Russian River reopens to fishing

  • File - In this Jan. 14, 2014 file photo, Hugh Beggs of Santa Rosa, Calif., searches for coins in the middle of the Russian River at Healdsburg Veterans Memorial Beach in Healdsburg, Calif., taking advantage of the way below normal river flow. Seventeen rural communities in drought-stricken California are in danger of running out of water within four months, according to a list compiled by state officials. Wells are running dry or reservoirs are nearly empty in some communities. Others have long-running problems that predate the drought. The communities range from the area covered by the tiny Lompico County Water District in Santa Cruz County to the cities of Healdsburg and Cloverdale in Sonoma County. (AP Photo/ Santa Rosa Press Democrat, Kent Porter, File)

Anglers barred from casting their lines into the Russian River over the past two months because of emergency drought measures have permission to return to the fishery Thursday in time to catch American shad, California Fish and Wildlife officials said.

The re-opening comes none too soon for some folks, judging from inquiries made of King's Sport & Tackle in central Guerneville, owner Steve Jackson said Wednesday.

"We're getting a lot of calls from people wondering if the river's going to open," Jackson said. "They've been jonesing for a chance to go fishing."

The return to the river comes amid reports that the annual run of American shad is under way, though it may be in the later stages, depending on who you ask.

Eric Larson, a state fisheries biologist, said much of the shad may have been missed, though locals said there are reports of the fish in the lower Russian River.

Though not so good for eating — unlike the steelhead trout which fishermen missed because of the river closure — the shad are popular with fishermen because they put up such a good fight, anglers said.

"They don't give up, and because they'll take a fly, that makes them a favorite for fly fishermen," said Bruce MacDonell, president of the Russian River Wild Steelhead Society.

"I'm sure there are a lot of people waiting to go shad fishing," Guerneville angler Clark Neeley said.

Some folks enjoy shad roe, or eggs, or make fish balls out of the fish, MacDonell said. But the shad, a type of herring, are generally too bony for most tastes and are often released as soon as they're caught, he said.

There also should be small mouth and black bass, blue gill, catfish and other traditional warm-water fish, he and others said.

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