March 02, 2014    Headlines
Russian River CLosed Due to Flow Flows

Russian Fishing Report
By Hunt Conrad

Too Little, Too Late
They closed the Russian River to all fishing last Friday. Maybe you didn’t hear. They are going to save the Silver Salmon and King Salmon. Hoorah for the powers that be. Only one problem...there are no Silver or King salmon in the river this time of year. Talk about closing the barn doors after all the cows have left. The Kings come in the river in late September if there is sufficient water flow and Silvers will follow in December. This year we had no rain in the fall. Nature had closed up the mouth of the river so as to not allow the fish to come in but then man, worried about flooding the lower properties in Jenner, breached the mouth allowing for a huge gush of water to flow to the sea and prompting fish to enter a river that was far too low for them to be in. Both Salmon and Steelhead entered the river in perilously low water conditions this year. Many years prior to this one a low flow closure should have been put into effect in November and remained in effect until the first real rain fell 2 weeks ago but NO, our cumbersome and lethargic Department of Fish and Wildlife is going to prohibit fishing for hatchery Steelhead (these are “put and take” fish specifically placed in the river for anglers to harvest) for the rest of the season regardless of how much rain we get or what the flows of the river are. I am a little PO’d (we will see if that makes it past the editor) and believe me when I say that there are a lot of anglers out there that are a lot madder than I am.
All of this ineptitude really results from politicians directly and indirectly controlling DFW. Until the state issued a warning that we were in a drought, the DFW couldn’t really say we were in a drought. The fishermen and really everyone else that went outside knew we were in a drought but no one could do anything until Governor Brown issued his Drought proclamation. By then, all of the harm from any fishing anyway, had been perpetrated.
All north coast rivers are governed by low flow regulations. I often post in this column the phone numbers for fishermen to check and see if their target river is going to be closed due to low flows, all north coast rivers except for the Russian. Why is that? The only thing I can think of is politics. It is actually pretty amazing that the very gauge (the Venado gauge) used to regulate the low flow closures on other rivers like the Gualala and Noyo is actually located on the very river, The Russian River, that has no low flow restrictions.
The Sonoma County Water Agency is the largest money maker in the county. I have a feeling that somehow the ability to pump water and to try to keep up with all of the false promises for water that our politicians have made could have something to do with the lack of restrictions on the river. I am actually surprised that the Sonoma County Water Agency didn’t start clamoring for a low flow closure to the river much earlier. My cynical view is that while the SCWA and anglers are on the same side of the street when it comes to wanting fish in the river, it is for much different reasons. Anglers want fish in the river to fish for and the SCWA wants fish in the river so their “Canary in the coal mine” philosophy can say how healthy the system is so they can take lots of water out of the system.
The bottom line is that the draconian measure of closing the river for the rest of the season is not going to save one fish that needs saving and that thousands of fishermen are going to be unnecessarily displaced from catching the fish they pay for with their license fees. I hope that saner regulations go into effect next year so that responsible angling restrictions are in place when necessary and that heavy handed, tardy restrictions are not unnecessarily imposed.
For more fishing information or reports, please contact Hunt Conrad, Bay Equity Home loans, 328-1233

We are had some limited feed back from readers regarding Hunt Conrad's editorial / fishing report posted this past week.

From a regular Russian river "Source"

Mike, I just finished reading Hunt Conrad's piece regarding the closure of the Russian, he hit the nail right on the head!
The Sonoma County Water Agency and their well documented concern for healthy anadromous fish stocks in the river is exactly as Hunt noted....the Miner's Canary. We're all aware of how much of an impact the wine industry has on Sonoma County, not so much for the numbers of people they employ with good paying jobs (hah!), but what they bring in tourism dollars for the county coffers.
The long and short of it is that California has long been a front runner in 'feel good' politics, and our illustrious governor caters to the feel good mentality of many why would the appointed DFG officials be any different?...the California DFG is a bureaucracy that has been mismanaged for eons by people that have no business (aside from the fact they were appointed to their positions by the Governor) making decisions regarding fish and game in California, yet they continue to do so.
I should feel good that the Sonoma County Water Agency and the California Department of Fish and Game Commission are genuinely concerned, but for some reason, I don't

From Rusty:
The river was shut down not to protect salmon or steelhead as this time of year they are all hatchery fish and the salmon have long spawned or died in the low water due to lack of rain.  It's too protect wine growers from their huge expansion of  acreage along the Valley and put the blame on anglers for the drought and impact on coho not their huge take of water. The wineries are the ones to blame for the loss of our coho in the Russian river not anglers.

Emergency Regulations to Close Angling Now In Effect


The California Office of Administrative Law

(OAL) this week approved emergency regulations adopted by the California Fish and Game Commission on Feb. 5 to close some waters to angling in response to severe drought conditions throughout the state.


The following closures are now in effect:

  1. Closure of the American River from Nimbus Dam to the SMUD power line crossing at the southwest boundary of Ancil Hoffman Park until April 30.

  2. Closure of the Russian River main stem below the confluence of the East Branch of the Russian River until April 30.

  3. Extension of the low flow restrictions angling closures for the north coast and central coast areas (above San Francisco Bay) until April 30.

  4. In the South Coast District (i.e., San Mateo, Santa Cruz, Monterey and San Luis Obispo counties), close all portions of any coastal stream west of any Highway 1 bridge until April 30.

The above regulatory actions were approved by OAL and became effective Feb. 19. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) learned about OAL's approval today.


Also, CDFW has closed some waters to fishing in order to protect native salmon and steelhead from low water flows in California streams and rivers that have been significantly impacted by drought. These closures are within CDFW's authority under Title 14 and did not need Commission adoption.


A map of the closures can be found here.


CDFW has the authority under Title 14, Article 4, Section 8.00(c) to close south central coast streams to fishing from December 1 through March 7 when it determines that stream flows are inadequate to provide fish passage for migrating steelhead trout and salmon. As a result, the following waters are closed to angling until March 7 or until stream flows are sufficient to allow fish passage for returning adult steelhead and salmon. To determine whether or not these waters are open to fishing, please call the south central coast closure hotline at (831) 649-2886:

  1. Pescadero Creek and all anadromous reaches of San Mateo County coastal streams normally open for fishing, from Elliot Creek through Milagro Creek.

  2. The San Lorenzo River and all its tributaries, as well as all anadromous reaches of coastal streams normally open for fishing in Santa Cruz County from the San Lorenzo River on North through Waddell Creek.

  3. Aptos and Soquel Creeks (Santa Cruz County).

  4. The Pajaro River and Uvas, Llagas and Corralitos Creeks (Santa Cruz, Monterey and Santa Clara counties).

  5. The Carmel River and those sections of San Jose, Gibson, Malpaso and Soberanes creeks west of Highway 1.

  6. The Big Sur River and those Big Sur area streams from Granite Creek to Salmon Creek west of Highway 1.

  7. The main stem of the Salinas River below its confluence with the Arroyo Seco River and the Arroyo Seco River (Monterey County).

In addition, CDFW has the authority under Title 14, Article 4, Section 8.00(a) to close north coast streams to fishing when it determines that the flow at any of the designated gauging stations is less than minimum flows stated in regulation through January 31. Today's OAL approval extends the end date of that authority to April 30. As a result, the following north coast streams will be subject to angling closures until April 30. To determine whether or not these waters are open to fishing, please call the north coast closure hotline at (707) 822-3164:

  1. The main stem Eel River from the paved junction of Fulmor Road with the Eel River to the South Fork Eel River.

  2. The South Fork of the Eel River downstream from Rattlesnake Creek and the Middle Fork Eel River downstream from the Bar Creek.

  3. The main stem Van Duzen River from its junction with the Eel River to the end of Golden Gate Drive near Bridgeville.

  4. The main stem Mad River from the Hammond Trail Railroad Trestle to Cowan Creek.

  5. The main stem of the Mattole River from the mouth to Honeydew Creek.

  6. The main stem of Redwood Creek from the mouth to its confluence with Bond Creek.

  7. The main stem Smith River from the mouth of Rowdy Creek to the mouth of Patrick Creek (tributary of the Middle Fork Smith River); the South Fork Smith River from the mouth upstream approximately 1,000 feet to the County Road (George Tyron) bridge and Craig's Creek to its confluence with Jones Creek; and the North Fork Smith River from the mouth to its confluence with Stony Creek.

Under Title 14, Article 4, Section 8.00(b) the following central coast streams are subject to angling closures through April 1. Today's OAL approval extends that end date to April 30. To determine whether or not these waters are open to fishing, please call the central coast closure hotline at (707) 944-5533:

  1. Sonoma Creek (Sonoma County), and all streams tributary to the Pacific Ocean (and its bay) in Mendocino, Sonoma and Marin counties, except the Russian River.

  2. Napa River (Napa County) between Trancas Avenue in Napa and Oakville Cross Bridge near Yountville.

These closures listed above represent only about five percent of the fishable rivers in the state. There are still plenty of opportunities for California anglers to catch fish in the state's rivers, streams, lakes and reservoirs. Additionally, California's coast offers substantial ocean fishing. All are subject to current regulations already in place. For more on fishing in California, please visit the CDFW website.


CDFW low flow closure hotlines:

North coast: (707) 822-3164

Central coast: (707) 944-5533

South central coast: (831) 649-2886

North Coast Rivers Back on the Rise / Sonoma and Mendo Coast Rivers Drop In:
Here on Thursday 2-13 evening at 6:PM the Smith crested  at 19 feet last night and has since dropped to 14'. Both the Smith and Chetco (very high and muddy today) are blown out and with more rain on the way late Friday and Saturday we expect the Smith to not drop back in until next Sunday or Monday with the Chetco following a day or two later. That said most of the rainfall has been north of Cape Mendocino and rivers to the south are coming into play.
The Mad is running muddy having risen from 6.9 to 9.2  but Mad River Tackle reports great fishing up below the hatchery. Gary Blassi reports anglers pressure was very light today due to the misinformation that the North Coast rivers are closed. All North Coast rivers are OPEN and the action on the Mad especially the 1 to 2 mile stretch below the hatchery has been on fire. Gary reports that most anglers are finding easy limits tossing yarn and beads as lining is the only option due to the high and muddy flows. The fish are stacked up below the hatchery and more are pushing in with this latest rise.
On the South Fork Eel flows are Miranda have been holding at the 8.3 level most of the day. This is a near perfect flow of 900cfs and if these levels hold the South Fork would be a great bet on Friday. That said rain is forecast again on Saturday and the river looks to be back to high and muddy by Sunday.
Rumors of good numbers of steelhead being caught in the Dry Creek section of the Russian are being substantiated by readers with some hooking one to three hatchery fish. Keep in mind that the Russian is still open but will close on February 21st once the legal eagles in Sacramento close both the Russian and American rivers to fishing due to the drought. The good news is that the Eel, Mad and Smith are loaded with fish and anglers will have many other options for the next few weeks.

River Levels:


For river status (low flow closure) updates from Fish and Game please call +1.707.442.4502 for the North coast and +1.707.944.5533 for Central coast streams. Be sure to check out the California Fish and Game regulations before you go. Regulations vary on every river and you need to pay attention to bait and hook restrictions. Due to winter closures on HWYs 5, 101 & 299 we recommend you check Caltrans road conditions as well.

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