Despite its remote location, the McCloud River has faced threats from human activity for almost 100 years. In 1945, the world-class salmon runs that historically traveled hundreds of miles up the Sacramento River to spawn in the upper reaches of the McCloud were cut off by completion of Shasta Dam. By the early 1970s, much of the McCloud River watershed was privately owned and the river was at risk from the devastating effects of poaching and upstream logging. In order to ensure the protection of the remaining fisheries and surrounding watershed, the McCloud River Club donated half of its holdings to TNC. In 1973, using the land donated by the Club, TNC established the 2,330-acre McCloud River Preserve to ensure that this magnificent river would be protected. Today, the Kerry Landreth Preserve at the McCloud River is widely recognized as a success story. It is a place where TNC has established a tradition of practicing sound science while also providing world-class angling opportunities for the public—a shining example of how resources can be managed with both recreation and conservation in mind. TNC allows for managed public use at the McCloud River Preserve so that the community can enjoy limited catch-and-release fishing. Approximately 1,500 visitors come through the preserve each year, the majority of whom are anglers fishing for rainbow and brown trout. Throughout the fishing season, TNC staff conduct research to facilitate science-based decision-making when it comes to maintaining the health and biodiversity of the Preserve and the surrounding area. For decades, TNC scientists have collected water quality data on the McCloud River in order to create a comprehensive picture of its overall health and to identify restoration needs. The data collected by our staff is shared with conservationists, public agencies, and landowners to help inform decisions about the management and stewardship of the McCloud watershed. Due to the longevity and continuity of our monitoring program on the McCloud, the annual report we produce has also become a valuable resource to scientific researchers concerned with watershed health more broadly.
In addition to our water quality monitoring, each angler who fishes at the Preserve is asked to record information about the duration of their visit and their catch results for the day. This dataset is now over 20 years old, and we use estimated numbers of fish caught per hour as an index for relative trout abundance from year to year. Population monitoring helps us assess the general health of the McCloud trout fisheries over time, and we are able to use this data to gauge how trout have responded to wildfires, floods, and other landscape-scale changes. Our understanding of these complex relationships feeds back into our management of the Preserve and helps inform our management of other trout fisheries across California.