SACRAMENTO RIVER
 

June 05, 2016    Headlines
Sac Stripers

 

Sacramento/Feather Rivers:
Uncle Larry Barnes of Sacramento Pro Tackle reported Friday 6-3, “Shad fishing is winding down quickly after a 3.5 week run. We went out on Wednesday and anchored in the shade under the Watt Avenue Bridge on the American River for a total of 18 shad in 4 hours, but it was not as good as the 50 fish in 4 hours experienced previously. The flows have dropped at least 1000 cfs in all three rivers of the Sacramento, American, and Feather, and the best action is on the outgoing tide with very slow action on the incoming tide. There are fish up to Sunrise on the American.” He added, “Most people have already moved on from shad and striper fishing is also slow. The hot weather has been a deterrent right now.”


Catching striped bass a controversial thrill in Northern California
BY RYAN SABALOW rsabalow@sacbee.com

FEATHER RIVER

 

‘I guarantee we’ll catch something over there.” That’s a bold statement from a fisherman. After all, fish don’t always cooperate.
But there’s a reason why J.D. Richey, 

a Sacramento fishing guide, makes his living taking clients fishing on Northern California’s rivers and lakes. Plus, on this particular late April morning, the fish he was targeting – striped bass – weren’t exactly hiding.
The bass were chasing schools of small fish swimming down the Feather River. The hungry bass would announce where they were by splashing the surface as they attacked their prey. Richey would coast his 20-foot boat as close to a “boil” as he could without spooking them, and we’d cast our lures into the feeding frenzy.
Sure enough, Richey’s bold proclamation proved not all that bold. I flipped my lure – a spoon-shaped jig designed to imitate the flutter of sickly baitfish – at one of the splashes. When I lifted my rod tip a second later, the line violently pulled back. The 30-pound test braided line ripped out of its spool with a “ziiiiiiiiiing.”
It wasn’t long before Richey and the other angler on his boat were also leaning back against the weight of the lunging striped bass on the end of their lines.
Scenes like these are why striped bass – called “stripers” by many anglers – are a beloved game fish in Northern California that support a recreational fishery valued by one estimate at more than 
$47 million.
Each spring, stripers swim far up Northern California rivers to spawn. The migration draws hordes of anglers along their path. After catching a few of them, it’s easy to see why. Striped bass are aggressive by nature and will bite on a variety of baits. Artificial lures work wonders. So do live minnows and hunks of dead sardines. You can catch them from the shore or from a boat. It’s not uncommon for a boatload of anglers to catch 30 fish or more in a single outing. We did. Stripers’ tendency to charge baitfish in groups leads to moments of delightful fishing chaos. If one person catches one, chances are the rest of the group on the boat will hook one, too.
And, boy, can stripers put up a fight. Even a 12-inch shaker will pull with a power that belies its size. Big ones will rip line out of a reel and leave your forearms aching. I can’t even imagine the fight put up by the largest striper ever caught in California – a 67-pounder caught in Merced County in 1992.
Size and fight aren’t the only appeal. Striped bass also have a sweet, flaky meat.
“Make damned good fish tacos,” Richey said.
But maintaining a striped bass fishery in California has become controversial in recent years. Striped bass are a non-native species that prey on native fish, including salmon. On the day I fished with Richey, the “baitfish” the stripers were eating were juvenile salmon that had been released upstream from the Feather River Hatchery in Oroville.
Powerful agricultural interests, who have seen their water deliveries curtailed to protect declining native fish populations, blame stripers for many of the woes facing salmon and other native fish species. They’ve been pushing to have striped bass numbers reduced.
Recreational fishermen and fish scientists push back by saying that striper numbers also have declined in recent years. They argue the bass are used as a scapegoat to deflect attention from the harm caused by farms’ and cities’ incessant demands for river water. Stripers have lived alongside salmon and other endangered fish since they were first introduced into California in 1879.
“All of the sudden now it’s the stripers’ fault,” said Richey, who also guides for Chinook salmon in the summer and fall. “It’s a diversionary tactic.”
Stripers were certainly far from the only things we saw eating baby salmon that morning. Herons and egrets lined the Feather River’s banks, jabbing at the tiny fish as they swam past. Terns and other predatory birds dive-bombed the salmon from above. We caught largemouth and smallmouth bass that had been gorging on them too.
For what it’s worth, we did our part to thin the stripers’ numbers.
California fishing regulations limit an angler to keeping two fish a day, and the bass need to be at least 18 inches long. The three of us left the river with limits.
And, yes, they made damned good fish tacos!
Ryan Sabalow: 916-321-1264, @ryansabalow


Editorial to Following Story
The California Department Fish and Wildlife hatchery on the Feather river is planning on releasing their final stock of 1 million into the Feather river instead of trucking them around the river and Delta pumps to the Suisun Bay.
The Federal hatchery on Battle creek released 4 plus million salmon fry this past week and will dumping an additional 1.9 million fall run fish into Battle Creek this coming Friday.
The Golden Gate Salmon Association is opposed to these releases due to the current lower flows and clear water. With high numbers of spawning stripers and low / clear flows most of these fish will never make it as far as Sacramento. Past studies have shown that 94% of hatchery salmon released on the upper Sac never make it to San Pablo bay in these conditions.
GGSA is asking both the Feds and the State to either truck the salmon from the Feather river and release a "pulse" flow for 3 to 5 days to speed the Battle Creek salmon down river and to color the flows. This would allow out migrating baby salmon to quickly travel down river and predation losses would be much lower in the turbid flows.
Under similar circumstances in 1985 USFW and Coleman worked with water contractors to add pulse flows to Sac river while curtailing water diversions for a few days as the salmon swan past. The result was that in 1988 we saw one of the best sport and commercial seasons on record and huge returns of spawning salmon to the Central Valley rivers. Its amazing what can happen when both fishery managers and water contractors work together.
Somehow this lesson has not been passed on to current fishery and water (mis) managers.
The following is GGSA's press release from today opposing in-river releases until more natural spring like conditions are met and to have the Feather river fish trucked around the predators and Delta water diversions.
Mike Aughney

State Decision to Dump Salmon Opposed by Salmon Fishermen
Reversal of highly successful trucking program means fewer salmon will survive

San Francisco -- The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is abandoning a highly successful program that greatly increases salmon survival and is instead dumping valuable Feather River hatchery baby fall run salmon into a predator laden waterway starting Monday, April 25.  Most will die. The Golden Gate Salmon Association opposes the move and calls on CDFW to instead restore transport of these baby salmon via tanker trucks to safe release sites downstream of the danger zone.  Releasing baby salmon at safe sites in the western Delta and Bay greatly increases their survival and has kept the ocean fishery for both sport and commercial fishermen alive.  This practice has proven especially critical during the drought.  Without it, there almost certainly would not have been enough salmon to continue fishing.
In 2015, Feather River hatchery fish made up 76 percent of the hatchery fish taken by commercial salmon fishermen and 63 percent of those taken by sport fishermen.  

“Just last month at a salmon information meeting CDFW presented evidence that trucked Feather River fish were the major contributor to salmon caught by sport and commercial fishermen in the 2015 ocean fishing season,” said GGSA chairman Roger Thomas.  Thomas is also president of the Golden Gate Fishermen’s Association which represents charter boat owners and he holds a seat on the Salmon Stamp Committee.  “We can’t understand why they now want to take these fish away from us when we need them badly to stay in business.” 
“The Feather River provides the greatest single contribution of hatchery fish to ocean fisheries even though it is not the largest hatchery operation. The reason is that these fish are trucked past man-made hazards that decimate fish released upstream. Abandoning trucking, even in part, will hurt fishermen, related businesses, and consumers,” said GGSA board member Marc Gorelnik.  Gorelnik is also chairman of the Coastside Fishing Club.  
“If the state insists on dumping these fish into very dangerous waters where they’ll be lost,  then the state should also release water from Lake Oroville to speed these baby salmon down the Feather River past the danger zone so at least some survive,” said GGSA board member Mike Aughney.  Aughney is also the owner of USAfishing.com website. “Before the dams were built, high snow melt runoff would keep the rivers turbid and rapid in the spring. These are conditions baby salmon need to safely move from the Central Valley to the Bay and ocean.  Now with the dams, the rivers have less natural flow and sediment mixing and predation of baby salmon is much higher. There is plenty of water and snow now to allow for three or four days of water releases needed to help these baby salmon survive.”
In recent weeks fishing guides have documented high concentrations of predatory fish in the Feather and Sacramento rivers.  CDFW is reversing its proactive trucking practice because of theoretical concerns related to hatchery born salmon degrading the genetic purity of Central Valley fall run salmon and concern that trucked fish will lack the knowledge to keep them from straying into neighboring streams when they return from the ocean in two years.
Salmon fishermen puzzle over the stated attempt to establish a genetic distinction between Central Valley fall run salmon bred in hatcheries and other Central Valley fall run salmon that largely share identical genetics.  Hatcheries have functioned in the Central Valley for over 100 years and in that time hatchery born salmon have returned as adults and recolonized virtually every Central Valley stream and river that will still support salmon. 
“Study after study demonstrates there’s no such thing as a master race of Central Valley fall run salmon.  All Central Valley fall run salmon show interbreeding with hatchery stocks going back over 100 years,” said GGSA board member Dick Pool.
Once one of California’s greatest salmon producing rivers, the Feather was largely destroyed by construction of the Oroville dam.   State engineers refused to put a fish ladder on the dam when it was built, thus denying the salmon access to hundreds of miles of their historic spawning habitat now lost above the dam.  Adding insult to injury, they diverted most of the Feather River downstream of the dam into a man-made, shallow pond called the Thermalito Afterbay.  Here the water warms to temperatures lethal to salmon spawning and then flows back into the river.  This largely destroys another 15 to 20 miles of otherwise good salmon habitat downstream and forces returning adult salmon to veer into the colder Yuba River to spawn. 
The state should first fix the thermal pollution destroying the Feather River caused by the Thermalito Afterbay.  Then maybe we can talk about how to address the straying of Feather River fish into colder nearby rivers,” said GGSA executive director John McManus.
“We call on CDFW to truck the rest of this year’s Feather River fall run and resume a dialogue with key stakeholders on the future of trucking and hatchery management actions,” said GGSA founder Victor Gonella.  “Our future is being decided by theorists who are out of touch with the families that rely on these salmon to make a living.”
Earlier this year fishermen watched as state officials dumped federally protected hatchery spring run salmon into the Feather River upstream of a known predator hot spot rather than truck them a few miles further downstream to a point below the predator concentration. Most were probably lost.
“There’s disagreement over whose fish these are,” said GGSA board member Tim Sloane.  Sloane is also executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, a group representing commercial fishermen.  “The state is simply a custodian for these salmon, which belong to all Californians, but whose numbers are dwindling because dams and other development are blocking their historic habitat.  If the state chooses to act in a way that reduces the salmon we need to make a living, we think it only fair to be invited to partake in this decision that is so fundamental to our economic survival.”
The Golden Gate Salmon Association (www.goldengatesalmon.org ) is a coalition of salmon advocates that includes commercial and recreational salmon fisherman, businesses, restaurants, a native tribe, environmentalists, families and communities that rely on salmon. GGSA’s mission is to protect and restore California’s largest salmon producing habitat comprised of the Central Valley river’s that feed the Bay-Delta ecosystem and the communities that rely on salmon as a long-term, sustainable, commercial, recreational and cultural resource.

In a normal year, California’s salmon industry produces about $1.4 billion in economic activity and about half that much in economic activity and jobs again in Oregon. The industry employs tens of thousands of people from Santa Barbara to northern Oregon. This is a huge economic bloc made up of commercial fishermen, recreational fishermen (fresh and salt water), fish processors, marinas, coastal communities, equipment manufacturers, the hotel and food industry, tribes, and the salmon fishing industry at large.

Sacramento River Closure to Go Into Effect April 1

Cal F & W News Release

(Once again we see another example where Cal Fish and Wildlife uses fishing regulations as their top management tool. Fisheries need to be managed to benefit and support stable populations of fish.  Regulating angling and not all the other stresses on our fisheries such as water diversion and drought does NOTHING to support our many fisheries)


A temporary emergency regulation closing all fishing within 5.5 miles of spawning habitat on the Upper Sacramento River begins on April 1, 2016 and will remain in effect through July 31, 2016. Enhanced protective measures are also proposed in the ocean sport and commercial salmon fisheries regulations for the 2016 season.
The temporary emergency regulation closes all fishing on the 5.5 mile stretch of the Sacramento River from the Highway 44 Bridge where it crosses the Sacramento River upstream to Keswick Dam. The area is currently closed to salmon fishing but was open to trout fishing. The temporary closure will protect critical spawning habitat and eliminate any incidental stress or hooking mortality of winter-run Chinook salmon by anglers.
California Department of Fish and Wildlife (
CDFW) scientists believe the additional protection provided in the emergency river closure and potential ocean fishing restrictions will help avoid a third year of substantial winter-run Chinook salmon loss.
Historically, winter-run Chinook spawned in the upper reaches of Sacramento River tributaries, including the McCloud, Pit, and Little Sacramento rivers. Shasta and Keswick dams now block access to the historic spawning areas. Winter-run Chinook, however, were able to take advantage of cool summer water releases downstream of Keswick Dam. In the 1940s and 1950s, the population recovered, but beginning in 1970, the population experienced a dramatic decline, to a low of approximately 200 spawners by the early 1990s. The run was classified as endangered under the state Endangered Species Act in 1989, and as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act in 1994.
The Fish and Game Commission adopted CDFW’s proposal for the 2016 temporary closure at its regularly scheduled February meeting. Media Contact:
Jason Roberts, CDFW Northern Region, (530) 225-2131
Andrew Hughan
, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8944


GGSA Comments on the Release of 210,000 Livingston Stone National Fish Hatchery Chinook salmon juveniles in Redding

 “In 2014 and 2015 decisions made by federal water managers with agreement from federal fish agencies led to the decimation of winter run salmon.  2014 was also a bad year for the commercially valuable fall run salmon.  We don’t yet know how fall run fared in 2015. 
The baby winter run salmon being released today and tomorrow carry with them the hope that winter run Sacramento king salmon won’t be driven into extinction at the hand of man.  These salmon are found nowhere else on earth.
After release, these baby salmon face many more perils and many will be lost before reaching the ocean. They’ll attempt to rear over the coming weeks in parts of the river or in the Delta.  In the Delta they face the prospect of being pulled off their natural course by the huge diversion pumps that siphon water for use by large agricultural interests in the western San Joaquin Valley.  Some of these baby salmon will be pulled directly into the pumps.  Others will be lost to predation greatly amplified by the pumps.  The best thing we can do now for these little fish is to control the Delta pumps.  Water flowing through the Delta to the bay now is helping not only baby winter run salmon, but also the other native fish and wildlife in the Delta.  Anyone claiming that not diverting this water is a waste either doesn’t understand what salmon need in order to survive in the Delta or is happy to see them decimated, as they were the last two summers.  These baby winter run salmon represent some of the last of their kind. 
GGSA appreciates the timing of the release of these fish aimed to coincide with runoff from a wet storm. Baby salmon are poor swimmers and rely on runoff to carry them downriver and out to sea.  Hopefully the fish released today and tomorrow will find enough runoff to safely make the trip downstream from the upper Sacramento River basin. 
Fishermen expect to be restricted over the next several years for the actions of water managers that have hurt winter run salmon badly.” 

John McManus
Executive Director
Golden Gate Salmon Association


 

Gov. Brown’s plan doesn’t help fisheries or address flood protection
But it’s mostly the backroom deal kind of fix

 

BY JOAN BUCHANAN

AND MICHAEL MACHADO

Special to The Bee

Gov. Jerry Brown’s bid to build tunnels to isolate the Delta from its natural water supply has been repackaged as the “California Water Fix.”

It’s curious terminology indeed. Surely he can’t mean fix as in a “solution,” since this proposal solves none of the water problems plaguing California. His twin tunnels will produce no “new” water in the face of the annual shortage of at least 5 million acre-feet resulting from a promise to deliver more water than is available in the Sacramento River watershed.

Nor will Brown’s plan “fix” the fisheries dependent on Delta waters, which have been brought to the edge of extinction by reliance on water exports from the Delta. In fact, the operation plans for the tunnels would continue current pumping practices from channels in the south Delta in drier years. Fortunately, federal regulators saw through this charade and the attempt to gain long-term approvals were abandoned.

Nor does the proposal “fix” or even address the flood protection problems in the Delta, which threaten big portions of its cities, several major highways and rail lines, critical electrical and natural gas transmission facilities and freshwater supply facilities for Delta and Bay Area communities.

So maybe this is the “needle in the arm” type of fix, creating temporary euphoria and an escape from reality, but leaving nothing to face the future.

True, some jobs would be created to build this Chunnel-size boondoggle, but temporary construction jobs will disappear. Investing in regional water sustainability would create far more jobs per each million dollars spent, according to University of Pacific economist Jeffrey Michael.

Those who receive water will face significantly higher water costs and increased taxes to repay the $15 billion to $50 billion cost of the project without any meaningful increase in water supply. Water will go to the highest bidders to plant more almonds and pistachios in the desert for overseas export without addressing existing water shortages and quality issues that are impacting families and businesses throughout the state. Perhaps most importantly, we will have squandered the money which could have actually addressed and resolved these problems.

No, what this “fix” has been is the “Tammany Hall” type, in which the politicos make decisions that can’t withstand the light of day. There is no planned vote of the people, or even a vote of the Legislature or Congress authorizing this proposal.

Water has always been and should be a public discussion in California. In 1933, California voters authorized funding for the State Water Project. In 1982, voters rejected the peripheral canal. But the California Water Fix has never faced public oversight and was written behind closed doors, by and for special interests. Rather than provide responses to the thousands of comments from concerned citizens on environmental documents before moving forward, the governor is attempting to push through permitting of the proposal.

We need real solutions to our water problems, not needles in the arm and backroom deals. We need to spend our money to integrate flood control and water supply opportunities; reduce our export demands on the Delta so its people, farms and creatures can prosper; and conserve, recycle and reuse our available water supplies.

The California Water Fix doesn’t fix anything at all.

Joan T. Buchanan of Alamo served in the state Assembly from 2008 to 2014 and can be contacted at Joantbuchanan@gmail.com. Michael J. Machado of Linden served in the state Senate from 2000 to 2008 and can be contacted at mmfrmrpublic@gmail.com.


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