CDFW Offers Drought Guidelines for Recreational Anglers

Governor Gavin Newsom declared a drought emergency in 41 counties in May of this year, and the CDFW put out guidelines to mitigate the impact on aquatic animals from recreational fishing.

CALIFORNIA一 In light of extreme drought conditions throughout California, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife has released a set of voluntary guidelines called “Hoot Owl” Restrictions, to mitigate negative impacts from recreational fishing during the drought.

The CDFW is recommending that anglers finish fishing before 12 p.m. in certain inland waters to mitigate the effect on fish that are caught in catch and release style angling.

For species of cold-water fish like trout and salmon, waters with a higher temperature and lower oxygen levels can cause the fish to experience higher stress levels and a higher mortality rate, by mitigating the fish’s exposure to these conditions the CDFW is hoping to lower the effects of the drought on these species.

“Many of our inland fisheries that rely on cold water habitat will likely be significantly impacted in the short and long term,” said CDFW Inland Fisheries Manager Roger Bloom, in a July 19 article from the CDFW. “California’s drought cycles have required us to learn to manage fisheries with extreme variations in water flows. The last drought resulted in significant effects to fisheries that took years to recover from. We hope the self-imposed Hoot Owl restrictions by anglers will help mitigate those effects.”

While the guidelines are more applicable to catch and release style fishing, they are also relevant to anglers that that catch non-targeted species of fish or fish that are outside the legal-size limits and must be returned to the water.

The guidelines are recommended for certain fisheries and the CDFW has a list that they will update as conditions change, for more information and to see the list visit

Other Tips to Mitigate Fish Stress: Provided by the CDFW

  1. Minimize the time you spend “fighting” the fish and any hands-on handling.
  2. Use rubber or coated nylon nets to protect a fish’s slime layer and fins.
  3. Quickly remove the hook with forceps or needle-nosed pliers.
  4. Minimize the amount of time the fish is exposed to air, especially when the weather is warm.
  5. Keep your hands wet when handling the fish.

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