I just caught wind of this one, but Dave Ford and the Northern California Council Federation of Fly Fishers is asking the California Fish & Game Commission to close the American River to fishing if the flows fall below the current 1,100 cfs to protect spawning steelhead from poachers.
Unfortunately, I find Mr. Ford’s stance arrogant and mis-informed. Aren’t fishing groups supposed to fight for fishing, not seek to ban it? So, I get it, let’s punish the thousands of law-abiding anglers who fish the American so that we can keep a handful of loser poachers from doing what they’re going to do anyway! If you want to attack somebody, try the Bureau of Reclamation for the mis-management of the water! How about getting on the Gov. for deciding not to allow the hire of new Game Wardens??
Closing the entire river is an asinine solution. Let me explain:
• First off, steelhead redd surveys indicate that over 50% of naturally reproducing steelhead in the American spawn in the upper 2 miles of river. Why close the whole thing?
I’ve been advocating for years to close the 100-yard side channel above Sunrise to fishing because so many people go in there and harass (fly guys included!) spawning steelies and salmon, but shut down the whole river?? Idiocy!
• Ford and the gang say the low water makes the fish easier to spot for snaggers, yet, ironically, the best snagging conditions take place when the river is high. Steelhead, when given a chance, are small tributary spawners. There are no suitable spawning streams that enter the lower American, so the next best thing for them is side-channels. In high water, there are some very attractive side channels where the fish spawn, but most are gone in low water years.
There’s a lot of unsavory stuff that happens along the river, especially near the hatchery and Sailor Bar but again, if we had some enforcement, it wouldn’t be such a problem. Plus, the river has a lot of color to it right now…which makes it harder for the poachers to see the fish.
• I’m not sure what Ford is considering “snagging,” but if it’s lining, I’m all for some regulatory change in that department. Lining is legalized snagging and I’d like to see it go away. Again, let’s change the gear regs, not the seasons.
• And what are we protecting? Typically there are only about 50 steelhead redds in the entire river on a given year. When you see the fish on the redds, they are big fish in the 6 to 12+ pound range. People are mistakingly calling these fish wild, yet that’s impossible. The large steelhead in the American are all Eel River-strain fish that are raised by Nimbus Fish Hatchery. Some of those hatchery fish simply pull up short and spawn in the river. They may be naturally-reproducing descendants of hatchery fish, but they are not wild! If Mr. Ford can give me some data that there are still genetically pure wild steelhead in the American, I’m all ears! But, bottom line is this: there are no wild steelhead left in the American. Haven’t been any for decades!
You start taking away more opportunities and we’re going to lose even more anglers…people who we need to fight the good fight in the years to come when things get even worse. And I’m always suspicious of groups that do stuff like this without consulting other fishery groups.
The issue is going before the Fish & Game Commission in early Feb. and it’s not just the steelie guys who need to wake up. If you like fishing for stripers in the spring here, you’ve also got a stake in this as they want to ban all fishing!
What you can do is send a letter saying you don’t support the closure and why to:
President of the CA Fish & Game Commission
1416 9th Street
Sacramento, CA 95814
Also, cc Neil Manji, who will be representing the DFG at the meeting.