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Captain Steve Smith of the Bay Area "Smith" fishing clan has been fishing Alaska's Kenai Peninsula for 24 years. 800.567.1043

September 29, 2014    Headlines

 Salmon Trickling In!
Salmon Opens But Still Very Slow

Delta Report
By Dave Hurley

The arrival of cooler water temperatures has triggered a major improvement in the salmon bite at both ends of the spectrum in the Delta. In lower Suisun Bay, a total of 17 salmon were taken on Sunday 9-28 morning from Dillon Point State Park along with another 7 at 1stStreet in Benicia. In the metropolitan Sacramento area below the Freeport Bridge, lure casters from the shoreline or boats jigging heavy spoons have been getting in on the action.
Tony Lopez at Benicia Bait said, “The bite has really picked up from the shoreline, and the action is best in the mornings at the State Park while 1stStreet is good in the afternoons on the high tide.” “It has been a madhouse around here with anglers coming in, buying rods and reels, having their reels spooled, and purchasing bait.” They were one of the only shops with bait on Sunday, and they sold out of everything with the exception of frozen baits by Sunday afternoon due to demand. |
A few more salmon located in the stretch of the Old Sacramento from its mouth up to Walnut Grover with Silvertrons or similar spinners. Viera’s Resort near Isleton reported, “As you can see from our pictures, the salmon bite is heating up.” ‘Pastor’ Paul Kovac of Sacramento landed a 19-pound salmon on a spinner near Walnut Grove.
In the Freeport area, Johnny Tran of Freeport and New Romeo’s Bait Shops said, “The salmon are here, and the action has been consistent every day with the bank guys holding the upper hand with Mepp’s Flying C spinners from all over – the Minnow Hole, the Freeport Bridge, Clarkburg, and up river.” They are hosting their annual Salmon Derby starting Friday with a BBQ on Sunday afternoon.
The water temperature has cooled from 76 degrees a few weeks back to 68 degrees near Freeport, and Alan Fong of the Fishermen’ s Friend in Lodi confirmed the improved action, stating, “There have been an average of 5 to 8 salmon taken each morning at the Minnow Hole by 8:00 a.m. on Flying C’s.”

Captain Mike Gravert of Intimidator Sportfishing said,“It’s ‘You pick it,’ as far as your options are for fishing with an improved salmon bite near Walnut Grove as we bouncing back between Freeport one day for salmon and Korth’s Pirate’s Lair on the San Joaquin for stripers, adding New Hope Landing on the Mokelumne in the mix for salmon within the next few weeks.”
Striper fishing remained solid in the upper Delta near the mouth of Prospect Slough and Liberty Island, and Fong reported experienced anglers have been catching and releasing linesides in excess of 20-pounds in the shallows with 10-inch Kincannon Glide Baits. Tran recommended live mudsuckers as the top bait near Liberty Island, stating, “The stripers are picking up the pace.”
James Nguyen at Dockside Bait in Pittsburg reported a much improved striper bite with live mudsuckers, bullheads, or fresh shad in the shallows of the main Sacramento River. He said, “The anglers are showing up, and the stripers are on the bite.” Bullheads continued to be in high demand, and the supply is limited.
Smallmouth bass continued to hold along rocky structure in the Old Sacramento River, Steamboat Slough, and Miner Slough, and Tran advised using deep-diving cranks for the smallies.

The arrival of cooler water temperatures has brought a flood of striped bass into the San Joaquin River system. Anglers are scoring schoolies to much larger linesides with a variety of techniques. Largemouth bass remained solid, but the big fish still have ‘yet to come out to play,’ while bluegill action is starting to wane as the water cools.
The main San Joaquin River has been producing large stripers on topwater lures in the early mornings or late afternoons in low light conditions, and experienced plug casters are getting in on the bite with various lures such as the custom Delta Wood Bombers. Kenji Nakamura of Lodi caught and released a 27.4-pound linesides on a Sinister Six Delta Wood Bomber on the main San Joaquin.
Alan Fong of the Fishermen’s Warehouse in Sacramento is more interested in the striped bass bite near Liberty Island at the present time, but if he was targeting largemouth bass, he would be punching the weeds with Missle’s D-Bombs or Sweet Beavers.
In the Antioch area, Doug Chapman of Gotcha Bait said, “They are tearing up the stripers around here with live mudsuckers or fresh shad as we sold out of 70 pounds of shad over the weekend along with 25 dozen mudsuckers.” “Stripers to 36-inches have been caught off of the Antioch Fishing Pier, but the majority of fish are sublegal to small keepers.”

In the south Delta near Stockton, Brandon Gallegos of H and R Bait reported improved overall size of striped bass off of Inland Drive, Grimes Road near Tracy Boulevard, the Old River near the Highway 4 Bridge, and Bacon Island Road with fresh shad or live bluegill. He said, “There is a topwater bite in the mornings and evenings in the same areas as the stripers are schooling up on the bait.” Fresh shad is plentiful, and Gallegos said, “The quality is perfect right now for striper fishing.”

Farmers may need to measure water from Delta
Accused of stealing water released from upstream reservoirs, more than 1,000 Delta farmers may soon be required to report exactly how much water they’ve been diverting — a request that their attorneys argue could be burdensome and unnecessary.
Earlier this summer, the state and federal governments complained to regulators that water released from reservoirs wasn’t making it all the way to giant export pumps near Tracy. The missing water, they reasoned, was likely being pumped along the way by Delta farmers. Those farmers do have senior water rights, but they are not entitled to water that has been stored upstream. They can take only what is considered to be “natural” flow. Delta advocates have contended that since there is always water in the tidal estuary, there is always “natural” flow.
The broader legal issues are complex, and ultimately may be decided in court.For now, however, the government says it merely wants a better accounting of how much water is being used by the farmers. Officials repeated that request to the State Water Resources Control Board at a meeting Thursday.
“I think additional information would be helpful for us to determine what is happening out there in the Delta,” said Paul Fujitani with the US Bureau of Reclamation.
But attorneys for Delta farmers called for formal hearings to resolve the larger issue of whether the diversions are illegal, which could make the question of how much water those farmers are taking a moot point.
“My clients call me week in and week out since December, asking if they’re going to be able to divert water,” said Lodi attorney Jennifer Spaletta. “I think they recognize that when these issues get resolved, they may not like all of the answers. But they want the resolution. They want the certainty.
“They want to pass their farms on to their kids. And they want to know how it’s going to work. They need answers.”
A draft order prepared by the water board would give Delta farmers five days to report how much water they’ve used in the past year, and how much they expect to use in the coming months. Officials said the board would have discretion to give farmers more time to comply, if needed.
Five days isn’t much time, particularly during the harvest season, Delta advocates said. They questioned why the Delta alone was being targeted, when the diversion of the reservoir water could have happened someplace else.“I think that obviously pushes a hefty burden and an unfair burden on a single region of the state,” said Kurtis Keller, special water counsel for San Joaquin County.
Water exporters who have seen their supply from the Delta slashed, however, said the missing water would have made a big difference this year. The Westlands Water District, which has fallowed 220,000 acres for lack of water, says it could have irrigated about 40,000 to 60,000 acres with that water.“It really hurts our farmers,” said Jose Gutierrez, Westlands’deputy general manager. “So many farmers are on the edge of failure.”
Like the Delta growers, Gutierrez said, “A lot of our farmers are also worried their farms are not going to be around in 10 or 20 years for their children.”Board Chair Felicia Marcus said the water board would search for a fair solution.
Contact reporter Alex Breitler at (209) 546-8295 orabreitler@recordnet.com.

Tony Lopez at Benicia Bait reported Friday 9-26,“It has been a madhouse around here with anglers coming in, buying rods and reels, having their reels spooled, and purchasing bait.” Salmon fishing remained fair with the best action at the State Park as 7 salmon were landed on Thursday. 1st Street has been slower. Stripers are showing up at Dillon Point, and there have been some quality fish taken on the salmon spinners. Sturgeon fishing has really picked up with Ron Reisinger of Chico catching and releasing a total of sturgeon in the past four days, fishing in the shallows with ‘french-fry eel strips.’ Lopez went out with his buddy Reisinger this week, and he hooked a 53-incher than ran straight at the boat. Once they got the fish in the net, a sea lion popped up next to the boat. Lopez said, “I have never seen that before, but it was as if this sturgeon swam to the boat to say ‘Get me out of here’ and ‘Save me.’ They did save the sturgeon ,releasing it unharmed and able to swim away from the sea lion without being shackled by a hook and line.
Jay Lopes of Right Hook Sport Fishing was out on an exploratory trip on Wednesday out of Pittsburg Marina, and he said, “The fish aren’t stacked up yet in the deep water, but I will have a much better idea on Friday after fishing again.” They caught and released sturgeon out of the 12 or so bites experienced, and Lopes will be concentrating on either sturgeon or Sacramento River salmon for the coming months. He said,“We have been coming to Pittsburg earlier and earlier each year, but some of the best sturgeon fishing of the year occurs in September, October, and November.”
Do at Dockside Bait in Pittsburg reported slow action on Thursday with few fishermen out after the morning rainstorm. The weather was beautiful in the afternoon. They have grass shrimp and bullheads in the shop.
Steve Santucci of Steve Santucci’s Fly Fishing Guide Service reported on Lost Coast Outfitters, “Striper fishing is very good when you find a favorable wind day. Fishing should improve with the start of fall cooling. Largemouth Bass and Smallmouth Bass fishing has been excellent.”

The Thirsty West: 10 Percent of California’s Water Goes to Almond Farming
That’s nuts.

DENAIR, Calif.—In California’s vast Central Valley, agriculture is king. But the king appears fatally ill, and no worthy replacement is in sight, as the area noticeably reverts into the desert it was little more than a century ago.
Signs line the back roads here that run parallel to wide irrigation ditches: “Pray for rain” “No water = No jobs”
As I’ve already discussed in the Thirsty West series, city-dwelling Californians are a bit insulated from near-term water shortages thanks to the state’s intricate tentaclesof aqueducts, pipelines, and canals that divert water from the snowcapped Sierras to the urban core along the coast. Rapid population growth looms ominously, but for now, you’ll still be able to brush your teeth in Oakland and Burbank.
By all accounts the current water crisis is far more urgent in the sprawling fields of the Central Valley. And that’s bad news for those of us who enjoy eating daily. Two simple facts explain why: California is the most productive agricultural state in the union, and agriculture uses 80 percent of California’s water. In a year with practically none of the stuff, that’s enough to send ripple effects throughout the country.
California is the nation’s leading producer of almonds, avocados, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, grapes, lettuce, milk, onions, peppers, spinach, tomatoes, walnuts, and dozens of other commodities, according to a 2012 Department of Agriculture report (PDF). The state produces one-third of our vegetables and two-thirds of our nuts and fruits each year. While fields in iconic agricultural states like Iowa, Kansas, and Texas primarily produce grain (most of which is used to fatten animals), pretty much everything you think of as actual food is grown in California. Simply put: We can’t eat without California. But as climate change–fueled droughts continue to desiccate California, the short-term solution from farmers has been to double down on making money.
Like many Americans, I’d never visited California’s ultra-productive Central Valley before my monthlong drought-themed road trip for Slate. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect besides lots and lots of fields. Having grown up in a small town in Kansas and living now in the heart of Wisconsin’s dairy country, I’m plenty familiar with agriculture, but I’ve never seen anything remotely resembling the scale on which it’s practiced here. Agriculture here isn’t the endless fields of corn and wheat of my childhood. Thanks to California’s unique climate, fields here are comprised almost entirely of high-value cash crops.
Driving northward along California state Route 99 from Bakersfield to Fresno, we passed mile after mile of almond orchards, vineyards, and warehouses. There were enormous piles of hay on dairies the size of small towns. Citrus plantations extended to the horizon. And between them all was a crisscrossing network of irrigation ditches, most of which were dry. Coincidentally, this rural highway also bisects the heart of California’s current mega-drought, in which three-quarters of the state is currently rated “extreme” or “exceptional” by the USDA and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. It’s pretty easy to see why this place is the epicenter of Western water issues. I ended up spending more time here than in any other stop on the trip.
Farmers in California are forced to irrigate because of a fundamental seasonal mismatch: The vast majority of the rain and snow comes in the winter and the best growing conditions (sunlight, warmth) of California’s temperate Mediterranean climate are in the summer.
This year, farmers have to make important decisions—and it often comes down to money. If given a choice between keeping fruit trees alive (which take years to mature and can bring 10 times more money per acre), or planting rows of vegetables that live only a few months, that’s a no-brainer if you’re trying to maximize profit. This year, farmers are fallowing vegetable fields and scrambling to save high-dollar fruit and nut orchards. The result is counterintuitive: In the midst of the worst drought in half a millennium, the most water-intensive crops are getting priority.
California almonds use a stunning 1.1 trillion gallons of water each year, or enough for you to take a 10-minute shower each day for 86 million years (using a low-flow showerhead, of course). Here’s the calculation: California as a whole diverts or pumps 43 million acre-feet of water each year to supplement its meager rainfall. In total, agriculture consumes 34 million acre-feet of that. (An acre-foot is just what it sounds like: the amount of water needed to cover an acre of flat ground up to a foot, or about 325,000 gallons of water.) In 2013, there were 940,000 acres of almonds in California, according to the USDA (PDF). Each acre of almonds uses three to four acre-feet of water each year, most of which are delivered via river diversions or groundwater.
Almonds are one of California's most water-intensive crops, but during this year's epic drought farmers are planting even more. The reason? Economics.
Almonds alone use about 10 percent of California’s total water supply each year. That’s nuts. But almonds are also the state’s most lucrative exported agricultural product, with California producing 80 percent of the world’s supply. Alfalfa hay requires even more water, about 15 percent of the state’s supply. About 70 percent of alfalfa grown in California is used in dairies, and a good portion of the rest is exported to land-poor Asian countries like Japan. Yep, that’s right: In the middle of a drought, farmers are shipping fresh hay across the Pacific Ocean. The water that’s locked up in exported hay amounts to about 100 billion gallons per year—enough to supply 1 million families with drinking water for a year.
Though economics drive the seemingly improbable logic of California’s water exporting, that’s no reason to rush to boycott almonds. As this viral infographic fromMother Jones shows, it takes more than a gallon of water to grow a single almond, and it may take 220 gallons of water to produce a large avocado. But pound-for-pound, there’s an order of magnitude more water needed to get meat and dairy to your plate. A stick of butter requires more than 500 gallons of water to make. A pound of beef takes up to 5,000 gallons. More than 30 percent of California’s agricultural water use either directly or indirectly supports growing animals for food. (As Slate’s L.V. Anderson recently wrote, one of the single most effective actions to combat climate change would be if everyone in the world went vegetarian overnight. It would also likely wreck our economy.)
Later this year, as the effects of California’s drought reverberate through America’s supermarkets, they’ll be what amounts to a de facto water tax: The biggest price increases will be found with some of the most water-intensive crops.
Farmers here are turning to groundwater to make up the difference—and that’s where things get worse. The shocking truth is, California is the last state that doesn’t regulate groundwater pumping, even as supplies are dwindling. That means the motto around here right now is, to borrow another Mother Jones headline: “Drill baby drill (for water, that is).” In some overpumped places, the ground has already sunk by dozens of feet. There are indications that the debate could be changing. In April, a series of conservation bills were presented in the state Senate, with the intention of using the current crisis to address the issue of slipping groundwater supply.
The stakes are so high and the backlog for new water wells is so long that some farmers are buying their own million-dollar drilling rigs, just to protect their massive investments. Wildcatting drilling crews are working 24 hours a day to keep up with demand.
California will never solve its water crisis if the aquifer keeps getting more and more holes to extract groundwater. But in dry years like this one, the state’s agriculture would almost cease to be without groundwater. One short-term answer is more efficient methods, like drip irrigation. The problem is, irrigation technology has gotten so good that typically the end result is increased yields. And the more efficient the irrigation, the less water gets into the soil for groundwater recharge.
While agriculture isn’t a monolith, you’d think an industry dependent on water would be fighting for its survival by addressing the core of the problem. Yet some subsets of the industry seem to refuse to accept the new reality.

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