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.
This is a bunch of B.S. Why should I, and other law abiding anglers pay for a few other peaple breaking the laws. This is not the answer. I have been fishing the lower american since I moved here in 1992. I also remember when the river was closed nov 1st to march 31st. At the time,I thaught the closure was to long(open middle of feburay or feburary 1st with the thaught that all groups concerned should try to meet in the middle where all projects with oppsition are concerned). I also think that a smaller upper section of the river should be catch & release only with barbless hooks,year around with the salmon closures.This enables all species(salmon,stripers,steelhead,shad,trout) year round,to spawn and reproduce,and removes the icentive to snag becuase you cant keep the meat.However,I think the largest problem is lack of law enforcement.We need more of it.Of all the years I have fished the lower american(50 to 150 days a year),I have only been checked 3 times for my liscence.Never for my puch card,never to look at my hooks for barbs.More law enforcement please.One other thing to those pompas,arogant better than every body else assholes at the Ca F.F.F.It is peaple like you that give fly fishers a bad rap.I have been an avid fly angler since I was a kid in Bozeman Mt.I am thourolly embarresed
and ashamed to be a fly fisher finding out that peple like you think you know whats best for the rivers and every body else. All anglers need to work together, for the same outcome is what we all want, better and healthier fisheries.
I should have written the biologist have recommended this proposal be rejected, which basically kills it. All sportsmen need to stay together. Fingers by themselves can be broken, a balled up fist is what anglers/hunters need. On a side note, how about a 48″ max leader length. We should ball up on that players
Vince T says
Simply unbelievable. Thanks for getting the word out. From posts on a few other boards, there’s a lot anglers put off by the narrow minded, elitist few who think closing the river is the answer. The American has no chance of being a viable wild steelhead fishery with the dams. While the fantasy might seem nice, that’s all it is.
D.A., you make some good points. I’m not sure where you got the info that DFG rejected the proposal, however. I spoke with a couple DFG people yesterday about it and they still have to go through with the meeting with the F&G Commission.
The people I talked to seemed to think there wasn’t a whole lot of merit to the proposal but they still have to present to the Commission in San Diego…and then it’s in the commissioners’ hands.
D.F.G. has rejected this proposal in their review. Low flow restrictions are implemented on coastal streams due to conditions on the mouth of rivers. There is a lot of hype associated with the reports that are going around on the boards right know. Here are the facts! There is no scientific data to support the the current proposals. The data actually suggests that fewer steelhead are harvested during low water conditions. Fly fishers versus conditional fishers is a mute point. It should be kept in mind we all have the same self interest. To fall suspect to being divided is a mistake for all sportsmen. There are laws that address snagging currently. If we cannot enforce these what is the point of enacting new laws. J.D. I think you are a stand up angler please keep up the fine work. THANK YOU! for all of us you big fish pimp. See you at Gristmill!
Hammy 3 says
I am not sure how I feel about this proposed closure. It probably is true that the American is subject to more poaching/lining/beading/snagging than most of the rivers here in the Central Valley (except for maybe the Feather). It probably also is true that the American River native steelhead is no more (one genetic study showed no genetic difference between fish from the Nimbus Hatchery and “wild” fish from the river). The poaching/lining issue can be mostly taken care of with increased enforcement and regulation changes; I think closing the river to fishing is a bit excessive. The genetics issue is tougher, because if there are any “native” genes left in the system, we must do what we can to protect them. I may be naive, but it saddens me to think that if the proposed closure is not effected, it is like the Department of Fish and Game is giving up on native steelhead in the American River. We clearly need some fresh thinking when it comes to managing and conserving our natural resources; I just don’t think closing the river to all fishing fits the bill in this case.