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February 28, 2023

The Clear Lake Hitch, also known as the chi, is a fish species very important to the Pomo tribe in the area surrounding Clear Lake in Northern California.

Fish - Clear Lake Hitch
Close-up of Clear Lake Hitch

The species, which once flourished in great abundance, has been decimated by loss of spawning habitat, nursery areas, and the encroachment of non-native species.

Since 2017, scientists from the USGS California Water Science Center have been working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to assess Clear Lake Hitch population abundance and aspects of species habitat and life history. In February, USGS Research Fish Biologist, Frederick Feyrer, delivered a presentation to a meeting of the Lake County Board of Supervisors on the status of the Clear Lake Hitch. The presentation detailed a 96% decline in species abundance between 2017 and 2022. This decline is associated with poor recruitment of juvenile fish into the population. The exact causes of this are unknown but likely involve a combination of factors occurring within the lake’s tributaries.

After the presentation, the Lake County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to declare an emergency to save the Clear Lake hitch.