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July 05, 2015    Headlines

 Delta Late Spring Stripers and Shad

Delta Report
By Dave Hurley

Triple-digit temperatures from the last blast of unseasonably warm temperatures along with periods of high winds have limited the number of fishermen on the Sacramento River side of the Delta. Smallmouth bass are still holding in the rocks in the north Delta, but the shad run is nearly complete for the season.
On Thursday 7-2 Tony Lopez of Benicia Bait said, “There have only been a few sturgeon fishermen out, but there was a legal sturgeon landed from the banks at the State Park. The fisherman’s reel broke, and he dragged the fish in hand over hand on 80-pound braided line and luckily the fish didn’t run or else he would have suffered deep cuts in his hands. He went into the water to bring in the fish, and he thought his effort was worth it since it was his first legal sturgeon..
Jack smelt are still holding along the shorelines with the intrusion of salt water into the Delta, and small striped bass are the rule. Benicia is one of the only bait shops with grass shrimp in the tanks.
Pam Hayes of Benicia Bait reported they have a supply of live grass shrimp, and they have been able to keep up with demand over the past week. They are lining the shelves with their Vee-Zee spinners in anticipation of the July 16th river salmon opener.
Do Doung of Dockside Bait in Pittsburg reported few fishermen have been out during the hot temperatures, but live mudsuckers are working for legal striped bass in Honker Bay or in Broad Slough in the early mornings before the heat arrives with a force.
Catfish can be found in the Sacramento Deep Water Channel with anchovies, chicken livers, or sardines.
In the San Joaquin River, largemouth bass fishing has taken center stage in the San Joaquin River with the full on arrival of summer along with alternating periods of triple-digit temperatures followed by high wind.
Randy Pringle, the Fishing Instructor, reported a phenomenal largemouth bite on Thursday for fish ranging from 7 inches to 6.25 pounds with the best action on the
-ounce chartreuse/white Persuader buzzbait. He worked the lure above the weeds with a chucka chucka pattern  on the morning high tide into the outgo. The ima Floating Flit with a chartreuse bill is also effective as the bass are feeding on bluegill. Numbers are taken on the Havoc Flat Dog on a 1/8th oz. Zappu head at depths to 10 feet, and Pringle will upgrade to a 3/16th oz. Zappu once the current picks up. He said, We are focusing on moving current into the banks, and the key is finding tules that are waving. Once you find this condition, it will be lights out.
Brandon Gallegos of H and R Bait in Stockton reported stripers in the 17 to 19-inch range are abundant in Whiskey Slough, around the Tracy Oasis, and along Bacon Island Road with anchovies or sardines. Herman and Helen’s Resort off of Eight Mile Road west of Stockton is also holding loads of undersized to barely-legal stripers. Bluegill and red-ear perch are thick along Inland Drive near Tiki Lagun and Turner Cut and also near both bridges off of Eight Mile Road with jumbo red worms or wax worms. They also have no frozen or fresh shad in the shop.
Gotcha Bait in Antioch reported overall slow fishing, but a number of fishermen are still trying for striped bass. They are also limited to small minnows in the shop, but striper fishermen are picking up live mudsuckers for the best action. A number of crappie fishermen have emerged, but they are very quiet about their locations. Grass shrimp has been scarce, and there is a lot of pile shrimp mixed in with the shrimp. Fresh and frozen shad is absent from most bait shops.
Christian Lauritzen of Lauritzen’s Yacht Harbor in Oakley said, “The best way to describe fishing in the west Delta is very slow and I say that only because we have seen very few fishermen.  The Port is being more proactive on the water hyacinth front this year, as they are looking at different hot spots in the Delta that could be areas where the water hyacinths really grow and then flow out on to the San Joaquin River impacting ship traffic. According to sources the port is asking NOAA for help in mapping out water hyacinth hot spots using satellite imaging to determine where those hot spots are. Once those hot spots are determined, they hope to come up with a plan on how to rid those areas of the weeds. One of the plans being floated around as it were is having aquatic harvesters come in an area gather up all of the water hyacinth then off load the water hyacinths to a barge so that the harvesters stay in one spot. The deck barge is filled up with harvested water hyacinth then at the end of the day the water hyacinths are off loaded off the barge to an upland site. That is the concept. With the river water as warm or warmer then is was last year for this time of year, we already have a pretty good growing season underway now that we are in the 4 th year of the drought. October and November should be pretty interesting from a water hyacinth stand point of view. That is when those really big rafts of water hyacinths start plugging up the Stockton Deep Water Channel and the rest of the river systems.


Clyde Wands, shallow trolling expert, went out earlier in the week for smallmouth bass in the upper Delta, and he found a slower bite with a smaller grade of smallies. They are working the rockpiles in the upper Delta with wacky-rigged Senkos for the smallies. He said, “The fish were not as large as last week, but we still found a few to 15 inches.”
Do Doung at Dockside Bait in Pittsburg reported the extreme heat is  affecting the number of fishermen out on the Delta, but a few stripers have been taken in Honker Bay on live mudsuckers. Getting shrimp in the shop has been a concern, but they have mudsuckers and pile worms.
Gotcha Bait in Antioch reported Thursday 6-25 an overall slow fishing, but a number of fishermen are still trying for striped bass. They are also limited to small minnows in the shop, but striper fishermen are picking up live mudsuckers for the best action. A number of crappie fishermen have emerged, but they are very quiet about their locations. Grass shrimp has been scarce, and there is a lot of pile shrimp mixed in with the shrimp. Fresh and frozen shad is absent from most bait shops. There have been a few small, but legal, stripers landed in the lower Mokelumne River on spoons.
Randy Pringle, the Fishing Instructor, reported an excellent bass bite with the ounce Persuader double buzz bait in red/black or white. He said, “We have been running it through the tops of the weeds as well as near rocky structure, and the bite has been outstanding. The ima Little Stick in red/white has been working when the fish are lethargic in the morning, and there is a frog bite, but the most consistent reaction bait has been the buzz bait. “Numbers of bass are taken on the Berkley Havoc Flat Dog on a Zappu head worked outside of the weedline, and he reported 50 to 70 bass are possible working the bottom. The water temperature has risen to 77 degrees and working the current is essential at this time of year. Pringle added, “A 15-pound average limit is the rule for this time of year, and the winning weights during tournaments are finding the larger spawned out females which have become scarce. Anything over a 3-pound average allows you to beat the Delta as this is the expected limit weight at this time of year.”
Brandon Gallegos of H and R Bait in Stockton reported stripers in the 17 to 19-inch range are abundant in Whiskey Slough, around the Tracy Oasis, and along Bacon Island Road with anchovies or sardines. Herman and Helen’s Resort off of Eight Mile Road west of Stockton is also holding loads of undersized to barely-legal stripers. Bluegill and red-ear perch are thick along Inland Drive near Tiki Lagun and Turner Cut and also near both bridges off of Eight Mile Road with jumbo red worms or wax worms. They also have no frozen or fresh shad in the shop.



Senior water users cut off
- Tracy-area farm district 'in crisis'
By Alex Breitler

Some of California’s more senior water users are for the first time feeling the pain of the drought, after state officials on Friday issued orders cutting off their access to dwindling rivers and streams.
 Friday’s cuts, the first of their kind since 1977, leave one Tracy-area farm district “in the midst of a crisis,” an attorney for the Banta-Carbona Irrigation District said.
 And it’s just the beginning. The State Water Resources Control Board says it expects to continue moving up the ladder of seniority, cutting off more water right holders every week or two as water levels continue to recede.
 “It’s not even summer yet, unfortunately,” said Tom Howard, the board’s executive director. “We’ll be doing more curtailments. ”Even riparian water users, those who claim senior rights by virtue of owning property along a stream, could be at least partially cut off.
Some farmers in the Delta have agreed to 25 percent cuts in their water supply in exchange for immunity from any such cuts. Asked if riparian water users who did not participate could be cut, Howard said, “We might get there soon. ”Friday’s announcement was widely expected. It was merely a question of when. Locally, the most immediate harm is to farmers in southwestern San Joaquin County, including the Banta-Carbona and Byron Bethany irrigation districts near Tracy.
Banta-Carbona has a 103-year-old water right to pump from the San Joaquin River. Now it must look elsewhere. As an emergency backup, the farmers stored a limited amount of water in San Luis Reservoir. But that’s almost 60 miles south, near Los Banos.
The water could be obtained in two ways. The district could arrange an exchange that would allow it to take water pumped from the Delta into the Delta Mendota Canal, but recent action by the state to help endangered salmon means such pumping may not be available for much of June, July and August, said Jeanne Zolezzi, an attorney for Banta-Carbona.
Federal officials have also floated an extraordinary plan to install temporary pumps and make the canal flow backward, from south to north, pushing San Luis water "upstream" to the Tracy farmers. But that plan has not been approved, Zolezzi said. “Without immediate emergency efforts… (the district) may have no water at all to provide to permanent crops,” she said in an email Friday. Permanent crops like almond or walnut orchards account for more than half of the district’s 14,000 acres; unlike row crops, orchards cannot be left without water or the trees will die. 
Zolezzi promised to challenge the water board's action.
 Friday’s announcement could also be bad news for the community of Mountain House, which relies on water supplied by the Byron Bethany Irrigation District. That district, too, has been cut off. The community’s general manager did not immediately return a call seeking comment. Most local water districts have water stored in reservoirs and are not as deeply affected. That didn’t stop them from criticizing the water board’s actions on Friday.
For one thing, they claim the water board doesn’t have jurisdiction over these most senior of rights, issued prior to 1914. And while the water board has described the cuts as necessary to preserve water in rivers for those with even older rights, the districts note that none of those older right-holders have complained that they’re short on water. 
Instead, the cuts benefit junior water users attempting to move water south, while senior users face overly broad cuts that might be unnecessary, they say. “The water board is using a bulldozer when it needs a scalpel,” said Steve Knell, general manager of the Oakdale Irrigation District.
 Asked about the fact that no complaints had been filed, a water board representative said it’s difficult for water users to know if a stream has dried up because of natural conditions or someone else’s diversions. The water board is taking a more “global” approach to curtailments, she said.
And as to whether the board has the authority to curtail senior rights, Howard said that it does. The diversion of water when water isn’t available to that user is “unauthorized,” and state water law allows the board to take action, he said.
“We expect people will act in a lawful way and cease their diversions,” Howard said. “If someone chooses not to we will have to (pursue) an enforcement action. And they will have a right to their day in court if they think the outcome inappropriate.”
— Contact reporter Alex Breitler at (209) 546-8295 or abreitler@recordnet.com. Follow him at recordnet.com/breitlerblog and on Twitter @alexbreitler.

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California moves to restrict water pumping by pre-1914 rights holders
BY BETTINA BOXALL

For the first time in nearly 40 years, state regulators are telling more than 100 growers and irrigation districts with some of the oldest water rights in California that they have to stop drawing supplies from drought-starved rivers and streams in the Central Valley.
The curtailment order, issued Friday by the State Water Resources Control Board, has been expected for weeks. Earlier this spring, the board halted diversions under some 8,700 junior rights. With snowmelt reduced to a trickle this year, there simply isn't enough water flowing in rivers to meet the demand of all those with even older rights predating 1914. And as flows continue to decline this summer, board officials said, they expect to issue more curtailments, stopping river pumping by more senior diverters.
The effect of the curtailments, which affect water users with rights dating to 1903, will vary. Many have water in storage that they can continue to use. Utilities can keep using flows for hydropower production as long as the water is returned to the rivers. Some growers and ranchers also have groundwater supplies that are unaffected by the order.
A few communities, including Chico and Nevada City, have to stop river withdrawals under the order.
But Thomas Howard, the state board's executive director, said they have alternative supplies. “Each water-right holder has different options available to them,” he added. Still, the fact that the state is reaching back more than a century in the hierarchy of California water rights highlights the withering hold of a drought that has also led to the state's first mandatory cuts in urban use.
The last time regulators ordered those with pre-1914 water rights to stop diversions was in the punishing 1976-77 drought. Those curtailments were not as geographically widespread as Friday's, which applies to the Sacramento and San Joaquin river watersheds as well as the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
 But the 1977 curtailments went back further in time. On some river stretches, they stopped withdrawals by all senior diverters. Despite the 1977 precedent, it is likely that Friday's order will spark appeals to the board as well as legal challenges."
 People are so dug into their rights that regardless of what we do it's likely they will ask for a rehearing,”
Delta Watermaster Michael George said last month. “There's going to be lots of litigation coming out of this. ”
Within hours of the board's announcement, officials of the Oakdale Irrigation District in the San Joaquin Valley issued a statement saying that they were ready to seek a court injunction to put a hold on the curtailment. “The water board is using a bulldozer when it needs a scalpel,” said Steve Knell, the district's top official. “It does not have enough data and information to support this decision. It is based on estimates and unverified claims. ”In an interview, Knell said the district has supplies stored in several reservoirs that it can continue to draw from. “This is more of a legal issue,” he added, arguing that the state doesn't have the authority to manage pre-1914 rights, nor does the board have accurate data on diversions by junior rights holders.
 “The senior rights holders are adamantly opposed to oversight or control,” he said. “We do a good job of managing our water among our water rights group.”
Assembly Republican Leader Kristin Olsen of Modesto condemned the board action. “Today's water grab by the state board is disappointing, but not surprising,” she said in a statement. “It is one they have been eager to do for a long time and our current drought crisis gives them the cover they've been looking for to follow through. ”In California and the West, most rights to surface water are based on when the water was first diverted and used, a system known as “first in time, first in right.” The oldest claims date to the Gold Rush era, when miners sucked water from streams and used it to blast gold out of the Sierra Nevada foothills.
The state didn't start issuing water diversion permits until 1914, the dividing line between senior and junior rights.
In times of drought, when there isn't sufficient flow to satisfy all demand, those with junior rights are cut first to leave water for those with older claims. Last summer, the state halted diversions by many junior rights holders. In April and May, regulators again issued curtailment notices to those with junior rights in the Sacramento and San Joaquin river basins.
 At the same time, the board warned those with pre-1914 rights and rights to water flowing by their property — riparian rights — that they might be soon cut.
 Unusual storms in May delayed the move for several weeks as state staff monitored stream flows and demand in Central Valley watersheds.
 In the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, growers with riparian rights volunteered last month to reduce their use by 25% this summer — a deal that headed off possibly more severe cuts by the state board.
Friday's curtailments apply to 86 senior rights holders in the Sacramento River watershed, 14 holders in the San Joaquin River watershed and 14 in the delta. Because some holders have multiple rights, the total number curtailed Friday was 276. Those with riparian rights were not affected.
In other drought action Friday, the Obama administration announced $110 million in additional funding to provide temporary jobs for dislocated Californians, to support farmers and to improve water efficiency. The money comes on top of more than $190 million that federal agencies have already committed to aid drought-stricken communities this year, officials said.

 

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