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May 14th, 2014 MARTY SMITH | Dr. Know
 

Dr. Know: A Local Fish Story

What are the chances that there are monster-sized fish swimming in Bull Run?

drknowILLUSTRATION: Hawk Krall

With Bull Run being off limits to most everyone for years, there could be some monster-sized fish swimming around in there. Has it ever been considered for a monster-fish reality-TV show?

—Stimpy

Be careful what you wish for, Stimpy—if you think pee in your water is bad, imagine how you’d feel if it was tainted with essence-of-reality-TV-producer. They say when MTV shot an episode of The Real World: San Francisco on the Hetch Hetchy reservoir, the Bay Area’s tap water tasted of hair gel and schadenfreude for months.

At least part of your premise, however, is sound: Waterways in Bull Run are off limits not only to fisherfolk, but to almost all dirty, nature-despoiling humans—no one is allowed inside the romantically named Bull Run Watershed Management Unit (BRWMU) except Water Bureau or Forest Service employees on official business.

So if the fish in Bull Run are safe—or at least as safe as anything in the food chain can be—have some of them been growing to Cthulhu-like proportions over the last few decades?

In a word, probably not. (Technically, that’s two words, but whatever.) I looked through the Water Bureau’s list of the 21 fish species in the BRWMU, and over half of them are small, crummy, minnowlike fish—shiners, dace, sculpins—that could grow forever and still not be big enough to stick out of a hot-dog bun.

But what of the other listed species, the mighty salmonids? Chinook, coho, steelhead—surely in this pristine, angler-free environment they must be growing to prodigious size, right?

Except they can’t. With rare exceptions, salmon are anadromous—they’re born in fresh water, do their growing in the ocean, and only return to fresh water to spawn. There may be big fish in Bull Run, but they got big somewhere else.


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