Meeting on DFW proposed trout fishing regulations draws crowd


By JIM MATTHEWS

www.OutdoorNewsService.com

RANCHO CUCAMONGA -- The only Southern California public meeting of the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s sweeping changes in the trout fishing regulations drew over 70 anglers at Bass Pro Shops here Saturday.

The meeting gave the DFW staff an opportunity to present and explain the trout fishing regulations proposed for the 2020-21 seasons and beyond, and for the angling public to make comments and suggestions on the proposals.

The presentation was run by Roger Bloom, the DFW’s “architect” of the plan from Sacramento. Bloom said the goals of the new plan were to first protect fisheries and resources, while maintaining and increasing angling opportunity, align regulations with biological/management objectives, while reducing the complexity of the regulations.

Bloom said that “simplification is really a by-product of the whole process,” which he said was really an opportunity for the DFW to revisit the quagmire of regulations on a water-by-water basis for trout fishing. Statewide, Bloom said there were 212 different waters with special trout regulations with 431 different regulations for those waters.

After over a year of work by the DFW staff, the proposed regulations have six basic trout fishing season lengths (down from 33), and within those six seasons, a water will have just one of six regulations. The proposal also does away with regions and sets a statewide general fishing season and regulation (open year-around, with a five-trout limit, and no gear restrictions).

Bloom said the DFW staff would look at season dates and special restrictions on waters and ask the relevance of the rule. He used the 10-inch minimum size restriction on some small waters, and said they could not find any biological or even social reason for that size restriction so it was tossed and the water lumped in with one of the six basic bag/gear restrictions.

The anglers in attendance were mostly from the catch-and-release fly-fishing community with a number of the Southern California fly-fishing clubs represented, and interest in the regulations was most heavily slanted toward the Eastern Sierra Nevada and changes proposed on special regulation water, especially the Crowley Lake system, and general season waters.

Bloom assured everyone that the proposed regulations were the DFW’s working draft, and that comments from the public could tweak the DFW’s rules before they are submitted to the Fish and Game Commission this summer for its hearing and adoption process. He encouraged anglers to comment on line so the DFW staff could fine tune their proposals to suit angler wants and their biological concerns.

The Eastern Sierra Nevada has some of the most dramatic changes proposal. For starters, all waters not managed with special regulations would fall under the statewide year-around fishing season – effectively opening most of the region’s water to fishing an additional 5 1/2 months of the year.

This generated worries among many anglers that on heavily fished waters where many people vacation or fish during the summer months that there would be fewer trout to catch because of harvest during those newly-opened five-plus months of fishing.

Bloom tried to alleviate some of those concerns by explaining the new regulations would not likely impact either the number or timing of trout planted in popular roadside waters.

But many anglers felt that many special regulation waters, including Crowley Lake and Bridgeport Reservoir, would be negatively impacted by the changes in the rules.

Under the new regulations, Crowley Lake would be open from the Saturday before Memorial Day through September 30 with a five-fish limit and no gear restriction, and then it would be open the remainder of the year from Oct. 1 through the Friday before Memorial Day with a zero bag limit and artificial lures with barbless hooks restriction. Currently, it is only open to fishing from the last Saturday in April through November 15, closed for winter and early spring. Plus it only has a five-fish, any size limit and no gear restrictions between the opening day and July 15. After July 15, it is only open to anglers fishing barbless artificial lures, and there is a two-fish, 18-inch minimum size limit.

The catch-and-release anglers voiced a couple of concerns.

First, the timing of the “kill” season on Crowley would cause more of the mature fish in the system to be caught and killed. Many of those fish are in the tributary streams spawning in April and May now, making them unavailable during the five-fish limit period on the lake when it is most crowded. By moving the Crowley general season opener to the end of May, all those trout are back in the main lake by then and would be harvested at a greater rate when crowds are present.

Second, were worried about year-around pressure – even by catch-and-release anglers – would never give the fish a chance to not be pressured, causing greater mortality.

There were also those who voiced disapproval of the proposed East Walker River regulations. The East Walker River is currently open year around to fishing with barbless artificial lures-only. However, during the regular trout season (end of April to Nov. 15) one trout over 18-inches may be taken, and between Nov. 16 and the Friday before the last Saturday in April there is a zero bag limit. Under the new regulation, the East Walker River would have a zero bag limit and anglers must use barbless artificial lures for the entire year.

Anglers asked if there was a biological need to not allow an angler to harvest a single trophy trout, like they can now.

“How do we balance all this out and how do we get these resource to match angler expectations?” asked Bloom rhetorically. “That is the function of these regulations.”

He encouraged anglers to read the proposals in detail on-line. He said the DFW has already received over 600 comments and that the proposals will be tweaked before going to the Commission.

Anglers can read the entire regulation proposals and comment on line at the DFW website at this link: www.wildlife.ca.gov/fishing/inland/trout-plan.

END

Jim Matthews is a syndicated Southern California-based outdoor reporter and columnist. He can be reached via e-mail at odwriter@verizon.net or by phone at 909-887-3444.

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