California proposes changes to inland trout angling regulations

A golden trout, the state freshwater fish of California, in all its glory.

Editor’s note: To the extent that there can be an intersection between coldwater fisheries conservation and state angling regulations, and because fishing is the portal through which many people become interested in conservation, TU may get involved through our local members, chapters and state councils in proposed changes to the rules for angling.

The State of California, with some 1.7 million licensed anglers, is proposing to simplify its inland trout angling regulations. Toward this end the California Department of Fish and Wildlife proposes to remove gear restrictions and add or lengthen seasons for harvest on some waters, and to open to year-round fishing some streams and lakes that are currently closed during the winter and spring while shortening the season of many other waters by two and a half months. The proposed changes would not apply to coastal streams or waters with anadromy.

It’s always a good idea for anglers to provide reasoned, respectful feedback on proposed changes in fishing regulations. The following post, which urges anglers to weigh in on the proposed changes to the California regulations, is adapted from a memo to anglers from Chris Leonard, a fishing guide for Kittredge Sports in Mammoth Lakes, California and founding member of TU’s Eastern Sierra Chapter.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) wants to simplify the current seasons and regulations for inland trout fisheries throughout California.

The agency’s rationale for this effort is “to make [the regulations] easier to understand, and to better align regulations with management objectives on each water.” This goal seems worthy. However, the “management objectives” for specific waters are unclear.

In particular, the “Inland Trout Angling Regulation Simplification” proposal would open up several hundred fisheries to year-round angling and to remove restrictions on gear and harvest (5-fish daily limit) or extend the season for all-gear and harvest for some of these waters. The popular East Side Sierra fishery of Crowley Lake, for example, would now have an extended bait season and be opened for winter fishing (but would be artificials only and no harvest during the winter).

Other waters where the proposed changes have sparked concern among anglers are the small streams of the Golden Trout Wilderness in the southern Sierra—the native range of the rare and beautiful golden trout. This area would now be open for winter fishing and a five-fish limit and no gear restrictions. Sections of the Pit River—a blue ribbon trout stream—and some other waters which traditionally have been artificials only would now be open to bait fishing.

Initial feedback from anglers to CDFW also has questioned the proposed delay of the traditional opener (currently last weekend in April for most general season waters) to the Saturday preceding Memorial Day and to end the general season on September 30 (currently the season ends on November 15 for most general season waters).

The rationale for changes to the regulations for many waters is unclear. CDFW has acknowledged that proposed changes to the regulations for a majority of affected waters are not based on data derived from fish censuses, creel counts or other research tools applied on those waters.

A list of CDFW’s proposed changes to specific streams and lakes can be found here. Anglers are encouraged to submit comments on specific fisheries using an online comments form.

Anglers also are encouraged to attend one of the public meetings being hosted by CDFW to review the proposed new regulations. The remaining meetings are:

    • Wednesday, April 3, 2019
      6-8 pm
      Betty Rodriguez Regional Library, 3040 N. Cedar Ave., Fresno
    • Saturday, April 6, 2019
      12-2 pm
      Bass Pro Shops, 7777 Victoria Gardens Lane, Rancho Cucamonga
    • Wednesday, April 10, 2019
      6-8 pm
      Colonial Heights Library Community Room, 4799 Stockton Blvd., Sacramento
    • Tuesday, April 23, 2019
      6-8 pm
      Truckee-Tahoe Airport Community Room, 10356 Truckee Airport Road, Truckee

By Sam Davidson. Sam Davidson hired on at Trout Unlimited in 2003, and has served as communications director for TU’s Western Water Project, field director for TU’s public…