DFG to reconsider striper regulations

By: J.D. Richey Journal Outdoors Columnist
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Well, here we go… I can’t believe that it’s come to this, but on Tuesday, Nov. 8, the California Department of Fish and Game will hold a public workshop in Rio Vista to review proposed regulations changes that very well could ruin one of the most popular sport fisheries in the state: striped bass. While the DFG hasn’t yet released the specifics of the proposal, the basic gist is they are planning to increase bag and possession limits, while reducing the minimum size limit for stripers… in an attempt to trim the herd. The Cliff’s Notes version of this story goes like this: Stripers are non-native apex predators that feed on, among other things, juvenile salmon, steelhead and Delta smelt. There’s no denying that stripers do indeed eat plenty of them but it’s very difficult to precisely quantify the overall effect of the predation. In fact, one could easily argue that the three species have coexisted nearly 200 years and when we had epic salmon returns back in the early and mid 2000’s, the striper populations were also solid. Upon closer inspection, the recent declines in salmon, stripers and smelt seem to be on the same curve — an indication that whatever ails the fish is much more related to water quality than anything else. It’s funny, then (but not surprising) that a couple years back, the Coalition for a Sustainable Delta (a group featuring plenty of southern growers and irrigators), sued the DFG under the federal Endangered Species Act, basically saying that striped bass are the root of all the Delta’s problems… not the massive water diversions that have been sucking the life out of the system. Again, there’s no doubt that stripers do their fair share of damage, but isn’t it odd that they are suddenly the evil culprits that are wiping out the native fishes of the Delta? Did the stripers get together and decide that they were going to step up their predation efforts over the past couple of years? And if we are going to manage the striper fishery to reduce their numbers, we’d better do the same for largemouth, smallmouth, spotted and redeye bass, bluegill, redear sunfish, green sunfish, all the catfish, white and black crappie, carp, brown trout (and more) — all non-native predators that surely also target indigenous species. Seems to me that we maybe should look a little deeper, and instead of wasting time and money on worrying about stripers, let’s instead address the habitat issues within the Delta and river complex. No amount of tinkering with the fishing regulations can prevent the epic collapse of Delta fisheries that appears to be coming in the not-so-distant future. Meeting time/location Well, that’s my two cents-worth anyway. If you’d like to hear what the DFG has to say on this issue, head down to the Rio Vista City Hall on Tuesday at 7 p.m. The word on the street, though it has not yet been confirmed, is that there may be a venue change. The latest unofficial info I have is the meeting will be at Portugese Hall in Rio Vista, but you may want to call Kirsten Macintyre, DFG Communications, (916) 322-8988 before you head down. J.D. Richey is a 1986 Placer High graduate whose outdoors pieces have been published nationally. Find him online at