As the days get longer and warmer it’s natural to look forward to heading out for a relaxing day of fishing. This is a good time of year to dust off the fishing gear, maybe add some fresh line to that reel. This is also a good time to take a look at the fishing regulations and that is especially true this year since there are some significant changes.
For starters, anglers are now able to fish year-round in many streams — though it’s limited to catch and release with artificial lures with barbless hooks — more details on that topic below.
The biggest change in the California Sport Fishing Regulations booklet is that it is no longer a booklet; at least not the kind you can pick up and flip through the pages like you have done in the past. Starting in 2021, the fishing regulations are in digital format only. That may save a little money, but it is not likely to cut back on the frustration of wading through some complex rules.
https://wildlife.ca.gov/Regulations. You can download the document onto your computer or cell phone and if you don’t have internet access, remember that you can always use a computer with internet access for no charge at your local library.
The other big changes are the result of trying to simplify the regulations. Anyone who has spent any time sorting through the layers of rules will appreciate this effort even if it was less than fully successful. Like everything else in California, our fisheries are diverse. They contain a wide variety of species in a diverse array of environments.
The regulations reflect an attempt to provide abundant recreational opportunities and at the same time provide adequate protection for the more vulnerable species. Simplifying the regulations is no easy task. The 2021 version is an improvement, but still pretty complicated so check them carefully before you head out.
Some of the major changes include separate regulations for inland trout (non-anadromous waters) from those for steelhead and salmon (anadromous waters) to make it easier to understand the bag and possession limits,
the replacement of district regulations with statewide regulations separated for trout, and simplified “special fishing” regulations.
Despite these changes, the angler needs to sort through a hierarchy of regulations to get a complete picture of the rules they must comply with. There are general regulations, species specific regulations which vary by district, and an alphabetical list of waters with special fishing regulations. The changes from previous years are highlighted in gray making it easier to identify specific changes.
Statewide, the biggest changes in the rules for 2021 is an increase in the streams and rivers that are open to catch and release fishing, during those months when they were previously closed to fishing. For any stream or river that does not have specific rules precluding it, catch and release fishing with artificial lures and barbless hooks is now permitted from November 16 through the Friday preceding the last Saturday in April. This includes local waters like Indian Creek, Spanish Creek and the Middle Fork of the Feather River.
“This provides more opportunities for anglers,” said Kyle Kroll, a lieutenant with California Fish and Wildlife, responsible for Plumas County. “People now have the opportunity to fish all year and take advantage of the weather and waterways.”
The biggest changes in Plumas County include Yellow Creek in Humbug Valley, Butt Creek, and the tributaries flowing into Lake Almanor, Bucks Lake, Antelope Lake, and Lake Davis. Yellow Creek is now catch and release only in the Humbug Valley section. The fishing season on Butt Creek, and the tributaries feeding Lake Almanor, Bucks Lake, and Antelope Lake open the Saturday preceding Memorial day extending through September 30th, to provide added protection for spawning fish. Tributaries feeding Lake Davis, as well as the North Fork of the Feather River from the Belden Bridge downstream to the Cresta Powerhouse will have expanded seasons, now open from the Saturday preceding Memorial day through the last day in February. This section of the North Fork of the Feather River also requires artificial lures and barbless hooks, and has a zero trout bag limit.
Specially listed waters such as these are listed alphabetically in the special regulation section of the fishing regulations. These waters are completely closed to angling outside of their open season dates.
Another addition this year is the increased bag limit on brook trout, which now allows for anglers to take 10 brook trout per day under 10 inches in length within many lakes and waterways. This increased brook trout bag limit does not apply to specially listed waterways found under the alphabetical list of trout waters with special regulations.
One regulation that never changes is the need for all anglers over the age of 16 to have a valid fishing license. They are not cheap, but neither is the hatchery program and all of the work that goes into maintaining healthy fisheries. In addition to getting the regulations online, you can also purchase your license on-line at https://www.ca.wildlifelicense.com/internetsales/ .
FREE FISHING DAYS! July 3rd and September 4th, 2021 are free fishing days, where a fishing license is not required. But remember special regulations, report cards, and general rules still apply.
For more information about the process of the changes and frequently asked questions: https://nrm.dfg.ca.gov/FileHandler.ashx?DocumentID=190516