A request by the Trinity County Board of Supervisors to extend the fishing season on a stretch of the Trinity River near Lewiston Dam by three months was denied by the California Fish and Wildlife Commission, but the effort may be revived.
In March, the supervisors sent their request asking that the two-mile fly fishing only stretch from 250 feet below the dam to the Old Lewiston Bridge be opened from Jan. 1 through Sept. 15. The current season is April 1 to Sept. 15.
Generally, the majority of fish in this area below the dam and Trinity River Hatchery reflect hatchery origin, and this fishery is for hatchery steelhead only. Unclipped steelhead and any salmon caught there are required to be released.
Trinity Fly Shop owner Herb Burton had approached county Sup. Keith Groves with the idea. The hatchery’s steelhead quotas were being met, and chinook and coho spawning at the hatchery is done by Dec. 31, Burton said. “So why not?”
“We kind of thought it was going to be a no brainer with Fish and Game but at the higher commission level they did not see it the same way we did,” Sup. Groves said. “They wanted a scientific argument.”
Fishing on this stretch of river is wade-in only with no fishing by boat, and the proposal is to keep it that way.
Benefits to off-season tourism and economics of the area were cited in the supervisors’ March letter.
“One of the reasons was to promote another fishery for Trinity County that has minimal to no impact on the resource,” Burton told the Journal, noting that following the Carr fire certain upper river tributaries such as Deadwood, Hoadley and Grass Valley creeks have the potential to purge large amounts of undesirable sediment into the mainstem Trinity River.
That could make the stretch above those tributaries the only spot in the area for fishing.
The state commission denied the request, and the matter was recently brought up at the Nov. 13 meeting of the Trinity County Fish and Game Advisory Commission in Weaverville.
Kyle De Juilio, a fisheries biologist for the Yurok Tribe and member of the advisory commission, said he plans to work with Sup. Groves to redo the request.
He noted there is science that it would be helpful to wild populations to remove the hatchery fish. For example, interbreeding between hatchery and wild populations can harm the “fitness” of the offspring to survive in the wild.
The mingling with wild populations is “highly detrimental,” said Mike Dixon, a member of the advisory commission and executive director of the Trinity River Restoration Program.
Dixon suggested if the extended fishing season near the dam is approved, “Don’t tread on a redd” signage warning anglers to watch for fish nests should be installed.
Fishing Guide Alex Ross, a member of the advisory commission, said there are some who do want hatchery fish breeding in the wild.
But De Juilio responded that the Trinity River Hatchery is for mitigation.
“If they are spawning outside the hatchery you’re not harvesting enough,” De Juilio said. “You either harvest more or produce less.”
Ross said it’s important for guides and the community to be shown the benefit of the proposal and a plan in place.
It was decided that an ad hoc committee of De Juilio and Commissioner Richard Cole would prepare a letter in support of the supervisor’s request with additional information.