on April 11th, 2014 at 1:13 am

Must be Bush’s fault…

Koma on July 3rd, 2014 at 7:38 pm

I say leave the fish in the lake. catch them naturally with hook & line. way more fun. I have been fishing for over 64 yrs & this non native stuff is a bit too much. catch em, & keep them or catch & release. taking out the sturgeon by net & removing all the “bad ones ” sez who ? Sounds like the P.C. disease has reached into nature in Liberal S.F. Must be Bush’s fault too. I like Sheldon Bachus’s comment . Stop all this insanity. Just go fishing, have some fun & leave no garbage behind.
Amen. What a waste of time to do this.

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