|From Trout Unlimited California and CalTrout|
Dear fellow advocates for California’s trout and salmon,
On March 1st, 2021 the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) implemented new Inland Trout Sportfishing regulations that will change the angling season(s) and experience on many waters. CDFW will also, as directed by the California Fish and Wildlife Commission, changed the general statewide fishing regulations on March 1.The final regulation packet can be found here.
Regulations for your favorite trout streams may have changed so please review this packet before your next visit to the river.As many of you are aware, Trout Unlimited California and California Trout have followed the state’s regulatory change process closely, and engaged in multiple ways with CDFW and the Commission to make sure that our wild trout populations are conserved and that our best special regulations waters retain their unique character and fishing experience.
Since the initial proposal for simplifying the Inland Trout Regulations was released in early 2019, TU and CalTrout worked collaboratively to deliver our members’ values and priorities to both CDFW staff and to the Fish and Wildlife Commission, throughout the public comment period.
Our principal goals were:to protect and enhance populations and habitat of native and wild trout;to support the Department’s goals with respect to establishment and management of designated Wild Trout waters;to support the Department’s goals with respect to the R3 program (which aims to recruit and retain more purchasers of California fishing and hunting licenses, in part through improving angling opportunities statewide);to honor long-established angling traditions and practices for specific waters, where these are consistent with broader resource management goals;To improve access for angling where appropriate or critically needed.Some of our priorities are reflected in the new regulations. In particular, the new general statewide regulations now require catch-and-release only, no-bait practices for the winter and early spring, in all streams.
Such measures are appropriate during that season, when most trout species are vulnerable as they congregate and spawn. Previously, the statewide regulations allowed a 5 fish take, 10 fish bag limit year-round with no gear restrictions.However, the final simplified regulations do not go far enough to protect our wild trout waters, especially given the impacts on coldwater fisheries of the hotter and drier conditions we are projected to experience in California.
We must manage our trout resources more flexibly, with better monitoring of wild and native trout population trends, if we want future generations of anglers to have the same opportunities we do today.Moreover, the State’s focus on “simplifying” freshwater angling regulations limited their willingness to keep some of the special regulations that have helped define the fishing experience on many iconic streams. CDFW and the Commission should re-visit and revise the new regulations for the following to better conserve native and wild trout populations or to enable better access throughout the year (there are likely other waters that also merit adjustments to their regulations).
Upper Sacramento River: Rather than three different regulations for different stream segments for this famous, wild trout-dominated water, we recommend a unified regulation: year-round, 2 fish bag, barbless artificial lures only. This would maintain harvest opportunities while adequately protecting large spawning fish that migrate up from Shasta Lake. Such a regulation would better meet the primary management objective of the 2000 Fishery Management Plan for the Upper Sacramento River (“to develop a world-class wild trout fishery”).
East Walker River: This trophy wild trout water, by long tradition primarily a catch and release fishery, has had a year-round season—until now. The new regulations close the “EW” from November 15th through the last Saturday in April, and allow increased harvest (from 1 trout to 2 trout) for the full open season. For this iconic water we support catch-and-release angling year-round with barbless artificial lures.
Mokelumne River: The new, simplified regulations allow for harvest of wild trouton “The Moke.” Our proposal is for catch-and-release angling year-round with artificial, barbless lures from the Highway 49 Bridge downstream to Lake Pardee at Middle Bar Bridge. That would make The Moke the sole catch-and-release only stream in the Sierra foothills, while maintaining harvest off Middle Bar Bridge (provides angling opportunities for persons with disabilities).
East Fork Carson River: The new regulations allow harvest of wild trout in this river downstream of Hangman Bridge (traditionally catch-and-release only water). We support a return to catch-and-release regulations with artificial lures and barbless hooks from Hangman Bridge to the Nevada state line. This management approach would best meet two primary goals under the 1979 East Fork Carson River Wild Trout Management Plan.
Fall River Complex (includes Ahjumawi, Eastman Lake, Lava Springs, and Bear Creek): This famous fishery, one of California’s few true spring creeks, now allows harvest and use of bait. We support a year-round angling season here with single barbless, artificial lures only and zero take.Lastly, the new, simplified Inland Trout Regulations continue the State’s over-reliance on hatchery production and stocking to provide trout fishing opportunity in many waters. This model is outdated, costly, and inconsistent with other resource management and conservation goals and policies.TU and CalTrout will continue to work with CDFW and the Fish and Wildlife Commission to monitor the performance of the new simplified regulations and to revisit and revise them as needed to protect native and wild trout and the angling experience on certain waters.
We will hold CDFW accountable to do post-regulation change monitoring and creel surveys, provide support for monitoring through our staffs and memberships, and keep an open dialogue with CDFW staff. We will also lead efforts to submit petitions for changes to the new regulations, as needed or appropriate.We appreciate your continued support for our advocacy on behalf of California’s native and wild trout, and to preserve the unique character and angling experience of certain streams.
For more information, or to convey a concern, please contact TU’s Sam Sedillo (email@example.com) or CalTrout’s Patrick Samuel (firstname.lastname@example.org).
If you read my “Ten things to cheer about in 2020,” then you know my No. 1 item was the election of Joe Biden on a climate agenda. The proof is in the pudding as they say. Check out this except from the story on PBS Newshour:
Bruce Adams, who stood next to Trump cheering at the Utah Capitol in 2017 when he signed the declaration shrinking the monument, said Wednesday he thinks it’s a foregone conclusion Biden will restore Bears Ears to the size Obama created, if not make it larger. Adams is county commissioner in the area where the monument is located and said the impact on the county of having to clean up trash and rescue unprepared visitors outweighs any benefit from people spending money at local hotels and restaurants.
See you on the river, Jim Burns
We’ve never experienced anything like this year that’s coming to a close, both collectively and individually. As my wife and I watched the Christmas star last week, its first appearance in some 700 years, it made me wonder. As a writer, I’m all about signs and portends, so I thought it could either mean the coming apocalypse or a brighter future, as it did so many centuries ago. I chose the latter.
As we have all watched so many of our systems go haywire or barely hang on, there is still much to cheer. Here are my Top 10 in no particular order.
- Election of Joe Biden on a climate agenda
- The former president’s environmental record is beyond abysmal. Start with the shrinking of Bear’s Ears National Monument and rushed move to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling. Both are a disgrace to our heritage of enjoying federally owned open lands.
- Women embrace fly fishing
- From April Vokey’s podcast, to Montana Rodsmiths’ Aurora Lady Flex, unique rods build for women, to #chickswhofish, the sport is taking on a much-needed feminine side.
- Rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement, some major corps pledge to cut emissions
- It may not be perfect, but it’s a beginning with a goal of zero emissions by 2050 or 2060, depending on who you read. Climate change is real and caused by human activity. May disdain for science and disdain for experts now live only in the past. My grandson will thank you.
- Defeating Bristol Bay
- Alaska’s Trout Unlimited brought the heat and, as a result of a sustained community effort, the Pebble Mine isn’t being dug. The effort was two decades long, and we should all thank TU’s Meghan Barker for the many days she personally devoted to this defeat.
- Bring down the Klamath Dams
- As CalTrout writes “The removal process for the four Klamath Dams will start in 2021 and extend into 2023. We look forward to celebrating the day when the Klamath River flows freely for the first time in over a century, and more than 300 miles of spawning and rearing habitat are once again accessible to native salmon and steelhead.” The Iron Gate Dam will be the largest in history to come down.
- New sentiments and community effort: the Eklutna Dam in Alaska falls
- From Trout Unlimited: “Return to Us chronicles the historic effort spearheaded by Eklutna, Inc. and The Conservation Fund to remove the abandoned Lower Eklutna Dam and kickstart the return of diminished salmon runs to the river in Southcentral Alaska, near Anchorage.” In 2019, 90 dams in 26 states fell, setting a record number. I don’t currently have the 2020 figures.
- Beginnings of a fish passage on the Los Angeles River
- Planning has begun to deepen part of the river to allow the endangered Southern California Steelhead access to its spawning grounds in the mountains. We are still a very long way off from the entire river being navigable for these fish, but it’s a start.
- There are still wild trout in the San Gabriel mountains
- The loss of the West Fork is a devastating experience for those of us who love the outdoors. I wrote a story for the upcoming “California Fly Fisher” (hard copy only) in which those in the know recommend other spots for fish and enjoy. My last outing, I was surprised to catch three native rainbows in a couple of hours in our local mountains. They were small, cold and beautiful.
- The first Native American to be nominated for the Interior Department would replace former oil lobbyist David Bernhardt, as part of Biden’s climate-forward agenda.
- Plus Jennifer Granholm for Secretary of Energy, Michael Regan for Environmental Protection Agency Administrator, Brenda Mallory for Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality, Gina McCarthy for National Climate Advisor, and Ali Zaidi for Deputy National Climate Advisor would all join Deb Haaland.
- LA River Fly Fishing turned 10!
- I never thought this site would last past a couple of years, but here I am clicking away. The site remains ad-free and has garnered around 235,000 views since I started writing and curating. Thanks for your support over the last decade. We’ll see how the LA River improves in the coming year.
Happy New Year and see you on the river, Jim Burns
Letter to the Editor from California Fly Fisher: I much appreciated Jim Burns’s story on the West Fork of the San Gabriel, which did a good job of capturing the character of a place that I have been visiting for decades. (“The West Fork of the San Gabriel,” September/October 2020.) Unfortunately, shortly after the issue came out, much of that river’s watershed was reduced to charcoal and ash by the Bobcat Fire.
By the way, readers of Cal Fly Fisher might like to know that the Oct. 13 issue of the Los Angeles Times has a great article on the ecological devastation wrought by the fire, and it noted that the river also faces additional harm from mud flows when the rains of winter arrive. That’s a helluva one-two punch against this little fishery. Only time will tell whether it has been KOed for keeps — Fred Martinez, Los Angeles.
Thanks for the props. I loved the West Fork, as I can tell you did. I thought you would appreciate this update from John Clearwater, a public affairs officer with the U.S. Forest Service:
In the course of four major fires we lost 23-percent, or nearly a quarter, of the Angeles this year. To include some of our most beautiful areas. It’s been a tough, heartbreaking year.
Regarding the closure of the West Fork, the Bobcat Fire closure area extends to April 1, 2022. I don’t anticipate that the West Fork will reopen much sooner than that.
I was in there a few weeks ago with LA Times reporter, Louis Sahagun. The area is near the origin site for the Bobcat Fire, and one of the areas that was most impacted by the Fire.
Unfortunately, much of it now looking like an ashen lunar landscape. It was clearly once a mountain paradise. Now it’s heartbreaking to see. This winter I suspect the road may disappear in a number of places due to the lack of vegetation and likelihood of runoff coming down the mountainsides. During my time in there recently we encountered a number of rock slides breaking loose, rolling off the cliff tops and impacting onto the roadway, with rocks varying in size from that of a baseball to a soccer ball. Any of which would have been fatal if it had struck someone on the head.
Regardless, there is much work that will be required in the West Fork for public safety, forest recovery and habitat protection.
As for plans for the trout in the West Fork, I’ve spoken with the District Ranger team and they said the California Department of Fish & Wildlife is planning to soon relocate a number of trout from the West Fork to other areas of the San Gabriel river. They could not provide a lot of details.
See you on the river, Jim Burns
From Los Angeles Times environment writer Louis Sahagun:
Biologists and engineers are setting the stage for an environmental recovery effort in downtown Los Angeles that could rival the return of the gray wolf, bald eagle and California condor.
This time, the species teetering on the edge of extinction is the Southern California steelhead trout and the abused habitat is a 4.8-mile-long stretch of the L.A. River flood-control channel that most people only glimpse from a freeway.
The brutal vista of concrete and treated urban runoff exists as an impenetrable barrier to ancestral spawning grounds in the San Gabriel Mountains for the estimated 400 federally endangered Southern California steelhead left on Earth.
The Los Angeles River Fish Passage and Habitat Structures Design Plan, which is being championed by Mayor Eric Garcetti, aims to change all that with a carefully calibrated retrofit.
Read the whole story here. The Council for Watershed Health has launched a webpage allowing people to keep up with the progress of the fish passage project. Read my 2012 thoughts about the possible return of steelhead here.
See you on the river, Jim Burns
Bristol Bay is safe.
I know you’ve heard that before, but this time, it’s for real, done in by the Clean Water Act. After watching the Trump Administration finalize plans last week “to open up part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska to oil and gas development, a move that overturns six decades of protections for the largest remaining stretch of wilderness in the United States,” according to the New York Times, I thought Bristol Bay would share a similar fate. Not so.
Check out the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers statement and be happy:
This administration supports the mining industry and acknowledges the benefits the industry has provided to the economy and productivity of this country, from job creation to the extraction of valuable resources, which are especially important as we recover from this pandemic. The Pebble Mine project has the potential to fulfill all of those needs; however, as currently proposed, the project could have substantial environmental impacts within the unique Bristol Bay watershed and lacks adequate compensatory mitigation.
Given these concerns, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers finds under section 404 of the Clean Water Act that the project, as proposed, would likely result in significant degradation of the environment and would likely result in significant adverse effects on the aquatic system or human environment.
See you on the river, Jim Burns