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

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

Bacterial Outbreak Forces Euthanization of Fish at Three Southern California Hatcheries

Three California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) fish hatchery facilities in the eastern Sierra and Southern California have been battling a bacterial outbreak that has affected 3.2 million fish. This week, after consultation with fish pathology experts and exhausting all avenues of treatment, CDFW announced that the fish, which are all trout, at the affected facilities must be euthanized in order to stop the spread of the outbreak.

The affected facilities – Mojave River Hatchery, Black Rock Hatchery and Fish Springs Hatchery – usually provide fish for stocking waterways in CDFW’s South Coast Region and Inland Deserts Region. The euthanization of all the fish at these facilities will have a profound effect on CDFW’s ability to stock fish for anglers in those regions in the near future.

“Euthanizing our hatchery stocks was not a decision we came to lightly, but it had to be done,” said Jay Rowan environmental program manager for CDFW hatcheries. “This bacterium is resistant to all the treatment options we have available for fish. The fish losses were getting worse despite our treatments. The best option we have available that will get us back to planting fish from these hatcheries in the shortest timeline is to clear the raceways, thoroughly disinfect the facilities, and start over.”

CDFW has had the three facilities under quarantine for more than a month, while pathologists and hatchery staff treated the affected fish and researched potential options. The outbreak of Lactococcus garvieae, which is similar to streptococcus, has been reported in cattle and poultry farms as well as fresh and salt water fish and shellfish hatcheries around the world, but had never before been detected in fish in California. Research of treatment options employed at trout farms in Europe and other parts of the world show there is almost no chance for successfully eliminating the bacteria from a facility without depopulation and disinfection.

Fish that are infected with Lactococcus garvieae can show symptoms including bulging eyes, lethargic or erratic swimming and increased mortality, or be asymptomatic and show no signs of infection depending on a several factors including water temperature and stress. Fish-to-human transmission of this bacteria is rare and unlikely but there are several documented instances associated with immunocompromised people consuming infected raw fish and unpasteurized milk products.

Hot Creek Hatchery in the eastern Sierra has tested negative for the bacteria and is still planting eight waters in Inyo and Mono counties. CDFW is in the process of developing a modified stocking plan to reallocate fish from central and northern California hatcheries to a small number of high angler use, easily accessible waters in geographically distinct parts of the eastern Sierra and Southern California.

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.

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
Harry Morse, CDFW Communications, (208) 220-1169

Mojave River Hatchery raceway

Bacterial Outbreak at CDFW Hatcheries Temporarily Halts Fish Stocking in Southern California

Several California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) fish hatchery facilities in the eastern Sierra and Southern California are battling a bacterial outbreak that has the potential to cause significant losses to both hatchery and wild fish populations. The outbreak of Lactococcus garvieae, which is similar to streptococcus, has sickened fish at the Mojave River Hatchery and has been detected at both the Black Rock and Fish Springs hatcheries. A fourth CDFW hatchery, Hot Creek Hatchery, was originally quarantined out of caution but after testing that quarantine has been lifted.

The L. garvieae bacteria has never before been detected in fish in California, and CDFW must take a cautious and careful approach to ensure the protection of the state’s aquatic resources – fish, hatchery facilities and public waterways. Infected fish can show symptoms including bulging eyes, lethargic or erratic swimming and increased mortality, or be asymptomatic and show no signs of infection depending on a several factors including water temperature and stress. Fish-to-human transmission of this bacteria is rare and unlikely.

Fish stocking has temporarily been halted from the facilities under quarantine while hatchery staff treats the affected fish populations and takes measures to prevent the spread of the bacteria. Planting will resume when fish have recovered from the infections and fisheries pathologists have determined that they no longer present a threat to the environment.

“This is a challenge for our hatcheries because the bacteria is previously unknown in California, and we don’t have tried-and-true strategies on hand to combat it,” said Jay Rowan, environmental program manager for CDFW’s Hatchery Production and Fish Health Laboratory. “A successful approach will have three components: Treating the affected fish at the hatcheries, finding the origin of the outbreak, and planning ahead to contain and prevent the spread of the bacteria. Unfortunately, we may be in for a long battle here, which means there will not be a lot of fish plants in the near future in the eastern Sierra and Southern California. I wish we could give anglers a target date for when we think we can start planting again, but it’s all up to how fast and how well the fish respond to the treatments.”

Current treatment measures at the hatcheries include keeping water temperatures low, reducing stress due to crowding and other factors, introducing antibiotic medication and special diet in order to assist the fish in fighting off the infection. CDFW is currently investigating the source of the outbreak. For additional information, please see CDFW’s frequently asked questions about the L. garvieae outbreak.

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Media Contacts:
Jay Rowan, CDFW Hatchery Program, (916) 212-3164
Harry Morse, CDFW Communications, (208) 220-1169