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Changes to striper fishing could be coming soon

By: George deVilbiss/Special to Gold Country News Service
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Striped bass aren’t native to California. How in the dickens they transported fish that distance in tanks is almost unbelievable.

But they did it — in the late 1800s.

Stripers were brought to California not as an additional sport fish for the occasional angler going to the local waterway. If the fish caught on, survived and multiplied, they’d provide an additional commercial fishery.

And catch on they did. In Northern California waters, especially rivers, Suisun, San Pablo and San Francisco bays, and near-shore ocean water, they multiplied and thrived.

As late as 1990, the Department of Fish and Game still stocked stripers in a wide range of waters to further enhance the fishery.

However, in more than a century they’ve been in California, the conclusion is that they’ve done much more harm than good. These bass have a voracious appetite and, unfortunately, they prefer to feed on other species of fish: Chinook and coho salmon, steelhead, the well-known threatened delta and long-fin smelt and the tidewater goby.

And now, the DFG is proposing new regulations in the striped bass fishery that hopefully would reduce the population that would, in turn, reduce predation on other, native species. This action certainly is in response to suits brought against the department.

The changes include raising the daily bag limit for stripers from two to six (the possession limit would be twice the daily bag limit) and lowering the minimum size that may be retained from 18 inches to 12.

So-called “hot spots” would be created with different limits, such as Clifton Court Forebay and specified adjacent waters. Limits in this region would be 20 fish daily and a possession limit of 40 with no size restrictions.

Clifton Court Forebay is in Contra Costa County just south of Discovery Bay and is the “headwaters” for the aqueduct that pumps water to Southern California.

The proposed regulations will be presented to the California Fish and Game Commission at its December meeting. If the proposal is adopted, I would expect the new regulations to take effect Jan. 1.

Dungeness crab season opens

Actually, you can fish for crab year-round. However, if a Dungeness crab finds your net or trap out of season, you have to release it. Red rock and other crab you could keep.

The preferred Dungeness crab fishery opened for sport anglers Saturday.

If you crab from shore, in such places like the popular jetty at Bodega Bay, or even take your own boat and drop pots in deeper water, you’re allowed to keep 10 Dungeness. If you ride a party boat in water south of Mendocino County, you’re allowed six. The minimum size is 5¾ inches.

There are new rules for setting your pots. First and foremost, you must raise your pot and inspect the contents at least every two hours. How this will impact party boats that regularly let their pots soak at least 24 hours before checking them is unknown.

Current fishing

The fishery at Lake Pardee closed Sunday and will reopen Thursday, Feb. 16. That’s highly awaited by winter-weary anglers.

Eagle Lake: It’s been chilly there, in the mid-20s in the early mornings. Catch it on a good day and you’ll be down to short-sleeve shirts later in the morning and afternoon. Especially if there have been recent storms, four-wheel drive is highly recommended on what can be a slippery, icy boat ramp. But the fishing can be worth it. Citrus Heights resident Mike Brunnin was recently there. The first day, with three in the boat, they tallied seven ’bows to three pounds trolling grubs and flies at Eagles Nest. They were in water as deep as 40 feet, trolling down 5-25 feet. On the second day, with two in the boat fishing the shallower water off Troxxel Point, the count was tremendously better. Trolling pumpkin and orange grubs or bright orange flies, they caught 23, releasing all but their limits with the biggest hitting 3¼ pounds.

Nimbus: If you think there’s a real shortage of salmon, I’d suggest visiting the hatchery ladders, which opened to visitors Nov. 1. Several salmon are coming up the ladders leading to the holding pens. It’s a thrill for kids to watch the salmon’s final struggle.

Port of Sacramento: Look for a full report next week, as the boat club at the port will hold its annual striper derby this Saturday. I talked with the commodore of the club, who fishes the region regularly. He tells me they limited, but the fish are small.

Sacramento River: Chrome bright, fresh-run salmon are still being caught, but it’s a waiting game. Spinners and flatfish off a spreader while you’re anchored will do the trick. The incoming fish, essentially, just have to run into it. All waters from Garcia Bend to the mouth of the American River are yielding fish.

Folsom Lake: Bass fishing remains slow, but they’re releasing less water from the lake. With the lake level stabilizing, the fishery could turn around almost overnight. Most bass are holding still in deeper water around the edges of channels. Find bait on your scope, cut your motor and start dropping spoons or hook on plastics on a drop-shot rig.

Camp Far West: Downriver users aren’t demanding much water this time of year so the lake is no longer dropping. The good news is the water level is still high enough that the boat launch is useable. A club held a bass tourney a week or so ago, and a bunch were checked in with many in the three- to four-pound class. The Rock Creek arm isn’t large enough to support much traffic, but it’s a top area right now to find bass. Slowly work worms or even jig around structure and you, too, could get into a decent bass bite. It should also be good around the rocks of the dam.

Contact George deVilbiss at GeorgesColumn@aol.com.