New proposed striper rules hit a snag

By: George deVilbiss/Special to Gold Country News Service
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The Department of Fish and Game held a hearing last month in Rio Vista. There was so much interest in the proposed new striper rules and regulations that the original meeting place had to be changed to accommodate the larger anticipated crowd of interested anglers.

In case you’ve not heard, the DFG is proposing a major overhaul of the sportfishing rules as it applies to striped bass. Those changes would include:

* raising the daily bag limit of stripers from two to six fish;
* the possession limit would be double the daily bag limit;
* lowering the minimum size for striped bass from 18 inches to 12.
* Clifton Court Forebay would be a designated hot spot where the daily bag limit would be 20 fish with a 40-fish possession limit.

Now, let’s look at this whole situation carefully.

Striped bass aren’t native to California. Stripers were imported from the East Coast in the late 1800s. They were added to the California fishery system to add to the commercial fishery.

And they’ve thrived.

Part of the angler uproar is based on the fact that no problem with striped bass was found until the infamous Peripheral Canal was built and massive quantities of water was being diverted from the Delta to the drier San Joaquin Valley and points further south.

The pumps that diverted the water into “The Canal" pumped millions of gallons of water and chewed up fish by untold numbers. The courts ultimately ruled the pumps couldn’t run at certain times, as they threatened the survival of baby salmon trying to make it to the ocean.

The pumps chewed up stripers and just about anything that went through it.
Stripers are being unfairly targeted for being wholly responsible for the massive decline of threatened species of fish, such as the small Delta Smelt. While Delta Smelt is insignificant to most of us, the survival or loss of this fish pretty much describes the health of the Delta.

And, the more water that is diverted from the Delta, the less healthy the Delta becomes. The lack of fresh water flowing into bays such as Suisun allows salt water intrusion where it doesn’t belong.

Oh, but let’s singularly blame the striped bass.

Yes, stripers munch on just about anything that swims, and yes, that might include the Delta Smelt. But they’re certainly not the only fish that will feed on them. Black bass, for example, abound in the Delta and love small, bait-sized fish. Salmon that chew on live anchovy in the ocean will eat available live fish in fresh water.

And let’s not forget that anything swimming around running pumps won’t be in Delta water much longer. They either get chewed up or flushed into the Peripheral Canal.

I don’t blame anglers for being outraged by the DFG’s proposal for wanting to change the striper rules. Eliminating one of the main fish in water such as Clifton Court Forebay, along with wherever striped bass may exist, simply allows the powers that be to open the pumps and pump more water down the canal because the main threat to Delta Smelt, and others, has been eliminated.

And while the threat to species may be reduced — but not eliminated — the health of the Delta will further deteriorate.

Have you ever seen a 12-inch striper? There’s not much meat on the current minimum size bass at 18 inches, and personally, I won’t keep a striper under five pounds. Retaining a 12-incher borders on ludicrous.

After the Rio Vista meeting, the recommendations were supposed to be presented to the California Fish and Game Commission for their rubher stamp approval at their December meeting. Because so much interest has been shown, the process was postponed to February.

I strongly suggest if you have any interest in striped bass fishing and/or the health of the Delta, voice your concerns by snail mail or email to the California Fish and Game Commission.

Duck hunting

We generally have had considerably more rain by now. About the only place you’ll find water is at state and federal game refuges and most private clubs in the north state.

And cold doesn’t fully cut it. The lack of storms has affected the bird take as hunters face bluebird weather day after day.

The Sacramento Valley really gets flooded with massive numbers of birds when heavy snow covers their food sources to the north, and that just hasn’t yet happened. Sure, there are birds here, just not in the huge numbers there should be.

There doesn’t seem to be much in the way of a weather break on the horizon. It might just be a bird’s year with only a month and a half left in the season.

Current fishing

It’s that time of year when fishing doesn’t seem to be important to some anglers. Others, knowing the competition is seriously reduced, find their success rates climbing exponentially.

Recent strong north winds kept a great many anglers away from the water — boaters and even shore casters. Especially for boaters, that was a good reason to stay off the water, which can become dangerous when there is strong wind.

There are great fishing opportunities close to home with trout being a main offering. Weekly plants are being made at Lake Amador and Lake Camanche, and the success rate is good.

At Lake Amador, the suggestion would be to leave the boat at home. Success with bait and lures is generally found by those on shore. At Camanche, the North Shore provides many good places to fish, but this time of year I’ve always done best trolling, starting at the boat ramp region.

Contact George deVilbiss at