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Colorado Supreme Court Rules Against Stream Access

Plus news about Louisiana redfish, New Jersey stripers, Montana grayling, the Klamath in Oregon, monkeywrenching in Wyoming, a Bonefish & Tarpon Trust award, and more.

Colorado Supreme Court Rules Against Stream Access

Roger Hill, seen here fishing a public section of the Arkansas River, argued that it was a navigable waterway at the time Colorado became a state in 1876, and that the public therefore has a right to access it. (Ben Goldfarb photo)

The Colorado Supreme Court ruled last week against Roger Hill, a fly fisherman who sued a private landowner for blocking his access to the Arkansas River. The court found that Hill did not have standing to sue, meaning that he did not have a legally protected interest in the case. The ruling is a setback for stream access in Colorado and failed to address the actual matter at hand–whether or not the Arkansas River is a publicly accessible stream.

Hill argued that the Arkansas River was a navigable waterway at the time Colorado became a state in 1876, and that the public therefore has a right to access it. However, the court found that Hill did not have a personal stake in the case, as he himself had not been prevented from accessing the river.

"This is a disappointing decision," Don Holmstrom, co-chair of Colorado Backcountry Hunters & Anglers (BHA), said in a press release. "It leaves anglers like Roger Hill in a catch-22. He cannot sue unless he can prove a legal injury, but he lacks the standing to do so. We call on the state of Colorado to take action to protect the public's right to access our waterways. The state should pass legislation that would clarify the public's right to access navigable waterways, and it should enforce that legislation vigorously."

Petition Encourages Louisiana Commission to Support Banning Harvest of Breeder Redfish

A new petition, created by Eric Newman of Journey South Outfitters, calls on the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission (LWFC) to "establish regulations making the harvest or killing of bull reds off limits, and to set penalties and fines for anyone who does so.” It also encourages the LWFC to increase funding for redfish research and habitat restoration, and to “rebuild this troubled fishery to a healthy and sustainable level."

Louisiana Senator Bret Allain recently introduced Senate Concurrent Resolution (SCR) 46 to encourage the LWFC to implement regulations that prohibit the harvesting or killing of bull reds. It also calls for the establishment of penalties and fines for individuals who harvest breeding-sized redfish. SCR 46 is expected to be presented before the LWFC, most likely in July.

Currently, Louisiana allows for the harvest of 5 red drum daily per angler, with no more than one over 27 inches (roughly breeding size).

Louisiana’s redfish population, which creates one of the best redfisheries in the world, has been declining in recent years due to overfishing and habitat loss.

A fly angler holding a large redfish with a fly rod in his mouth.
Saltwater Fly Fishing Guide Alec Griffin with a Louisiana Redfish. (Photo courtesy Louisiana Angler via Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Background was slightly extended to match required dimensions)

 Click here to learn more and sign the petition.

New Jersey Threatens to Fall Out of Compliance with Emergency Striper Regs

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) recently stated that if any states go out of compliance with its new emergency regulations for striped bass, an additional emergency meeting will be held on July 5, 2023 to initiate "federal action" on any non-compliant jurisdiction. New Jersey is currently the only state that is at risk of going out of compliance.




The emergency action, implemented on May 3, calls for a 31-inch maximum size limit for striped bass recreational fisheries, effective through October 28, 2023, in response to the "unprecedented magnitude of 2022 recreational harvest, which is nearly double that of 2021, and new stock rebuilding projections, which estimate the probability of the spawning stock rebuilding to its biomass target by 2029 drops from 97% under the lower 2021 fishing mortality rate to less than 15% if the higher 2022 fishing mortality rate continues each year."

The American Saltwater Guides Association (ASGA) has criticized the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) for its "foolish, anti-conservation actions" on striped-bass-stock rebuilding efforts.

Some possible outcomes of a July 5 ASMFC meeting include:

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  • The ASMFC could find that NJDEP is now in compliance with the new regulations.
  • The ASMFC could find that NJDEP is out of compliance with the new regulations and initiate "federal action."
  • The ASMFC could work with NJDEP to develop a plan to bring the state into compliance with the new regulations.

More information is available here.

ODFW Considers Angling Regulation Changes for Klamath River

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) is considering modifying and adding to current angling regulations on the Klamath River in order to adapt to the changes that will come with the removal of JC Boyle Dam in 2024 and subsequent restoration of fish passage. The restoration of fish passage will allow anadromous salmon, steelhead, and Pacific lamprey to repopulate the area.

The proposed changes are as follows:

  • Current regulation: Keno Dam to J.C. Boyle Reservoir: Open from October 1 to June 15, with a bag limit of one redband/rainbow trout measuring a minimum of 15 inches.
    • Proposed new regulation: Keno Dam to Highway 66 Bridge: Open from October 1 to June 15, with a bag limit of one redband/rainbow tout measuring a minimum of 12 inches and a maximum of 15 inches. The reason for this change is to protect large salmon and steelhead smolts as well as adult steelhead.
  • Current regulation: J.C. Boyle Reservoir: Zone Regulations allow bait and have a bag limit of 5 trout per day.
    • This regulation will be removed entirely as J.C. Boyle Dam is removed.
  • Current regulation: J.C. Boyle Dam to State Line: Open all year, with a bag limit of one redband/rainbow trout measuring a minimum of 15 inches.
    • Proposed new regulation: Highway 66 Bridge to State Line: Bag limit of one redband/rainbow trout measuring a minimum of 12 inches and a maximum of 15 inches. The reason for this change is also to protect large salmon and steelhead smolts as well as adult steelhead.
  • ODFW is also proposing a complete closure to salmon angling throughout the zone, all year round.

For more information about ODFW's role in the reintroduction of anadromous fish to the Klamath River Basin, visit ODFW's Klamath River Reintroduction Plan.

Montana to Improve Habitat for Arctic Grayling

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) have announced plans to improve habitat for Arctic grayling in Montana's Centennial Valley.

The project, which will be funded by a $1 million grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, will involve installing a pipeline from Shambow Pond to Upper Red Rock Lake, that will increase dissolved oxygen levels in deeper portions of the lake, where grayling winter.

“This project is a critical step in the recovery of Arctic grayling in the Centennial Valley,” FWP Director Hank Worsech said. “Grayling are an important part of our state’s wildlife heritage, and we are committed to doing everything we can to protect them.”

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Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have announced plans to install a pipeline that will increase dissolved oxygen levels where grayling winter. (Liz Juers photo)

The pipeline project is expected to improve over-winter habitat for grayling and help ensure their long-term survival in the Centennial Valley. Construction is scheduled to begin in the fall of 2023 and be completed in the spring of 2024.

“This project is a great example of what can be accomplished when partners work together to conserve wildlife,” USFWS Regional Director Michael Thaxton said. “We are grateful to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation for their generous support, and we look forward to working with FWP to make this project a success.”

Jackson Lake Dam Vandalism Under Investigation

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is investigating an act of potential vandalism at Jackson Lake Dam, that bumped releases and river flows up for a few hours on the evening of May 25, according an article in the Jackson Hole News and Guide. The suspected vandalism could have come in response to recent controversial flow proposals.

The State of Wyoming and the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) did reach an agreement on flow operations for the Upper Snake River to protect the fishery below Jackson Lake Dam. BOR had threatened to drop flows in the Upper Snake to 50 cfs in order to avoid overfilling downstream reservoirs (due to this year’s strong snowpack), which would result in loss of water that is technically owed to irrigators. The agreement guaranteed a minimum flow of 280 cfs.

Jackson Lake Dam underneath the Teton Mountains.
Officials suspect vandalism in an odd event that bumped flows out of Jackson Lake Dam into the Snake River in late May. (Photo courtesy Grand Teton National Park)

Officials suspect the flow fiasco could have riled some extreme environmentalists into “monkeywrenching” the dam to increase flows.

Noted fly-fishing writer Paul Bruun cheered the potential vandals, in the Jackson Hole News and Guide article.

“I sure hope so,” Bruun said in the article when asked if he thought activists played a role. “It was inspirational.”

Officials did state that it’s theoretically possible for an experienced civilian with a large wrench to open the spillway gates. But not just anyone could waltz up and make it happen.

“It’s a complicated thing to do,” Bruun added. “You and I would have trouble going up and doing it ourselves.”

Anyone with information should contact BOR here.

Eleven Experience's Chad Pike to be Honored at Bonefish & Tarpon Trust Ceremony

The Bonefish & Tarpon Trust (BTT) has announced its 12th Annual NYC Dinner & Awards Ceremony in New York City on October 10, 2023. This year’s event will honor Chad Pike, the founder of Eleven Experience adventure travel, with the 2023 Lefty Kreh Award for Lifetime Achievement in Conservation.

"Beyond his many career achievements around the world, we know Chad best as an angler, conservationist, and longtime friend of BTT,” said a statement on the BTT website. “His selection as recipient of the 2023 Lefty Kreh Award for Lifetime Achievement in Conservation recognizes his leadership and board service to the North Atlantic Salmon Fund and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation as well as his longtime support of BTT’s mission.

The BTT NYC Dinner & Awards Ceremony is the organization's largest fundraising event of the year. The proceeds from the event will support BTT's conservation work around the world.

Tickets for the event are now on sale, available here.

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