Could a $5 a head fish bounty program bring a truce to California’s water wars?
It is an out-of-the-box solution rooted in three facts.
•There are a number of non-native predatory fish species in the Delta that are impacting salmon and steelhead population.
•The Delta - in its current form - is a manmade creation and not natural.
•The population of native fish plays a pivotal role in shaping the state’s water policy.
Some critics contend the Department of Fish & Game’s emphasis on cultivating a bass fishing industry in the Delta is detrimental to the economic health of California and the survival rate of salmon and steelhead.
They cite studies - including estimates by state biologists - showing non-native predators consume between 18 and 50 percent of the native fish population.
If the population of predators is reduced and the number of salmon and steelhead rebounds, it would alter the landscape of California water politics. If native fish can survive in greater numbers by reducing the ranks of predators imported by man, then it could allow changes in water diversion for farm and agricultural uses.
That, in turn, would reduce pressure to build more massive reservoirs to keep up with California’s insatiable demand for water.
A bounty program would be fairly straight forward. If bass prove to be one of the key culprits, the state would need to allow bass fishing year round with no limits. Then they would need to put in place a bounty program where authorized bait stores are contracted to serve as agents of the state.
For every bass a customer brings in, they would receive $5. The head would be cut off and the rest of the fish returned to the angler.
They get money and food while the store gets a commission from the state much like how the lottery operates.
Funding of the program wouldn’t be too hard to come by.
Irrigation districts and urban water works that would benefit from the end result would probably be more than happy to cover the cost.
It also would create “jobs” as a fisherman could easily generate a reasonable amount of money.
In the noise we make over water in California we forget that there is water flowing in the Delta in large amounts in early October because of the vast reservoirs and levee system put in place by man. Without it, the last three years of drought we had would have dried up much other Delta and killed off even more fish than are caught in the massive pumps that send water south to farms and urban users.
We also forget that non-native species can severely upset the balance.
It makes more sense to try a fish bounty program than once again going down the Peripheral Canal path now being carefully touted as a “conveyance” system around the Delta.
Besides, a $5 a head fish bounty is certainly more cost effective than a $6 billion dam.