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Russian River officially closed to fishing (w/video)

  • Richard Papera makes his way back to the boat ramp in Monte Rio after a day of fishing along the Russian River on Friday, Feb. 21, 2014. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife has placed a ban on fishing along the Russian River until April, because of low water flow. (Christopher Chung / The Press Democrat)

The Russian River was officially closed to fishing Friday under emergency regulations designed to ensure that salmon and steelhead already challenged by low river flows have every possible opportunity to spawn successfully.

Anticipated since its Feb. 5 approval by the state Fish and Game Commission, the closure nonetheless caught plenty of people off guard, including folks hoping to squeeze in one last weekend of angling before the drought-driven ban went into effect.

Most in the fishing community, and even officials in the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, had expected it would be Sunday or Monday before the bureaucratic hurdles required to enforce the moratorium were overcome.

Fishing Ban on Russian River

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Instead, Fish and Wildlife officials learned Friday that the regulation had been completely vetted by the state Office of Administrative Law and had been cleared to go into effect Wednesday — five days before expected.

“They sort of exceeded our expectations on how quickly they reviewed the package we gave them,” agency spokeswoman Jordan Traverso said.

The news set off a scramble within the agency to alert the public and prepare signs for posting at dozens of popular river access points, work expected to take place Friday night, Fish and Wildlife Lt. Jim Jones said.

Fish and Wildlife wardens were busy throughout the day scouting anglers out in abundance to notify them the moratorium was in effect, making for some unhappy campers.

Bill Fitzpatrick, 62, of Rohnert Park, was among them, having taken two hours on Thursday to call different numbers at Fish and Wildlife trying to verify the river would be open to fishing on Friday.

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