By now you've probably heard that on Tuesday, January 29, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) closed certain coastal waters to fishing in order to protect native salmon and steelhead from low water flows in California streams and rivers that have been significantly impacted by drought. CDFW is also recommending that the Fish and Game Commission adopt emergency regulations on other rivers. The lower American River downstream of Nimbus Dam is one of these other rivers currently under severe angling pressure. Chinook salmon redds built in the last few months have been dewatered; the eggs and fry from those redds will surely die. Additional deaths will result from inattentive wading on redds that are now exposed to shallow water. Endangered Central Valley Steelhead are moving into the river and will suffer, as well.
The Northern California Council of the International Federation of Fly Fishers requested emergency action on the lower American River, as did several other environmental and fishing advocates. We made this request in full recognition that we represent hundreds of anglers in Northern California and Nevada, and that their recreational opportunities would be adversely impacted. We believe this action is necessary, though, for the health of the wild salmon and steelhead in these rivers during the drought, and we are pleased the CDFW responded quickly. CDFW could not close on the American River, but has requested that the Fish and Game Commission take action.
As fly fishers, we look forward to the lifting of angling restrictions when river and stream flows increase. At this point, fishing the coastal rivers for steelhead would be fruitless in any case - the flows have been too low to open the rivers and streams to the ocean. Coho are in dire straits, as one year of no spawning could push them toward extinction in some areas. Steelhead will fare better, but will also suffer unless we get sufficient rain to open the river mouths
Please announce these closures at your next club meeting, and make it clear why they are necessary. I would appreciate it, too, if you would let your members know of the NCCFFF role in requesting emergency closure of the lower American River. We would also greatly appreciate your support of fishery conservation by encouraging your club members to join us. We will continue to advocate for fisheries and we could use your support. You can join the International Federation of Fly Fishers at http://www.fedflyfishers.org/Membership.aspx; your membership automatically adds you to the Northern California Council.
The full announcement and listing of closed rivers is posted on the CDFW web page at http://cdfgnews.wordpress.com/2014/01/29/cdfw-puts-closures-in-effect-on-some-rivers-recommends-further-changes-to-the-fish-and-game-commission/.