|Fishing derby saved by philanthropic biologist
If Roberts Lake in Rohnert Park had a tide, one could say the tides have drastically turned for the fate of annual fishing derby. Last week, Ken Zschach, organizer of the event, wasn't sure if the fishing derby was even going to happen this year.
Now everything has changed and the fishing derby is slated for its annual May 22 date.
"Unless the red-legged or yellow legged frogs are actually found in the lake, the fishing derby will definitely be happening afterall," said Zscach.
Due to a pending lawsuit against the Department of Fish and Game to protect the red-legged and foothill yellow-legged frogs, Zschach couldn't get a stocking permit approved without a certified biologist conducting a habitat survey to confirm the frogs don't reside in Roberts Lake, the event's location.
Zschach had said, "The problem is Fish and Game only has two certified biologists to conduct the survey for all the (stocking) lakes in California and I can't get one in time for this year."
To hire a private biologist costs between $20,000-$25,000 and he just didn't have the funding to cover the cost. About $5,000 in sponsor donations covers the annual cost for the whole event.
Zscach said unless he could get a certified biologist to donate time, waive the fee and write up a survey, "After 26 years, I'm going to have to cancel the fishing derby." He then added, "...maybe there'll be a miracle." And a "miracle" seemingly happened over night.
One day after a story appeared in this newspaper about the derby, a certified wildlife biologist, Brian Pittman of Rohnert Park, called Zschach and agreed to conduct the survey free of charge.
"He said he read the story in the paper," said Zscach. "He just basically said, ‘I'm a certified biologist and I want to do it.' I was totally shocked."
Zsach was especially pleased with Pittman's call because he'd been given a deadline of April 15 to complete the survey and obtain a stocking permit or he wouldn't be able to reserve enough fish in time.
He says now he scrambling - he's got "a lot of things to get done" right now. By this time each year he's already sent out his donation letters, has received funding, and he normally orders fish in February.
Because its so late in the year, he said he'll only be able to order about two-thirds of what he normally gets and "probably won't" get as many of the larger fish than previous years.
Zscach said he's thrilled about the turn of events and is excited Pittman already started the survey Sunday. "It's not an easy undertaking," said Zsach. "It's going to take a lot of time."
Eight days, to be exact. Pittman will have to spend 40-50 hours spread out between four days and four nights to determine whether or not the frogs have made the lake their home.
In the meantime, Zsach said he's already spoken to Fish and Game and they're waiting for the survey to be completed upon which they will immediately issue and mail-out Zscach's permit to stock the lake.
"We'll just have to wait and see what happens," he said.
Brian makes me proud to be a Certified Wildlife Biologist!