Angler casting a line on river

Sept. 5 is Free Fishing Day in California

The last chance of the year to fish for free arrives over the Labor Day holiday weekend. Free Fishing Day is being offered by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) on Saturday, Sept. 5.

“Free Fishing Day is the perfect chance to see what so many Californians already have discovered: That fishing can be a great escape in difficult times and does wonders to invigorate physical health and restore mental well-being,” said CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham.

While no fishing license is required on the Sept. 5 Free Fishing Day, all fishing regulations, such as bag and size limits, gear restrictions, report card requirements, fishing hours and stream closures remain in effect. Every angler must have an appropriate report card if they are fishing for steelhead or sturgeon anywhere in the state or salmon in the Smith and Klamath-Trinity river systems.

Anglers can review the sport fishing regulations online (wildlife.ca.gov/regulations) or use CDFW’s mobile website to view freshwater limits and regulations specific to a body of water (https://map.dfg.ca.gov/sportfishingregs).

A basic annual resident sport fishing license in California currently costs $51.02, while a one-day fishing license costs $16.46. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Californians are rediscovering the joys of fishing and its restorative effects. California has issued more annual, resident sport fishing licenses so far in 2020 than the state issued throughout all of 2019.

Fishing can be a safe outdoor activity that allows for physical distancing. CDFW asks all anglers to adhere to all site-specific rules and regulations. Before heading to a public area or fishing destination, please check to see if any safeguard or restrictions have been instituted to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

For expert anglers, Free Fishing Day is a perfect time to introduce newcomers to the sport. For novice anglers without a mentor to guide them, CDFW has developed a new R3 web page for those looking to learn more about fishing, hunting and wild food in California. Aspiring anglers will find a collection of fishing information, instructional materials, tutorials and other useful links on the web page.

CDFW offers two Free Fishing Days each year – typically around the Fourth of July and Labor Day holiday weekends – when it’s legal to fish without any license.

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Media Contacts:
Peter Tira, CDFW Communications, (916) 215-3858
Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 804-1714

Small gray bird standing on fence post.

September 2020 California Department of Fish and Wildlife Calendar

All calendar items are subject to change as we navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.

Various Days — General Bear Season Opening in Select Deer Zones. General black bear season will open concurrently with the general deer hunting season in deer zones A, B, C, D, X8, X9a, X9b, X10 and X12 and extend through Dec. 27. Please note these deer zones have varying opening season dates. General season for black bears opens in deer hunting zones X1-7b on Oct. 10 and extends through Dec. 27. CDFW shall close the season earlier if 1,700 bears have been reported taken. For daily updates on reported bear harvest, please visit wildlife.ca.gov/hunting/bear or call toll-free (888) 277-6398. Please visit fgc.ca.gov/regulations/current/mammals for a description of the current mammal hunting regulations. Tooth collection is not required this year, but all hunters must present their bear head and get their tag validated by CDFW personnel.

1­ — Mourning Dove, White-winged Dove, Spotted Dove and Ringed Turtle Dove Early Season Opens. Season extends through Sept. 15. For more information on upland game bird seasons and limits, please visit wildlife.ca.gov/hunting/upland-game-birds.

5 — Free Fishing Day. The second of two Free Fishing Days being offered by CDFW in 2020 is scheduled Sept. 5. While all fishing regulations – such as bag and size limits, gear restrictions, report card requirements, fishing hours and stream closures – remain in effect, anyone can fish without purchasing a fishing license on Free Fishing Days. For more information, please visit wildlife.ca.gov/licensing/fishing/free-fishing-days.

5 — Weaving Yesterdays: A Live History Series Virtual Event, 1 to 1:30 p.m. Reserve naturalists and historians will host a Facebook Live series exploring the cultural heritage of Elkhorn Slough. At 1 p.m. on the first Saturday of each month, participants will hear the backstory of a new location around the area. Please visit www.elkhornslough.org/events/weaving-yesterdays-a-live-history-series to view the series schedule and find recordings of previous installments.

7 — California Biodiversity Day. This annual event celebrates our state’s exceptional biodiversity, while also encouraging actions to protect it. For this second official celebration, there will be public events from Sept. 5-13, hosted by a variety of entities. Due to the pandemic, many events will be virtual this year in addition to a few in-person events. Please visit resources.ca.gov/biodiversityday2020 to learn more about how you can get involved!

9 — Science-ing at Home: An iNaturalist Tutorial Virtual Event, 3 to 3:30 p.m. Learn how to turn your everyday nature explorations into scientific expeditions. Elkhorn Slough Reserve staff will introduce participants to the iNaturalist community science network and share tips and tools for engaging in community science projects. Please visit www.elkhornslough.org/events/biodiversity-week to find out how to view the tutorial and explore other activities from the Elkhorn Slough in honor of California Biodiversity Day.

9-13 — iNaturalist Scavenger Hunt at Nimbus Hatchery. As part of California Biodiversity Day, download the free iNaturalist app to participate in a self-directed scavenger hunt along the River Discovery Trail at Nimbus Hatchery. For more information, please visit resources.ca.gov or www.inaturalist.org/projects/california-biodiversity-day-events-2020.

9-13 — iNaturalist BioBlitz at North Table Mountain Ecological Reserve. As part of California Biodiversity Day, download the free iNaturalist app to participate in a self-directed BioBlitz on the Reserve. How many species will you find? For more information, please visit resources.ca.gov or www.inaturalist.org/projects/california-biodiversity-day-events-2020.

12 — California Biodiversity Day BioBlitz at Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area, 9 a.m. to noon, Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area, 45211 County Road 32B (Chiles Road), Davis (95618). Celebrate California Biodiversity Day 2020 by participating in an in-person BioBlitz at the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area! Registration is required and is limited to 20 participants. Participants will meet at 9 a.m. for a short overview and will then split into two groups, led by CDFW staff, to explore different parts of the wildlife area. The BioBlitz will conclude by noon. All participants will be required to supply and wear a face mask for the duration of the event and maintain physical distancing of at least 6 feet from individuals of different households. For more information, please contact James Phillips at james.phillips@wildlife.ca.gov or visit www.inaturalist.org/projects/california-biodiversity-day-2020-yolo-bypass-wildlife-area. To RSVP, please go to the California Biodiversity Day 2020 Yolo Bypass BioBlitz Registration Page.

12 — Sooty (Blue) Grouse General Season Opens. Season extends through Oct. 12. For more information, please visit wildlife.ca.gov/hunting/upland-game-birds.

12 — White-tailed Ptarmigan General and Archery Season Opens. Season extends through Sept. 20. For more information, please visit wildlife.ca.gov/hunting/upland-game-birds.

12 — Mountain Quail Season Opens in Zone Q1. Season extends through Oct. 16. For more information on upland game bird seasons and limits, please visit wildlife.ca.gov/hunting/upland-game-birds.

12 — Tree Squirrel General Season Opens. Season extends through Jan. 31, 2021. For more information on small game seasons and limits, please visit wildlife.ca.gov/hunting/small-game.

14 — Feather River Fish Hatchery Ladder Opening, 5 Table Mountain Blvd., Oroville (95965). The ladder will open and salmon spawning will begin later in the week and will continue through approximately mid-November. The west side of the hatchery is closed to the public. The east side of the hatchery with the underwater viewing windows and the observation deck at the base of the fish barrier dam is open daily from sunrise to sunset. For more information, please visit wildlife.ca.gov/fishing/hatcheries/feather-river.

17 — California Fish and Game Commission Wildlife Resources Committee Meeting, time to be determined. The meeting is to be held via webinar/teleconference due to health and safety concerns related to COVID-19. For more information, please visit fgc.ca.gov/meetings/2020.

19 — Band-tailed Pigeon Season Opens in the North Zone. Season extends through Sept. 27. For more information on upland game bird seasons and limits, please visit wildlife.ca.gov/hunting/upland-game-birds.

19 — General Deer Season Opens. General deer season opens in zones D6-7, B1-3, B5-6, C1-4, X9a, X9b and X12. Hunters should check for area closures and restrictions before heading to their destination. For information on land closures, please contact the agency in charge of the land you will be hunting. Tag reporting is required as the reports are vital to estimating populations and tag quotas. Please visit www.ca.wildlifelicense.com/internetsales/customersearch/begin for information on reporting. Tag holders may also submit reports by mail to CDFW Wildlife Branch, P.O. Box 944209, Sacramento, CA 94299-0002. For general information on deer zones, please visit wildlife.ca.gov/hunting/deer#54774-zones–hunts.

19 & 20 — Youth Waterfowl Hunt Days for Northeastern California Zone. To participate, hunters must be 17 years of age or younger and be accompanied by a non-hunting adult 18 years of age or older. People should contact the wildlife area or national wildlife refuge they wish to hunt for details. For more information, please visit wildlife.ca.gov/hunting/waterfowl.

22 — California Fish and Game Commission Meeting to Discuss Western Joshua Tree, time to be determined. The meeting is to be held via webinar/teleconference due to health and safety concerns related to COVID-19. For more information, please visit fgc.ca.gov/meetings/2020.

26 — Great American River Clean Up 2020, 9 a.m. to noon, Nimbus Hatchery, 2001 Nimbus Road, Rancho Cordova (95670). Protect your happy place! Join us to remove trash along the American River Parkway and riverbanks near Nimbus Hatchery. We will practice physical distancing during this event. Trash bags will be provided. Please bring your own gloves as well as water, sunscreen and snacks. For more information or to register, please visit www.facebook.com/nimbushatchery or email laura.drath@wildlife.ca.gov.

26 — Elkhorn Slough Virtual Open House, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The annual Open House at Elkhorn Slough Ecological Reserve is going virtual this year. Follow along with nature craft tutorials, explore reserve lands with drone footage and hear from researchers about the science of the slough. For a full lineup of activities and information about participating, please visit the online calendar of events at www.elkhornslough.org/calendar

26 — General Deer Season Opens. General deer season opens in zones D3-5, D8-10, X8 and X10. Hunters should check for area closures and restrictions before heading out to their hunting destination. For information on land closures, please contact the agency in charge of the land you will be hunting. Tag reporting is required as the reports are vital to estimating populations and tag quotas. Please visit www.ca.wildlifelicense.com/internetsales/customersearch/begin for information on reporting. Tag holders may also submit reports by mail at CDFW Wildlife Branch, P.O. Box 944209, Sacramento, CA 94299-0002. For general information on deer zones, please visit wildlife.ca.gov/hunting/deer#54774-zones–hunts.

26 — Quail General Season Opens in Zone Q2 (all quail species). Season extends through Jan. 31, 2021. For more information on upland game bird seasons and limits, please visit wildlife.ca.gov/hunting/upland-game-birds.

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Media Contact:
Amanda McDermott, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8907

Wildlife Officers Protect Pismo Clams from Poachers

  • Wildlife officers with seized undersize clams
  • Seized undersize clams in back of wildlife officer's pickup truck
  • Undersize clams with gauge

Since the beginning of the year, CDFW wildlife officers have seized more than 12,000 undersized Pismo clams and issued 116 citations to suspected poachers in San Luis Obispo County for unlawfully harvesting Pismo clams. In Santa Cruz County, wildlife officers have issued 60 citations and seized more than 5,000 undersized Pismo clams. Many of the citations involved extreme overlimits and about 90 percent of issued citations were for harvesting clams without a fishing license. When possible, wildlife officers will attempt to document where the undersized clams were taken and return those clams to the wild.

In past decades, Pismo clams were an important recreational sport fishery in California. A steep decline in the statewide Pismo clam population resulted in a dramatically reduced fishery and minimal recreational harvest. Pismo clams may still be harvested in California, in compliance with season, bag limits and size restrictions.

Despite a significant resurgence in the Pismo clam population in much of its historic habitat, most Pismo clams are still too small to legally harvest. Pismo clams are slow-growing animals and the majority are still in the growth stage. Marine biologists expect it will be at least another five to 10 years before any legal-size clams are present on most beaches.

“The central coast is seeing a resurgence of Pismo clam populations and our wildlife officers will continue to protect them from poachers,” said David Bess, CDFW Deputy Director and Chief of the Law Enforcement Division. “The vast majority of these clams are still undersized, and we need to give them an opportunity to become a robust recreational fishery for the future.”

Recreational clam harvesters with a valid fishing license may take the maximum bag limit of 10 Pismo clams per day, as long as they meet the minimum size of 5 inches north of the San Luis Obispo/Monterey county line and 4.5 inches south of the county line. Sub-legal sized clams must be immediately reburied. In Monterey and Santa Cruz counties, the season for Pismo clams starts Sept. 1 and ends April 30. In all other counties, the season is open year-round. The current regulations are in place to allow for limited recreational take but prevent a depletion of the Pismo clam resource.

If a member of the public witnesses a poaching, wildlife trafficking or pollution incident, or has information about such a violation, immediately dial the toll free CalTIP number, (888) 334-2258, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to CDFW using tip411. Anyone with a cell phone may send an anonymous tip to CDFW by texting “CALTIP”, followed by a space and the message, to 847411 (tip411).

Tips can also be reported through the free CalTIP smartphone app, which operates similarly to tip411 by creating an anonymous two-way conversation with wildlife officers. The CalTIP app can be downloaded via the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.

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CDFW Warns of Continued Fraudulent License Sales Operations

If you are in the market for a California fishing or hunting license (or any related products, such as hunting tags), please ensure that you are making your purchase from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) or an approved vendor.

Several unauthorized online websites are continuing to improperly charge customers extra fees for online fishing and hunting license purchases, and may be collecting sensitive personal information as part of their unauthorized transactions.

California hunting and fishing licenses may properly be purchased in only one of four ways:

Because CDFW’s license sales offices and some independent license sales agent offices have been temporarily closed to help slow the spread of COVID-19, there has been a surge in online sales over the summer months. Unscrupulous website operators and scammers are taking advantage of increased virtual traffic, and the public should take extra precautions to ensure they do not fall victim to a scam.

Since June 2019, six websites offering unauthorized license sales have been taken down at CDFW’s behest, and an additional two websites are in the process of being disabled.

The ALDS, which is CDFW’s exclusive means of online license sales, was launched in 2011. ALDS can be accessed via CDFW’s website or by clicking the link that is frequently provided in official communications from the department. When making an online purchase, please check the URL of the site you are visiting to ensure you are on the official CDFW website (wildlife.ca.gov) or the ALDS website (www.ca.wildlifelicense.com/internetsales). These are the only CDFW-affiliated links for hunting and fishing license sales.

Unofficial websites may attempt to represent CDFW and/or contain information about hunting and fishing licenses, and Internet search engines may not always list the official CDFW website as the top result.

Please be cautious when providing personal information to any website. While authorized purchases made through independent license sales agents and ALDS are subject to an additional 5 percent handling fee, the fraudulent sales websites offer products for sale with “shipping and handling fees” that are much higher than 5 percent of the base purchase price. To date, it appears that the fraudulent activity has been limited to charging customers unauthorized fees. Licenses that have been mailed to customers after unauthorized transactions may be valid; however, CDFW cannot guarantee that this is or will be true in all cases.

If you believe you may have been defrauded by an unauthorized website or would like to check the validity of a previous purchase, please provide us with information about your experience at ReportFraud@wildlife.ca.gov.

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Media Contacts:
Stephen Adams, CDFW Information Systems Branch, (916) 323-1456
Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 804-1714

CDFW employee stocking eastern Sierra waters with trout

Fish Plants Continue in Eastern Sierra Waters

After a massive loss of fish at three hatchery facilities in the eastern Sierra and Southern California this summer, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has implemented an updated stocking plan to continue putting trout into waters that are popular with anglers.

Waterways in CDFW’s South Coast Region and Inland Deserts Region are typically stocked with trout from Mojave River Hatchery, Black Rock Hatchery and Fish Springs Hatchery, but this year, fish at all three facilities were contaminated by a bacterial outbreak. On July 20, CDFW announced that extensive effort to treat the fish had been unsuccessful, and pathologists recommended euthanizing 3.2 million fish and decontaminating the facilities in order to stop the spread of Lactococcus garvieae, which is similar to streptococcus.

“Euthanization was not the outcome we hoped for, but after exhausting all treatments, it was apparent that clearing the raceways, sterilizing the facilities and starting over was the only option,” said Jay Rowan, CDFW’s Statewide Hatchery Program Manager.

Anglers were understandably concerned about reduced fishing opportunity for the remainder of 2020 and into 2021, and CDFW Hatchery Program staff immediately began to construct a “Plan B” to ensure that planting could continue in some capacity.

CDFW’s multiphase stocking plan calls for the reallocation of fish from lower priority waters in other parts of the state to the highest use waters in areas normally planted by the depopulated hatcheries this time of year. During “phase one” (which began the last week of July and will run through mid-October), 16 water bodies in the Inland Desert and South Coast regions will be stocked with fish from the Moccasin Creek and San Joaquin hatcheries. During “phase two” (which runs from the second half of October through early spring), additional waters in Southern California will be stocked by Fillmore Hatchery. Phase two is dependent on water temperatures cooling enough to plant. During “phase 3” (spring and summer 2021), CDFW will address stocking for the trout openers and summer angling opportunities.

CDFW is still finalizing the list of waters, as well as fish numbers, that will be stocked in phases 2 and 3.

“The loss of 3.2 million fish is staggering, but we absolutely recognize the importance of these fisheries, and we are doing everything we can to minimize the impact of this loss to anglers and the communities that depend on them, while balancing the needs of the rest of the state,” Rowan explained.

In addition to the reallocation plans, Hot Creek Hatchery near the town of Mammoth was not affected by the bacterial outbreak and has continued with its scheduled plants in the eastern Sierra.

Meanwhile, the three affected facilities – Mojave River Hatchery, Black Rock Hatchery and Fish Springs Hatchery – are undergoing extensive cleaning. All surfaces that have come in contact with fish or water on the hatchery grounds are being pressure washed, allowed to dry in the summer sun and then decontaminated with a hydrogen peroxide solution that breaks down the biofilm the bacteria uses to survive on surfaces. Another drying period follows. After decontamination is complete, all new fish and eggs brought into the hatcheries will have to be vaccinated to prevent a recurrence of the bacterial outbreak.

The current goal is for the three hatcheries to be back to full capacity by the fall or winter of 2021.

For real-time updates, California anglers can refer to CDFW’s Fish Planting Schedule. This schedule is updated directly by CDFW hatchery staff. Although it contains current information, all fish plants are subject to change depending on road, water, weather and operational conditions.

Trout fishing can be a safe outdoor activity that maintains physical distancing from others as we work to minimize transmission of COVID-19. Anglers must make sure to stay six feet from anyone not in their same household, wear a face mask, wash hands with soap and water whenever possible, follow all fishing regulations and stay safe.

For additional information, please see CDFW’s frequently asked questions about the L. garvieae outbreak. Also, members of the public can email questions to hatcherybacteriainfo@wildlife.ca.gov.

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Media Contacts:
Jay Rowan, CDFW Hatchery Program, (916) 212-3164
Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 804-1714