Fewer Californians fishing
Recently I have heard lots of people talking about the decline in fishing license sales. In fact, there was an article recently in the Los Angeles Times that generated much of the conversation.
Why would fishing license sales be declining in a state that is home to so many people? The answer can encompass a multitude of things.
Some people feel that the fishing opportunities are not as great as they once were because of the tremendous hits that the California Department of Fish and Game has had on their budget. Hatchery operations have been drastically reduced, and with less fish being planted, many feel that interest is waning.
Others think that because of other factors, there has been a decline in fishing for certain species. Take the salmon fishing issue in Northern California. The season will be reduced to allow about 10 percent of the prior year’s commercial and sport fishing take because populations of salmon are down drastically. In this particular case, many are pointing to the drastic draw down of the Klamath River by the Bureau of Reclamation and the massive killing of salmon that resulted from it as one of the primary reasons.
Also, more than ever before, stocks of fish are being depleted by loss of habitat, pollution, water issues and over-fishing. This has caused many anglers to lose interest in the sport.
Finally, one of the subtle changes that I see the most is the lack of people taking their children fishing. In this fast-paced world in which we live, kids have many more distractions than we baby boomers had while we were growing up.
Let’s face it, times were simpler and there seemed to be more time available to go fishing. Adults are often way too busy making a living to take the time to fish with their children.
The number of people mentoring a new generation of fishermen and women is lacking. Very few kids are getting introduced to the sport, so they are not going to continue to fish and buy licenses as adults.
All of these items are contributing to a decline in fishing license sales. There are probably additional reasons, but these seem to be the most glaring. Is there an answer to stop the decline?
First, the Department of Fish and Game’s antiquated method of securing funding based upon license sales has to be remedied. In a situation of declining sales, we might as well consider our resources lost. The department will not have the funding to turn things around. They will only experience additional cutbacks in the area anglers want to see results.
Habitat improvement in our area has made great strides with the formation of the Truckee River Watershed Council and the focus they put on the annual Truckee River Day. Other areas need similar efforts to improve watersheds. It is only through such efforts that we can reverse any adverse effects on the fisheries through habitat degradation and pollution.
Water issues, both on quality and quantity, will continue to be huge in the West as we continue to develop beyond the sense of reasonableness and try to find the water to continue the process. Locally, the Truckee River Operating Agreement will try to regulate our precious water resources by establishing flow regimes to the benefit of all users, including recreational ones. Attention to our water usage must be monitored throughout the state. Water usage and growth must be responsible!
Finally, how do we mentor our youth and get them involved? We should make time to pass things on to our children. If we do not, then there must be some other avenue.
The Tahoe Truckee Flyfishers, the local fly fishing club, is beginning a program this summer. In July, they will be conducting a two-day fly fishing class for youths 10 to 15 years of age through the Truckee Donner Recreation Department. It is sponsored by the club in the name of Cliff Frazier, a longtime member, friend and committed local resident who lost his life to cancer several years ago. While this program may touch a few children’s lives, much more is needed.
The Truckee Rotary also sponsors a kids fishing derby each year. I would encourage anyone with children to get out and take their child to this event. It is important to introduce a child to this sport. Even if you do not know how to fish yourself, the local sporting goods stores can help you get ready for the event, and there should be an ample number of experienced helpers to assist you during the event.
The trend in fishing license sales can be reversed, but in order to do so all of the above must happen, in my opinion. For the sake of future generations of anglers, I certainly hope that we can make some strides in the above areas.
Bruce Ajari is a Truckee resident and regular fishing columnist for the Sierra Sun and other area newspapers