August 01, 2014    Headlines
 Sac Salmon Bite Slowly Improves

Sacramento River/Metropolitan Area:
Uncle Larry Barnes of Sacramento Pro Tackle reported few fish and fewer fishermen are trying for salmon in the area. He said, “The guys that normally would be fishing for salmon are holding off at the present time.” With a big push of huge four year old salmon showing up off the Golden Gate this past week fishing here will improve in about two to three weeks.

Upper Sacramento River:
Thursday 7-31 Larry at Phil’s Propellers in Redding reported that the flows on the Sacramento River are normally around 14000 cfs, but they are currently at 9800 at the Bend Bridge, leading the water temperatures to rise to 62 degrees at the Red Bluff Diversion Dam. A few boats are picking up chrome fish below the Diversion Dam, but it is definitely ‘hit or miss’ as the fish are moving rapidly through the system. The Barge Hole is loaded with salmon, and many are darkening up with the occasional fresh fish. He said, “The fish aren’t stopping until they get above the Bend Bridge.” As the fall run arrives fishing will pick up later in August.

Feather River:
Jack at Johnson’s Bait in Yuba City reported not much change in the past week with the flows dropping to 2600 cfs at Boyd’s Pump, making for difficult navigation. Boyd’s Pump is the only launch ramp that is viable with the low flows. A few chrome fish are landed near Shanghai Bend or at the Outlet, but the majority of salmon are holdover springers. Striped bass are abundant on the Feather, but 99% are undersized with the occasional bass to 30-inches taken on swimbaits or plastic worms.

Upper Sac, Red Bluff:
The boat pressure has been light and we are seeing an uptick in scores the past couple of days. On Monday 7-28 Dave Jacobs was back somewhere in the Red Bluff area and his two clients batted 1000. They hooked four kings, three on plugs and one on roe landing all four to 25 pounds. Pictured left is a bright 20 pound class from Monday.
On Tuesday 7-29 Dave had two boats out each with two clients and boat one went two for three and the other two fish out of three hooked. Dave says flows have dropped to a tad over 9000cfs and the fish are all bright fresh kings and not the darker fish that made up some of the catch last week. Dave is encouraged by the improved action after a very slow period after the opener when he felt lucky just to get a bite or two.
The better news is the the salmon bite has also broken open outside the Golden Gate and Bodega bay the past few days with the majority of the fish being big 20+ pound four year olds. These fish are beginning to make their move into the bay and should be arriving in the lower Sac in the next few weeks. 

Sacramento River Red Bluff to Colusa:
We are back from vacation to find that the local salmon opener ranged from decent to downright slow. On opening day a few boats picked up limits on the Feather with up to a fish per rod on the Sac. Since then it's been a pick at best with the top guides feeling lucky to hook more than a couple with three landed putting you in highliner status. On Saturday 7-26 we got a rundown of the past week's action from our sponsors. Dave Jacobs worked the Red Bluff section on Friday hooking two fish and landing this one pictured right. He reports the plug bite was working best most of the past week but they got this one on roe. Dave says he is metering a few scattered fish but overall "there just aren't that many fish in the system". He expects that they will see easy limits on August 1st when the upper river opens to fishing but after the first day or two be expects the action to drop off until fresh fish push up.
Scott Feist has been working a wide area of the river and says his clients are working hard to get a fish or two in the boat on some days with a few goose eggs in the mix. "It's going to get better but it all depends on how quickly those fish outside the Golden Gate push up".
We are still catching up on reports and will be adding updates throughout the weekend.

Sacramento River Salmon Opens July 16th
The 2014 Salmon season kicks off in one week on July 16th and recent increases in water releases off Shasta Dam make for a very promising opener. Currently on July 8th flows off Shasta dam have been increased to 10,000cfs. This pulse flow has created ideal conditions with water temps still holding at 58 degrees. These higher flows are likely due to an increase in salinity in the Delta as water managers try their best to manage storage for the future, water temps for fish and the risk of saltwater intrusion in the Delta.
The Sac below Red Bluff opens to fishing on July 16th with the upper river north of Red Bluff opening on August 1st. We are seeing good numbers of springers on both the Feather and Battle Creek and with the current highish flows (10K of Shasta, 7K at Hamilton City) the opener looks real promising.
Scott Feist will be scouting this week in the Chico area and has room in late July. Pictured left is Scott's new Willie that is one of the finest platforms in the Central Valley.
Guide Dave Jacobs is currently "playing" in Alaska and will also be running trips in July and has lots of room in August.
These higher flows should translate into great scores opening weekend and our sponsors can't wait to get out and see smiling clients and bent rods.

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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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