Sacramento, CA, United States (4E Sports) – The California Fish and Game Commission unanimously approved the move to prohibit fishing on stretches of the American and Russian rivers because of the worsening drought in the state.
Aside from the ban, commission members also extended closures on hundreds of smaller coastal streams, meaning that all fishing will be banned through April 30 on the American River from Nimbus Dam downstream to the power lines crossing Ancil Hoffman Park.
The commission approved the closure to protect threatened salmon and steelhead from fishing pressure as their habitat has shrunk amid one of the worst droughts in state history. The closures are expected to take effect by Feb. 23.
Officials are concerned that anglers will unintentionally trample the species’ egg nests – or redds – in the gravel riverbeds and more easily kill fish in the process of angling for them.
Stafford Lehr, chief of the fisheries branch at the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, said the closures are not meant to anger fishermen but recognizing that extraordinary measures are necessary to protect species already under stress.
“This is about maximizing the protections for the wild fish in these systems, given the projected outlook of a compounding or intensifying drought,” said Lehr. “It is expected we’re going to have compounding mortality (to fish) as we move through the season.”
Last week, Lehr’s office took administrative action to ban fishing on coastal streams to fishing. In some cases, however, its closure authority extended only to Jan. 31. It also lacked authority to close the American and Russian rivers by administrative action.
According to Lehr’s office, California has never before seen such broad fishing closures as a result of drought. The action was supported by many fishing groups, which were also alarmed by the situation.
“You can be assured you have the backing of flyfishers in this state,” said Lowell Ashbaugh, conservation vice president of the Northern California Council of the Federation of Flyfishers.
“I hate to request a closure, because I’d rather be out there on the river fishing. But protecting fish is most important. If we don’t have the fish, we don’t have the fishing,” he added.