Anglers of different stripes debated the wisdom of new fishing regulations on the Truckee River Thursday, before the California Fish and Game Commission voted to preserve rules that prohibit the use of bait and barbed hooks.
The five-member statewide commission conducted the first day of its two-day monthly meeting in the boardroom of the Truckee Donner Public Utility District, perhaps the commission's first meeting ever held in Truckee.
The new regulations, touted to preserve fisheries in the Truckee River, extends from the Boca Bridge near Hirschdale to the Nevada state line. The more restrictive rules do not allow the use of bait fishing or barbed hooks, and allow anglers to keep just two fish over 14 inches in length.
While the Truckee River regulations were not on the commission's agenda, a number of area residents spoke about the new rules for an hour during the meeting's public comment period.
Those opposing the regulation complained that the issue hadn't been properly noticed when the issue was discussed and decided last year, and asked that it be placed on the agenda again at a future meeting.
"I did not find out about the regulations until the last month of the year," said Peter Rivara, a Hirschdale resident. "On the opening weekend I did a protest on the Boca Bridge and in two days collected 240 signatures of protest."
Richard Fehrt, a Granite Bay resident, said no scientific data support making the change in regulations.
Rocklin resident Ron Talmage also contested the commission's reasoning.
"The regulations are only as good as the information you are given. I believe you were misled on the Truckee River," Talmage said. "There are no justifiable reasons for these regulations."
But others who spoke at the meeting said they believed the new regulations were not only justified, but necessary to preserve fishing on the Truckee River.
Dave Ford, a past president of the Northern California Council Federation of Fly Fishers, said the 2007 regulations would "ensure a variety of fisheries that are important to the sustainability of the Truckee."
David Lentz, a senior biologist specialist with the Department of Fish and Game, said the department did not have much " if any " data on the Truckee River, but said looking to examples from similar rivers aided in the decision.
Some anglers present asked for a compromise, keeping the new regulation's limits on size and numbers, as well as barbless hooks, while allowing the use of bait.
Reading from a letter, Mark Rockwell of the Gold Country Fly Fishers said fish caught with bait had a much higher mortality rate when released than fish caught with artificial flies.
Lentz confirmed that the mortality rate of fish released after being caught with bait is greater than without.
"Using bait with the size regulations won't work with the mortality levels in our experience," Lentz said.
In the end, Commission Vice President Cindy Gustafson said that she felt the public noticing issue needed to be addressed. Yet, the commission decided to let the regulations stand for three years before coming up for review again, rather than hearing the issue at its next public meeting.