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Major changes in striper fishing coming soon

Sierra lakes are in prime condition for ice fishing
By: George deVilbiss/Special to Gold Country News Service
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Several anglers will remember the good old days, when a search of stripers would mean three on the “stringer” to take home.

With what was deemed a declining population, however, the limit was changed to two daily. And, size limitation increased from 16 inches to 18.

While stripers are considered a favored target for Northern California anglers, including myself, what must be remembered is that striped bass aren’t native to California. The first stripers, a grand total of 132 fingerlings shipped by train from New Jersey, were introduced in California in 1879, when they were planted in San Francisco Bay.

Those 132, plus another 300 three years later, were the proud parents of the tens of thousands that today inhabit northern rivers and bays and even coastal ocean waters.

And the rest is history.

The downside of stripers is that they have a voracious appetite. In ocean waters, they feed on schools of anchovy. No real problem there, with the exception that they may compete for the same food source as do native fish, such as Chinook and Silver salmon.

It’s when striped bass migrate into river waters that they chomp on foodstuffs that may have detrimental effects.

When salmon spawn in rivers – or even hatcheries – and those little babies try to make their way to ocean waters, the big mouths of stripers are inhaling them by the tens of thousands.

The Department of Fish and Game has tried trucking them closer to the ocean and releasing them in areas like Suisun Bay, but the stripers waited for the baby salmon to be released into open water. Stripers are blamed, in part, for the serious decline in salmon numbers.

Another fishery, albeit not a game fish, is the Delta Smelt, another native to California. Their numbers also have plummeted with striped bass taking the blame for chomping on too many of these small fish.

A lawsuit filed in 2008 by the Coalition for a Sustainable Delta is going to be heard in a federal court on March 17 in Fresno. The Coalition is mainly comprised of large farm irrigation districts that want additional waters from the Delta, and critics claim additional water diversions also kill endangered species in the pumps in Tracy.

However, just about everybody is expecting the DFG to soon overhaul the striped bass fishery.

Some years ago, fishery regulations radically changed for landlocked stripers in places like New Hogan Reservoir, where an angler may keep up to 10 stripers and there is no size limit.

Today, in Delta, bay or ocean waters, a striper must be a minimum of 18 inches with a daily bag limit of two fish.

What is expected to come down the pipe is that the minimum size will be eliminated and the bag limit will be greatly expanded.

Correction from last week
If you read last week’s column about how to fish for sturgeon, the size limit for sturgeon was listed as 46-inch minimum, 60-inch maximum.

Oops. The maximum size of a sturgeon to be retained is 66 inches.

Current fishing
While rain is still hitting the north state, along with snow in the higher-elevation regions, the severity of the storms has decreased. That should mean better weather is just over the horizon. More sunshine. More clear sky. And warmer.

That equates to some of the best fishing times in California.

Sierra: The high-elevation lakes are in prime shape for great ice fishing, and most are producing quite well. Red Lake and Caples Lake have shown awesome rod-bending opportunities with most anglers coming away with easy limits.

Boca and Prosser Reservoirs have always been popular lakes to bore holes through the ice. They’re easily accessible and generally show good success.

Now that Northern Pike no longer are an issue at Lake Davis, those boring holes through the ice are stringing up nice ’bows with the best action near the dam.

For the most part, use any common bait – salmon eggs, Power Bait, night crawlers – on a drop sinker rig near the bottom. Keep adjusting until you get regularly bit.

However, don’t discount lures. Trolling a lure through a hole in the ice isn’t an option, but you can drop the lure and jig it with a high degree of success.
If you’ve never tried ice fishing, go. It really is a blast.

Contact George deVilbiss at GeorgesColumn@aol.com.