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

Pacific halibut being measured on a boat

Recreational Pacific Halibut Fishery to End Aug. 11

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) announces the recreational Pacific halibut fishery will close Tuesday, Aug. 11 at 11:59 p.m. for the remainder of 2020. Based on the latest catch projections, CDFW expects the 2020 California recreational quota of 39,000 pounds has been taken.

The quota amount is determined annually through an international process and is largely driven by results from the annual stock assessment conducted by the International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC). CDFW tracks the progress of the fishery each year to ensure catch amounts do not exceed the California quota. CDFW field staff sample public launch ramps and charter boat landings to monitor catches of Pacific halibut throughout the season, along with other marine sportfish species.

During the last week of July and beginning of August, CDFW field staff recorded a record high number of Pacific halibut being caught.

“Reports from the public also confirmed an extremely hot Pacific halibut bite during the second half of July, with some anglers catching their limits by 8 a.m.,” said Marci Yaremko, environmental program manager with CDFW. “The significant number of fish caught during this time is unprecedented in California’s fishery, and the quota was reached very quickly.”

Using this information, CDFW conferred with the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), the IPHC and the Pacific Fishery Management Council to review projected catch amounts and to determine the 2020 quota had been attained. Formal authority to close the fishery resides with NMFS, which took action to close the fishery following consultation with CDFW.

Pacific halibut are a different species from California halibut, and occupy a large geographic range, from the Aleutian Islands eastward through Alaska to British Columbia and throughout ocean waters of the Pacific Northwest. Along the West Coast, they are commonly found as far south as Point Arena in Mendocino County.

For current information about the Pacific halibut fishery, science or management, please check one of the following resources:

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Media Contacts:
Marci Yaremko, CDFW Marine Region, (858) 442-3004

Melanie Parker, CDFW Marine Region, (831) 649-2814
Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 804-1714

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

Recreational Dungeness Crab Fishery Delayed in State Waters in Northern Humboldt and Del Norte Counties Due to Public Health Hazard

California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Director Charlton H. Bonham has enacted a delay to the opening of the recreational Dungeness crab fishery in part northern California. The recreational fishery for Dungeness crab will open for remaining areas on Saturday, Nov. 3.

State health agencies determined that Dungeness crab in state waters from Patrick’s Point, Humboldt County (41° 8.00’ N. Latitude) north to the California/Oregon state line have unhealthy levels of domoic acid and recommended a closure of the recreational fishery in this area. Other areas of the coast will open as scheduled.

The recreational closure includes state waters from Patrick’s Point, Humboldt County (41° 8.00’ N latitude), north to the California/Oregon state line (42° N latitude). State waters extend three nautical miles beyond outermost islands, reefs and rocks. Recreational take and/or possession of Dungeness crab is prohibited in closed waters.

This closure shall remain in effect until the Director of the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA), in consultation with the State Public Health Officer at CDPH, determines that domoic acid no longer poses a significant risk to public health and recommends lifting the fishery closure in this region. CDFW will continue to coordinate with CDPH and OEHHA to test domoic acid levels in Dungeness crab to determine when the Dungeness crab recreational fishery in this area can safely be opened.

Pursuant to Fish and Game Code, section 5523, the Director of CDFW will notify the Fish and Game Commission of the closure and request that the Commission schedule a public discussion of the closure at its next scheduled meeting.

Domoic acid is a potent neurotoxin produced by a naturally occurring marine alga, whose levels can be increased under certain ocean conditions, and can accumulate in shellfish, other invertebrates and sometimes fish. It causes illness and sometimes death in a variety of birds and marine mammals that consume affected organisms. At low levels, domoic acid exposure can cause nausea, diarrhea and dizziness in humans. At higher levels, it can cause persistent short-term memory loss, seizures and death.

For more information:

Memo from Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (10/25/2018)

CDFW Director’s Closure Declaration (10/25/2018)

www.wildlife.ca.gov/Fishing/Ocean/Health-Advisories

www.wildlife.ca.gov/crab

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Media Contacts:
Christy Juhasz, CDFW Marine Region, (707) 576-2887
Jordan Traverso, CDFW Communications, (916) 654-9937