By Deb Murphy
Roger Bloom, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife’s environmental program manager, explained the fishing season’s start dates were set for holiday weekends so folks would remember them. A gruff voice from the large crowd at Wednesday’s workshop at the Tri-County Fairgrounds rose up, explaining the East Side already had a holiday and we called it “Fishmas.”
The proposed CDF&W’s simplified regulations would merge Fishmas with Memorial Day weekend, also known as Mule Days. The Saturday before Memorial Day would mark the start of bait fishing which would run through September 30. Specific waters would then begin what amounts to catch and release October 1 through the Saturday before the following Memorial Day. So, in effect, the Eastern Sierra would have year-round fishing on some waters, but only offer the style of fishing that brings the hordes of fishing tourists for four months of the year.
We’ll post this article and a water-by-water run-down of seasons and restrictions on our webpage as well as a link for folks to register their comments.
The packed crowd at the Talman Pavilion wasn’t happy.
Bloom said the changes were devised to clean up a system that was a mess. Some special waters hadn’t been looked at in 50 years. “We opened the book (looked at the regs) and asked why we were doing that,” he said.
On the face of it, his presentation made sense. Thirty-three seasons were stripped down to six. Great, until you looked at the spread sheet.
Another thing that stood out: on the gear restrictions, there were either no restrictions or limits to artificial lures with barbless hooks—no mention of flies not even in Wild Trout areas. That didn’t make the fly fishermen happy. “The zero limit, barbless flies only category just vanished,” said Pat Jaeger of Eastern Sierra Guide Service.
Jaeger’s had two major concerns. First, the obvious stealth of the Eastern Sierra’s Fishmas and the safety of anglers on newly-open year-round waters with a warden system already spread thin. “You’re inviting people to come up and fish on ice,” he said. “That’s just nuts.”
Peterson looks on Hot Creek as a sacred waterway and fly fishing as a different kind of sport. If the regs are approved by the Fish and Game Commission, the creek will still be catch and release but artificial lures with barbless hooks will be approved gear. “This’ll change the dynamics,” he said.
With years of drought, the Wild Trout fishery was depleted. CDF&W started a three-year stocking program four years ago, with diploids, trout that can spawn. “Just last year,” Peterson said, “Hot Creek was back to historic numbers. What they’re proposing, with artificial lures, will kill a lot of fish. You can’t take even a barbless hook out of a fish’s mouth without tearing it up. And, the department won’t re-stock.”
Following a series of six town hall-type meetings, CDF&W could make modifications to the regulations. Then the document goes to the Fish and Game Commission. According to Peterson, the Commission generally goes with department recommendations.
Both Jaeger and Peterson stressed the importance of registering local comments with CDF&W. Those comments can be made online at: https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/
PROPOSED CHANGES BY WATER: Those waters indicated as Statewide Regulations will be open year-round with a 5 trout bag, 10 trout possession limit with no gear restrictions)
Bridgeport Reservoir Tributaries: Split Season: Saturday preceding Memorial Day through September 30: 5 fish bag, no gear restrictions. October 1 through the Friday preceding Memorial Day: 0 fish bag, artificial lures with barbless hooks. (This season, daily bag and gear restriction will be indicated as Split Season)
Convict Creek, downstream from the UC study area: Split Season
Convict Creek, upstream from UC study area: Statewide Regulations
Cottonwood Creek: Statewide regulations
Cottonwood Lakes, 1, 2, 3 and 4 and tributaries (Inyo Cty.): All year, 2 fish bag, 4 fish in possession, no gear restrictions
All remaining Cottonwood Creek drainage lakes: Statewide Regulations
Crooked Creek: All year, 0 fish bag, artificial lures with barbless hooks
Crowley Lake: Split Season
Deadman Creek, downstream from Hwy. 395: All year, 0 fish bag, artificial lures with barbless hooks
Deadman Creek, upstream from Hwy. 395: State Regulations
Diaz Lake: State Regulations
Fish Slough, not within Owens Valley Native Fishes Sanctuary and BLM Spring: Statewide Regulations
Hilton Creek, downstream from Crowley Lake Drive: Split Season
Hilton Creek, upstream from Crowley Lake Drive: Statewide Regulations
Hot Creek, from the State hatchery to the confluence with Owens River: All year, 0 fish bag, artificial lures with barbless hooks
Inyo County all waters bounded by the Inyo County line on the south and west, Independence Creek on the north and Hwy. 395 on the East: Statewide Regulations
Kirman Lake: All year, 2 fish bag, artificial lures, 14-inch minimum
Lane Lake: All year, 2 fish bag, artificial lures
Laurel Lakes and tributaries: All year, 2 fish bag, artificial lures, 14-inch minimum
Lee Vining Creek downstream from the Lee Vining conduit to Mono Lake: All year, 0 fish bag, artificial lures with barbless hooks
LA Aqueduct, from Owens River to the Alabama Gates: Statewide Regulations
McGee Creek, downstream from Hwy. 395: Split Season
McGee Creek, upstream from Hwy. 395: Statewide Regulations
McLeod Lake: All year, 0 fish bag, artificial lures with barbless hooks
Mill Creek: All year, 0 fish bag, artificial lures with barbless hooks
Owens River, including Pleasant Valley and Tinemaha lakes, with exceptions to follow: Statewide Regulations
Owens River exceptions:
Upper Owens from Benton Bridge road crossing upstream to Big Springs: All year, 0 fish bag, artificial lures with barbless hooks
Upper Owens from Benton Bridge road crossing to Crowley Lake: Split Season
Owens River from Pleasant Valley Dam downstream to footbridge at lower end of campground: All year, 2 fish bag, artificial lures
Owens River from footbridge at campground downstream to 5 Bridges Road: All year, 0 fish bag, artificial lures with barbless hooks
Parker Creek: All year, 0 fish bag, artificial lures with barbless hooks
Robinson Creek, from US Forest Service boundary upstream to Upper Twin Lake: Split Season
Robinson Creek, between Upper and Lower Twin lakes, Split Season
Roosevelt Lake: All year, 2 fish bag, artificial lures
Rush Creek, from Grant Lake Dam downstream to Mono Lake: All year, 0 fish bag, artificial lures with barbless hooks
Rush Creek, between Silver Lake and Grant Lake: Split Season
Slinkard Creek, upstream from CDF&W rock gabion barrier: All year, 0 fish bag, artificial lures with barbless hooks
Topaz Lake: Statewide Regulations
Walker Creek: All year, 0 fish bag, artificial lures with barbless hooks
Walker River, east fork from Bridgeport Dam to Nevada state line: All year, 0 fish bag, artificial lures with barbless hooks
West Walker River from the confluence with Little Walker River to the inlet of Topaz Lake: Statewide Regulations
Whiskey Creek, downstream from Crowley Lake Drive: Split Season
Whiskey Creek, upstream from Crowley Lake Drive: Statewide Regulations
Wolf Creek and tributaries: All year, 0 fish bag, artificial lures with barbless hooks