January 24, 2015    Headlines

North Bay Stripers and Sturgeon

The Bays:
On Friday 1-23 Keith Fraser of Loch Lomond Bait and Tackle reported outstanding striped bass fishing in the bay with most of the fish being in the 16 to 25-inch range, but there is the occasional larger fish. He said, “Most boats are returning with limits, and I don’t remember bass fishing being this good in January.” He is ready for the upcoming sturgeon derbies, and he has plenty of the hard-to-obtain grass shrimp as well as ghost shrimp for the weekend.
Mike Andrews of Predator Sport Fishing reported excellent action near the Mothball Fleet over the three-day weekend. He said, “The action was spread between the deep water at the Benicia Bridge with a number of shakers in the area, but we did land two slot-sized sturgeon upstream near Port Chicago with one of the legal fish being 59 inches and 65 pounds.” The remainder of their action took place on the big sand bar in the middle of San Pablo Bay. He added, “Both tides produced fish with the swing part of the tide being excellent, and the best bait was grass shrimp combined with tiny eel strips.” They also landed several striped bass to 16 pounds. Over the three-days, they put seven keeper sturgeon in the box. Captain Mike will be fishing the Diamond Classic ‘Catch and Release’ Derby this weekend, and with the smaller tides and water movement, he may be looking for the action in deeper water.
Captain Joel Sinkay, formerly of Leonard’s Bait and Tackle at Port Sonoma, went out on a calm bay on Monday with a pair of co-workers, and they went through 15 striped bass to put three keepers along with this surf perch.

Herring spawns continue in the bay, and George Liu of Bay Tackle in El Cerrito was out in the parking lot on Tuesday afternoon demonstrating how to toss a cast net. He said, “There was a spawn at Sausalito on Tuesday 1-20.” Big striped bass continue to be removed from San Pablo Bay with one of their customers catching and keeping a 40-pound bass that swallowed a jack smelt. The bait situation has been problematic for the weekend with inconsistent supplies of pile worms and price inflation on grass shrimp due to scarcity. Liu said, “We have plenty of cured ghost shrimp, salmon roe, eel, but we are trying to get in live ghost shrimp and pile worms.”

Alastair Bland's Fish Wrap: Some fishermen hoping to see maximum size limit applied to striped bass

Marin Independent Journal
How big is too big? That's the question some fishermen are asking after several enormous striped bass were caught and killed by sport fishermen in San Pablo Bay earlier this week. The handful of fish weighed between 35 and 46 pounds, according to Dave Hurley, a Stockton fisherman and the distributor of an online fishing report called the HotSheet. While these uncommonly hefty striped bass were reason to celebrate for a few fishermen — fishermen who couldn't see the greater good in releasing them — to Hurley and others, the loss of such creatures from the ecosystem is a tragedy.
"It's sad," said San Rafael fishing guide Sean Daugherty. "We have to decide if we value this population of fish or not. If we decide that striped bass are just an invasive species we don't want to manage, we'll allow fishermen to take the big ones." But if we care about the species, Daugherty says — even though it was introduced to the ecosystem in the late 1800s — then such huge striped bass must be released when caught. Large fish are prolific breeders, and there are probably fewer big striped bass in West Coast waters today than at any time in the past 120 years.
Daugherty wants to see a maximum size limit applied to striped bass. This would mean that keeping fish above a certain length would be illegal. Similar regulations have protected "oversized" white sturgeon for years.
Currently, recreational fishermen can keep two striped bass measuring at least 18 inches nose to tail per day.
Hurley thinks keeping and eating striped bass under, say, the 28-inch, eight-pound range is perfectly reasonable. He feels meat quality is best in these smaller, younger fish, anyway. But the big fish are not only valuable breeders but contain much higher levels of mercury—a serious problem in some fish species. "If you eat a 40-pounder, you'll practically turn into a thermometer, anyway," Hurley joked.
Keith Fraser, owner of Loch Lomond Bait Shop, says he has been advocating for release of giant bass for years. "But there are some people who will never be happy until their freezer is jammed with meat," he said.
Fraser says striped bass fishing is currently better than it has been for many years. Anglers working the shoreline of San Pablo Bay are finding scads of striped bass from 15 inches (undersized) to the mid-20s. While these little fish are running up an expensive bait bill for many sturgeon fishermen, no one should curse these little bait thieves. In a few years, they'll be big adults — and adult fish, keep in mind, is where baby fish come from.
So, there is hot fishing and the presence of at least a few giant bass in the system — but don't be fooled. Not all is good in the local aquatic ecosystem. An annual fish count conducted by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife has revealed nearly all-time low numbers of several San Francisco Bay fish species. In December, fingerling striped bass, Delta smelt, longfin smelt and American shad were captured in survey nets in abysmally low numbers in the "mid-water trawl survey," conducted every year since 1967. The almost-record low counts remind us that the health of our great estuary has declined and continues to deteriorate.
Why? A variety of reasons are at play, including water pollution upstream of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. But the main problem seems to be the result of water pumping from the Delta, where two huge pumps, when operating at full throttle, actually reverse the seaward flow of river water. Delta fish find their estuary environment in turmoil. Saltwater encroaches into freshwater marshes. Currents sweep hapless salmon juveniles and smelt into delta backwaters. And the great volumes of water that once made San Francisco Bay a marvel of biodiversity are sucked southward into the ever proliferating orchards.
"There are a lot reasons, but it really comes down to the pumps — we know this," Hurley said. Releasing big stripers and maintaining a solid population of these large adults could help offset the environmental pressures, he thinks. "Fishermen did not create the problems we have now with our fishery, but we have a responsibility to be part of the solution."

Alastair Bland is a Bay Area fisherman. Send him stories, photos or video or call the IJ sports desk at 382-7206. Check out his blog at

Department of Fish and Wildlife Regulations regarding bay sturgeon closure
 STURGEON CLOSURE. Green sturgeon and white sturgeon may not be taken in the following described area between January 1 and March 15: That portion of San Francisco Bay included within the following boundaries: A direct line between Pt. Chauncey (National Marine Fisheries Laboratory) and Pt. Richmond, the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge and a direct line between Pt. Lobos and Pt. Bonita.

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Upcoming Events:
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Party Boat Information and Reservations Around the Bay

The Happy Hooker will be running potluck trips from the Berkeley Marina +1.510.223.5388

California Dawn will be running halibut and striper trips from the Berkeley Marina +1.510.417.5557

Emeryville Sportfishing Center is booking potluck trips on their fleet of 8 boats +1.510.654.604

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