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Editor's Notebook

How the Government Shutdown Affects Your Fishing

by Ross Purnell, Editor   |  October 1st, 2013 12
Rob Parkins photo

Flat Creek, the phenomenal cutthroat trout fishery in the National Elk Refuge near Jackson, Wyoming, is only open to fishing three months of the year. Here, a park ranger locks a gate to the refuge after the government shutdown forced the closure of all federally operated recreation sites. Rob Parkins photo

At 12:01 A.M. Oct. 1, the U.S. Federal Government shut down due to an inability of the Republican-controlled House and the Democrat-controlled Senate to agree on a fiscal plan for 2014. In the big picture, the government shutdown will stop 800,000 Americans from getting paid and could cost the economy about $1 billion a week.

But while many federal employees may have unpaid “vacation days” and free time to go fishing, they should focus on state-run access sites, as many of the nation’s best public fishing areas are closed. While the beaches and rivers are technically open to fishing, access roads and parking areas may be gated and locked.

“We’re seeing a number of fisheries that are being directly affected by these closures,” said Jim Klug, president of the American Fly Fishing Trade Association. “Angler access to boat ramps, recreational areas, federal lands, and of course all National Parks are a huge issue. These closures—which prevent people from actually getting out on the water—directly impact retailers and fly shop sales. Guides and outfitters that operate on any types of federal lands or waters are obviously taking a hit. And all of this continues to trickle down to also affect manufacturers. From guides to fly shops to manufacturers, I would say that a large portion of our industry is definitely affected by Congress’s inability to get its act together. ”


Here’s a list of some of the high-profile areas that are affected by the closure:

(Do you know of a fishing area that is closed due the the shutdown? Email the specifics to and we’ll add them to this list.)

• On Montana’s Bighorn River, the Park Service has confirmed they will close Afterbay and Three Mile access sites and barricade the roads into those sites.

• Yellowstone National Park—the nation’s #1 fly fishing is closed. The gates are locked and the fantastic fall fishing on the upper Madison, Firehole, upper Yellowstone, and other rivers is largely inaccessible.

• All hunting and fishing at Lees Ferry in Marble Canyon, Arizona has been closed. The road has been barricaded off to all vehicles and DPS guards on sight. Its funny or maybe not, that it is taking more money to fund this shutdown at Lees Ferry Road than when it is open to the public because there is never someone manning the gate to the road. Unfortunately for us, we have turned away an abundant amount of fisherman. We have cancelled at least 21 guided fishing trips in three days. On average, we are loosing about $10,000 per day between our lodge, restaurant and fishing.—Kaila Bruner, Lees Ferry Anglers/Cliff Dwellers Lodge

• The Black Canyon of the Gunnison in Colorado is closed. —Bill Frangos

The Cape Cod National Seashore is closed to all beach access. —Tom Keer

• Olympic National Park and access to the rivers that run through it are closed.—Patrick Wood

Cape Cod National Seashore

Ranger Tim Morrison locks up the entrance gate to Marconi Beach in Wellfleet just after 9 a.m. Tuesday, when the Cape Cod National Seashore shut down its facilities as part of the nationwide government closure. Cape Cod Times/Steve Heaslip

• Headhunters Fly Shop is reporting that the Holter Dam Boat Ramp on the Missouri River and the campground on the Missouri River are closed. It is likely that all BLM sites nationwide will follow suit.—Joshua Bergan

• The Atlanta Journal and Constitution is reporting that the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Areas will close Oct. 2, 2013. This will effect 16 NRAs along 48 miles of the river popular with trout fishermen , runners, walkers, and cyclists. Jones Bridge Park maintained by the county is open as usual.—Gerry Korzi

• The Canaveral National Seashore near Titusville Florida is closed.  The tarpon and redfish there are now off limits. —Bill Radecky

• According to the CEO and president of TU, the shutdown is also affecting Trout Unlimited, its membership, and its conservation efforts. Here’s the email he sent oct. 1:

Trout Unlimited is disappointed by the federal government shutdown because it undercuts fall fishing opportunities that are economically vital to communities bordering national parks and monuments. The shutdown also threatens to hamstring vital conservation efforts nationwide. For the first time in 17 years, our federal agency partners are not allowed to go to work with us, and the gates leading to some of the world’s best fisheries are locked. Trout Unlimited strongly urges Congress to restore government funding as soon as possible. 

Adverse impacts to TU are immediate. Many of TU’s science and restoration experts are prepared to attend this week’s Wild Trout Symposium in Yellowstone National Park, which is almost certain to be cancelled because the park is closed. Going on its 40th year, the symposium is a conference held every three years to bring together the best international experts on wild trout science and restoration techniques. This event is just the kind of activity that makes federal, state and local agencies, as well as their non-profit partners, more efficient at investing public and private resources in science and restoration. Thousands of dollars are lost, as are opportunities to improve trout conservation and make fishing better all across America.

Incredible fisheries will be off limits due to the closure of national parks, national wildlife refuges, and other federal facilities, at a time when they are most productive for anglers. Thousands of anglers were hoping to finish their fishing season chasing brown trout on Yellowstone’s famed Firehole River or cutthroats in the scenic Lamar Valley. Others were setting out to pursue the brightly colored brook trout of Shenandoah and Great Smoky Mountain national parks.  Many of these anglers have campsites reserved, flights booked and hotels reserved that revolve around access to these national parks.  Lands owned by the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management will see many campgrounds closed, even barred shut when possible. To those planning on visiting these areas, and to the communities that depend on the tourism dollars anglers generate, Congress’ inability to act is ruining vacations and literally taking money from merchants at a time when it’s needed most.

In Colorado’s Front Range communities, TU is coordinating with federal partners to help recover from severe flooding. While emergency personnel are still on the job, many of those federal partners have been forced to stop working during a critical time for affected Coloradans.

TU’s 150,000 members and volunteers, who selflessly donate almost 700,000 hours to conservation every year, understand that getting trout and salmon streams protected, reconnected and restored requires working together with partners and allowing common sense to prevail. As we cooperate with local, state and federal governments, landowners and industry representatives every day, we hope that Congress can do likewise and restore funding for these vital operations.  This government shutdown is a stark reminder that our nations parks and monuments have a very real economic value to Americans from coast to coast, and that the government’s role in managing those lands on behalf of all Americans cannot be underestimated. TU hopes this reminder will spur Congress to act and provide the funding to sustain the traditions treasured by the nearly 40 million Americans who hunt and fish.

The Afterbay access site on the Bighorn river is operated by the National Park Service as is the 3-MIle Access downstream. Both are closed due to the government shutdown.

  • joebarrett

    Americans are such idiots to allow this to happen. How do we allow the gov’t workers that are laid off to punish the civil population from entering public lands as if it is their own private property? At a typical park or fishing spot visit you never see a worker. Suddenly they can string a chain across the road to keep you out? I don’t think so. And remember this is the same gov’t that allows the use of the Ice boom on Lake Erie. Google “Joe Barrett/ Ice boom” for that horid tale. THX JBB

    • Mark Peterson

      Those gov’t workers are only doing what Congress and the Executive Branch (and by extension, us since we elected all of these clowns) have told them to do. Remember this come the next PRIMARY election and vote for moderates since the reason that we don’t see more moderate Congressmen and women is that they can’t get past the primary where the party faithful will only support the fringe.

  • Skinner

    Does anyone know if BLM lands for hunting in Colorado will be affected?

    • Masonbulldog

      Ask Michelle’s OFA

  • Mike Peppe

    Lets not forget to include the White House when assigning blame !

    • Masonbulldog

      That’s for sure. Executive Branch is responsible for enforcement-where there was no enforcement (officers) before. Kooky economics.

  • jdom

    I’ll blame the House Republicans about 99% for this one. They don’t like a law and want to prevent its implementation and are willing to shut down the govt to get their way. There is no proof by the way, only conjecture, that the law will not work or that it will have negative consequences. However, their incessant efforts to derail, delay and otherwise prevent it’s successful implementation are geared specifically to make it fail. I’m still trying to understand how this helps in any way

    • JW

      stop watching msnbc all day and you’ll have a better chance of understanding

  • bob j

    I say the National Forest and rivers within belong to the people. Move the barricades and go fishing.

  • Denis

    Closing the national Parks is an Obama gambit to make the Republicans look bad and put pressure on them to agree to the implementation if Obama Care. Most of the sites that are beng “closed” were never manned by NPS personnel.

  • Robert Moore

    Stripper season is here, and no access to Sandy Hook, NJ, we had to miss it last year because of super storm Sandy, now the idiots in the government, and I mean both sides!!!!

  • Obi-jonKenobi

    80 TeaTard members of the House – representing 18% of the people of this country – have hijacked this government and are holding it hostage in a move to extract concessions they that they could not secure through either elections or the regular legislative process. This is an unprecedented strategy that defies the Constitutional process and is an end run around democracy.

    The good news is that this may be the beginning of the end of the TeaBaggers.

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