Visitors will be allowed to catch fish again at Elk Grove Regional Park’s lake next March.

The Cosumnes Community Services District (CSD) board on Oct. 16 approved a wildlife protection plan that will reinstate fishing and enforce new park regulations. They voted 4-0 in approval; CSD Director Rod Brewer was absent that night.

Next year’s fishing season at the park will last from March 1 through Nov. 30.

CSD officials in April approved a temporary ban on fishing at the park in order to give the parks staff enough time to draft a wildlife plan. This document aims to protect the park’s animals that risk physical harm from fishing debris left at the shore.

On Oct. 16, the parks staff displayed graphic photographs that included a goose that swallowed a fishing line and a turtle that had a fishing hook stuck in its mouth. During a community meeting last month, staff members presented lakeside trash that included hooks, barbs, and a knife.

CSD Director Orlando Fuentes mentioned that he was inclined to ban fishing at the park until he remembered his experience of learning how to fish at a city park.

“While I support Mother Nature, and the geese and the turtles, I also support the youth and good, wholesome family activities,” he said.

The lake has been a popular fishing destination in Elk Grove for decades. California’s fish and wildlife department staff regularly stocks the lake with catfish and trout as part of the state’s Fishing in the City program.

CSD Management Analyst Josh Branco noted the value of fishing at Elk Grove Regional Park.

“(It’s) giving people the opportunity to experience the outdoors in an urban setting,” he told the CSD board on Oct. 16. “Elk Grove is becoming increasingly developed and we see value in maintaining the (fishing) amenity at Elk Grove Park.”

Steve Sims, the CSD’s director of parks and neighborhood services, said that he staff created their protection plan based on feedback collected from community meetings, focus group meetings, and the California Striped Bass Association.

The parks staff is also working to discourage visitors from feeding processed, human foods like bread to the ducks and geese - they said that such foods can cause physical deformities and aggressive behavior in the animals. Branco showed the CSD board a photograph of moldy hamburger buns discarded at the park.

Under the wildlife protection plan, park rangers will enforce the new fishing regulations. The rangers won’t issue citations for offenses but they can contact local law enforcement agencies for support, according to a CSD staff report.

The CSD board also approved the parks staff’s recommendation to close public access to Pirate’s Island at the lake. The staff wants to transform that island into a safe haven for ducks and geese to nest.  A gate was locked at the island’s bridge soon after the board’s Oct. 16 decision.

Randy Bekker, a 43-year Elk Grove resident who often fished at Elk Grove Regional Park, advised the CSD board to have their parks staff feed the waterfowl at the island in order to attract the migratory animals there.

“We’re dealing with wildlife, we’re kind of doing a dance with them,” he said. “The idea is to not take away the island from the public, but to give the island to the waterfowl.”

Pirate’s Island was the site of a popular, shipwreck-inspired playground during the 1970s and 80’s. CSD Director Jim Luttrell recalled when his children played there.

“I miss that, but I understand the necessity of making the waterfowl area there safe,” he said. “I think this whole (wildlife) plan is well-together…policing will be the hardest part and policing is education, but I think you’re headed in the right direction.”