The Fall River Conservancy: Proposed changes to the California inland trout angling regulations

The Fall River Conservancy submits comments to the Commission regarding the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s proposed changes to the California inland trout angling regulations.


FALL RIVER CONSERVANCY
Post Office Box 395
Fall River Mills, CA. 96028

September 29, 2020

To: California Fish and Game Commission (the “Commission”)

Re: Proposed Changes to California Inland Trout Angling Regulations; Commission Meeting- October 14, 2020

The Fall River Conservancy (the “FRC”) submits these comments to the Commission regarding the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (“CDFW”) proposed changes to the California inland trout angling regulations from the perspective of the impact of such changes on the Fall River in Shasta County. The FRC is a California corporation qualified as a tax-exempt charitable organization under Section 50l(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. The FRC’s mission is to preserve and enhance the Fall River and the surrounding valley in Shasta County. The FRC is supported by individual and other donations from several hundred donors. Its members include many long-time landowners in and around the Fall River Mills community.

The Fall River is one of the largest spring-feed river systems in the Western United States and its distinct species of rainbow trout present a unique and very high-quality angling experience. Under the protection of the existing regulations, the fishery of the Fall River and related tributaries (the “Fall River Complex”) has consistently sustained a robust trout population including many trophy specimens, in spite of challenges from heavy sedimentation in the upper reaches of the river from a wildfire several decades ago.

The FRC has reviewed the extensive comments submitted to the CDFW by California Trout (“Cal Trout”) and generally agrees with the recommendations of Cal Trout regarding the Fall River Complex. Specifically, we agree that the Fall River Complex should be protected by a zero-bag limit and a requirement for artificial flies or lures with barbless hooks. (We differ slightly with the Cal Trout recommendation for the Tule River and related waters in that we think barbless hooks should be required for those waters as well.) However, we would respectfully submit to the Commission and the CDFW that allowing all-year angling would likely present a serious risk of impairing the spawning season in the Fall River Complex, especially in the upper reaches downstream from Thousand Springs. Based on the genetics study led by the University of Califonia at Davis (together with the CDFW, Cal Trout and the FRC) and the related passive integrated transponder (“PIT”) project, it appears that more than 30% of the fish population moves into the upper reaches of the Fall River during the spawning season (essentially February through March in the upper river). Given the small size of the river in that reach, the spawning population is especially vulnerable to any angling. In particular, fishermen wading through the spawning beds in the Bear Creek tributary will have a devastating effect on spawning activity. Accordingly, the best available science favors retaining the status quo as to the fishing season on the Fall River, i.e., from the last Saturday in April to November 15th and particularly in the upper spawning reaches. We further note that the elevation of some 3,000 feet and northern latitude of the Fall River essentially renders the fishery dormant during the winter months throughout much of the river.

We would also note that the Fall River has a robust water fowl hunting season commencing in the late Fall. Opening the river to unlimited angling during the water fowl season clearly presents public safety and other concerns.

In addition, the FRC notes that two of the spring-fed headwaters of the Fall River are not privately-owned and are open at this time to public fishing. These are Ahjumawi Lava Springs and Eastman Lake. The Ahjumawi Lava Springs are located at the state park of the same name which is accessible to the public only by boat. The Springs constitute a very small body of water with particular fragility. These waters are home to some of the largest native rainbow trout in California. In historical times, the Native American Achomawi tribe, for which the park and Springs are named, carefully tended these waters, monitoring spawning beds and limiting their catches to conserve populations of the fish they used for food. Brochure: Ahjumawi Lava Springs State Park. (https://www.parks.ca.gov/pages/464). Regrettably, at present, fisherman are allowed to use bait and lures in these waters to catch and kill these large fish. This is a significant impact on the biodiversity of the Fall River and an unacceptable use of these unique waters. The FRC strongly believes that these very special bodies of water should be protected by the same angling regulations that apply to the other parts of the Fall River Complex. We urge the Commission to include them in the regulations.

We appreciate the opportunity to submit these comments. If the Commission would like to contact the FRC regarding this matter, please contact the undersigned at the above address.

Rodney R. Peck
President
Fall River Conservancy

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