Historic Drought Scorches California Fishing

While a lot of weather attention is now focused on the eastern side of the country, what's happening (or perhaps more appropriately, what is not happening) in California may be a bigger disaster. And it's certainly something that should concern anglers.

California governor Jerry Brown declared a drought state of emergency last month. Last year was the driest on record for the Golden State. And rivers are at historic lows -- 2014 could see the lowest river flows in decades, possibly ever. And that could have a tremendous impact on California's fish, especially migratory species like salmon and steelhead that won't be able to push up rivers to spawn, and stripers in the Delta, which depend on steady flows of freshwater pushing through the system.

In January, the flows out of Nimbus Dam on the American River in Sacramento were about one quarter of normal. The Folsom Lake behind the dam is so low that parts of Mormon Island, which was a California gold rush town covered by water when the dam was built, is now partially visible again. Many central coast creeks and rivers are blocked from the ocean by exposed bars.

Mandatory water restrictions loom. Those of you who live in California might want to start planning and rationing water accordingly. The rest of us should make a plea to the precipitation gods to convince them to take aim at California. Goodness knows we've had our fair share, and I for one am willing to donate some extra snow.

When the storms do come and the rivers bounce back, you should make plans to visit if fishing in California is on your wish list. Those businesses could probably use the support.