“Hoot Owl” Hours for Sustainable Fishing During Drought

With continued severe drought conditions, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is looking to anglers to implement “Hoot Owl” fishing practices to sustain and protect natural inland fisheries.

“Hoot Owl” refers to the active times of day when owls can still be heard hooting. These hours are typically earlier in the day before the heat starts to ramp up.

The term is used to describe guidelines for fishing during a drought which recommend that anglers complete their fishing activities before noon in certain inland waters to protect stock.

Currently, there are nine water sources in California where the CDFW recommends anglers adhere to “Hoot Owl” protocols, including Deep Creek in San Bernadino, which has a wild trout designation and is located roughly 60 miles from Los Angeles.

The regulations look to create sustainable fishing practices by not exposing catch and release fish to high temperatures, which can negatively affect their survival. Cold water fish like trout, salmon, and steelhead can experience high stress levels, which can prove fatal if exposed to high temperatures.

“California’s drought cycles require all of us to work together to manage our fisheries,” said CDFW Inland Fisheries Manager Sarah Mussulman in a July 15 press release. “Multiple years of drought plus fluctuations in the timing of precipitation creates many challenges for our cold-water fish species. Anglers can play a part in lessening impacts to their favorite fishery by not fishing past noon during the hot summer months.”

The CDFW recommends a series of steps that can help to alleviate the stress felt by cold water fish during catch and release fishing, including:

  • Minimize the time you spend “fighting” the fish and any hands-on handling.
  • Use rubber or coated nylon nets to protect a fish’s slime layer and fins.
  • Quickly remove the hook with forceps or needle-nosed pliers.
  • Minimize the amount of time the fish is exposed to air, especially when the weather is warm.
  • Keep your hands wet when handling the fish.
  • If the fish is deeply hooked, do not pull on the line. Instead, cut the line as close as possible to where it is hooked and leave the hook so it can dissolve.
  • Allow the fish to recover in the net before you release it.
  • If the fish does not stay upright when you release it, gently move it back and forth.
  • Avoid fighting fish from deeper, cooler waters and bringing them into warmer waters at the surface if you intend to release them.
  • Target fisheries that have stable water levels and species that are more resilient to elevated temperatures.

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