The Creek Fire - California

The Creek Fire is the Largest Single Incident Fire in California State History, and the 4th largest fire in the state over all. The fire started on Augusta 4th and is still smoldering in places as of December 17th. It burned almost 380,000 acres in Fresno and Madera Counties to about 11 miles shy of the town Mammouth Lakes, on the East side of the range. Due to droughts and Pine Bark Beetle Infestations, we had millions upon millions of standing and fallen dead trees to fuel the fires. In some places, 40% or more of the forests were lost to beetle destruction. Now, it remains to be seen how many of those High Fuel Load Dead Trees did not burn and remain to fuel future fires.

California has 20 National Forests, and all of them were closed this Fire Season. Sierra National Forest is still closed to public use and will probably remain so until the beginning of 2021.

More than 800 structures were destroyed or damaged, which by California Fire standards is not a lot, but it needs to be remembered that these areas are very sparsely settled. With the uncontrollable fuel loads of more than 100 years of a National Policy of Fire Suppression, it produced temperatures in the 1,500 degrees range on the ground. How the trout fisheries faired in all of this destruction remains to be seen but can not be good, and this was just one of 28 or more fires we had all going on at the same time in this state. Anyone who doubts Climate Change is just Pissing into A Very Strong Head Wind.

Karl. Sorry to hear. We had chatted about the limited fishing opportunities in your area compared to Canada, but the angler population was the concern at that time. Now to have such large amounts of land burn down is devastating.

I recently listened to the Orvis Fly Fishing podcast interview with Becky Flitcroft (Nov 26, 2020) where they discussed how trout streams typically bounce back to be healthier than pre-fires within 5 years. However, I suspect they were discussing typical fires and not 1,500 degree infernos like seen in California.

I am hoping that some of those regions can bounce back and become thriving fisheries again, for you and future generations.

There’s two places I fish in NM that were hit by a wildfires in 2012. One burned 44,000 acres in the heart of the wilderness which included killing the fish in the main creek which flowed from that wilderness drainage. The other that burned 221,000 acres killed scores of endangered Gila trout. The Gilas have been replanted through and extensive effort which involved riding in on horseback and rescuing trout before the creeks turned to ash. The other wilderness area I had not seen fish in the creek since the fire until this past September when I observed and caught some sizeable brook trout. The creek had numerous brook trout before. Somehow nature figures out a way to come back with time. As far as climate change goes, humans most likely have hastened it along in our shortsightedness, but it would occur whether we are here to see it or not. This planet in 4.6 billion years has undergone dramatic changes and will experience more changes well into the future long after we are gone.

Karl this is horrible news. I had fished some water in that area years ago and always intended on returning. It is devistating to have our access to nature and fisheries stripped from us as a result of poor environmental management or natural event.

Things have clearly been changing for the worse. I think we see it as people that get outside and pay attention to the eco system. A favorite place I enjoyed fishing was burned out a couple of years ago and it was devastating to the area. I went up to another place I enjoy this fall and it looked apocalyptic. The ground and everything around was dry and appeared to be dying, to add insult to injury the area was full of trash from disrespectful campers. Other areas are being trashed by over use from cattle. It gets depressing for sure.

I doubt that we will get the straight story.

I just want the facts on climate change.

I think it is celestial and augmented by man.

But, that’s just what I think.

I think some fire is good, it is a natural process but man intervenes.

Man is also part of nature.

I think it is the nature of men to war and fight and also heal and nurture.

I just want the truth and I want us to not pollute our environment, to live in harmony.


My son and I were on his first backpacking trip roundabout when the fires were at their worst. We took a water taxi across Saddlebag Lake on the edge of Tuolumne Meadows. The smoke was absolutely terrible.

@Adam_Trahan comment reminded me of this fascinating article I read a while back.


Isaac, thank you so much for putting the link up to the Indian Fire Management Tool Article. It is most enlightening and helpful and lays the blame where it is justly deserved.

I have now fished a few streams in the Creek Fire burn area. Wonder of wonders, some trout did survive. There are not as many fish as there were before the fire, that’s for sure. But there are fish where the fire burned down to the water on both sides of the creek and burned drift logs lying in the water, and these were wild fish in a stream that gets hatchery fish near the campground.

The other creek has never seen a hatchery truck but gets spawning browns that come it out of an irrigation/power impoundment below and recruits rainbows and brook trout from several back country lakes above, so there is definitely hope for the future, at least in these two cases…Karl

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I fished a stream last year that had been in the middle of a major fire here in CA just the year before, and in the absence of people at the campgrounds that may not open for a couple years, and the stocking program associated with them, the fishing for wild rainbow trout was very good.

Further explorations found that same result in other burned watersheds elsewhere.

Nature, in the absence of people, finds a way.