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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

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July 30, 2014    Headlines

 Summer Slump
Salmon Opens July 16th

Delta Report
By Dave Hurley
On Tuesday 7-29 Tony Lopez at Benicia Bait reported that no further salmon have been landed from the shorelines, but the jack smelt are thick. An entire school of salmon was observed from the Crockett shoreline near C and H, but there have been few fishermen tossing lures from this side of the river.
Big striped bass are once again on the chopping block with bait fishermen soaking live splittail in the Sacramento River for a ‘catch and keep’ session.
The wind has been down, and the river has been ‘fishable.’
For largemouth bass, Randy Pringle, the Fishing Instructor, reported a ‘wide open’ bass bite with crankbaits, rip baits, and spinnerbaits. He said, “When the wind is blowing, there is an excellent bite with the -ounce Persuader spinnerbaits in shad-patterns worked along the edges of the weeds, especially when the tide drops out just enough to expose the weeds.” The Berkley Havoc Flat Dawg in earth tones on a Zappu head is producing voluminous numbers of small bass while The ima Squarebill in bluegill or crawdad colors is another hot choice. The ima Flit in shad patterns such as Misty Shad or Olive Herring is another solid option. Pringle said, “There are schools of undersized striped bass throughout the central Delta.”
Pringle is hosting the Bass Fest at Russo’s Marina on August 24th, and the event features a minimal entry fee at $50 with plenty of tackle representatives and big raffle prizes present in addition to the fish. Information at http://www.thebassfest.com/

On Sunday 7-27 Tony Lopez of Benicia Bait reported no salmon have been landed from the shorelines over the past four days, but jack smelt continued to be landed from the Benicia shoreline on grass shrimp or anchovies, providing further evidence of saltwater species migrating eastward into Suisun Bay. He said, “One guy picked up 15 of the saltwater species, and he was tired of catching them.”
Lost Anchor Bait at McAvoy’s Boat Harbor in Bay Point reported a 42-inch sturgeon was landed at the Duck Club at the mouth of the Little Cut on grass shrimp while a 15-pound striped bass was caught on a live splittail, but reports of success have been few and far between.
In the Pittsburg area, James Nguyen of Dockside Bait reported slow action with the combination of steady winds and triple-digit temperatures limiting anglers along with the solid action in the bay and the coast in much cooler climes.
Mark Wilson, expert striped bass troller, took his inaugural trolling trip on July 25th, and he found terrific action pulling deep-diving Yozuri Crystal Minnows in red/white or green on the outgoing tide at the Old Dairy, the West Bank, outside of Decker Island, and in Broad Slough. They went behind Decker Island into Horseshoe Bend, but this was on the only place they didn’t mark schools of striped bass. He said, “We found fish in every location, and some of the schools were ten feet thick from 8 to 18 feet in depth and 30 yards long, but some of the fish were reluctant to strike which is typical of the early run.” At one point, we started working the rods, and the fish got action, but on other occasions, the school would scatter after a few passes through them.” I normally start trolling around August 1st, but I decided to take a bit earlier trip this year, and we were pleasantly surprised.” They released a huge fish at 36-pounds with linesides at 11, 10, and 6 also caught in addition to 6 more keepers in the 19 to 21-inch range. He added that the schools had scattered since Friday with a fellow anglers catching and releasing 7 stripers. Prior to his initial trolling trip, Wilson has been catching and releasing up to 100 smallmouth bass ranging from 6 to 17-inches in the upper Delta along the rockpiles from Isleton to Walnut Grove on the Sacramento River and in Steamboat and Miner Sloughs. He said, “Four-inch Robo Worms along the rocks or trolling and casting Speed Traps close to the banks on 6-pound test monofilament has been the technique.”
In the Sacramento area, Captain Mike Gravert of Intimidator Sport Fishing said, “It is pretty much the same fishing over the past week with only a few fish taken from Discovery Park down to Walnut Grove.” “We went out for a research and development trip on Friday night, jigging with 2-ounce P-Line Laser Minnows and Blade Runner Spoons, and there has been an average for a fish a night pulled from the Garcia Bend area this week, including a 37-pounder from a regular angler.” The water temperature has risen to 76.6 degrees.
Some of the most encouraging news is coming from the western section of the San Joaquin River with Lee O’Brien of Gotcha Bait in Antioch reporting, “A number of large striped bass to 44-inches have been taken from the Antioch Fishing Pier over the past week with whole sardines being the top bait.” Boaters have also been drifting large minnows in Broad Slough for striped bass. O’Brien added that sturgeon fishing has picked up from the shoreline along Sherman Island Road and for boats on the anchor off of the island with grass shrimp or lamprey eel. Live mudsuckers have made an appearance in quality and quantity in the shop for the first time in several months. Catfishing remained solid around Holland Tract and the Tracy Oasis with fresh or frozen clams.
Alan Fong of the Fishermen’s Warehouse in Sacramento reported a solid bass bite punching the weed mats with Missle’s D-Bombs on weights ranging from 1.5 to 3-ounces depending upon the current. He said, “We have been focusing on the outside grass in the east Delta around the sloughs northwest of Stockton.”
Also in the Stockton area, H and R Bait reported that schoolie stripers are starting to show up in the Old River on frozen shad. They received a supply of 35-pounds of fresh shad, but the bait was small and classified as ‘trout and salmon bait.” Blue gill continued to be a main source of interest on waxworms or jumbo red worms near submerged trees off of Holland Tract, Orwood Marina, Empire Cut, Whiskey Slough Road, and access areas along Eight Mile Road. Bait shops remained limited to large and medium minnows with extra-large and jumbo minnows still several weeks from fruition.

The Sacramento River from the Hwy 113 Bridge near Knights Landing to the Carquinez Bridge (includes Suisun Bay, Grizzly Bay and all tributary sloughs west of Highway 160) are open to salmon from July 16th to December 16th with a limit of two Chinook salmon.

Federal judge denies motion to block water transfers
by Dan Bacher

A federal judge on July 11 denied a motion by an environmental group and fishing organization for a preliminary injunction against water transfers from northern California to San Joaquin Valley irrigators.
Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill of the U.S. District Court in Fresno rejected the motion for the preliminary injunction to stop the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation from transferring water through the south Delta export pumps to the San Luis and Delta-Mendota Water Authority, which includes the Westlands Water District.
The California Sportfishing Protection Alliance (CSPA) and AquAlliance filed the motion, claiming that the environmental assessment was "seriously flawed" and that the transfers posed "an eminent threat to threatened Delta smelt," according to a statement from Bill Jennings, CSPA Executive Director.
CSPA and AquAlliance had pointed out that extremely low Delta outflows this year had brought Delta smelt habitat (the low salinity zone) and Delta smelt into the Delta where they were threatened with lethal water temperatures.
The judge's decision was predicated on “agency deference” and the fact that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and Bureau claimed that Delta smelt were not in danger because they’re not in the Delta in summer, noted Jennings.
Jennings said, “We’re deeply disappointed in the decision and will now decide our next steps. Contrary to the decision, Delta smelt are at severe risk. The U.S. Geological Survey’s state-of-the-art flow gages of Delta outflow, confirmed by increasing salinity levels, reveal a net inflow to the Delta from the ocean."
Jennnings said the 23-26 June Delta smelt survey by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife reveals that there are no Delta smelt in Suisun Bay and that 92.95% are in the Delta and exposed to high temperatures. A remnant group (7%) of Delta smelt is trapped in the Sacramento Ship Channel, but won’t likely survive August temperatures.
State fishery biologists counted only 22 smelt, once the most numerous species in the entire Delta, from June 23 to June 26. The survey included 120 trawls at 40 different locations.
"The USFWS and Bureau have escorted Delta smelt to the scaffold and the judge signed the warrant. We did all we could do to prevent disaster," emphasized Jennings.
Jennings said the state and federal governments have mismanaged northern California water so poorly that there was actually a minus 45 cubic feet per second (cfs) net outflow to the Bay this May while the Department of Water Resources and US Bureau of Reclamation were reporting a plus 3805 cfs.
“Last year, excessive water exports and low outflow drew delta smelt from Suisun Bay into the central Delta where they were butchered by lethal water temperatures," Jennings revealed. "This year, with population levels hovering at historic lows: excessive transfers and exports, relaxed flow standards, high temperatures and negligible outflows may catapult the species into the abyss of extinction. On top of these threats, we were astonished to discover that the estimates of Delta outflow that state and federal agencies have reported and regulators have relied upon for years are wrong and significantly overestimate outflow in low flow conditions."
The Net Delta Outflow Index (NDOI) used to assess compliance with required flow standards is based upon a formula of both actual and estimated data. Examination of tidally filtered outflow data from the U.S. Geological Survey’s state-of-the-art UVM flow meters on the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers and Three-mile and Dutch Sloughs reveals that actual Net Delta Outflow (NDO) in low flow conditions are considerably lower, according to Jennings.
The Delta smelt, Hypomesus transpacificus, is an endangered fish from 2.0 to 2.8 inches long that is found only in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. It mainly inhabits the freshwater-saltwater mixing zone of the estuary, except during its spawning season when it migrates upstream to freshwater following winter "first flush" flow events, approximately from March to May.
The fish is an "indicator species" that demonstrates the health of the Bay-Delta Estuary, the largest estuary on the West Coast of the Americas. Because of its one-year life cycle and relatively low fecundity, it is very susceptible to changes in the environmental conditions of its native habitat. Massive water exports out of Delta to corporate agribusiness interests have played a key role in the precipitous decline of the fish in recent years.
Note: The court decision plus an index of Delta smelt, results of the 23-26 June DFW Delta smelt survey, USGS flow data and salinity data that show Delta smelt to be at grave risk are attached.
cspa_v_bor_order_denying_pi_140711.pdfdownload PDF (393.4 KB)

Putting some myths about California’s drought to rest
By Jay Lund, Jeffrey Mount and Ellen Hanak

As the effects of the drought worsen, two persistent water myths are complicating the search for solutions. One is that environmental regulation is causing California’s water scarcity. The other is that conservation alone can bring us into balance. Each myth has different advocates. But both hinder the development of effective policies to manage one of the state’s most important natural resources.

Let’s consider the first myth, that water shortages for farms are the result of too much water being left in streams for fish and wildlife. Claims are circulating that California’s farms have lost 4 million acre-feet annually because of environmental policies, and some have even suggested that the severe, long-term declines in groundwater levels in the San Joaquin Valley are a result of environmental cutbacks.

Since the early 1990s, efforts to improve environmental conditions have indeed reduced water supply reliability, particularly for San Joaquin Valley farmers who rely on exports from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. But blaming these efforts for today’s critical supply issues vastly overstates the role of environmental regulations.

By our calculations, restrictions on Delta exports, coupled with new restrictions on flows on the San Joaquin River, have cost San Joaquin Valley farmers no more than 1.5 million acre-feet per year in reduced water deliveries – a sizable amount, but far less than 4 million acre-feet. During the current drought emergency, environmental restrictions have been significantly relaxed to make more water available for farms and cities, with most of the remaining Delta outflows dedicated to keeping water in the Delta fresh enough for local farmers.

And while reduced surface water has likely accelerated groundwater overdraft in the Valley – especially since new Delta pumping restrictions in the late 2000s – the notion that environmental restrictions are the origin of overdraft is unfounded.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, farmers in the Valley have been mining groundwater at an average annual rate of 1.5 million acre-feet per year since long before Richard Nixon signed the Endangered Species Act in 1972. Nothing seems to change this overall pattern, including construction of the State Water Project. Water demand in the San Joaquin Valley simply exceeds available supply. What’s more, the Valley’s water demands are likely increasing with the shift to permanent orchards and vineyards – now more than 40 percent of total irrigated farm acreage.

What about the second myth? Can conservation really create abundant “new”water? Of course, new technology and changing water use habits have yielded long-term declines in per capita water consumption in California, and this drought is likely to spur more reductions. New irrigation techniques and better crop varieties, along with rising commodity prices, have helped California’s agricultural industry steadily increase production and profits. Farmers have become more economically efficient in using their water.

Some claim that potential dramatic yields of more than 10 million acre-feet of new water – equivalent to 10 full Folsom Reservoirs – can be had from conservation measures that draw half from agricultural and half from urban users. But this is just not credible.

In fact, conservation does not always yield new water, because the water saved is often not wasted in the first place – it is already reused. This is especially true in agriculture.

Irrigation water that is not consumed by crops flows back into rivers or seeps into groundwater basins. Indeed, the single largest source of groundwater recharge in the Central Valley is irrigation. Studies from around the world consistently show that increased irrigation efficiency often does not decrease net water use. Indeed, these technologies often encourage farmers to plant more crops, worsening long-term declines in groundwater availability. The only way to generate reductions in water use on the scale imagined is to fallow several million acres of farmland.

In the urban environment, steady reductions in per capita water use since the early 1990s have allowed total urban use to remain steady at about 8.5 million acre-feet annually, despite the addition of 7 million new residents. Further savings – especially from more drought-tolerant landscapes – will be needed. But because about a third of urban water already gets reused – it also returns to rivers or groundwater basins – it’s simply not possible to achieve the level of new water that some have imagined.

The reality is that conservation is a valuable and necessary part of a portfolio of approaches to water supply management, but it will not produce vast quantities of new water for California.

As the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan said, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.” Californians need to make continued progress in managing our scarce water resources to get through this drought – and future droughts – while protecting the state’s economy, society and environment. This requires a common understanding of the causes of water scarcity, and practical, reasoned solutions – not blame games and wishful thinking.

Jay Lund is director of the Center for Watershed Sciences at UC Davis and an adjunct fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California. Jeffrey Mount and Ellen Hanak are senior fellows at PPIC.

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