Where’s the Year-Round Trout Fishing?

Anglers now have more year-round trout fishing opportunities in California. In 2007, 10 new waters were opened to winter zero-limit angling, and three of them are in the Eastern Sierra. this photo was taken on the Upper Owens River. Hot Creek and the East Walker River are close by. (Photo: DFG file photo by Jeff Weaver, Heritage and Wild Trout Program)

Question: What was the basis for opening the East Walker River, Hot Creek and the Upper Owens River to year-round (adding winter months) fishing when most other waters in the area don’t open until the last weekend in April? Which other waters in California are now open to year-round angling? (Troy R.)

Answer: In March 2007, 10 waters across the state were opened to winter angling, including the East Walker River, Hot Creek and the Upper Owens River. Before this, many trout-bearing waters in the state were closed from Nov. 16 through the Friday proceeding the last Saturday in April. Department of Fish and Game (DFG) biologists from the Heritage and Wild Trout Program work to improve, enhance and increase angling opportunities for wild trout throughout the state. They looked for waters that were previously closed during the winter months that could be opened to angling when biologically justified.

According to Fisheries Biologist Jeff Weaver, the East Walker River, Hot Creek and the Upper Owens River were selected because they are highly productive streams with robust trout populations and are generally accessible during winter months. Each stream was assessed based on its individual merits. Additional waters across the state may qualify for future consideration for winter angling opportunities.

Part of the rationale supporting the opening of additional waters are that scientists from other states have not observed significant impacts to their fisheries in waters open year-round. Several research articles have also concluded that catch and release mortality is greater during warmer summer months than during cooler winter months. Angler usage is expected to be low during the winter months due to inclement weather and difficult access conditions. It is also important to select waters from across California that provide reasonable access to anglers in different parts of the state.

The other seven rivers opened to year-round fishing included the Pit, North Fork Yuba, Truckee, Little Truckee, American, East Fork Carson and the Tuolumne River. There is a zero bag limit on these waters from Nov. 16 through the Friday proceeding the last Saturday in April and only barbless artificial lures/flies may be used.

In addition to all 10 waters listed above, there are other trout-bearing streams in California open to year-round angling, too (e.g. Upper Sacramento River). Check the DFG Freshwater Sport Fishing Regulations online at http://www.dfg.ca.gov/regulations for more information and for seasonal regulation changes.

Can You Return Abalone to the Same Rock?
If an abalone diver takes a legal-sized abalone, is it legal for him to return it to the same rock if he does not remove more than three abalone during the day? I know some divers that will dive for several hours and may “pop” one to three abalones without damaging them, and keep none of them, returning all of them to the rocks where they were removed. I don’t think there is anything, technically, in the laws that prevents this, but maybe there should be. (Anonymous)

Answer: There is a law prohibiting this both for the health of the abalone and to prevent high-grading. All legal-sized abalone detached must be retained by the person who detaches it. In addition, no undersize abalone may be retained in any person’s possession or under his control. Undersize abalone must be replaced immediately to the same surface of the rock from which detached. (FGC Section 29.15[d]).

In addition, according to DFG Lt. Dennis McKiver, no person shall take more than 24 abalone during a calendar year (FGC Section 29.15[c]). If the diver takes three legal-sized abalone and puts them back, those abalone still count toward both the diver’s daily and yearly limit. This means that divers must still record those abalone on their report card so as to not exceed their yearly limit.

If a game warden sees someone take a large abalone that is obviously larger than seven inches and the person puts the abalone back, this person has just violated Section 29.15(d). If that person then doesn’t record the abalone, he is guilty of failing to complete the Abalone Report Card as required. Game wardens on the North Coast have written several citations for this, usually to trophy hunters looking for that elusive 10-inch abalone. The wardens try to convince people hunting for trophy abalone to measure them before removing them from rocks.

Airguns and Upland Game Hunting
My buddy and I are part of the ever increasing population of airgun hunters. We typically take rabbits and ground squirrels, but would like to use these .22 precharged pneumatics for turkey and other upland game, such as quail and dove. While we believe the regulations cover the turkey hunting explicitly, can you confirm if it is also legal to take dove and quail with these weapons? Thank you. (Jason C., Windsor)

Answer: Resident small game (as listed in CCR, Title 14, Section 257) may be taken with an air rifle firing pellets and powered by compressed air or gas. This includes: wild turkey (must use 0.20 caliber or larger), Eurasian collared doves, quail, non-protected squirrels, jack rabbits and cottontails, in addition to the other resident small game species defined in section 257.

Western mourning dove, white-winged dove and band-tailed pigeons are listed as migratory game birds and may not be taken with an air rifle.

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Carrie Wilson is a marine biologist with the California Department of Fish and Game. While she cannot personally answer everyone’s questions, she will select a few to answer each week. Please contact her at CalOutdoors@dfg.ca.gov.

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