The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has closed some waters to fishing in order to protect native salmon and steelhead from low water flows in California streams and rivers that have been significantly impacted by drought. CDFW is also recommending that the Fish and Game Commission adopt emergency regulations on other rivers.
“We fully understand the impact these closures will have on California anglers and the businesses related to fishing in California, and we really feel for them,” said CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham. “However the science is clear. Two-thirds of the wettest part of winter is now behind us and conditions are looking increasingly grim. Under these extreme drought conditions, it is prudent to conserve and protect as many adult fish as possible to help ensure the future of fishing in California.”
CDFW has the authority under Title 14, Article 4, Section 8.00(c) to close south central coast streams to fishing from December 1 through March 7 when it determines that stream flows are inadequate to provide fish passage for migrating steelhead trout and salmon. As a result, the following streams are closed to all fishing until stream flows are sufficient to allow fish passage for returning adult steelhead and salmon (CDFW will announce any lifting of the closures):
- Pescadero Creek and all anadromous reaches of San Mateo County coastal streams normally open for fishing, from Elliot Creek through Milagro Creek.
- The San Lorenzo River and all its tributaries, as well as all anadromous reaches of coastal streams normally open for fishing in Santa Cruz County from the San Lorenzo River on North through Waddell Creek.
- Aptos and Soquel Creeks (Santa Cruz County).
- The Pajaro River and Uvas, Llagas and Corralitos Creeks (Santa Cruz, Monterey and Santa Clara counties).
- The Carmel River and those sections of San Jose, Gibson, Malpaso and Soberanes creeks west of Highway 1.
- The Big Sur River and those Big Sur area streams from Granite Creek to Salmon Creek west of Highway 1.
- The main stem of the Salinas River below its confluence with the Arroyo Seco River and the Arroyo Seco River (Monterey County).
In addition, CDFW has the authority under Title 14, Article 4, Section 8.00(a) to close north coast streams to fishing from September 1 (Mad River) and October 1 (all others) through January 31 when it determines that the flow at any of the designated gauging stations is less than minimum flows stated in regulation. As a result, the following streams are subject to angling closures through January 31 (however, CDFW is requesting this be extended to April 30 as noted in the recommendations to the Fish and Game Commission below, recommendation #3):
- The main stem Eel River from the paved junction of Fulmor Road with the Eel River to the South Fork Eel River.
- The South Fork of the Eel River downstream from Rattlesnake Creek and the Middle Fork Eel River downstream from the Bar Creek.
- The main stem Van Duzen River from its junction with the Eel River to the end of Golden Gate Drive near Bridgeville.
- The main stem Mad River from the Hammond Trail Railroad Trestle to Cowan Creek.
- The main stem of the Mattole River from the mouth to Honeydew Creek.
- The main stem of Redwood Creek from the mouth to its confluence with Bond Creek.
- The main stem Smith River from the mouth of Rowdy Creek to the mouth of Patrick Creek (tributary of the Middle Fork Smith River); the South Fork Smith River from the mouth upstream approximately 1,000 feet to the County Road (George Tyron) bridge and Craig’s Creek to its confluence with Jones Creek; and the North Fork Smith River from the mouth to its confluence with Stony Creek.
Further, CDFW is recommending that the Fish and Game Commission adopt the following emergency regulations at its February 5, 2014 meeting:
- Closure of the American River from Nimbus Dam to the SMUD power line crossing at the southwest boundary of Ancil Hoffman Park until April 30.
- Closure of the Russian River main stem below the confluence of the East Branch of the Russian River until April 30.
- Extension of the low flow restrictions angling closures for the north coast and central coast areas (above San Francisco Bay) through April 30.
- In the South Coast District (i.e., San Mateo, Santa Cruz, Monterey, and San Luis Obispo counties), close all portions of any coastal stream west of any Highway 1 bridge until April 30.
There are still plenty of opportunities for California anglers to catch fish in the state’s rivers and streams outside of the closures listed above. Additionally, California’s coast offers substantial ocean fishing. Both are subject to current regulations already in place. For more on fishing in California, please visit http://www.dfg.ca.gov/fishing/.
Current low stream flow conditions will prevent the movement of migrating anadromous fish, primarily wild steelhead trout. Stream flows in many systems are inadequate to allow passage of spawning adults, increasing their vulnerability to mortality from predation, physiological stress and angling. Furthermore, survival of eggs and juvenile fish in these systems over the coming months is likely to be extremely low if the current drought conditions continue. These temporary angling closures on selected streams will increase survival of adult wild steelhead.
CAL FIRE announced it hired 125 additional firefighters to help address the increased fire threat due to drought conditions, and the California Department of Public Health identified communities at risk of severe water shortages and announced efforts to assist those communities. Earlier this week, the California Natural Resources Agency, the California Environmental Protection Agency and the California Department of Food and Agriculture released the California Water Action Plan, which will guide state efforts to enhance water supply reliability, restore damaged and destroyed ecosystems and improve the resilience of our infrastructure. Governor Brown has called on all Californians to reduce their water usage by 20 percent and last week, the Save Our Water campaign announced four new public service announcements that encourage residents to conserve. Last December, the Governor formed a Drought Task Force to review expected water allocations and California’s preparedness for water scarcity. In May 2013, Governor Brown issued an Executive Order to direct state water officials to expedite the review and processing of voluntary transfers of water and water rights.
CDFW low flow closure hotlines:
North coast: (707) 822-3164
Central coast: (707) 944-5533
South central coast: (831) 649-2886