Drought Prompts More Fishing Closures in California

Steelhead, safe from fishing for now in many desiccated California streams | Photo: sgrace/Flickr/Creative Commons License

As many observers expected, California's Fish and Game Commission has acted on the urging of the state's Department of Fish and Wildlife to suspend fishing on several major rivers to protect salmon and steelhead populations from the ravages of the current drought.

The commission adopted emergency regulations Wednesday that will close portions of the American and Russian rivers to sportfishing until April 30. The Commission also approved a similar ban on angling in coastal streams west of Highway 1 from San Luis Obispo County to San Francisco, and subjected more than a dozen major north state watercourses to immediate closure if CDFW finds streamflows drop below levels safe for fish.

"We can't make it rain, but we can take action to relieve our beleaguered salmon and steelhead populations from any additional stress," said Commission President Michael Sutton in a press release. "I'm proud that the fishing community supports this action as essential for the conservation of our precious fishery resources."

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The flow-dependent closures are listed in a Commission press release published Wednesday, and include major North Coast streams such as the Mad and Eel rivers, and San Francisco Bay tributaries the Napa River and Sonoma Creek.

Anglers wishing to learn the status of individual creeks subject to low-flow closures can call a special CDFW stream closure hotline at (707) 944-5533.

Low flows are dangerous to California's spawning fish, which need access to upstream gravel beds for adults, and guaranteed cool water pools throughout the year for the next generation of young. Restricting angling in drought years gives fish struggling to contend with nearly dry rivers and creeks a better chance of reproducing successfully.

The California Fish and Game Commission is a five-member citizen body, distinct from CDFW, that manages aspects of California wildlife policy including hunting and fishing rules and seasons, as well as listing species under the California Endangered Species Act.

About the Author

Chris Clarke is a natural history writer and environmental journalist currently at work on a book about the Joshua tree. He lives in Joshua Tree.
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