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Dept. of Fish and Game Proposes More Lenient Striped Bass Rules

December 2011

More and smaller striped bass can be caught by Delta fishermen if a proposal from the Department of Fish and Game (DFG) is adopted. The changes are aimed at addressing the impact striped bass have on threatened fish species such as salmon and smelt.

Carl Wilcox, the Bay Delta manager for the (DFG), explained the proposed changes to the Delta Stewardship Council during its November meeting.

“By enacting these regulations we would reduce the predatory pressure on listed species, whether they are salmon or smelt,” Wilcox explained to the Council, adding that the Commission will decide in February if the new regulations will be put in place.

The Council asked for the presentation so it could craft a formal comment letter that will be submitted to the Fish and Game Commission, the body that will ultimately decide if the new regulations are set in stone. The Council will vote on a draft of a letter to the DFG at its December meeting.

DFG’s draft proposal, released on Nov. 4, recommends the following changes to striped bass sport fishing regulations that would allow additional harvest, including:

• Raising the daily bag limit for striped bass from two to six fish.

• Raising the possession limit for striped bass from two to 12 fish.

• Lowering the minimum size for striped bass from 18 to 12 inches.

• Establishing a "hot spot" for striped-bass fishing at Clifton Court Forebay and specified adjacent waterways at which the daily bag limit would be 20 fish, the possession limit would be 40 fish, and there will be no size limit. Clifton Court Forebay is the reservoir associated with the Harvey O. Banks Pumping Plant in the south Delta, part of the State Water Project.

Council Chair Phil Isenberg understood the intent of the proposed changes, but wondered what kind of success measures DFG will put in place if the changes are approved.

“Does the Department of Fish and Game have a goal after ‘x’ amount of years to determine success?” Isenberg asked. “Can we quantify it and put a date on it so everyone can say with some certainty, ‘Well it worked or it didn’t work?’”

Wilcox said there isn’t a clearly defined measure of success yet, but DFG would evaluate the impact of the new regulations as they are put into effect, and there are multiple tools to evaluate the effect.

“It would take a minimum of 5-10 years before you could do a real analysis of what is going on,” Wilcox added.

Council member Hank Nordhoff echoed Isenberg’s success measure question. “I agree with Phil. Make it explicit. Say what your goals are and make it quantifiable. And think of the downside as well,” he said.

Council Vice Chair Randy Fiorini urged the Council to recommend a stressor fee in its comment letter to the Fish and Game Commission. Fiorini explained it could come in the form of a bass tag to pay for the adaptive management program.

Executive Officer Joe Grindstaff explained to the Council how the draft comment will be framed. “The letter will address two things: first, that the Commission should take up this issue and consider the regulation; second that the Commission should make the regulation rely on an adaptive management program that has quantifiable parameters,” Grindstaff said.

Isenberg ended the discussion with some sympathy for the decision at hand for the Fish and Game Commission and called on science to take priority.

“We are talking about an immensely complicated, inter-connected system that’s hard to measure,” Isenberg said. “But because this is a tool in a larger political debate, if this is to be science then I want it to be science, not just politics, on all sides of the issue.”

The proposal and management plan will be presented to the Fish and Game Commission for consideration at its Dec. 14-15, 2011 meeting in San Diego, CA.

The draft DFG striped bass regulation changes are available here.

Coequal goals

The Delta Stewardship Council was created in legislation to achieve the state mandated coequal goals for the Delta. "'Coequal goals' means the two goals of providing a more reliable water supply for California and protecting, restoring, and enhancing the Delta ecosystem. The coequal goals shall be achieved in a manner that protects and enhances the unique cultural, recreational, natural resource, and agricultural values of the Delta as an evolving place." (CA Water Code §85054)