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State’s BS meter running overtime

By Gary Heffley
04/15/15 -- Let me first acknowledge that I was unable to attend the meeting regarding the proposed closure of 5.5 miles of the Sacramento River to all fishing to protect the Winter Run Chinook Salmon Run. The reason given for the proposed closure is to ensure the survival of the endangered winter run salmon from potential danger of anglers disturbing the spawning grounds of the salmon from the end of April through the end of July. The state Department of Fish and Wildlife have this one way wrong.

To close the river, especially the trout laden section of water from below the ACID diversion dam in Redding to Hwy 44 would be produce a large economic downturn for guides in the region and within the domino effect produce large lodging, dining and retail shortfalls. Guides and most of the anglers in the area are emphatic about identifying “redds” and not disturbing them. Guides are also quick to identify a hooked salmon and are quick to break off any inadvertently taking a fly or hook. Legal anglers are not targeting salmon in any way during the spawn and the entire river is closed to salmon angling in this area year around, so protections are already in place.. Guides do everything they can to protect the river, reporting illegal dumps and camps along the river to authorities to help keep the river healthy and vibrant with fish life.

I could understand a ban on wading in the river to keep anglers from stepping directly onto unseen redds, but to keep anglers from drifting or motoring on the river is ludicrous.

It was reported that during the presentation the state noted that a salmon carcass was found with a hook in it. They did however fail to answer the questions as to whether the salmon has “spawned out” being void of sperm or eggs. The likelihood is that the salmon was hooked, broken off quickly allowing it to complete the spawning cycle and then die. Even if the salmon had spawned out prior to inadvertently being hooked the fact that the hook was there notes the fact that the angler’s followed proper procedures in breaking off the fish. The fact that the cause of death was “stress” related” makes me say DUH!. The natural spawning cycle returning hundreds of miles from the Pacific Ocean to the waters of birth is stressful on the fish. Once the pawning is completed the salmon die, it is a one shot deal.

Granted this is a so-called last ditch effort to save a run of salmon albeit misguided, that has been in dire straits since the inception of Shasta Dam. Efforts to provide cold water to protect the salmon run have been marginally effective in some years of ample water. But there are many factors that because of costs, the state turns to this ineffective quick fix solution that is destined to fail.

Let’s talk about the journey of our winter run salmon as they leave the ocean seeking to return to their spawning grounds. Most of the measurements and facts about the health of the run are based on the end game. Counting spawned carcasses has always provided projections for future runs. But the journey to and from the river is fraught with hazards, many that can be controlled or given greater weight then just blaming trout anglers for the current conditions and problems.

Water quality and temperature must be given top priority if the winter-run has any chance for survival. Temperatures can be better controlled at the release points but water quality is a constant battle, but again costs may be prohibitive. Transient camps along the river are cause for concern as sanitation, garbage waste and chemical pollution should be cause for concern. There should be a ban of any unorganized camps along or within 100 yards of the river, unless totally self contained. Again the cost of enforcement would be high, but well worth the effort for many environmental and economic reasons.

The mind-staggering number of Northern California illegal marijuana growths, that illegally divert stream and river water, dump uncontrolled chemicals into the soils and watersheds should be more actively eradicated. There have been entire streams diverted by use of heavy equipment to irrigate illegal grows. This is irreparable damage being done to our watersheds and fisheries. And yes, it has impacted our salmon runs.

More should be done to protect and keep our water supplies in the North State and look for ways to lessen the Southern California dependence on our water. Is an increase in urban and agricultural demands being met by use of desalination plants the answer? It is worth serious consideration as is building water storage facilities which are filled by waters of this process.

Natural predation is dealing our salmon a rough hand as well. Sea lions and seals that are major salmon predators in the open ocean are now being seen taking salmon well up into the freshwaters of the Sacramento Delta where they themselves are free of their natural predator’s sharks and orcas. Should man intervene on this unbalanced playing field to protect the salmon? That is a tough question.

To blame and ban anglers even as a short term quick fix, is nothing more than the state/ government usual spinning of we must do something, so let’s look at the cheapest ( to themselves) way to show that we are addressing the issue. This doesn’t even qualify as a band-aid being used to staunch the bleeding of a severed limb. Forget the quick fixes and the BS excuses, there are serious issues and solutions out there, where the cost will be high. If the cause is worth it, then the rewards will be too. It is up to the public to let the state government agencies know if the results are worth those costs.

See this article at to learn what you can do about this proposal.

Gary Heffley has been a valued contributor to MyOutdoorBuddy for over seven years serving as manager, sales representative and reporter for much of Northern California. He is an avid outdoorsman and loves to fish and write about his adventures. He has long history in the Sporting Goods field and is presently managing the Gift Bar and Camping Department at Sportsman’s Warehouse in Redding.

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