Waterfowl Hunting Seasons Opening Soon — Drought Conditions May Limit Opportunities

As California’s 2015-2016 waterfowl hunting season approaches, hunters may find that wildlife areas may have limited space, particularly early in the season.

Mallard drake about to land at a grassy refuge
Mallard drake comes in for a landing at Colusa National Wildlife Refuge. Mike Peters photo

Most years, quality public hunting access can be found on more than two dozen national wildlife refuges and wildlife areas managed by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). With the ongoing drought, some areas will have significantly reduced amounts of water available while others will have normal to near normal water conditions.
Some wildlife areas and refuges may be closed, while others may open later in the season or have a reduced hunter quota. State-operated waterfowl hunting areas that will be affected for the opener include Sutter National Wildlife Refuge and Kern National Wildlife Refuge, both of which will likely open late in the season.

Opening and closing dates vary by zone. This information is included in the 2015-2016 Waterfowl Regulations booklet.
Please note that as of July 1, 2015, nonlead ammunition is required when hunting upland game birds on all state wildlife areas and ecological reserves. Please plan accordingly. For more information please see the CDFW nonlead ammunition webpage.

CDFW is striving to only offer reservation applications for areas that will be open for hunting. However, last-minute closures may occur due to uncertain water availability and refunds cannot be issued for applications submitted to areas that close due to a lack of water.

Waterfowl hunters should keep informed about current reservation and quota numbers, which are expected to fluctuate frequently. Hunters can also follow the Twitter tag #cawildlifeareaclosures for updates on state-operated wildlife area closures.

In an ongoing effort to expand public access, CDFW is offering waterfowl hunting opportunities through the Shared Habitat Alliance for Recreational Enhancement Program (SHARE) at the Merced Wildlife Management Area in Merced County. For a description of the hunts offered and application instructions, please visit CDFW’s SHARE webpage.

A valid California hunting license, appropriate validations and a signed federal waterfowl conservation stamp must be obtained before entering the field. In addition, a wildlife area pass is required to hunt on many state-operated wildlife areas. Licenses, validations and passes are not sold at wildlife areas, so hunters must purchase these items in advance.

California hunters are required to complete a hunter education training course before purchasing a hunting license for the first time in California. Approximately 30,000 students complete this requirement annually.

Russian River watershed

Landowners, Grape Growers, Government and Others Partner to Protect Juvenile Coho

State representatives will recognize landowners, grape growers, agencies and environmental groups for their part in the development of voluntary programs to save water and protect local fish species in the Russian River watershed during the drought. The recognition will take place at a press conference on Friday, Oct. 2 at the Kendall-Jackson Wine Estate & Gardens in Santa Rosa.

Voluntary agreements were developed in partnership with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and the National Marine Fisheries Service to provide water to protect coho salmon. Some agreements detail water conservation efforts and others outline flow releases during critical times for the migrating fish. There are currently 41 Voluntary Drought Initiative agreements signed with vineyard and rural landowners within the Russian River watershed.

“It’s a very tough year to be a fish,” said CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham. “This drought is unprecedented. But when responsible members of the community collaborate, the solutions can be remarkable. The partnerships we’re acknowledging today may help save coho.”

In mid-June the State Water Resources Control Board adopted an Enhanced Conservation Regulation requiring all users in critical stretches of Mark West, Green Valley, Dutch Bill and Mill creeks – which flow to the Russian River — to reduce water use wherever possible, especially on lawns and ornamental landscapes. The requirement also prohibited certain discretionary uses of potable and non-potable water in commercial agriculture.

Following that mandate, a group of grape growers worked with CDFW to develop the additional Voluntary Drought Initiative that, in conjunction with farmers in the critical stretches of the four creeks, aims to reduce water use by 25 percent. They also developed a reporting program that will track their progress toward that goal.

“This effort demonstrates what I think is the most important fundamental fact about the drought – we’re all in this together,” said Karen Ross, Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture. “The commitment of grape growers to keep water in the streams when fish most need it demonstrates that agriculture understands this fact and is part of the solution.”

In one agreement, Jackson Family Wines will release 7.2 acre-feet of water from a vineyard reservoir into Green Valley Creek through December 2015. Water release agreements will improve conditions in that tributary, improving the odds of survival for juvenile coho spending the summer in the stream.

In addition to the water release, Jackson Family Wines contributed $20,000 in seed money to assist Trout Unlimited in establishing a program for the purchase of residential tanks for rainwater collection. This program will help minimize the need for people living near the stream to draw upon it for water.

“My family operates with a 500-year vision to do all we can to help enhance and restore habitat for endangered species,” said Katie Jackson, Vice President of External Affairs and Sustainability and daughter of company founder Jess Jackson. “We believe that collaboration with resource agencies, as well as other wine grape growers, is incredibly important for habitat conservation.”

This year juvenile coho salmon face the daunting challenge of surviving the fourth year of one of the most severe droughts in recorded California history. CDFW has asked landowners to participate in voluntary agreements to help ensure enough water remains in streams. Partnerships with landowners for habitat have been key to the state’s efforts to conserve fish and wildlife resources.

For more information on Jackson Family Wines, please visit www.jacksonfamilywines.com.

For more information on CDFW efforts to protect and preserve fish and wildlife through this drought, please visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/drought.

To learn about all the actions the state has taken to manage our water system and cope with the impacts of the drought, visit drought.ca.gov.

Every Californian should take steps to conserve water. Find out how at saveourwater.com.

Conservation – the wise, sparing use of water – remains California’s most reliable drought management tool. Each individual act of conservation, such as letting the lawn go brown or replacing a washer in a faucet to stop a leak, makes a difference over time.


Media Contacts:
Andrew Hughan, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8944
Galen McCorkle, Jackson Family Wines, (707) 529-5169

Drought Prompts Fish Evacuation at San Joaquin Hatchery

San Joaquin hatchery fish being moved to Shaver Lake
San Joaquin hatchery fish being moved to Shaver Lake

With a fourth year of extreme drought conditions reducing the cold water supply available, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is moving fish out of the San Joaquin Hatchery near Fresno for the first time.

The water level at Millerton Lake, which supplies water for the hatchery, is so low that the temperature is not cold enough for the hatchery fish to survive.  Workers have been evacuating the hatchery-raised rainbow trout, some of which are as large as 3 pounds, into lakes in Fresno , Kern, Tulare and Tuolumne counties for more than two weeks. The fish planting process should be completed within the next few days.

“Our water is just too warm to raise trout here, and if we don’t move them, they won’t survive,” said CDFW Fisheries Program Manager Dean Marston. “If there is an upside to this situation, it’s that the public will have an opportunity to catch some really nice trout.”

The fish have been planted in Shaver Lake, Huntington Lake, Courtright Reservoir, Wishon Reservoir, Pinecrest Lake, Kern River below Johnsondale Bridge and the Tule River at Camp Nelson.

CDFW has been stocking rainbow and brown trout from other state hatcheries, including the American River Hatchery in Sacramento and Kern River Hatchery near Bakersfield, into state waters earlier than normal. Many of these are catchable-size trout, in addition to some fingerlings and smaller fish. By increasing planting frequency and the number of fish planted, CDFW can somewhat offset the natural decline in fishing opportunity as water temperatures in many geographic locations become unsuitable. The accelerated planting schedule will continue until the end of summer when all the fish in the raceways are expected to be evacuated.

At the San Joaquin Hatchery, CDFW is moving next year’s inventory of small, fingerling-size trout to its Moccasin Hatchery for rearing until water temperatures at the San Joaquin Hatchery return to suitable levels.

Fall and winter rains, if received in sufficient amounts, will cool water temperatures enough to allow hatcheries to come back online and resume operations.


Media Contacts:
Dean Marston, CDFW Central Region, (559) 243-4005, ext. 122

Andrew Hughan, CDFW Communications, (916) 201-2958

CDFW to Hold Public Meeting on Merced River Closure

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) will hold a public meeting on Monday, Aug. 17 to inform the public about the proposed emergency closure of the Merced River to fishing.

The meeting will be held from 7-9 p.m. in the theater at El Capitan High School, 100 West Farmland Ave., Merced (95348).

Last year the California Fish and Game Commission adopted a proposal to implement early restrictions on angling in the Merced River, closing the river from Aug. 29 to Dec. 31, 2014. Earlier this year, the Commission granted CDFW authority to close fisheries when certain criteria are met, such as low water levels and high water temperatures.

This proposed early closure affects only the Merced River from Crocker-Huffman Dam downstream to the Snelling Road Bridge, a distance of approximately 5.5 miles. Angling in the river below Snelling Road bridge is subject to normal fishing regulations and closures..

The lower Merced River is typically only closed to angling from Nov. 1 through Dec. 31. The purpose of the annual closure is to increase survival of juvenile and adult wild rainbow trout and steelhead by reducing fish mortality associated with hook-and-line fishing.

The move to close the river ahead of schedule is intended to protect drought-stressed waters and their salmonid populations during the fall spawning.

The river will re-open to anglers on Jan. 1, 2016.

Media Contacts:
Dean Marston, CDFW Central Region, (559) 243-4005, ext. 122
Andrew Hughan, CDFW Communications, (916) 201-2958

fish in drought-affected creek

Fisheries Restoration Grants Deadline Extended

The grant application deadline for anadromous salmonid restoration projects that address impacts of the ongoing drought has been extended, due to the recent addition of a consultation requirement.

Prior to submitting an application to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), all applicants must consult with representatives of the California Conservation Corps and California Association of Local Conservation Corps in order to determine the feasibility of Corps participation in the proposed project. Application guidelines and details about this requirement can be found on the Fisheries Restoration Grant webpage (www.dfg.ca.gov/fish/Administration/Grants/FRGP/Solicitation.asp).

In order to allow time for applicants to comply with this additional requirement, the application deadline has been extended to July 31, 2015. All applications must be received by CDFW by 5 p.m. on this date (postmarks will not be accepted).

Approximately $1.5 million in grant funding has been earmarked for habitat restoration, water conservation, education and drought planning projects located in anadromous waters within coastal watersheds and the Central Valley. Eligible applicants include public agencies, recognized tribes and qualified nonprofit organizations.

For information or questions about the solicitation or application process, please contact Patty Forbes, Grant Program Coordinator, at (916) 327-8842, or Kevin Shaffer, Anadromous Program Manager, at (916) 327-8841.


Media Contacts:
Patty Forbes, CDFW Fisheries Branch, (916) 327-8842
Kevin Shaffer, CDFW Fisheries Branch, (916) 327-8841
Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8988