SACRAMENTO RIVER
 

January 24, 2015    Headlines
 Sac Still Muddy But Dropping
Feisty Goose Hunts
Sacramento/Feather  Rivers:
Jack at Johnson’s Bait in Yuba City reported on Friday 12-23 a few sturgeon have been landed between Knight’s Landing and Meridian at the normal locations, and ghost shrimp combined with nightcrawlers is the top bait. They have all of the usual sturgeon baits in the shop including pile worms and eel. In the Feather River, a few large stripers are taken on minnows, swimbaits, or Bomber Long A’s at Star Bend, Shanghai Bend, or Boyd’s Pump. Most fishermen are working from the banks with the low water in the Feather River, but a few anglers are launching 14-foot aluminums with trolling motors in the shallow river. He said, “These have been some decent fish for this time of year.”
Further upriver at Colusa, Kittles Sports in Colusa reported only a few sturgeon fishermen have been out trying, but there are some sturgeon in the system. The best action has been further downriver at Knight’s Landing. They are starting to carry sturgeon baits such as ghost shrimp, pile worms, and eel.

Sac Valley Geese
This writer along with a few good friends hooked up with Scott Feist for a field goose hunt on Sunday 1-18. We could NOT have wished, asked or prayed for much better weather. Conditions were perfect  with fog over the top at about 200 feet (the ceiling could have been a 100 feet higher) and viz below at about a mile wide and winds out of the south at 5 to 10 knots filling the silo socks.
We met Scott at 4:30 and by 6:30 had set 1200 silo socks in a HUGE private field he leases. We tucked into our field blinds and watched the dark turn to gray as we listened to geese barking in the distance. The first group that came through was silent and caught us off guard just after shooting time. We dropped four specks out of a group of 12 passing a tad wide but everyone knew it was "Game On". 
The next group was 20 that quickly became 200 as Scott called and their numbers built on every pass.  Scott finally said "Kill EM" (he never shouted take em) on the fourth pass and a dozen snows and specks dropped from the sky. Over the next three hours we had groups 2 to 100 + geese holding above the fog line and break through and working into the decoys. Scott did a great job of not just calling the groups back as into the spread but keeping us in check to not take them before they were finishing into the decoys. The flight slowed around 10 but we did get a few noncommittal big groups and a couple of small flocks that worked all the way in later in the morning. Final count was 62 geese for 8 guns. Lots of smiles and good eats for all.
The weather forecast calls for high winds next weekend and Scott has both Saturday the 24th and Sunday the 25th open. My advise to readers is to jump on this opportunity. Scott only offers hunts when he has both the weather and the geese in his clients favor. His late season (Mid February) goose hunts are currently sold out but he is taking names for a stand by list if anyone drops out. Let me know if you do, I will gladly fill your spot! 530 822-6314.


Sacramento River/Metropolitan Area:
Uncle Larry Barnes at Sacramento Pro Tackle reported Thursday 1-15, “The bite has been on and off at the Port of Sacramento, but the river has been dead.” A few oversized sturgeon have been caught and released at Knight’s Landing, but these appear to be resident holdover fish. They are working hard to get ghost shrimp, but they have lamprey eel and salmon roe in the shop.

Sacramento River/Verona:
Jack at Johnson’s Bait in Yuba City reported slow, but steady, sturgeon action on Thursday 1-15 from Knight’s Landing upriver to Colusa, and they will be receiving 2 buckets of ghost shrimp for the weekend. He touted cured ghost shrimp since it is tougher than live ghost shrimp, and the live shrimp will die within a few minutes in the fresh water. He added, “Combining the cured shrimp with a few nightcrawlers is the hot set up, and most of our anglers are using bait with nightcrawlers as the sturgeon in our area targeting the terrestrials after a rain.”
Feather: 
In the Feather River, stripers in the 15 to 20-pound range have been taken at night with black Bomber Long A’s cast from the shorelines, and some are fishing from the banks from the Outlet to the Afterbay as well as the normal shoreline locations of Shanghai Bend and Boyd’s Pump. The water level in the Feather remains ‘iffy at best’ for boaters.

Waterfowl:
Scott Feist with Feisty Guide Service has been putting his clients into big numbers of geese WHEN the weather cooperates. Scott has been posting some great pictures to his Facebook page and some great videos on Youtube of recent hunts. Scott only offers these speck and snow goose hunts when both the weather and birds are working in his favor. We will be joining in on the fun with a group of 6 of us hunting with Scott this coming Sunday. If the weather cooperates we are looking forward to another great time with the ever enthuistic  Scott. Both Delevan and Colusa shot over a 6 bird average on Wednesday 1- 14 with fog and light winds making for the best refuge hunt this season and last. Scott has only a couple of dates still open for speck and snow hunts on the many private properties he has leased.

Federal judge upholds restrictions on delta water shipments

By Bob Egelko
A federal appeals court Monday overruled objections by Central Valley farmers, water districts and a federal judge and upheld the government’s reduction of water shipments from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta in order to protect salmon, steelhead trout and other species. It was the second time this year that the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco had reversed a lower-court ruling and reaffirmed federally proposed restrictions on shipments by California’s two main water suppliers, the State Water Project and the federally run Central Valley Project. Water suppliers have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review the first ruling issued in March, which protected the endangered delta smelt.
Read full story from the SF Gate here

Dead in the Ditch: Valley Drainage Canals Often Fatal Detour for Salmon
Proposed fix delayed by state and federal water agencies’ inaction

Woodland, Calif. – Hundreds of large salmon have taken a wrong turn into dead-end drainage ditches in the Yolo Bypass where they will perish if not rescued by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. Born in freshwater, salmon travel to the ocean to mature and then return, swimming upstream to their natal streams to reproduce. Canals, levees, dams and other water infrastructure built by people interrupt migrations and are a major factor in the dramatic decline of Central Valley salmon species, many of which are now imperiled.
“The Department of Fish and Wildlife is doing great work to help these stranded fish. But the bottom line is that this is an avoidable problem,” said Jacob Katz of California Trout, a non-profit organization that advocates for the recovery of the state’s threatened native fish. “With a small amount of focused engineering work, we could solve this problem and keep these salmon on course. Then state staff could focus their time and energy on other pressing projects.”
Ensuring that these late-arriving salmon are saved and spawn successfully is particularly important this year due to the extended drought. Elevated river temperatures caused by drought are believed to have killed many of the salmon eggs laid earlier in the fall. Only now are temperatures in upriver spawning beds near Redding cooling enough to successfully hatch salmon eggs.
“Because of the drought, saving these fish is very important. They may represent our best chance at a future generation three years from now, when this year’s salmon hatchlings will reach maturity,” said Katz.
Salmon navigate largely by smell. Because the drainage water flowing out of the canals originates in the Sacramento River basin, it can confuse salmon, luring them into drainage ditches where they become stranded and die. The number of salmon lost each year is unknown because high muddy water in winter usually makes it hard to observe fish in the canals. This year, however, low water conditions are allowing DFW to trap the salmon and move them back to the Sacramento River to continue their spawning journey.
Fishing organizations, environmental advocates and agricultural interests have been urging state and federal agencies to make improvements that would help keep salmon in the main stem. Working together, local farmers, drainage districts and salmon advocates, including Cal Marsh and Farm, California Trout and the Golden Gate Salmon Association, have proposed a relatively easy fix to the canal system that would redirect the salmon back to the river and safety, averting this kind of expensive rescue effort in the future.
“Salmon straying into the Yolo Bypass and the Colusa Drain is clearly a large problem and it is in everybody’s interest to fix it. And making the necessary changes is not very complicated,” said local rice farmer and landowner John Brennan. “There are only two ways into the Colusa drainage system. Both can be engineered relatively quickly and economically to prevent fish straying.”
The California Department of Water Resources and US Bureau of Reclamation are the two agencies with primary responsibility to make improvements to the water management infrastructure to benefit salmon. Both agencies are working on a long term plan to restore more salmon-friendly habitat to the Yolo Bypass, where the canal and lost fish are located. These planning efforts are likely to take a decade or more to complete. In the meantime, efforts to upgrade the canal infrastructure and solve the immediate problem of salmon being falsely attracted into the drainage canals have suffered repeated delays.
“The state and federal agencies need to address this problem now,” said John McManus of the Golden Gate Salmon Association (GGSA), a coalition representing sport and commercial salmon fishermen.
The salmon being intercepted now are believed to be fall run, but federally endangered winter and spring run salmon also swim up the canals, often to their death. In 2013 an estimated 600 winter run salmon, the most endangered of the Central Valley salmon runs, swam into the canal. About half were captured by DFW and relocated to the river but none successfully reproduced.
“If that many adult winter run salmon were caught at sea, the National Marine Fisheries Service could have shut down the $1.4 billion dollar ocean salmon fishery,” said McManus of GGSA. “If 20 percent of the offspring from these adult fish were sucked into the Delta pumps, the National Marine Fisheries Service could be forced to shut down the Central Valley and State Water Projects which provide water to millions of Californians. There is simply no excuse for allowing this problem to persist as long as it has.”

Frequently Asked Questions:
Why does it matter if a few fish don’t manage to reproduce this year?
Salmon need cold water in order to successfully reproduce. California is in its fourth year of drought. Water levels are down and water temperatures are up. Most of the fall run has already spawned. The fish at the trap now are relatively late arrivals. Ensuring that they are saved and successfully spawn is particularly important because elevated river temperatures caused by drought are believed to have killed many of the salmon eggs laid earlier in the fall. Only now are temperatures in upriver spawning beds cooling enough to successfully hatch salmon eggs.

What effect has the drought had on overall salmon populations in the Central Valley?
Central Valley salmon runs are adapted to drought, and under natural conditions salmon would adapt by using the cold-water habitats where they are available. But human alteration of the valley, especially construction of dams which cut salmon off from cold water habitats and levees which limit food production on floodplains, has degraded the river habitats on which salmon depend. Many of the native Central Valley salmon runs are now imperiled.
How many fish have been caught and transported out of this canal to date this fall?
Over 500, mostly fall run Chinook salmon, have been captured at this one location alone in the last month. Many more are showing up each day. Endangered winter run Chinook salmon are expected to begin arriving in the coming months.

Where is the drainage canal in question located?
Beginning near Red Bluff and ending in the Delta, the network of flood protection and ag drainage canals stretches for over 100 miles down the west side of the Sacramento Valley. Attracted by the water flow coming down the canals, fish leave the Sacramento River and swim into the drainage system in the southern Yolo Bypass near Liberty Island. The trapping location, at Wallace Weir on Knaggs Ranch, is 30 miles north near the town of Woodland. If the trap is not in place, salmon can continue upstream into the Colusa Drain, a maze of ditches which extends approximately 80 miles north.

What fixes have been proposed to state and federal agencies that would prevent these types of wrong turns in the future?
Local stakeholders including drainage districts, environmental conservation organizations and farmers have long advocated for a upgrading the obsolete Wallace Weir with operable gates that would block salmon and sturgeon from swimming up the canals.

Why haven’t these improvements been made?
The improvement projects are relatively cheap and have no detractors or opponents. There has been a lack of political will to align the local, state and federal agencies needed to actually get something done and improve the situation on the ground. DWR and the BOR, as lead state and federal agencies, need to step up and build a permanent fix, rather than continue a cycle of perpetual planning.

DFW staff trap stray salmon out of drainage ditches in Yolo Bypass and ready them for relocation to the Sacramento River. Over 500 fish have been moved recently.


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