No more Fishmas? CDFW discusses proposed regulations

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.”

Kevin Peterson, guide and ranch manager at Hot Creek, echoed Jaeger’s concerns. “There aren’t many good things (in the proposed regulations),” he said, “at least not good for fishermen.”

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:

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

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steve nelson
steve nelson
2 years ago

I have been fishing the Eastern sierra region for over 60 years and own a house in Bishop as well. there have been various changes in the regs over the years but this current bunch of changes doesn’t make sense! Time and nature and increased pressure have changed the fishing outcome over the years but these proposed changes seem destined to further ruin whats left of a great resourse. We do not need more year around open areas and there surely needs to be a designated “season” for the general public. The open waters that exist now provide plenty of open time for the fly fishers(myself) etc to enjoy the main off season. the pressure on the area is intense enuf compared to days past that more year round time would pretty much ruin the whole area. the streams and lakes need time to recoup and the fish need a break. in years past we never saw a guide or a whole load of folks on the streams but times have changed. times change and fishing outcomes change but please do not ruin what is left of a fabulous area!!

philip anaya
philip anaya
2 years ago

Hope this is a scoping sort of process where Fish and Wildlife will really consider and present opposition comments from these meetings to the Fish and Wildlife Commission for the local areas and issues, especially from local folks like Kevin Pat and all the rest. Never did like the unpopular program of stocking diploids and glad that failed program is no longer with us. It is good to see that DFW is presenting these changes in a public process. I just hope that they listen to folks and get things right . Changes to long standing evolved regulations have to clearly improve the fisheries and it is up to DFW if they want to change the Regs to demonstrate the improvements and benefits of this proposal.

David Dennison
David Dennison
2 years ago

I know I said I wasn’t going to be opinionated and comment anymore,but can’t help myself with this one……if I’m reading these “proposals” right,does it say Convict Lake,Lee Vining Creek (two places I’m familiar with and fish each year) are to be open “year around” ?…seems would be kinda hard (or very safe) to fish Convict Lake in a boat or along shore in the dead of winter,or for that matter,probably Lee Vining Creek too ,maybe kinda hard to get to where I like to go to there,unless you bring the snowshoes along with the tackle box and fishing pole….and isn’t June Lake Loop sometimes (many times) closed during those big,windy winter storms that can come on in an instant ?…maybe they should have a State fishing derby at Virginia Lakes on New Years day..would always be nice weather up there at 10,000+ ft. elevation to fish those lakes in January….just crazy-talk here,thinking hoping to bring in more of the all-mighty tax-dollars to the County and State by the unsuspecting out-of-towners hoping for a stringer full of fish on Christmas Day,and instead,sitting in a lonely motel room(or worse) waiting out the storm to get back south…..

2 years ago

Like much of the state of California, it sounds as if CDFW solution to enforcing laws, rules and regulations is to eliminate or reduce laws, rules and regulations.
Why does California seem so fearful of enforcing current laws?

2 years ago
Reply to  Tinner

There are at least two reasons I can think of right off the bat: (1) WE–the taxpayers–cannot afford to enforce the already existing rules, regulations and laws already on the books! Regulations, both existing and/or new, should default to what is in the best interests of all California residents, and not just private business or corporations. (2) There is nothing wrong with simplifying or sun-downing, existing rules/regulations/laws that are outside the average person’s ability to know or comprehend intelligently, especially when there are so many on the books already…and usually, regulators and legislators are looking to “add” more, not less.

Charles James
Charles James
2 years ago
Reply to  Tinner

A commenter ask “Why does California seem so fearful of enforcing current laws?” Do we really want government to start enforcing all the rules/regulations/laws that are already “on the books?”

First, that regulators/enforcers are “fearful” in the first place is extremely unlikely! Given even more rules, regulations, and laws, and the ever increasing and higher fines, combined with greatly increasing a department’s or agency’s budget, and allowing for an increase (in this case) in the numbers of wardens (and other types of “enforcers, ” let’s face facts! They’d probably be more than happy to enforce anything and everything currently on the books! It is in their self-interest to do so…if only they could! Let’s not let them! Support restricting and simplification of regulatory authority, not keeping–or worse–increasing it!

Second, when did the purpose of simplification of rules/regulations/laws become anathema to the public interest? Agreed, not all the proposed CDFW changes are good, but at least they’re trying to do something. That changes in existing regulations can affect the self-interests of others is undeniable, but do citizens really want to continue to see self-interest groups, which include private business, industries and corporations, along with a host of others, continue to increase control our lives through use of rules/regulations and laws that largely guarantee or increase their profits while increasing the cost of living to average citizens?

Too many already existing rules/regulations/laws only serve to confound, confuse and overwhelm the public as it is. The “there ought to be a law” mentality of an already highly, over-regulated society should also include an antidote: Perhaps “there ought not to be yet another law or to keep some of the ones currently on the books.” Maybe, just maybe, not every problem needs a regulatory or legal solution if it adds even more of a regulatory burden and costs to citizens, or for that matter, businesses. Many regulations and laws already do not work as intended or they are selectively enforced. Some are simply “unenforceable.” Others are just too expensive and impractical to enforce; or they are specifically written to benefit and protect special interest groups, usually at the increased costs to the public through higher taxes and increased costs of goods and services.

Far too many of our laws are designed to protect private industry, businesses and professions at the great expense to a public already besieged by much higher prices for everything from prescription medications, health care, doctors and dentists to the high cost of education, private transportation, housing,and usurious credit card interests (to name just a few.) How much more can the middle-class and the poor continue to tolerate? Simplification and use of “sun-downer” clauses are one of the few options that are available to citizens to fight back. I commend CDFW for at least making an attempt at changing the confusing myriad of rules and regulations.

You do not have to be a libertarian to insist that our legislators and regulators in government use the criteria of what is “first and foremost in the best interests (and pocketbook) of the public, the taxpayer, and consumers.”

Joe Delgado
Joe Delgado
2 years ago

These proposals are ludicrous! The fisheries are the healthiest they have been in years and there have not been any measurable issues to warrant these changes. Regulation for regulation sake is tantamount to Nazi-ism and has no part in this country or state!!!