CDFW Proposes New Fishing Regulations

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) recently released a proposed set of changes to the state’s inland trout fishing regulations in furtherance of the Department’s Inland Trout Management Program. A result of a call for simplification, the proposed regulations were prepared with the intention of reducing the complexity of the current regulations and easing enforcement for wildlife officers. While the California Chapter applauds CDFW in its pursuit of regulations which permit greater angler understanding, aid in angler recruitment and increase angling opportunities, those regulations, as proposed, fail to adequately address concerns of the long-term health of our wild and native fisheries in the state.

CDFW has provided a table of the proposed changes on their site (link below), but to summarize the changes, CDFW is proposing a statewide default regulation for all inland trout waters which would allow for a year-round season, daily harvest of 5 trout and no gear or bait restrictions. Specific “special regulation” waters have been called out which will be subject to one of six “season” options and one of six “bag limit and gear restriction” options.

Both BHA and partner organizations have been working with CDFW to get more information on the known impacts of the proposed changes, including evidence to support the increased harvest, extended seasons and reduced gear restrictions, but CDFW has indicated that a water-by-water analysis has not been conducted and that those waters impacted are too numerous to quantify. Our partners at Trout Unlimited have gone through and created tables (linked here: which lay out the current regulations, the proposed changes and the impacts for those waters specifically called out by the CDFW, but many waters which will be impacted by the default statewide regulation are not reflected in the list. Of specific concern are those streams and fisheries which are host to the last remaining populations of our state’s native trout. The streams harboring California’s native trout range from San Gabriel National Monument and the Golden Trout Wilderness, north to the McCloud, and extending to the far northeast reaches of the state, but the southern half of the state looks to be the most impacted. Under the proposed regulations, a majority of these streams would be opened to increased harvest, use of bait (which poses documented mortality and invasive species concerns), and extended seasons (which permit fishing during the spawns).

There is no doubt that CDFW has endeavored on a difficult task. Anglers and our ecosystems require a strong, self-sustaining populations of wild and native trout to thrive, but the Department need funds to maintain those populations. The Department needs anglers to sustain their objectives, but budgetary restrictions limit hatchery plantings needed to keep up with an increased angler population and harvest and serve as a poor substitute for their wild brethren. Regardless, risking long term impact on our wild and native fish is not be worth any short term budget increase. Lacking adequate information as to the effects of the overall increased harvest, lengthened seasons and reduction of gear restrictions, and without a solid scientific basis and water-by-water support, the Chapter urges CDFW to consider a more conservative slate of simplified regulations that still achieves those missions put forth by the Department but also accounts for a “fisheries first” mentality.

Further, the Chapter suggests the statewide default regulation be revised to address the most delicate of those fisheries which will fall under it. Understanding that, despite CDFW’s best efforts, anglers will continue to fail to read the regulations, it is essential that the statewide regulation, to which most of these anglers will defer, be crafted such that it limits violations in special waters. By providing a more conservative statewide regulation, with special regulations permitting liberalized harvest, seasons and gear restrictions for those waters that can support it, CDFW will be preemptively negating a number of these violations. The Chapter is strongly in support of sustainable harvest practices, and understands a number of waters can support and should be open to increased harvest, but, in the absence of scientific support, we err on the side of conservation.

CDFW is soliciting comments through the following website through May 3rd: has indicated that comments sent via any other method may not be considered. Through the comment site, members can submit comments to the general statewide “default” regulation as well as specific waters of concern. Both in the public meetings and in outside communications, CDFW staff has made clear that stakeholders must respond individually, using the dropdown menu of waters and choices from the slate of proposals. Passionate responses are appreciated, but CDFW would like to receive concrete alternatives to their proposals so they may consider those received in a formulaic manner. Following analysis of the comments and revisions to the regulations, CDFW will present a formal set of regulation changes for public comment later this year - the Chapter will keep its member informed of any developments.

We urge our members to convey your interests and support regulation changes that will both increase recreational opportunities, while also carefully considering and prioritizing the preservation of our native and wild fish. As anglers and conservationists, we recognize an intrinsic value of a species beyond that role that it plays for our own recreation and table fare - now is the time to speak up and let CDFW know our values. We have set forth waters of specific concern, largely due to the presence of populations of California Native Heritage Trout, with suggested special regulations below - feel free to use these for your online comments.

Statewide Regulation for Inland Trout

Comments regarding the statewide trout angling regulation:

Suggested gear restriction to artificial lures, except for specified waters.

Waters with Special Fishing Regulations

Water Name:

Comment (suggested change to proposed regulation):

Golden Trout Wilderness, excluding the main stem Kern River and Tule River drainage

Suggested gear restriction to artificial lures with barbless hooks and zero bag limit. Last remaining populations of native Kern River Rainbow, Little Kern Golden and California Golden Trout remain and most are within the GTW.

Kern River from Lake Isabella to Johnsondale Bridge

Revise water to extend from Lake Isabella to Fairview Dam under proposed regulations. Waters upstream of Fairview are native Kern River Rainbow spawning habitat.

Kern River from Johnsondale Bridge to Rincon Trail

Revise water to extend from Fairview Dam to Rincon Trail, artificial lures with barbless hooks and zero bag limit. This stretch of river is native spawning habitat and not stocked in upper reaches.

Kern River from Rincon Trail to mouth of Tyndall Creek

Suggested gear restriction to artificial lures with barbless hooks and zero bag limit. Remaining populations of native Kern River Rainbow.

San Gabriel River, West fork and tributaries, (B) from Cogswell Dam downstream to the second bridge upstream of the Highway 39 bridge

Revise water to extend from Cogswell Dam downstream to San Gabriel Dam. Heritage Trout Water for Coastal Rainbow, Southern Steelhead. Waters are not stocked and would further simplify regulations.

San Gabriel River, West fork and tributaries, (A) Upstream of Cogswell Dam, including tributaries

Revise regulation to fall under San Gabriel River, West fork (B). Heritage Trout Water for Coastal Rainbow, Southern Steelhead. Waters are not stocked and would further simplify regulations.

Additional Waters Requiring Special Regulations (Suggested Omission from Statewide Regulation)

Water Name

Comment (suggested special regulations)

Kern River, main stem upstream of Tyndall Creek

Artificial lures with barbless hooks and zero bag limit. Heritage Trout Water for Kern River Rainbows.

Kern River, South Fork and its tributaries

Artificial lures with barbless hooks and zero bag limit. Heritage Trout Water for California Golden Trout.

San Gabriel River and tributaries upstream of San Gabriel Dam (including both East and West forks)

Artificial lures with barbless hooks and zero bag limit. Heritage Trout Water for Coastal Rainbow, Southern Steelhead. Waters are not stocked and would further simplify regulations by combining all current sections.


About Justin Bubenik

Current Fly Fishers International Board Member; Founder of FlyCurious Fishing; Attorney by day; Former California Chapter President and Colorado Chapter volunteer.

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