Dunsmuir City Council during its July 20, 2017 regular meeting approved the expenditure of $3,500 for the Big Fish program.
According to City Staff, in the past, this money was approved by the former city council but was not spent by the Big Fish program before the end of the fiscal year.
The $3,500 defaulted into the Dunsmuir City’s General Reserve Fund.
The Big Fish program asked that the funds be brought back from the Reserve Fund and placed into the Big Fish program.
The Big Fish program buys fish from local fisheries, stocks the Upper Sacramento River and brings fish to schools in the area for educational purposes.
Three loads of fish would be purchased for $2,400 for the Upper Sacramento River and the remaining $1,100 would be used for advertising and promotion of the Big Fish Program in hopes of making it self-sustaining without any correlation with Dunsmuir City.
In the past, there was a Big Fish Committee under the City but it is no longer active.
Craig Williams, a member of five fishing clubs and an avid fisherman in the Dunsmuir area for more than 20 years, said, “The fish that you plant are very beneficial. This year, for whatever reason, the fishing has really slowed down. As far as continuing with Dunsmuir’s tradition and trying to encourage people to come here and spend their money, I would urge you to consider keeping the program going.”
Williams said people come to Dunsmuir from all over the state to fish the Upper Sacramento. “Last year was hard with the drought. A lot of rivers had dried up. This river was one of the best places in California to fish, and I think that reflects on the Big Fish Program’s budget.”
Brian Wilson, a member of the Big Fish Committee and the person who plants the fish in the river, spoke about the importance of the program to the City, saying, “I have been part of the program since it began. I plant the fish and am also an avid fly fisherman. This program – you have all heard me talk about how wonderful it is and how great it is. To be able to go out and work with the public and show them the fish and take the fish to the schools, it is a real addition to Dunsmuir that I don’t think a lot of people see.”
The Big Fish Program has, in the past, worked with Fish and Wildlife to address issues of illegal fishing, according to Wilson. He said they have presented information to the public on opening day on how to catch-and-release properly without hurting the fish, they have made maps for the public, made t-shirts, and much more that has impacted the community and its tourism.
Wilson told a story that impacted him: “I had a conversation with this little boy and his Dad. The boy came up and shook my hand and told me about this huge eight-pound fish his cousin had caught the year before. The boy’s father, who was a brain surgeon, turned around and told me that they were just on vacation in Costa Rica, and his son was crying the whole first week because he wasn’t in Dunsmuir catching big fish. The boy and his father flew from Costa Rica to Dunsmuir to be able to catch fish.”
City council member Mari C. Shanta stated that she was in favor of giving the Big Fish Program only $2,400 to stock the fish and leave the rest of the money within the General Fund Reserve. She stated a desire to have the program research how to continue without the rest of the defaulted money.
Council members Bruce Deutsch, Josh Spurlock, and Mayor Bryce Craig said they believed that the full amount should be awarded to the program because the money had been awarded by a former city council.
Council member Dave Keisler did not attend the meeting.
Craig made two motions. The first motion was to give $2,400 to the Big Fish Program to fund three loads of fish for the river. With a second from Deutsch, the motion passed with a 4-0 vote.
The second motion was to give $1,100 to the Big Fish Program to fund promotion and advertising so that the program could separate itself from City control. With a second from Deutsch, the motion passed by a 3-1 vote with Shanta opposed.