FISH FOR TOMORROW: Helping Ourselves to Create a Better Fishery

By: Orlando Campos, Norcalkat

Striped Bass Roots

Striped Bass in the San Francisco Bay Area were first introduced to our waters in 1879.  They were brought over by train and released into the Delta system, where they have thankfully, flourished.  At one time, there was a commercial fishery for Striped Bass between the years of 1889 to 1935.  They banned commercial fishing for Striped Bass when they realized the decline in the size of the biomass due to overfishing.  Since then, they have kept them as a gamefish and have they thrived in our waters for years along side our native species of fish.

“Fishing was good, REAL good!  Salmon and Striped Bass were in abundance and anglers were able to catch both species from the beach.”

Orlando Campos, Norcalkat

The Striped Bass fishery was at its best in the 60’s to 80’s, anglers with the know-how and experience caught multiple 30-40 lb fish.  Fishing became so competitive, anglers would swim out to the middle rocks along the Pacifica coast to get an edge over everyone that fished from the beach.  Fishing was good, REAL good!  Salmon and Striped Bass were in abundance and anglers were able to catch both species from the beach.

Photo Credit: Orlando Campos

Troubled Waters

The great fishery began to change with the creation of the California Aqueducts, a system created to provide water to arid areas in Southern California.  Once they discovered they can use that water to make farms in areas that would normally be classified as desert land, it became a water grab.  They take so much water that a lot of the Striped Bass and other species, get sucked into this system.  The fish that get stuck in the aqueduct system will never return to our local waters.  The aqueduct system is why you find land locked Striped Bass in lakes like Lake Del Valle, San Luis Reservoir,  Lake Castaic, Pyramid Lake and Diamond Valley Lake.  With the biomass being sucked into a new system, it is hard for these fish to establish themselves as they get broken up many times throughout the years.

There is a good documentary on Netflix called “Water & Power – A California Heist” that I highly recommend.  They have made groups to spread lies about how Striped Bass and Largemouth Bass are the sole cause of the Salmon population decline.  They seem to forget that fish need water to spawn and that the 60’s to 80’s, Salmon and Striped Bass thrived side by side.

I don’t expect Fish and Wildlife to make any changes any time soon due to the pressure they are getting from the big agriculture industry that have lot’s of money at their disposal and push to take more water from our delta system.   The fishery has changed but the regulations haven’t.

How We Can Help

Our current regulation states any Striped Bass over 18 inches is legal.  That 18 inch Striped Bass, if female, has not even reached the age of maturity and has not had a chance to spawn.  A female Striped Bass does not reach maturity until it is approximately 24 inches and from there, she will only spawn once every 3 to 4 years.  That is why the legal size fish on the east coast is 28 inches.  That guarantees the female fish has had at least one opportunity to spawn and sustain their fishery.  For example, a 50 inch Striped Bass has probably only spawned 4 times in her 18 year life span.  Bigger females produce more eggs and pass on better big fish genetics, which is something we all want.  That is why us as anglers need to take care of our own fishery and educate our future anglers.

“When I hook a Striped Bass, my goal is to keep the fight as short as possible to not over exhaust the fish.”

Orlando Campos, Norcalkat
Photo Credit: Orlando Campos

I know everyone wants to keep a fish for the table or to show to our families and friends of our success.  If that is your case, I ask that you keep our 18 inch to 28 inch fish to take home.  Fish in that size range are most likely to be male.  Our bigger fish, 34 inches and above, are going to almost always be female, so please practice proper catch and release methods on these fish.

When I hook a Striped Bass, my goal is to keep the fight as short as possible to not over exhaust the fish.  This will improve its chance of survival upon release.  I feel having proper gear is important to achieve this goal and land fish efficiently while still enjoying the drug we all know as the tug.  I can land a Striped Bass under 1 to 2 minutes at times, and prefer to keep the fight under 5 minutes.  If possible, keep the fish in the water or at least in the wet sand area.  Dry sand removes the fish’s protective coat.  Unhook the fish, and if time allows, get a quick picture with a nice fish, while supporting it by the belly with one hand.  If you want to know the weight of the fish, I have included a chart so you can see what the estimated weight of your fish is based on size.  I usually draw a line in the sand from head to tail and release the fish and come back and measure my line.  Try not to keep the fish out of the water too long.  There have been a number of times I have skipped the picture and released the fish back into the water.  Your safety is the most important so please make sure you are being safe while releasing the fish.

“If possible, keep the fish in the water or at least in the wet sand area.  Dry sand removes the fish’s protective coat.  Unhook the fish, and if time allows, get a quick picture with a nice fish, while supporting it by the belly with one hand. “

I hope you gained some insight on our fishery and why we need to work together to do what’s best for our fishery and pay it forward to so someone else can enjoy a nice catch now and for years to come. 

 Tight lines everyone!

About the Author:

Orlando Campos is the owner of Norcalkat. Follow him on Instagram, watch his You Tube Videos or visit his Facebook account.


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