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Nonlead Ammunition Requirement is Upon Us, No Lead Ammo on CDFW Lands Starting July 1

Nonlead Ammo PosterStarting July 1, 2015, nonlead ammunition will be required when hunting on all California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) lands and for all Nelson bighorn sheep hunts anywhere in the state.

CDFW reminds hunters who plan to hunt bighorn sheep or at any CDFW wildlife area or ecological reserve where hunting is allowed on or after July 1, 2015 to acquire nonlead ammunition well ahead of their hunt. Hunters are also encouraged to practice shooting nonlead ammunition to make sure firearms are sighted-in properly and shoot accurately with nonlead ammunition. Nonlead ammunition for some firearm calibers may be in short supply so hunters should plan accordingly.

In October 2013, Assembly Bill 711 was signed into law requiring the phase-out of lead ammunition for hunting anywhere in the state by July 1, 2019. The bill also required an implementation plan designed to impose the least burden on California’s hunters while adhering to the intent of the law.

In order to determine what was least disruptive to hunters, CDFW coordinated question and answer sessions at sportsmen’s shows, held meetings with hunting organizations and hosted a series of eight public workshops throughout the state. CDFW then presented draft regulations, as modified by public input from these workshops, to the Fish and Game Commission.

In April 2015, the Fish and Game Commission adopted CDFW’s proposed regulations and implementation plan.

Further phase-out of lead ammunition for hunting in California will continue on July 1, 2016, when nonlead ammunition will be required when hunting with shotguns for upland game birds (except for dove, quail and snipe), small game mammals, fur-bearing mammals and nongame birds except for when hunting at licensed game bird clubs. Nonlead ammunition will also be required when taking wildlife with shotguns for depredation purposes anywhere in the state.

Starting July 1, 2019, hunters must use nonlead ammunition when taking any animal anywhere in the state for any purpose.

Lead ammunition may still be used for target shooting. Existing restrictions on the use of lead ammunition in the California condor range remain in effect while implementation proceeds.

Hunting is not allowed at all CDFW wildlife areas and ecological reserves. For those areas where hunting is allowed, nonlead ammunition will be required starting July 1, 2015. Hunters are reminded to be familiar with all hunting regulations before going into the field.

More information on the phase-out of lead ammunition for hunting in California can be found at www.wildlife.ca.gov/Hunting/Nonlead-Ammunition.

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Media Contacts:
Craig Stowers, CDFW Wildlife Branch, (916) 445-3553
Clark Blanchard, CDFW Communications, (916) 651-7824
Lt. Chris Stoots, CDFW Law Enforcement, (916) 651-9982

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

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

Nonlead Ammunition Requirement Approaches

Starting July 1, 2015, nonlead ammunition will be required when hunting on all California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) lands and for all Nelson bighorn sheep hunts anywhere in the state.

CDFW reminds hunters who plan to hunt bighorn sheep or at any CDFW wildlife areas or ecological reserves where hunting is allowed on or after July 1, 2015 to acquire nonlead ammunition well ahead of their hunt.  Hunters are also encouraged to practice shooting nonlead ammunition to make sure firearms are sighted-in properly and shoot accurately with nonlead ammunition. Please note nonlead ammunition for some firearm calibers may be in short supply and hunters should plan accordingly.

CDFW held 14 public meetings in 12 cities from Eureka to San Diego to gain comments from hunters on how best to implement AB 711, the legislation that requires nonlead ammunition for all hunting statewide by July 1, 2019. The department listened to feedback from hunters and proposed an implementation plan that would be least disruptive to the hunting community while adhering to the requirements of the law. The California Fish and Game Commission recently adopted the implementation plan.

Further phase-out of lead ammunition for hunting in California will occur on July 1, 2016, when hunters must use nonlead ammunition when hunting with shotguns for upland game birds (except for dove, quail and snipe), small game mammals, fur-bearing mammals, and nongame birds except for when hunting at licensed game bird clubs. Nonlead ammunition will also be required when taking wildlife for depredation purposes anywhere in the state.Starting on July 1, 2019 hunters must use nonlead ammunition when taking any animal anywhere in the state for any purpose.

Lead ammunition may still be used for all non-hunting purposes including target shooting. The implementation of AB 711 does not affect the laws regarding the existing nonlead “Condor Zone” where it remains illegal to hunt using lead ammunition.

Hunting is not allowed at all CDFW wildlife areas and ecological reserves. For those areas where hunting is allowed, nonlead ammunition will be required starting July 1, 2015. Hunters are reminded to be familiar with all hunting regulations before going into the field.

A list of CDFW wildlife areas and ecological reserves along with specific regulations for each can be found in the booklet, Hunting Regulations for Waterfowl, Upland Game and Department Lands Public Use at https://nrm.dfg.ca.gov/FileHandler.ashx?DocumentID=88820&inline.

Information on certified nonlead ammunition can be found at www.dfg.ca.gov/wildlife/hunting/lead-free/certifiedammo.html.

More information on the phase-out of lead ammunition for hunting in California can be found at www.dfg.ca.gov/wildlife/hunting/lead-free/.

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Media Contacts:
Craig Stowers, CDFW Wildlife Branch, (916) 445-3553
Clark Blanchard, CDFW Communications, (916) 651-7824
Lt. Patrick Foy, CDFW Law Enforcement, (916) 651-6692

New Recreational Pacific Halibut Regulations in Effect for 2015

Angler with Pacific halibut
Angler with Pacific halibut

The recreational Pacific halibut fishery will open May 1 for the 2015 season. This year the fishery will be held to a federally established quota of 25,220 pounds. The season dates will be May 1-15, June 1-15, July 1-15, Aug. 1-15, and Sept. 1-Oct. 31, or until the quota is reached, whichever is earlier.

“California’s recreational quota was the result of hard work with the industry and other states,” said Marci Yaremko, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) representative to the Pacific Fishery Management Council. “We are committed to ensuring this year’s catch does not exceed that number.”

To be consistent with international and federal gear restrictions already in place, state regulations now limit anglers to one rod and no more than two hooks per person to take Pacific halibut. New state regulations will allow the use of a harpoon, gaff or net to assist in taking a Pacific halibut that has been legally caught by angling.

The season dates were determined through a collaborative effort between CDFW staff and stakeholders to provide as much fishing opportunity as possible between May and October. The open and closed periods are intended to spread the fishing activity from spring through fall.

Again this year, field staff will be stationed at public launch ramps and charter boat landings to monitor catches of Pacific halibut along with other marine sportfish. CDFW will examine this information in comparison to expected catch rates and confer with the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) on a weekly basis. If the cumulative catch is expected to reach or exceed the quota prior to Oct. 31, NMFS will close the fishery.

The public can follow the progress of catch through the season by viewing the new Pacific halibut thermometer, http://www.dfg.ca.gov/marine/pacifichalibut.asp, which will be updated weekly with the latest catch projection information.

Before engaging in any fishing activity for Pacific halibut, please check one of the following resources for the most up-to-date regulations:

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Media Contacts:
Deb Wilson-Vandenberg, CDFW Marine Region, (831) 649-2892
Carrie Wilson, CDFW Communications, (831) 649-7191

Fish and Game Commission Adopts Central Valley and Klamath River In-river Sport Fishing Regulations

The California Fish and Game Commission adopted changes to the Central Valley and Klamath River basin salmon sport fishing regulations for the 2015 season on Friday, April 17. The changes include fall-run Chinook quotas, bag and possession limits, and restrictions at the mouth of the Klamath River (spit area) and in the main stem Klamath River in the vicinity of Blue Creek. The only change to the Central Valley regulations is an increase in the possession limit from two to four salmon. All other Central Valley regulations remain unchanged from last year.

The Klamath basin sport fishing quota for adult fall-run Chinook salmon is 14,133 fish. This represents a 250 percent increase over last year’s salmon quota and allowed for an increase in daily bag limit. The daily bag limit for fall-run Chinook salmon is three fish, no more than two adults (greater than 22 inches) and the possession limit is nine fall-run Chinook salmon, no more than six adults. The 2015 sport fishing season for fall-run Chinook salmon will run from Aug. 15 through Dec. 31 on the Klamath River and Sept. 1 through Dec. 31 on the Trinity River.

The Commission adopted two new restrictions for Klamath anglers, one recommended by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) in regard to the spit area and one in the main stem Klamath near Blue Creek recommended by the Yurok Tribe. The new spit area restriction limits anglers to “catch and keep” for all legally caught Chinook salmon. Additionally, once anglers have retained two adult Chinook salmon greater than 22 inches or their total daily bag limit they must cease fishing in the spit area.

The Commission reviewed two key proposals for Blue Creek. CDFW’s, which requested a joint focused study to determine hook and release mortality in the Blue Creek area and the Yurok Tribe proposal to implement a conservation closure. The Commission selected the Yurok Tribe proposal to close all non-tribal sports fishing in the Blue Creek area from June 15 through Sept. 14 from ½ mile below to 500 feet above the confluence of Blue Creek and the Klamath River. From Sept. 15 through Dec. 31 the closure is 500 feet above and below Blue Creek. The Commission adopted the proposal as a conservation measure.

The Klamath fall-run Chinook quota is subdivided into sub quota areas within the basin.   The lower Klamath River (mouth to Weitchpec) will receive 50 percent (7,067 fish) of the quota, the upper Klamath River (upstream of Weitchpec) will receive 17 percent (2,403 fish) of the quota and the remaining 33 percent (4,663 fish) is allocated to the Trinity River, split between the lower (Trinity confluence to Cedar Flat) and upper Trinity (upstream of Cedar Flat). The mouth of the Klamath River (spit area) will receive an allocation of 2,120 adult fall-run Chinook which is inclusive of the lower Klamath River sub area quota.

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

Commission Meeting Location and Protocols for Emergency Winter-run Salmon Proposal

The public is invited to provide comment to the Fish and Game Commission on the proposed emergency regulation to close all fishing on the 5.5-mile stretch of the Sacramento River from the Highway 44 Bridge in Redding upstream to Keswick Dam to protect endangered winter-run Chinook salmon. The California Department Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) recently submitted the proposal to the commission.

The Fish and Game Commission is holding a teleconference meeting on April 17, 2015 at 10 a.m. to take action on the proposal. Members of the public may participate in the teleconference at several locations statewide. Locations and the proposal (item 2) are available on the agenda.

In Redding, the public is invited to participate at the following location:

California Department of Transportation
1st Floor Conference Room
1031 Butte Street
Redding, CA 96001

Members of the public will be able to voice comments on the proposed emergency temporary closure directly to the Fish and Game commissioners per established protocols and procedures. Submit written comments by one of the following methods: E-mail to fgc@fgc.ca.gov; fax to (916) 653-5040; delivery to Fish and Game Commission, 1416 Ninth Street, Room 1320, Sacramento, CA 95814; or hand-deliver to a Commission meeting. Comments received by noon on April 13 will be made available to Commissioners at the teleconference; written comments submitted by the public at the teleconference locations will not be seen by all commissioners. All materials provided to the Commission may be made available to the general public.

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Media Contacts:
Jason Roberts, Fishery Biologist, (530) 225-2131
Harry Morse, CDFW Communications, (916) 323-1478

2015 Big Game Digest Now Available Online

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has posted the 2015 Big Game Digest to its website. The 64-page document can be downloaded online for free at www.dfg.ca.gov/publications/digest/.

2015 California Big Game Hunting DigestThe popular guide includes season, quota and harvest information for deer, elk, pronghorn antelope and bighorn sheep, as well as tag drawing information, bear and wild pig hunting information and big game hunting regulations for the 2015-16 seasons.

Printed copies of the Big Game Digest will automatically be mailed in late April to hunters who purchased a big game tag or applied for the Big Game Drawing in California in 2014.

“As printing costs continue to rise, more funding for big game conservation will be available if the department reduces printing and mailing costs,” said Dan Yparraguirre, CDFW’s Deputy Director of Wildlife and Fisheries. “Making the Big Game Digest available online also means that hunters can access this information sooner.”

Hunting licenses, tags and drawing applications will be available on April 15. Purchases may be made through the Online License Service, at any CDFW License Sales Office or License Agent, or by telephone at (800) 565-1458. The deadline to apply for the Big Game Drawing is midnight on June 2.

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Media Contact:
Stuart Itoga, CDFW Wildlife Branch, (916) 445-3642
Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8988

Spring Turkey Season Opener Approaches

California’s 2015 general spring wild turkey hunting season opens statewide on March 28 and extends through May 3, with the archery season extending through May 17.Spring turkey and hunter

Hunters who have a current junior hunting license may also hunt the weekend before the opener, (March 21 and 22), and the two weeks after the general season (through May 17), using shotguns or any other legal method of take.

Please note that the season is closed to all hunters from March 23 to March 27.

Shooting hours for spring turkeys are from one-half hour before sunrise to 4 p.m. Both a hunting license and upland game bird stamp are required to hunt turkeys, although an upland stamp is not required for hunters with junior licenses. The bag limit is one bearded turkey per day and no more than a total of three turkeys during all seasons (general, archery and junior) combined.

The statewide population of wild turkeys is estimated at 240,000 birds. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) estimates about 36,000 hunters bag about 28,000 turkeys in the spring season each year statewide. Wild turkeys are found in most counties in California, with the top 10 for spring harvest being Shasta, Butte, Placer, El Dorado, Tehama, Sonoma, Mendocino, Napa, Nevada and Lake counties.

For places to hunt turkeys and additional tips and information, hunters should refer to the “Guide to Hunting Wild Turkeys in California” on CDFW’s upland game hunting webpage at www.dfg.ca.gov/wildlife/hunting/uplandgame/.

Hunters are also encouraged to check CDFW’s special hunts website for more information at https://nrm.dfg.ca.gov/DFGSpecialHunts/Default.aspx.

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Media Contacts:
Scott Gardner, CDFW Wildlife Branch, (916) 801-6257
Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8988

New Recreational Groundfish Regulations Now in Effect

Black and yellow groundfish
Black and yellow rockfish

The California Fish and Game Commission adopted several changes to the current recreational groundfish regulations that apply to ocean fishing in state waters up to three miles from shore. The new regulations were adopted by the Commission at its Feb. 11 meeting, and became effective March 10.

The open season dates and allowable fishing depths for the recreational Groundfish Management Areas are as follows:

  • Northern – Open May 15 through Oct. 31, in 20 fathoms (120 feet) or less
  • Mendocino – Open May 15 through Oct. 31, in 20 fathoms (120 feet) or less
  • San Francisco – Open April 15 through Dec. 31, in 30 fathoms (180 feet) or less
  • Central – Open April 1 through Dec. 31, in 40 fathoms (240 feet) or less
  • Southern – Open March 1 through Dec. 31, in 60 fathoms (360 feet) or less

Staff from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) worked closely with recreational stakeholders to develop the regulations prior to submission to and approval by the Commission. “The changes are designed to allow as much fishing opportunity as possible while remaining within allowable catch limits,” said Marci Yaremko, CDFW’s State/Federal Fisheries Program Manager. “However, as we do each year, we will be closely monitoring catches up and down the state during the open season to ensure we don’t exceed any limits.”

Other changes include:

  • An increase in the lingcod bag limit from two to three fish
  • A sub-bag limit of five black rockfish within the 10-fish Rockfish, Cabezon, Greenling (RCG) complex bag limit
  • Statewide closure of the California scorpionfish fishery from Sept. 1 through Dec. 31

Take and possession of bronzespotted rockfish, canary rockfish, cowcod and yelloweye rockfish will remain prohibited statewide.

For more information about recreational groundfish regulations and to stay informed of in-season changes, please call the Recreational Groundfish Hotline at (831) 649-2801 or check CDFW’s Marine Region Groundfish Central website at www.dfg.ca.gov/marine/groundfishcentral/index.asp.

Media Contacts:
Joanna Grebel, CDFW Marine Region, (831) 601-2279
Carrie Wilson, CDFW Communications, (831) 649-7191