By Boots Johnson
The Fish and Game Commission made a ruling on February 21st which could be the beginning of the end for the striped bass population in California. The commission brought up the striped bass policy, was seconded and voted on and became law without any comments from a small group of people who wanted to protest this change like the past huge meetings of people who previously attended meeting on the striped bass controversy.
The new policy amends the 1996 striped bass policy which committed the state to maintain one million striped bass in the Delta and all waterways connected to same.
Striped bass are not a native fish in California. The species was introduced to California, from the east coast, in 1879. They were transported by rail and were planted in the Pacific Ocean near Martinez. Not all the small minnows survived the trip across the country, but those who did survive took off quickly in their new environment growing in size and the striper population burst wide open.
Since their introduction in the west fish have been planted in various reservoirs in California. The fish has been a popular target for anglers due to their size, fighting ability, table fare and aggressive behavior. In addition, these fish are regarded as a predator which controls the trach fish population of any water they live in. The predator part of these fish is one of the subjects being discussed which pertain to both salmon and steelhead smolts (small minnows) planted each spring in ln local rivers.
These small minnows will orientate themselves, form schools and start the long journey to the Delta and beyond. On their way downstream they will encounter many challenges which include hungry striped bass, both resident fish and those which are drawn up stream from the smell of all those little guys. It is also true that the striped bass eat their share but other fish in the system, such as small and largemouth bass, catfish (yes, large catfish will attack and eat small fish) squawfish and other fish who show predator abilities also take a toll on the salmon and steelhead smolts.
Let us face one fact………..fish eat fish, even their own species. The eventual removal of striped bass in California waters will not stop the reduction of planted salmon and steelhead caused by aggressive and predator fish that remain in the system and have been a part of this state for a long, long time. Besides, the striped bass fishery is a boom to California’s economy, from the bait shops to the motel and hotels, professional guides, eatery’s and beyond. The removal or drastically reduction of the striped bass population in California would be a financial disaster to all.
Closing thought: “Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human race.”