River fishing closures recommended by Fish and WIldlife; decision would have significant economic impact

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife will ask the Fish and Game commission to extend the closure of North Coast rivers to sport fishing at a meeting next week.

On Feb. 5, Fish and Wildlife will recommend continued closure of parts of Redwood Creek and the Eel, Van Duzen, Mad and Mattole rivers until April 30 due to low flow as a result of the drought. The current restrictions end on Friday.

Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman Jordan Traverso said the request is based on the lack of water.

"We're closing these waters to fishing to protect native salmon and steelhead that are being affected by the drought," Traverso said. "That in mind, fish need water. If there's little water, they're already being impacted. They're already having trouble getting from one place to another to spawn.

"So, additionally, if you add a layer of fishermen going out there and plucking them out of the water, that's another mortality rate," Traverso added. "The idea is this will take away the one thing we could control, because we can't make it rain."

This is the time of year that people start traveling to the North Coast to fish said Darren Mierau, the North Coast regional manager for California Trout, a nonprofit dedicated to the protection and restoration of wild trout, steelhead and salmon throughout the state.

"We're getting into the peak time of steelhead fishing in our local rivers," Mierau said. "In between storms, this is when it's really good."

Board of Supervisors Chairman Rex Bohn said the closure will have economic consequences for the region.

"When I originally worked with the Mad River Fish Hatchery group in the early 2000s, economic impact studies were done on what recreational fishing does, and the amount of people it brings up to this area is overwhelming," Bohn said. "In these tough economic times we're having right now, the fishing guides, hotels, the sporting good stores, all the trickle down from what you would call sport fishing is huge because it's the off-season.

"What we can hope for is ... we will get the rain," he added.

Lorna Rodriguez can be reached at 441-0506 or lrodriguez@times-standard.com. Follow her on Twitter @LornaARodriguez.