Fish and Game Commission rejects DFG proposal on striped bass changes

By: George deVilbiss/Special to Gold Country News Service
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A blue-ribbon panel that hopes to make recommendations that could make the Department of Fish and Game and Fish and Game Commission more efficient recently stated that in theory, the FGC sets policy while the DFG implements that policy.

You notice the panel claims that’s “in theory.”

In reality, the DFG more often than not will request the FGC to make a necessary change and the FGC OKs the request through a rubber-stamp process.

Case in point: It was reported in this column in November the DFG was holding hearings to make major changes to striped bass fishing, including:

* Raising the daily bag limit of stripers from two fish to six;

* 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.

Why? Because these non-native fish were considered a threat to the Delta smelt and newly released baby salmon populations.

OK, striped bass aren’t native to California and can be voracious feeders. It was in 1879 when 132 fingerlings were put on a train. They survived the trip and were planted in San Francisco Bay.

Striped bass were introduced to California to feed a fish-hungry population and, 10 years after being planted into bay waters, a commercial fishery opened.

The fishery was banned in 1935 when striped bass were declared to be a game fish and, therefore, could only be fished for by the recreational angler.

Bass thrived in California waters and, yes, probably put a dent in the baby salmon population. But, it took years for the DFG to get a clue. It would release baby salmon by the tens of thousands in Suisun Bay at about the same time every year. Stripers actually learned that schedule and waited with open mouths.

So, the DFG says, OK, we’ll simply reduce the threat.

It scheduled a hearing in Rio Vista, which had to be moved because of so much angler interest. The greater interest was against the DFG’s proposal.

Today, the limit on striped bass is two per day, 18 inches minimum, with four allowed in possession. Some years ago, the limit was three, 16 inches minimum. I won’t keep a striped bass unless it’s five to eight pounds, as there isn’t enough meat. I wouldn’t consider a 12-inch fish as being edible.

Well, there was so much angler outrage to the proposal that the FGC recently voted unanimously to reject DFG’s proposal.

Therefore, there are no changes to striped bass fishing in California.

Current fishing

Additional snow in upper-elevation regions will render some lakes inaccessible.
Of course, for summer recreation, we need much more rain and snow. California isn’t unique. The fair-weather pattern is happening across much of the nation.

A short storm waltzed across the north state last week, but the again promise of fair weather should get you out in the field with rod and reel, in short-sleeve weather after the sun rises.

Lake Pardee: The spring opening is always highly anticipated by anglers throughout the north state, and because of all the fair weather, that’s true for this year. The gate will be unlocked and the entry booth manned on Thursday, Feb. 16, so you can set up for camping. Fishing activities will begin bright and early, Friday, Feb. 17, with most anglers making their first cast of the day considerably before the dawn sheds light in the eastern sky.

Collins Lake: They do some large spring trout plants, and they did a big plant — trout from four to 11 pounds — early this year due to the nice weather. Haul a crawler behind a dodger around the dam. You can also do well with Power Bait or eggs off a sliding sinker around the beach of the campground area at the lower end.

Suisun-San Pablo Bays: I’ve not had much to say about the sturgeon fishery this year. We just haven’t had a winter. Rain causes rivers to rise, which drives out salt water-dependent creatures such as crab, starry flounder, kingfish and even sharks. These critters enjoy pricey sturgeon baits, and most anglers don’t want to waste money on a fish they don’t want. While there is sturgeon being taken in Suisun Bay and San Pablo Bay, anglers face constant bites from those less-preferred critters swimming with the sturgeon.

Sacramento River: There has been a decent sturgeon bite much closer to home. The waters between the confluence of the Sacramento-Feather rivers upriver to Knights Landing has yielded good catches of humpbacks. The usual shrimp baits should get you bit.

Clear Lake: The good thing this time of year is there isn’t much boat traffic and you aren’t fighting the summertime moss. There’s a lot of bass being caught, many of which weigh more than five pounds, for those drifting live bait or tossing swim baits.

Lake Amador: They’re planting up to 1,000 pounds of trout every day during the week. The smaller fish are three pounds, and the bigger fish hit seven. Fish from shore off the rocks of the dam, or the dirt area of the spillway. Power Bait, crawlers and eggs should put a limit on the stringer, but cast and retrieve a lure or white crappie jig while waiting for a bite on the bait rig.

Bass are finally waking up, but you have to go down as much as 40 feet with a jig off the points.

New Melones: Launch at Glory Hole, go around the point and head up the river. There has been a red-hot bite on spawning rainbows. Haul a crawler or shad-like lure. Around Glory Hole, you can do well from shore tossing Power Bait off a sliding sinker.

Contact George deVilbiss at