California Department of Fish and Wildlife

Steelhead Fishing Report and Restoration Card

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Program Details

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (Department) is responsible for managing and conserving California 's fish and wildlife resources and facilitating and enhancing angling opportunities. The Department is required by statute (Fish and Game Code 6900) to monitor and restore steelhead populations, and central to this mandate is obtaining information on angler effort and harvest of both wild and hatchery steelhead.

The Steelhead Fishing Report-Restoration Card (Steelhead Report Card) is the only state-wide program designed to gather such data. Because the majority of California's steelhead populations are listed under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA), angling information is even more critical, not only to ensure that angling does not cause further impacts to steelhead populations, but also to demonstrate that impacts due to angling are minimal. This information is necessary to allow angling to continue under provisions of the ESA. Failure to collect this data could result in the closure of steelhead fisheries across the state. The Department's goal is to improve steelhead habitat and populations, and enhance steelhead fishing opportunities and success. This requires accurate and complete data from steelhead anglers. An accurate record of anglers that purchased a Steelhead Report Card and didn't fish is vital to this project.

For the first 10 years of the program, return of the Steelhead Report Card was not mandatory and steelhead anglers were asked to voluntarily return their Report Card (this request was printed on the Steelhead Report Cards). In addition, a random sample of 10,000 steelhead anglers annually were mailed a survey form (with an addressed, postage-paid return envelope) and a request that they return their Report Card. Despite the effort to obtain the Steelhead Report Card through voluntary compliance, the return rate of the Steelhead Report Cards was only about 8% annually, which is too small a number for adequate monitoring of our steelhead populations. That is why the legislation was changed in 2002 to make return of the Steelhead Report Card mandatory.

Fish and Game Code sections 6901 and 6902 are part of the Salmon, Steelhead Trout, and Anadromous Fisheries Program Act, which primarily focuses on naturally spawning salmon and steelhead resources. In essence, these sections direct the Department to protect and increase naturally spawning salmon, steelhead, and anadromous fish populations primarily through the improvement of stream habitat. Proper salmon and steelhead trout resource management requires maintaining adequate levels of natural spawning and rearing. Though hatchery production may be an appropriate means of protecting and increasing salmon and steelhead in specific situations, when both are feasible alternatives, preference shall be given to natural production.

Revenue received pursuant to Fish and Game Code Section 7381(a) may only be expended to monitor, restore, or enhance steelhead trout resources consistent with Fish and Game Code sections 6901 and 6902, and to administer the Steelhead Report Card program. Each year, the Department offers a public solicitation notice for grant proposals. The Fisheries Restoration Grant Program administers this process and forwards responsive proposals to the Advisory Committee on Salmon and Steelhead Trout for review and comment prior to the award of funding. Typical projects include: assessing angler harvest, restoring spawning and rearing habitat, securing adequate flows, and removing barriers to migration (see the 1997 and 2000 Reports to the Legislature below). The Department believes that the Steelhead Report Card program provides the best option for generating steelhead harvest data to meet management goals outlined in the Steelhead Restoration and Management Plan for California (Feb. 1996) (PDF), to measure potential angling impacts to ESA listed steelhead in compliance with ESA Section 4d, and to generate revenue to implement restoration measures identified in the Steelhead Plan and elsewhere.