Shutdown keeps rocking boat for Central Valley anglers

The Fresno BeeOctober 11, 2013 

Nick Puentes, left, Greg Bock, center, and Lance Davison spend a January 2011 day fishing at Pine Flat. There's no access currently to the lake due to the government shutdown that started Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013.

ERIC PAUL ZAMORA — Fresno Bee Staff Photo Buy Photo

Heading into a second week, the federal government shutdown has rocked the boat for local anglers, closing Pine Flat Lake and other federally run fishing spots.

The shutdown started Oct. 1 and Sierra National Forest and Sequoia National Forests closed campgrounds Oct. 4.

Gates at Pine Flat Lake, Eastman Lake and Hensley Lake in Madera County and Lake Kaweah and Success Lake in Tulare County, were closed at 2 p.m. Sunday.

The afternoon closure forced a Fresno Bass Club tournament to be cut short, said member Larry Hodge.

"We had guys waiting for an afternoon bite, but the lake was shut down before they could even get to it," Hodge said.

"I don't think it's right to cut off these recreational areas that are run by the federal government. When they take our fun away from us, too, it pisses me off."

At Valley Rod & Gun, assistant manager James Mize said he has talked to 15 to 30 people a day who have said there's nowhere to go fishing because of the shutdown.

"They think it sucks," Mize said. "We've got a lot of negative feedback. These people bought a fishing license and have nearly nowhere to use it."

Lakes owned by utility companies -- Bass, Shaver and Huntington, for example -- and those run by the state -- Millerton and San Luis -- remain open for fishing (although anglers with older boats already can't fish Millerton, which has a requirement for boats to have a 1995 or newer motor to go on the water).

The shutdown has also impacted business for the fishing and hunting store in Clovis, Mize said. "We've been slow for the last week."

Keith Brockman, co-owner of the Pine Flat Lake Marina, said boat owners are allowed in the park if they need to get belongings out of their boats but can't take their boats on the water.

"You notice there's no activity at all," Brockman said. "The people who have boats are at an inconvenience. There's really nothing they can do."

With the parks and lakes now entering the first full weekend of being closed, Tom Ehrke, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers park manager at Pine Flat, said most lakegoers have been understanding about the situation. He added that he has turned away only two groups during the week, and directed them to county recreation areas below the campground that aren't federally owned.

"Folks know we would rather not have the recreation areas closed right now," he said. "Most people got the message, and have been supportive."

"Once the shutdown is lifted, we would plan immediately to get the areas safe and ready to open."

For some anglers, the timing couldn't be worse. With the recent cooler temperatures, some experts are anticipating the fall bite will soon be exploding.

"If it was in the middle of summer, only water-skiers would care. But right now, fishermen are taking it pretty hard," said Roger George, The Bee's fishing columnist.

"A lot of the guys this week would like to be out there fishing in this cooler weather. Rolled into one, you just about couldn't pick a worse time for this to happen to fishermen."

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6401 or amoreno@fresnobee.com.

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