Anglers Urged to Return Overdue 2013 Sturgeon Fishing Report Cards

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is reminding sturgeon anglers to return their 2013 Sturgeon Fishing Report Cards, as required by law. Although the deadline to report their catch was Jan. 31, so far only about 8,000 (or 15 percent) of the 55,000 report cards sold have been returned. The sport fishing regulations require that all sturgeon anglers return their Report Cards, even the sturgeon anglers who did not encounter sturgeon and who did not fish for white sturgeon.

Without the necessary data gleaned from the returned report cards, CDFW’s scientific understanding of the two sturgeon populations is incomplete. This makes it harder for scientists to recognize overfishing of the diminished white sturgeon population and to document accidental catch of the threatened green sturgeon. In this case, addressing the uncertainty could mean new harvest restrictions.

“Anglers who do not return report cards are complicating efforts to protect the fishery and rebuild both sturgeon populations,” said Marty Gingras, CDFW Sturgeon Taskforce member. “We’re asking anglers to send the information to us now, even though the deadline has passed. In this case, it’s truly better late than never.”

California’s white sturgeon and green sturgeon populations were substantially reduced by commercial fishing in the 19th century and the recreational and commercial sturgeon fisheries were (with minor exceptions) closed from 1901 through 1953. Only recreational fishing for sturgeon has been allowed since 1954, and that fishery has become increasingly restricted over time in an effort to rebuild the populations and protect the fishery. Without accurate reporting of the catch, additional sturgeon fishing restrictions may go into effect in the future.

In hopes that substantially more report cards will be submitted and to avoid possible duplication of effort, CDFW staff will postpone analysis of 2013 report card data. Anglers can use the CDFW website to login and report at www.ca.wildlifelicense.com/InternetSales/CustomerSearch/Begin, or can return the cards by mail to the address printed on the card.

Recreational fishermen may harvest white sturgeon between 40” and 60” and are required to purchase and return their report cards. Green sturgeon is a federally threatened species and may not be harvested under any circumstances.

White and green sturgeon are anadromous, meaning they move from the salt and brackish water to freshwater to spawn. They are both native California species and can live to be more than 100 years old.

Media Contact:
Marty Gingras, CDFW Sturgeon Program Manager, (209) 234-3486

Andrew Hughan, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8944

There’s Still Time to Help Endangered Species on Your Tax Return!

Media Contacts:
Laird  Henkel, Sea Otter Program, (831) 469-1726
Esther Burkett, Nongame Wildlife Program, (916) 531-1594
Dana Michaels, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-2420

a sea otter in greenish waters off California

Sea otter in California waters. CDFW photo

red fox pounces on something beneath the snow

Sierra Nevada red fox, in Sonora County. CDFW photo

bright orange, trumpet-shaped flowers on a green-stemmed shrub

Large-flowered fiddleneck. Susan Cochrane/CDFW photo

A California condor spreads its wings while standing atop a post

California condor at Pinnacles National Monument. Carie Battistone/CDFW photo

Desert tortoise on dry, rocky desert floor

Desert tortoise in southern California. Rebecca Barboza/CDFW photo

two yellow-legged frogs at the edge of a bubbling stream

Mountain yellow-legged frogs. CDFW photo

a flock of sandhill cranes feeding in wetland, all colored a pinkish-coral by sunrise

Greater sandhill cranes in central California. Bob Burkett photo

yellow flower on green stalk with green leaves on sandy Lake Tahoe beach

Tahoe Yellow Cress. © Aaron E. Sims and CNPS

A popular 1970s bumper sticker said, “Support wildlife…Throw a party!” Now you can support wildlife and throw a party. Just make a voluntary contribution on your California income tax return!  The April 15 due date for income tax returns is nearing, but if you haven’t filed yours yet, it’s not too late to use it to help wildlife.

By donating any whole dollar amount to the California Sea Otter Fund on line 410 of your tax return, you will help pay for research by scientists at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). They are studying premature deaths within our sea otter population and finding that there are many contributing factors, some of which are man-made. With enough funding, they should be able to determine the primary causes, then work to develop solutions that will allow the sea otter population to grow at the rate it should.

Another 80 species of animals and more than 200 plants are listed by the state as rare, threatened or endangered. Donations to the Rare and Endangered Species Preservation Fund on line 403 of your income tax form pay for essential CDFW research and recovery efforts for these plants and animals, and critical efforts to restore and conserve their habitat.

“We work with other organizations, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, UC and Cal State Universities, California’s state and national parks, U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Forest Service, and many other organizations to stretch the donations as far as we can,” said CDFW Wildlife Biologist Esther Burkett. “In the Rare and Endangered Species Programs, we’ve leveraged those donations to receive federal matching funds so we can do even more for wildlife.”

If someone else prepares your state tax return, please tell him or her you want to contribute to the California Sea Otter Fund on line 410 and/or the Rare and Endangered Species Protection Program on line 403. If you use Turbo Tax, when you’re near the end of your tax return it should ask if you want to make a voluntary contribution to a special fund. Click “Yes” and go to lines 403 and 410.

These funds consist entirely of voluntary contributions from California taxpayers. There are no other dedicated state funding sources available for this important work. Please visit the website at www.dfg.ca.gov/taxcheck and Facebook page at www.facebook.com/SeaOtterFundCDFW for more information.

Warm Springs Hatchery Begins Spawning Operation for Russian River Steelhead

Ninety-six Russian River steelhead were spawned Feb. 20 at Warm Springs Hatchery, marking a strong but late start for the hatchery’s annual steelhead spawning operation.

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The Russian River and its tributaries comprise one of the most significant steelhead populations in the Central Coast area of California. The Russian River watershed also provides important habitat for endangered Coho and Chinook salmon. Although steelhead normally begin entering the river with the first heavy rains in the fall and can be found throughout the river and its tributaries through April, this year little rain fell from November through the first week in February, creating extremely low river conditions and few opportunities for steelhead to move into and up the river system.

Low water conditions in January also allowed the naturally occurring sandbar to form at the mouth of the river, blocking the migration of steelhead.

“Once the first rains hit in February, the sandbar blocking the mouth of the river washed out, allowing the steelhead to move in from the ocean into the river system,” said Brett Wilson, Senior Hatchery Supervisor for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). “Based on what we are seeing right now, we should be able to meet our goal of taking enough eggs to rear a half million young steelhead for release into the Russian River.”

Emergency regulations that went into effect Feb. 19 closed most of the Russian River to fishing, adding extra protection for migrating steelhead and salmon.

March is an excellent time to visit the hatchery and view the steelhead moving through the concrete fish ladder into the restored stream habitat leading to the hatchery. A visitor viewing area also provides excellent photographic opportunity.

“The new restoration stream habitat just outside the hatchery intake gives visitors a chance to see steelhead up close and in native type of habitat,” Wilson said.

Warm Springs Hatchery is the end of a lengthy migration for the hatchery produced steelhead. From the Pacific Ocean, they enter the Russian River at Jenner and travel 40 miles upriver to Dry Creek near Healdsburg before following the stream 14 more miles west to the hatchery. Steelhead are also spawned at Coyote Valley Fish Facility on the East Fork of the Russian below Lake Mendocino.

The steelhead are generally held captive one week before the eggs are artificially taken. Spawning is open to the public and occurs throughout the entire season on most Thursdays at 10:30 a.m. The steelhead eggs spawned at the Hatchery and the Coyote Valley Fish Facility are incubated, hatched and reared at the hatchery for one year before they are released back into the Russian River to begin their migration to the sea.

Warm Springs Hatchery is located just below Warm Springs Dam on Lake Sonoma, approximately 14 miles above the confluence of Dry Creek with the Russian River at an elevation of 322 feet. The hatchery began operation in 1980 and is designed to produce a maximum of 161,300 pounds of salmonid fish annually. Although the hatchery is owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), it is operated by CDFW. CDFW also operates the Coyote Valley Fish Facility for trapping and spawning adult steelhead and imprinting steelhead destined for release in the Russian River. The Coyote Valley Fish Facility is located upstream on the east branch of the Russian River near the town of Ukiah.

Warm Springs Hatchery is a mitigation hatchery that produces steelhead to enhance the river’s natural steelhead population required due to the loss of natural spawning and rearing habitat associated with the construction of the Warm Springs and Coyote Valley dams. The mitigating agency is the USACE. The Warm Springs Hatchery is also home to the Coho Salmon Broodstock Program, which produces coho for release to 21 tributaries of the Russian River as part of a multi-agency recovery effort for this endangered species.

Media Contact:
Brett Wilson, Senior Hatchery Supervisor, (707) 433-6325
Harry Morse, CDFW Communications, (916) 323-1478

Steelhead swimming upstream to Warm Springs Hatchery

Steelhead swimming upstream to Warm Springs Hatchery

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