CDFW Announces Publication of Rules for Ocean Salmon and Pacific Halibut

New annual federal regulations for ocean salmon and Pacific halibut fisheries for waters off California have taken effect. Federal regulations for Pacific halibut were published in 85 Federal Register 25317 on May 1, 2020 and were effective April 30, 2020, and ocean salmon regulations were published in 85 Federal Register 27317 on May 8, 2020 and were effective as of May 6, 2020.

Pursuant to California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 1.95, ocean salmon and Pacific halibut sport fishing regulations in state waters automatically conform to these new federal regulations.

Both the ocean salmon fishery and the Pacific halibut fishery opened on May 1. Anglers are reminded to abide by all state and local health guidelines regarding non-essential travel and physical distancing. Anglers are also advised to check with local authorities on the status of harbor and access points as site closures and access restrictions may change daily.

The 2020 recreational ocean salmon season dates for the California coast are as follows:

  • In the Klamath Management Zone, which is the area between the Oregon/California state line and Horse Mountain (40°05’00” N. latitude), the season will open June 6 and will continue through Aug. 9.
  • The Fort Bragg and San Francisco areas, which extend from Horse Mountain to Point Arena (38°57’30” N. latitude) and Point Arena to Pigeon Point (37°11’00” N. latitude), respectively, opened May 1 and will continue through Nov. 8.
  • The Monterey area between Pigeon Point and the U.S./Mexico border opened on May 1 and will continue through Oct. 4.

The minimum size limit is 20 inches total length in all areas north of Pigeon Point. In the Monterey area the minimum size limit is 24 inches total length. The daily bag limit is two Chinook salmon per day. No more than two daily bag limits may be possessed when on land. On a vessel in ocean waters, no person shall possess or bring ashore more than one daily bag limit. Retention of coho salmon (also known as silver salmon) is prohibited in all ocean fisheries off California.

Next year’s April recreational ocean salmon season has also been determined at this time. In 2021, the recreational ocean salmon season will open April 3 south of Horse Mountain. The minimum size limit is 20 inches total length in the Fort Bragg management area and 24 inches total length south of Point Arena. The daily bag limit is two Chinook salmon per day. The remainder of the 2021 ocean salmon season will be decided in April of next year.

The 2020 Pacific halibut season is scheduled to be open statewide seven days per week from May 1 through Oct. 31, or until the quota has been met, whichever is earlier. There is no minimum size limit for this species. The daily bag and possession limit is one fish. Again this year, the public can follow the progress of catch through the season on the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Pacific halibut web page; however, updates to catch information may be offered less frequently than in prior years.

Public notification of any in-season change is made through the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) Ocean Salmon and Pacific Halibut Hotlines. Before engaging in any fishing activity for these species, please check one of the following resources for the most up-to-date information:

Ocean Salmon Resources:

Pacific Halibut Resources:

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Media Contacts:
Marci Yaremko, CDFW Marine Region, (858) 442-3004
Jordan Traverso, CDFW Communications, (916) 654-9937

A blue river snakes through a wide green valley with a single conical mountain in the background under blue sky

Wildlife Conservation Board Funds Environmental Improvement and Acquisition Projects

At its May 24 quarterly meeting, the Wildlife Conservation Board (WCB) approved approximately $13 million in grants to help restore and protect fish and wildlife habitat throughout California. Some of the 12 approved projects will benefit fish and wildlife—including some endangered species—while others will provide public access to important natural resources. Several projects will also demonstrate the importance of protecting working landscapes that integrate economic, social and environmental stewardship practices beneficial to the environment, landowners and the local community.

Funding for these projects comes from a combination of sources including the Habitat Conservation Fund and bond measures approved by voters to help preserve and protect California’s natural resources.

Funded projects include:

  • $186,250 in two grants to the Mojave Desert Land Trust to acquire approximately 367 acres of land from two separate owners for the protection of desert habitat corridors in the Morongo Basin, near the community of Joshua Tree in San Bernardino County.
  • A $600,000 grant to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) for a cooperative project with the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Conservancy, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the California Department of Food and Agriculture to implement a large scale Nutria eradication project in riparian corridors and associated wetland habitats located in various Central Valley counties of the San Joaquin Valley and the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
  • A $610,000 grant to the Pacific Forest Trust for a cooperative project with the California Department of Transportation and CDFW to acquire a forest conservation easement over approximately 1,346 acres of land for protection of working forest lands, forest reserve areas, watersheds, fisheries and habitat linkages near the town of McCloud in Siskiyou County.
  • A $2,440,000 in-fee acquisition of approximately 5,849 acres of land by CDFW for the protection of critical cold water aquatic habitat for a variety of anadromous fish species, including the state and federally listed coho salmon, the protection of migration corridors vital to many plant, bird and mammal species, and to provide ongoing dryland grazing and future wildlife-oriented public use opportunities near Montague in Siskiyou County.
  • A $4.4 million grant to The Nature Conservancy for a cooperative project with CalFire, the State Coastal Conservancy and the California Natural Resources Agency to acquire a conservation easement on approximately 23,681 acres of native forest habitats, including redwood, Douglas fir and Grand fir in the upland zones, and mature red alder forests within the riparian zone along the Ten Mile River. The easement is needed to preserve wildlife area linkages, provide habitat to numerous wildlife species, and reduce soil erosion and sustain water quality near Fort Bragg in Mendocino County.
  • A $950,000 grant to the National Forest Foundation for a cooperative project with U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management to thin approximately 230 acres of forest, five miles southwest of Tahoe City in Placer County.
  • A $511,000 grant to the California Waterfowl Association for a cooperative project with the City of Woodland and Explorit to enhance and restore approximately 20 acres of wetlands at the Woodland Regional Park, approximately five miles southeast of the City of Woodland.
  • A $1.6 million grant to the Trust for Public Land for a cooperative project with the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy to acquire approximately 51 acres of land for the protection of threatened and endangered species, riparian and floodplain habitat along the Santa Clara River and to provide the potential for wildlife-oriented public use opportunities near Acton in Los Angeles County.

For more information about the WCB please visit www.wcb.ca.gov.

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Media Contacts:
John Donnelly, WCB Executive Director, (916) 445-0137
Dana Michaels, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-2420

Wildlife Conservation Board Funds Stream Flow Enhancement Projects

At a March 22 meeting, the Wildlife Conservation Board (WCB) approved approximately $33.1 million in grants for 22 projects to enhance stream flows to benefit fish and wildlife habitat throughout California. The Legislature appropriated funding for these projects as authorized by the Water Quality, Supply and Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2014 (Proposition 1). A total of $200 million was allocated to the WCB for projects that enhance stream flow.

A total of $38.4 million—including $5 million designated for scoping and scientific projects—was allocated to the WCB for expenditure in Fiscal Year 2017/18 for the California Stream Flow Enhancement Program. Projects were chosen through a competitive grant process, judged by the WCB, California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and the State Water Resources Control Board. Guided by the California Water Action Plan, funding is focused on projects that will lead to direct and measurable enhancements to the amount, timing and/or quality of water for anadromous fish; special status, threatened, endangered or at-risk species; or to provide resilience to climate change.

Funded projects include:

  • A $4.8 million grant to The Wildlands Conservancy for a project to enhance stream flow on Russ Creek by reestablishing channel alignment to provide continuous summer base flows suitable for fish passage. The project is located on the southern portion of the Eel River Estuary Preserve in Humboldt County, approximately four miles west of Ferndale.
  • A $693,408 grant to the Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District for the purpose of dedicating a portion of the District’s diversion water rights to instream flow use that will benefit fish and wildlife by increasing habitat for salmonids and special status species in the Mad River. The project is located on the main-stem Mad River in the Mad River Watershed with releases coming from Matthews Dam at Ruth Reservoir, approximately 48 miles southeast of Eureka and 53 miles southwest of Redding.
  • A $726,374 grant to Mendocino County Resource Conservation District for a cooperative project with Trout Unlimited, The Nature Conservancy and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to reduce summer diversions and improve dry season stream flows for the benefit of Coho salmon and steelhead trout. The Navarro River watershed is located approximately 20 miles south of Fort Bragg.
  • A $5 million grant to the Sutter Butte Flood Control Agency for a cooperative project with the Department of Water Resources and CDFW, to improve roughly 7,500 linear feet of existing channels to connect isolated ponds. This will provide fish refuge and eliminate potential stranding. This project’s design was funded by the Stream Flow Enhancement Program in 2016. The project site is within the Sacramento River watershed and is less than one mile southwest of the town of Oroville, on the east side of the Feather River.
  • $609,970 grant to the University of California Regents for a cooperative project with the University of Nevada, Reno and the Desert Research Institute, to expand monitoring, scientific studies and modeling in the Tahoe-Truckee Basin. The results will guide watershed-scale forest thinning strategies that enhance stream flow within an area that provides critical habitat for threatened species. The project is located in the central Sierra Nevada mountain range, primarily on National Forest lands in the Lake Tahoe Basin and Tahoe National Forest.
  • A $851,806 grant to the Sonoma Resource Conservation District for a cooperative project with the Coast Ridge Community Forest and 29 landowners, to install rainwater harvesting tanks and enter into agreements to refrain from diverting stream flow during dry seasons. The project area consists of 29 properties within the coastal Gualala River, Russian Gulch and Austin Creek watersheds, which discharge to the Pacific Ocean approximately 40 miles northwest of Santa Rosa.
  • A $5.3 million grant to the Alameda County Water District for a cooperative project with the Alameda County Flood Control and Water Conservation District, California Natural Resources Agency, State Coastal Conservancy and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to modify flow releases in Alameda Creek and construct two concrete fish ladders around existing fish passage barriers. This will provide salmonids access to high value habitat upstream of the project location, approximately 17 miles north of San Jose and 22 miles southeast of Oakland.
  • A $3.9 million grant to The Nature Conservancy for a cooperative project with U.C. Santa Barbara and the Santa Clara River Watershed Conservancy to remove approximately 250 acres of the invasive giant reed (Arundo donax), which will save approximately 2,000 acre-feet of water annually for the Santa Clara River. The project is located in unincorporated Ventura County approximately two miles east of the city of Santa Paula and three miles west of the city of Fillmore, along the Santa Clara River.

Details about the California Stream Flow Enhancement Program are available on the WCB website.

CDFW to Host Public Meetings to Initiate Partnership with Sonoma County Landowners

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) invites Sonoma County residents to two upcoming public meetings to discuss the impacts of the drought on endangered coho salmon and other aquatic life. CDFW is urging  landowners to commit to voluntary water conservation measures in critical watersheds as a necessary means to save the fish.

The meetings will be held in Occidental and Windsor at the following locations:

Thursday, May 14, 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Salmon Creek Elementary School
1935 Bohemian Highway
Occidental (95465)

Thursday, May 21, 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Mary Agatha Furth Center
8400 Old Redwood Highway
Windsor (95492)

CDFW is working closely with several other agencies and organizations, including water interests, to develop strategies to keep enough water in the creeks to support coho salmon throughout the summer. Without major water-saving efforts, the fish will die from low water levels and high temperatures.

In addition to promoting water conservation, the department is asking landowners near Dutch Bill, Green Valley, Mark West and Mill creeks to allow CDFW personnel access to their property for continuing fish and creek monitoring. Fish rescue operations may be necessary later in the summer.

During the meetings, CDFW representatives will provide an overview of the drought and its impact on these watersheds, the department’s concerns and roles, and basic history and science of the species in these historic waterways. Representatives from local community resource conservation groups will provide information on water conservation strategies and technical assistance to landowners.

In April 2015 Governor Jerry Brown issued an Executive Order declaring a state of emergency and called on California residents to reduce water consumption wherever possible. The State Water Resources Control Board adopted an emergency regulation requiring an immediate 25 percent reduction in overall potable urban water use statewide in accordance with the Executive Order. The state drought web page can be found at drought.ca.gov.

For complete information and documents to download go to CDFW’s Voluntary Drought Initiative webpage at goo.gl/4rOjd0.

Media Contact:
Andrew Hughan, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8944

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Coho Salmon Identification is Critical in California’s Ocean Fisheries

Media Contacts:
David Moore, DFG Region 3, (707) 766-8380
Andrew Hughan, DFG Communications, (916) 322-8944

The Department of Fish and Game (DFG) reminds sport anglers to be vigilant about properly identifying their salmon before keeping them. The ocean salmon fishing season in California is well under way and proper identification is critical for the survival of a protected species of salmon.

Coho salmon
Coho salmon

Chinook (or king) salmon is the primary species targeted in California’s ocean waters (although a few pink salmon are caught occasionally). However, the retention of coho (or silver) salmon is prohibited in all California ocean fisheries, specifically to protect central coast and southern Oregon-northern California coast coho stocks. Both stocks are severely declining and listed under both the state and federal Endangered Species Acts.

Coho salmon have existed in California coastal waters for thousands of years. Today, however, their populations have declined to just a fraction of their historical levels, endangered by a wide range of factors. Coho salmon populations along the coast from the San Lorenzo River in Santa Cruz County north to the Smith River in Del Norte County have reached a critical state of decline. Spawner escapement numbers are below those required for sustainable populations and constitute a crisis for coho salmon survival on the California coast.

In most years, sport anglers begin catching coho salmon in the ocean fishery around mid-May. Coho catches generally peak during June and then gradually decline throughout the remainder of summer. Although some of these fish may have originated from hatcheries in Oregon and Washington, many are native California coho and any retention in California ocean fisheries has been prohibited since 1995. California ocean fisheries are managed to provide for the maximum access to abundant Chinook stocks while still protecting depressed California coho populations.

Sport fishing enthusiasts can significantly help California coho stocks by taking the time to correctly identify each salmon caught before removing it from the water (netting or dropping a coho salmon onto the deck of a boat can cause both scale loss and trauma that will likely reduce its chance of survival when released). Coho salmon should be identified through examination of mouth and gums. The base of the bottom teeth on a Chinook salmon are all black whereas coho salmon have a narrow light gray band. A photo guide is viewable online at http://nrm.dfg.ca.gov/FileHandler.ashx?DocumentID=36125&inline=true. Although not as often caught in ocean waters, steelhead cannot be targeted or taken during the ocean salmon season. Steelhead show no black color on lower jaw and tongue.

To help avoid coming in contact with coho salmon, anglers should rig their lines to fish deeper as coho are more often found in the top 30 feet of water. Anglers should plan to fish nearer to shore for Chinook salmon as coho salmon are typically found farther offshore. Using larger lures that select for the larger Chinook salmon will also reduce coho salmon catch. The daily bag limit remains two salmon of any species except coho salmon. For complete ocean salmon regulations, please visit the Ocean Salmon webpage at www.dfg.ca.gov/marine/oceansalmon.asp or call the Ocean Salmon Regulations Hotline at (707) 576-3429.

Sport anglers are also reminded that coho salmon may also be found in coastal rivers and streams. Retention of coho salmon in any California inland salmon fishery has been prohibited since 1998. Protecting coho salmon in the ocean, as well as in streams and rivers, is an essential step in recovering this important salmon species.