Category Archives: Sport Fishing

Emergency Fishery Closure Evaluation Process Adopted; Careful Angling Can Help Prevent Closures

The California Fish and Game Commission recently adopted emergency regulations that grant the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) authority to temporarily close fisheries experiencing degraded environmental conditions that may affect fish populations. CDFW’s temporary authority will commence upon approval of the regulations by the Office of Administrative Law and will remain in effect for 180 days.

As the effects of the current drought on California’s wildlife continue to mount, CDFW will be using a suite of criteria and associated triggers to guide fishing closure and reopening decisions. Criteria used in any evaluation include water temperature, dissolved oxygen levels, fish passage, water levels and fish population size. Although the Commission adopted the regulations, the department’s decision to close or open a fishery is discretionary and will be based on the most current information collected during site-specific monitoring efforts by professional staff. Priority will be given to listed fish species, species of special concern and game fish. Although some waters may exhibit conditions that meet the criteria and sets of triggers established by the Commission, CDFW will focus its discretionary authority for closing waters that provide coldwater refuge and essential habitat for species of greatest conservation need.

Prior to any closure, CDFW will solicit input from local stakeholders and provide information on the approach. CDFW will consider fishing closures as a last resort, and urges all those who fish California’s waters to adopt good preventative practices now.

“Anglers can help keep our wild trout thriving by using good judgment,” said CDFW Fisheries Branch Chief Stafford Lehr. “Fish earlier and stop earlier in the day during these hot summer days ahead.”

Aquatic wildlife is especially vulnerable as stream flows decrease and instream water temperatures increase. These conditions cause added stress and can affect growth and survival. In waters open to angling which may experience elevated daytime water temperatures (greater than 70 degrees Fahrenheit) the best opportunity for anglers to fish would be during the early morning hours after the warm water has cooled overnight and before the heat of the day increases water temperatures.

“Please pay attention to water conditions when you are fishing and when planning your fishing trips,” said CDFW Inland Fisheries Program Manager Roger Bloom. “Afternoon and evening water temperatures may be too warm to ensure fish being released will survive the added stress cause by warmer water that builds up during hot days in summer and fall.”

Many of California’s anglers have adopted catch-and-release fishing methods. Careful handling of a trout and proper catch-and-release techniques can ensure fish don’t experience serious exhaustion or injury.

However, catch-and-release fishing during afternoon and early evening in streams and lakes with elevated water temperatures may increase stress, hinder survival and increase mortality.

Proper catch-and-release fishing techniques include:

  •  Using a stream thermometer and check water temperatures often
  • Avoiding fishing during periods when water temperatures exceed 70 degrees Fahrenheit (likely afternoon to late evening)
  • Using barbless hooks whenever possible
  • Playing hooked fish quickly and avoiding extensive handling
  • Using a landing net
  • Wetting your hands, your net and other materials that may come in contact with the fish
  • Not touching the gills
  • Keeping fish fully submerged and upright and allowing it to swim away under its own power

Anglers interested in pursuing California’s unique native trout should be especially careful this summer and fall when targeting high elevation streams. Many of the existing native cutthroat, redband and golden trout populations are relegated to small headwater streams which likely will experience low water levels and elevated temperatures.

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Media Contacts:
Roger Bloom, CDFW Inland Fisheries Program, (916) 445-3777

Clark Blanchard, CDFW Communications, (916) 651-7824

Crystal Lake Hatchery to Supply Trout for Waters Normally Stocked by Quarantined Hatcheries

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Crystal Lake Hatchery, operated by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), is currently stocking thousands of rainbow trout weekly in Hat Creek and surrounding waters in Lassen, Modoc, Shasta, Siskiyou and Trinity counties. Because the recent discovery of whirling disease at Darrah Springs and Mt. Shasta hatcheries triggered a quarantine of fish at those facilities and raised concern about reduced fishing opportunities, more than 1.5 million healthy rainbow trout from Crystal Lake Hatchery will be allocated to these waters to ensure excellent fishing opportunities at a number of northern California locations.

“Because of the quarantine of nearly 3 million trout at two of our hatcheries, we had to re-evaluate and realign our stocking allotments and schedules,” said Linda Radford, CDFW Regional Hatchery Supervisor. “By sharing trout allocations from Crystal Lake and Mad River hatcheries, we can continue to stock all the waters we would normally stock while we are working to eradicate the disease and get back on schedule at Darrah Springs and Mt. Shasta. This is a very good ‘Plan B’ for anglers who are expecting to fish this summer.”

Statewide, CDFW will stock more than 7 million trout in more than 700 waters in 2015. June and July are two of the busiest angling months of the year in northern and central California. This is when many of California’s nearly 2 million fishing license buyers break out their rods and go fishing. Fishing and stocked trout are integral to many family vacations in northern California.

CDFW hatchery workers stock many of northern California’s waters – including the very popular Hat Creek – by hand. Staff often meet anglers as they are working, and serve as the face of the department to fishermen, campers, local business people and tourists.

CDFW Fish and Wildlife Technician Brett Adams works at Crystal Lake Hatchery and drives a small hatchery truck from stream to stream, stocking trout throughout the region. At each stop along the Hat Creek route, he dips a net into the truck’s fish holding tank, scoops up 30 to 50 trout and hand-carries them to the stream to release. Many of the releases are done near campgrounds and at well-known fishing holes and usually draw crowds.

“Anglers really appreciate us stocking trout and providing them the opportunity to catch one for the grill,” Adams said. “At each stop, the people I meet have lots of questions. Recently whirling disease came up for the first time … people are concerned it might affect the hatcheries and waters they love.”

To Adams, realigning some of the stocking is a common sense approach so anglers are not left out due to the whirling disease quarantine. While it is not a perfect solution, it is a good temporary fix to provide anglers fishing opportunity that would otherwise be lost this summer and fall.

Meanwhile, extensive testing is underway at both whirling disease-affected hatcheries to find out how many of the nearly 3 million trout on site are affected and if and when any can be stocked. Whirling disease does not affect humans and the trout are safe to eat.

Crystal Lake Hatchery is located near the town of Burney in eastern Shasta County. The hatchery was completed in 1955 and modernized in 1976. Today it has seven raceways capable of rearing 1.5 million fish annually. Crystal Lake Hatchery stocks approximately 60 waters in Lassen, Modoc, Shasta, Siskiyou and Trinity counties. It raises a mix of the following fish:

  • Eagle Lake trout. Known for its resistance to highly alkaline waters, the Eagle Lake trout is a native to nearby Eagle Lake and its Pine Creek tributary. Due to diminishing flows into Pine Creek, a program was started in the 1950s to preserve the species. Once found only in its native waters, the Eagle Lake trout can now be found in many waters throughout the state.
  • Brown trout. Also known as German brown trout, this fish is native to Eastern Europe. Brown trout have been stocked in many state waters for recreational fishing. These days, triploid (sterile) brown trout continue to provide anglers a quality fishing experience.
  • Eastern brook trout. Though commonly called a trout, the brook trout is actually a member of the char family. Originating from the eastern United States, brook trout were imported to California via railroad in the late 1800s. As with brown trout, brook trout provided for anglers are now triploid.

 

 

Hot Creek Hatchery Tests Positive for Whirling Disease, Trout Stocking to Continue in Area Waters

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) recently learned Hot Creek Hatchery near Mammoth Lakes has tested positive for the parasite that causes whirling disease. Whirling disease was detected in wild trout populations in Inyo and Mono Counties more than 30 years ago. Therefore, continued fish stocking in these and other waters already known to have the whirling disease parasite should have little or no effect on those trout populations. Hot Creek, Lake Crowley and the Owens River provide blue ribbon trout fishing despite the presence of whirling disease in these waters.

“We will continue to operate Hot Creek Hatchery with no negative effects on wild fish in Inyo and Mono counties, where Hot Creek Hatchery normally stocks its fish,” said CDFW Fisheries Branch Chief Stafford Lehr.

Last week, two northern California hatcheries, Darrah Springs and Mt. Shasta, also tested positive for this parasite. Of the 22 hatcheries operated by CDFW throughout the state, only these three have tested positive. The disease was discovered as a result of routine annual checks for fish diseases which are conducted at all CDFW hatcheries.

Whirling disease is caused by Myxobolus cerebralis, a protozoan parasite that destroys cartilage in the vertebral column of trout and salmon. It is fatal or disfiguring to infected trout and salmon but does not affect humans. Fish infected with whirling disease are safe for human consumption.

At this time it is not known how the parasite entered Hot Creek Hatchery waters. The possibility the parasite was transferred to the hatchery from local nearby waters known to have whirling disease is likely, due to current drought conditions that cause wildlife to move to available waters sources. Some species of fish-eating birds can transmit the parasite.

For more information on whirling disease, please visit http://whirlingdisease.montana.edu.

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Media Contacts:
Harry Morse, CDFW Communications, (208) 220-1169
Dr. William Cox, CDFW Hatchery Program Manager, (916) 358-2827

As White Sturgeon Decline, Anglers’ Failure to Return Sturgeon Fishing Report Cards Could Lead to Restrictions

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is working to keep the state’s white sturgeon population from declining precipitously. Much of that work is estimating the number of fish harvested (kept), the harvest rate and population size. Because many sturgeon anglers fail to submit their sturgeon fishing report cards and data from report cards is very important, new harvest restrictions or restrictions on the sale of the report cards may be required to address uncertainty attributable to uncooperative sturgeon anglers.

For the prehistoric-looking fish in California, it is as though 2015 is the ninth straight year of drought. White sturgeon only reproduce well here when the Sacramento River is nearing flood stage for many weeks during both winter and spring. That hasn’t happened since 2006, triggering a period of decline that will last at least another nine years.

During this period of white sturgeon decline, conservation of the population and its fishery depends on CDFW’s ability to adaptively manage harvest numbers. Good data is necessary for successful adaptive management. Data is gathered from research trawls, a tagging study, fishing guides, party boats, creel surveys and report cards.

California Code of Regulations, section 1.74(d)(1), requires sturgeon anglers, abalone and lobster divers, certain salmon anglers and steelhead anglers to send CDFW their report cards each year. Unfortunately, many sturgeon anglers – even those who are otherwise responsible – do not submit their catch data. Sturgeon anglers are second in enthusiasm only to abalone divers, but those avid sturgeon anglers are far less likely to submit their report cards than avid participants in other fisheries.

The white sturgeon population also declined because of the severe 1987-92 drought. The Fish and Game Commission helped jump-start recovery of the population by protecting more adult sturgeon in 2006 than it had previously. The length of legally harvestable white sturgeon – the so-called ‘slot limit’ – was temporarily narrowed for the spring of 2006.

“The stars aligned in 2006,” said CDFW sturgeon biologist Marty Gingras. “Flows were the best since 1998 and there was relatively little harvest on the spawning grounds because the slot limit was so narrow.”

Sturgeon anglers should see a brief period of improved catch rates in the next few years as white sturgeon spawned in 2006 reach legally harvestable size, then a decline for at least nine years. The rate and magnitude of decline can be managed through restrictions on harvest and can be better understood if sturgeon anglers submit catch data on sturgeon fishing report cards as required by regulation.

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Media Contacts:

Marty Gingras, CDFW Bay-Delta Fisheries, (209) 234-3486
Dana Michaels, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-2420

Whirling Disease Detection Triggers Quarantine at Two California Trout Hatcheries

The detection of a disease-causing parasite has led the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) to quarantine infected trout at two northern California hatcheries.

During routine hatchery and fish health checks, CDFW fisheries pathologists found that captive-raised fish at the Darrah Springs Trout Hatchery (located in the Battle Creek watershed east of Redding) tested positive for whirling disease. Prior to the discovery, trout were transferred from an infected raceway at Darrah Springs to Mt. Shasta Hatchery. While fish transferred to  Mt. Shasta Hatchery from Darrah Springs Hatchery tested positive for the parasite, it is yet unknown if biological and environmental conditions allowed it to complete its lifecycle at that location. Approximately three million rainbow and brown trout at both hatcheries are now under quarantine and will undergo testing.

Whirling disease is caused by Myxobolus cerebralis, a protozoan parasite that destroys cartilage in the vertebral column of trout and salmon. It can be fatal to infected trout and salmon but does not affect humans or other wildlife or fish. Trout and salmon that test positive for the disease are still safe for human consumption. Although the infected hatchery fish cannot be released into California’s waterways, they can and will be euthanized in a manner that allows for usage as food fish. CDFW is currently working with local food banks to arrange donation, and a previously scheduled children’s fishing event at the Mt. Shasta Hatchery this weekend will be held as planned.

The whirling disease parasite is naturally present in some streams and rivers in California. Hatchery outbreaks are unusual but not unheard of (there have been none in northern California for two decades). The disposal of infected hatchery-raised trout is a necessary precaution to prevent the spread of disease to non-infected state waters where the fish would normally be planted.

“This is a bitter pill to swallow,” said Stafford Lehr, CDFW Fisheries Branch Chief. “We have raised and nurtured these trout to provide fishing opportunity. It’s heartbreaking. We are committed to take whatever steps necessary to eradicate this disease and bring these hatcheries back online.”

The parasite is believed to have entered Darrah Springs Hatchery via the water source supplying a portion of that hatchery. Some species of fish-eating birds can transmit the parasite and river otters can carry it on their fur from one water to another. The possibility that the parasite was transferred to the hatchery from local nearby waters known to have whirling disease is likely, due to current drought conditions that cause wildlife to move to available water sources.

Until testing is complete the exact number of fish exposed to and infected with the disease is unknown. Once the infected fish are euthanized, the latest scientific techniques will be used to cleanse the impacted areas of the hatcheries, confirm the impacted water sources are whirling disease-free and bring the facilities back to production status as soon as possible.

CDFW pathologists routinely inspect each of the 13 state-run trout hatcheries which raise approximately 10 million trout for California anglers statewide, and nine salmon hatcheries that raise over 31 million young salmon and steelhead.

For more information on whirling disease, please visit http://whirlingdisease.montana.edu.

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Media Contacts:
Harry Morse, CDFW Communications, (208) 220-1169

Dr. William Cox, CDFW Hatchery Program Manager, (916) 358-2827