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Environmentalists oppose increasing bass fishing limits

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POSTED August 24, 2016 12:10 a.m.

A push to reduce the population of the non-native bass in the Delta to protect endangered fish is being opposed by a group that wants to save salmon.
The Golden Gate Salmon Association plans to argue against a petition to increase the daily bag limit for bass fishing in the Delta and reducing the fish size limit when it is presented to the Department of Fish and Game Commission Thursday during a meeting at the Lake Natoma Inn Hotel & Conference Center in Folsom.
The coalition of fishermen and environmentalists disagree with a 2011 State Department of Fish and Game report that points to the enormous appetite of striped bass as part of the reason for the decline of endangered fish ranging from the Delta smelt and Chinook salmon to the Central Valley steelhead.
The South San Joaquin Irrigation District and Oakdale Irrigation District are among those supporting the petition.
The GGSA believes increased water is the answer to increase the population of engendered fish species.
The requested fishing regulation changes are as follows:
uBLACK BASS: Decrease the size limit from 12 inches to 8 inches while increasing the daily bag limit from 5 fish to 10 fish.
uSTRIPED BASS: Decrease the size limit from 18 inches to 12 inches while increasing the daily bag limit from 2 fish to 6 fish.
The Coalition for a Sustainable Delta notes the predation of the endangered native salmon, steelhead and smelt by non-native species is “well documented” and is a major contributing factoring to their dwindling numbers. They cite a 2011 Department of Fish and Game report that concluded “studies of striped bass feeding habits indicate they consume an enormous volume of fish, overlap in their geographic range with the listed species (the endangered Delta smelt, Chinook salmon, and Central Valley steelhead), and have historically consumed listed species, at times in very substantial quantities.”
 Studies by Fishbio biologists of the Stanislaus River reaffirm the DFG’s conclusion about the impact non-native fish are having on endangered fish species.
Experts for the coalition have noted water policies involving the Delta put in place in 2003 set the stage for the steady decline of threatened species in the Delta.  Since then state regulators have narrowly focused on increased flows and water pumping restrictions while essentially ignoring predation.
SSJID General Manger Peter Rietkerk has noted that a lot of water has been committed during the drought to help fish with no positive results.
A similar measure was killed in 2008 out of fear it ultimately would kill sports fishing.
“The science clearly shows that this petition is folly and the real problem for salmon is a lack of Central Valley runoff needed to inundate rearing areas and safely move baby salmon to the ocean,” said GGSA executive director John McManus in a press release. 
The sport fishing industry has as many as 112 bass fishing tournaments annually in the Delta. Some of the purses run as high as $100,000.
The petition is based on proactive actions taken by other western states. In recent years, Washington and Oregon have both utilized the approach to reduce the impacts of predation. The Columbia River, running through both Washington and Oregon, is home to federally endangered salmon and steelhead populations that are preyed upon by non-native bass, walleye, and catfish. Removal of size and bag limits of these predators was first implemented by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission in 2015, and more recently approved by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife in coordination with Washington’s efforts to protect endangered salmon and steelhead.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife is in the process of evaluating scientific predation research.

To contact Dennis Wyatt, email dwyatt@mantecabulletin.com

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