Open letter from a fisherman on maintaining L.A. River access

Text of open letter from Dave Culver, posted here with his permission….

Mr. Garcetti, Mr. O’Farrell, Mr. Torres, representatives of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the California Department of Fish and Game, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works, et al:


While I don’t officially represent the Southern Sierra Fly Fishing Club, the Long Beach Casting Club, the Pasadena Casting Club or any other organization whose members sometimes fly fish in the Los Angeles River, I am a Los Angeles County resident and a member of the Board of Directors for the Pasadena Casting Club. Accordingly I have an interest in the issue of fishing access to the Los Angeles River.

Safety of Consuming Fish from the Los Angeles River
I am personally acquainted with many people who fish the portion of the Los Angeles River that is adjacent to Atwater Village. I have heard of nobody consuming the fish. Whether the fish are safe to eat is not an issue; whether catch-and-release fishing will be permitted is the sole issue of concern.

California Department of Fish and Game Declaration of a Fishery
Whether DFG must first “declare” or “designate” a body of water as a fishery is unclear. Presuming DFG does indeed have the jurisdiction to make such a declaration, the question is whether such a designation is currently being sought or whether DFG is being urged to withhold such a designation by representatives of the City or County of Los Angeles.

Prohibition Against Loitering in the River Bed
Catch-and-release fishing should not be regarded as loitering under the spirit and intent of LAMC Sec. 41.22. Catch-and-release fly fishermen are neither vagrants nor vandals. To the contrary, we are especially saftey- and environmentally-conscious people and our presence in the river does not pose any risk to damage of the surrounding infrastructure and is indeed likely to improve the environmental quality of the area because we tend to pick up trash left by others. Our presence also provides eyes and ears for any activity that might be destructive.

Many fishermen have written polite letters to the elected representatives of the City of Los Angeles asking that the Park Rangers allow fly fishermen to pursue harmless recreation in the riverbed. The replies have not directly addressed the initial question of why fishing should be forbidden or which government code expressly forbids fishing. Therefore, can someone in a position of responsibility offer an explanation why it is believed catch-and-release fishing poses a nuisance or risk and should therefore be banned from the river bed under LAMC Sec. 41.22?

People who enter the river bed to feed the ducks, photograph the natural flora and fauna, jog and pursue other legitimate and harmless recreation likewise should not be considered loiterers under LAMC Sec. 41.22. I believe it is reasonable to assert that the presence of recreational users should be a welcomed indication that the L.A. River is being rehabilitated and is being recognized and appreciated for the distinct natural environment it offers within the confines of vast urban development. Instead of banning recreational users from the river it seems more appropriate to regard the Atwater Village portion of the L.A. River as an extension of Griffith Park or to even designate it as a new and distict park expressly for streambed recreation. Otherwise, it would be helpful if someone would explain the logic of excluding legitimate recreational users, thereby effectively reserving the river bed for the exclusive use of vagrants and vandals who are certain to ignore any new signage containing the text of LAMC Sec. 41.22.

If the responsible parties move forward with posting the text of LAMC Sec. 41.22, then please do so for the express purpose of preventing vandalism and vagrancy, but please make accommodations for legitimate recreational use. I respectfully urge you to to add the following language which will provide the Park Rangers the ability to exercise discernment when issuing citations for trespassing while simultaneously protecting the City’s interests and providing a new recreational venue for your constituents:

Fishing during daylight hours is permitted with a valid California fishing license.
Consumption of fish caught in this vicinity is not advisable.
Entering river bed during periods of high water runoff is prohibited.
Enter the river bed at your own risk.
The City and County of Los Angeles assume no responsibility for your safety.

Thank you for your consideration.


Dave Culver
La Canada Flintridge


8 responses to “Open letter from a fisherman on maintaining L.A. River access

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  4. Excellent!
    RE: fishing in the L>A> River-
    this issue is confusing and unclear. I live in the Atwater Village area.
    I have contacted several agencies and no one can give me a clear answer re: fishing in the LA river.
    Evidently, because the river is under the umbrella of many different agencies, no one seems to want to take liability.
    LIABILITY seems to be the biggest concern.
    Your letter is excellent and prompts me to also write someone(s).
    Do you have tips on specific people/names/that we should address letters?
    Thank you for posting this.
    Is there any sort of petition circulating re this issue?
    Thank you,

  5. Mr. Garcetti’s office says it’s OK to you the LA River from the Bike/Hike path only. Try feeding the ducks , catch and release fishing etc. You’d have to hang from one of the bridges.

  6. Lisa,

    I (and others) have written to L.A. City Council members Eric Garcetti and Ed Reyes, who launched the “Los Angeles River Ad Hoc Committee” (mission statement and goals available here: We have also written to Chief Park Ranger Albert Torres asking for him to authorize his rangers to give fishermen, bird watchers, photographers, etc. some leeway. Eric Garcetti is the only person who has issued a reply, but he apparently is not willing to brook any discussion of recreational use below the elevated bike path. This is a shame and somewhat ironic because it appears to contradict the stated goals of the Ad Hoc Committee, such as to improve recreational opportunities, get addtional stakeholer support, seek public input, improve the environmental quality — all things that responsible recreational users can help facilitate.

  7. Since 1995 I have been feeding ducks and geese on the river, and rescuing geese and ducks with fishing line and hooks embedded in their beaks and legs. I have been ticketed 3 times, all by the same ranger, for loitering in the river bed when I am not. The rangers definite the river bed as being from the top of the concrete banks to the bottom and extending into the water. There is no definition established by law as to what the river bed actually is. More than 5-6 years ago after I got the first ticket I asked Mr. Garcetti to ammend the law used to ticket people and am still waiting. If what is asked of the Council people is something that they want to do they can do it immediately. If they are not interested it either takes forever or is never acted on. Those who eat the fish from the river are playing with their own lives, and no one is alerting them to the danger of doing so. The US Army Corps is currently undertaking a useless project to kill the bamboo type stuff that grows in the river bed, and in doing so are spraying chemicals on it. These chemicals remain in the soil, and leech into the water and thus get into all the living things on the river. The Corps has ignored requests to post signs warning river goers of what they are doing and the dangers associated with it. Dogs and kids that are allowed, as many, many are, to drink the water or play in it are, like the fisher people, exposed to these chemicals as well as all the others in the water.

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