First off, I’d like to make an official request to the weather gods here and ask if we could possibly get a little winter this year. While I have enjoyed the spring-like weather, it would sure be nice to have a few really good storms roll through before it’s all said and done.
After last year’s epic winter, all we really needed in 2012 was a decent amount of rain and snow and we’d be golden for another couple of years. But the way this thing is going, I’m not so sure that’s going to be the case.
Luckily, most of our reservoirs are still in pretty good shape thanks to last year’s snowpack, but we’re on the fast track to a drought if things don’t change. One year ago today, the “D Word” was unfathomable. The rivers were raging and the lakes full to the brim or higher. The rain kept on coming and the snow in the Sierras was at record levels. I was in Tahoe the first week of April and it snowed over 10 feet in five days! That’s more than we have seen all this winter…
With all that rain, we had a beautiful resurgence in local fisheries last spring and summer. The striped bass run was amazing in the Valley rivers and sturgeon fishing in San Pablo Bay raged on well into the summer. The king salmon came back with a vengeance and fisheries all up and down the state were vibrant. Juvenile fish counts in the Delta were also up — from striped bass to delta smelt to American shad and steelhead.
All thanks to the water.
If nothing else, last winter’s bounty illuminated for us what Northern California’s fisheries could look like all the time if we didn’t ship so much water south to corporate farms and swimming pools in the desert.
So, is all lost this year?
Well, not necessarily. It’s my own personal belief that winter seems to be coming later and later. For the past several years (even last year), we have had a prolonged dry spell and “false spring” late in the winter. We get a week or two of 70-degree weather in February pretty much every year… except last winter. But if you’ll recall, even during the magical winter of 2011, the entire month of January was bone dry.
I also recently heard a local TV meteorologist talking about the same thing. He said that he looked back through 100 or so year’s worth of records and noted that there have been other strange winters like this, dry early and then very wet in March and April. He was quick to caution people to not expect a late-blossoming winter… but it’s not out of the realm of possibility, either.
So, I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what develops. As with most La Nina years, it’s typically an all or nothing type of situation as far as rain goes. Obviously, last winter was an example of one extreme, and this one’s quite the opposite. But keep your fingers crossed that we’ll see some late season magic.
In the meantime, do a rain dance.
J.D. Richey is a 1986 Placer High graduate whose outdoors pieces have been published nationally. Find him online at www.fishwithjd.com.