State to declare war on stripers?

By: J.D. Richey Journal Outdoors Columnist
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Do yourselves a favor and sell your jet sled or bass boat as fast as you can. Ditch all those high modulus rods, expensive fly lines and cavernous boxes of lures. Do it quick — while they’re still worth something. You see, the way things are going all you’re going to need is a cane pole and a can of corn. That’s all it takes to catch suckerfish — which are about all we’re going to be able to fish for in the not-so-distant future. First it was our salmon. Now, stripers may be headed for the brink thanks to recently introduced Assembly Bill 1253, which basically declares war on California striped bass. If passed, the AB 1253, introduced by Assemblywoman Jean Fuller, R-Bakersfield last Friday, would lift fishing restrictions on striped bass, which are non-native to California. The rationale is stripers are invasive, apex predators that devour endangered fish such as Delta smelt, winter-run Chinook salmon and the soon to be listed longfin smelt. By allowing for anarchy-style fishing (no size or bag limits), striper populations could be severely effected by over-harvest, resulting in yet another opportunity lost for the state’s anglers. In addition, the bill would cancel any revenue raised by the Bay-Delta Sport Fishing Enhancement Stamp that was slated for striped bass recovery. “This bill is just trying to strike a balance,” Fuller said. “The state’s water system is failing and we are taking all these steps to alleviate the impact on endangered fish, which has a major effect on people up and down the state that don’t have enough water.” And there’s the rub. It’s all about the water. She’s throwing stripers under the bus when the real problem with the Delta system is a lack of water. If you need any more proof of that, just look at who’s backing the bill — the Modesto Irrigation District and the Kern County Water Agency. Kinda says it all doesn’t it? There’s no denying that striped bass eat untold thousands of salmon and smelt. But so too do largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, spotted bass, black and white crappie, channel catfish and a whole host of other non-native species. Are we going to try to get rid of them all, too? Plus, before we started exporting record amounts of water out of the Delta in recent years, you never heard much talk about the so-called “striper problem.” Stripers (and all those other invasive species I just mentioned) have co-existed with salmon and smelt for 150 years. The massive, record-high water diversions have come about only over the past few years. Is it a coincidence that so many fisheries are suddenly in dire straits? I think not… We aren’t addressing the issues here, people, and by doing that we will see the decline of all our fisheries. Hope those suckerfish can hang on…