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June 16, 2018    Headlines

Spring Stripers

Delta Report
By Dave Hurley
Clyde Wands, shallow trolling expert, took out Dave Houston earlier in the week, and they found plenty of action for striped bass to 6 pounds in False River. Wands said, “It was very warm out there, and we got off the water by 12:30, but there was a lot of action. There was even one striper that hadn’t spawned yet, but the rest of them were skinny and spawned out. These are hard-fighting fish. There are still a number of stripers in the Delta.”
Hot Sheet Reader Mike Percey went fly fishing with Clowser Minnows on Wednesday 6-13 out of Big Break, and they caught and released around 100 striped bass with approximately 20 keepers in the 5 to 6-pound range along with a half-dozen largemouth bass.”
Randy Pringle, the Fishing Instructor, was on the Delta three times this week, and he said, “It was very hot one day, but the wind has returned. If you want to find action on topwater lures, you had to locate somewhere in which hiding from the wind was possible. The ima Rock N’Vibe Suspend is doing very well in the wind, and we are throwing the Rock N’Vibe along the banks on the high tide and the ima Pinjack crankbait outside of the weed line on the low tide. When there have been periods of flat calm, the topwater bite is good with the ima Little Stick and particularly the Heli P prop bait. Bluegill has been the top pattern as there are bluegill all over. We are working in the current, and you have to be around the current right now. The heavy Berkley General on a Zappu head along with the 6-inch Hit Worm in bluegill or anything with a chartreuse line also a good option. When the weather gets hot, the fish do one of two things: either hide in deep cover or go into deep water. The weeds in a number of locations in the Delta have been eradicated, and the food sources are dying with the weeds gone.
Dan Mathisen of Dan’s Delta Outdoors in Oakley reported a huge striped bass at 27 pounds was caught and released by Phil Lago on a glide bait in the San Joaquin River. He said, “There are still stripers to 30 inches taken on bait off of the Antioch Fishing Pier, and even pre-spawn largemouth bass on live minnows. The wind has been a limiting factor for the fleet of small tin boats that have been drifting bluegill for striped bass. The stripers do seem late. The largemouth bass bite has been best with buzzbaits or the River2Sea Whopper Plopper, and if the conditions calm down, the frog should work if you move it slow. The weather is expected to hold in the 80’s for the next week so the bite should stabilize.”

The summertime blues have arrived in the Sacramento-Delta, and fishing action has slowed down with the exception of a few small striped bass from the banks and the occasional American shad near Freeport. The triple-digit temperatures have signaled the start of the summer period where fishing action on the Delta is dominated by the warmer waters of the San Joaquin side. Sturgeon fishing remains solid for the few anglers working Suisun Bay with salmon roe, but most fishermen leave the area for the lure of bay fishing during the summer months.
On Monday 6-4 New Romeo’s Bait in Freeport reported the best shad fishing is taking place upriver at Miller Park or in the American River, but shad fishing is Freeport has slowed. Striped bass continue to be a possibility with blood worms, pile worms, or sardines coated with garlic spray, but the majority of the linesides are schoolies at best. Smallmouth bass is starting to heat up in the sloughs with small crankbaits, but the smallies are miniscule.
Clyde Wands, shallow trolling expert, will start targeting both stripers or smallies in the north Delta in the coming weeks.
Tony Lopez of Benicia Bait and Tackle reported small stripers on grass shrimp have been the story. He said, “We have plenty of grass shrimp in the shop.” 
The wind was the story early in the week on the San Joaquin side, but the weekend brought triple-digit temperatures to the Delta with a minimum of wind. Largemouth bass action is taking center stage, but there are still striped bass in the system, moving continuously. Bluegill are thick in the shallows in the south Delta.
Dan Mathisen of Dan’s Delta Outdoors in Oakley reported excellent striped bass action with linesides to 25 pounds on Optimum’s Bad Bubba Shad swimbaits west of Sherman Island. He said, “ The linesides are moving continually, and they can be found on the San Joaquin side of Sherman Island and along the Eddo’s Boat Harbor shoreline. Glide baits or topwater lures are working in the early mornings for the stripers. During our Dan’s Delta Outdoors Team Tournament on Saturday, there were limits over 20 pounds in the top three spots. Second-place finisher Mike Birch caught 40 fish punching Strike King’s Space Monkey on a 1- to 1.5-ounce weight as well as flipping. Most of our fishermen tossed topwater baits in the mornings, and the buzzbait bite has been excellent especially on the morning’s high tide. Chatterbaits in greenpumpkin with a chartreuse line along with topwater frogs are very good options as the bass are feeding on baitfish more than crawdads right now. The shad are going to the banks to spawn, and the Popper bite will be taking off.”
Alan Fong of the Fishermen’s Warehouse in Sacramento took Jason Kincannon out this week to toss his custom glidebaits for largemouth bass, and they hooked three quality bass before releasing them. Fong said, “Whopper Ploppers or frogs are also good options, and the water is in excellent shape.”
Clyde Wands, shallow trolling expert, said, “I will be taking one more trolling venture into the San Joaquin before switching over to combination trips in the north Delta for smallmouth and stripers, and our trip this week was pretty slow with a total of 4 keepers to 22 inches released. He said, “There are still fish out there, but you have to work for them.”
Luther Thompson of H and R Bait in Stockton said, “It has been pretty slow around here with the heat, but most of our fishermen are targeting bluegill in Whiskey Slough or Bacon Island with wax worms or red worms. Limits of bluegill and red ear perch are the rule, but striped bass fishing has been slow this week.”
The Wild West Bass Trails will be operating out of Big Break Marina this coming weekend, and this circuit traditionally draws over 100 boats so expect crowded conditions in the south and central Delta this coming weekend.

As fish disappear, Trump administration seeks to pump more California water south



The Trump administration, teeing up a fight with California regulators, is trying to pump more water through the fragile Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to the southern half of the state despite fresh evidence of the estuary’s shrinking fish population.
A proposal by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to “maximize water deliveries” represents the administration’s first concrete effort to make good on a promise Donald Trump made while campaigning for the presidency in Fresno, where he vowed to deliver more water to San Joaquin Valley farmers and derided protections for endangered fish species.
Trump’s water plan is likely to meet stiff resistance from California officials, who relish fighting the president and spent much of 2017 battling his administration over air pollution, climate change, immigration and a slew of other issues. Experts said the state’s Endangered Species Act and other laws should provide California with ample ammunition to complicate Trump’s efforts to move more water through the Delta.
Reclamation’s proposal, outlined in a regulatory notice last Friday, would bring long-lasting changes to the Central Valley Project, the water network built during Franklin Roosevelt’s administration. The notice said various state and federal regulations have “significantly reduced the water available for delivery south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.” As a result, the bureau said it will “evaluate alternatives that maximize water deliveries.”
Agricultural districts in the San Joaquin Valley, which comprise the bulk of the Central Valley Project’s customers, welcomed the proposal as a long overdue counterweight to years of stifling restrictions on water pumping.
“In the end, what’s being discussed is ensuring that people and farmers and farmworkers have water,” said deputy general manager Johnny Amaral of the influential Westlands Water District in Fresno and Kings counties. “Pretty simple concept. After all, that’s why the CVP was built, to do that very thing.”
Fresno City Councilman Steve Brandau, who has rented billboards in his city urging Trump to scale back fish protections, said he’s optimistic the president is going to bring more water to the Valley.
“I think the president is hearing from people from the Central Valley,” said Brandau, who grew up in a farm town near Fresno. His billboards featured a picture of Trump and the message, “Mr. President, we need: 1. Water 2. Dams 3. Fish.” The word “fish” is crossed out in red.
Change won’t occur overnight. Reclamation spokeswoman Erin Curtis said the bureau will spend the next year conducting environmental reviews and will “start a dialogue with all of the stakeholders,” including state and federal environmental agencies.
Environmentalists quickly objected to the bureau’s plan, saying it violates a federal law that requires the agency to give equal weight to fish and wildlife when it operates the Central Valley Project. “The science says we need to reduce diversions (from the Delta) and increase protections,” said attorney Doug Obegi of the Natural Resources Defense Council in San Francisco. “The Trump administration is saying damn the fish and damn the rivers and let’s get more water to Westlands.”
The Trump administration’s plan comes at a crucial moment for the Delta, the nexus of California’s complicated north-to-south water delivery system.
Gov. Jerry Brown’s $17 billion plan to build twin tunnels beneath the Delta is in jeopardy because of funding problems. Brown says the tunnels, by rerouting how water flows through the estuary, would help solve never-ending conflicts between fish and water supplies. As it stands now, the pumps are often restricted in order to protect Delta smelt and other endangered fish species, allowing more water to flow out to the ocean.
Fish populations are dwindling in spite of those restrictions, and there are fresh signs that the problems are getting worse. Last week the California Department of Fish and Wildlife disclosed that its regular fall survey of the Delta’s waters turned up a total of two smelt, the lowest in the survey’s 50-year history. The survey is further evidence that the smelt, which once numbered in the millions, are nearing extinction.
Many valley farmers have long argued that the government’s operations in the Delta favor fish over agriculture, and some have little sympathy for the plight of the smelt. Trump, while campaigning in Fresno in 2016, belittled efforts to “protect a certain kind of 3-inch fish,”and some farmers are celebrating the proposal to increase pumping.

“GOOD RIDDANCE! ‘PEOPLE OVER FISH’” prominent Valley farmer Mark Borba said in a Facebook post Monday.

The smelt survey results were noteworthy because they followed the wettest winter in Northern California history, which should have yielded higher smelt numbers. The last time Northern California had a wet winter, in 2011, the fall survey found 343 smelt, up from 29 the year before. Now California is facing the prospect of a dry winter, which could create more environmental stress on the Delta.
Environmentalists say revving up the Delta pumps could do more harm to the estuary, and its fish.
“I don’t know that they’re going to find a lot of extra water without doing violence,” said Jay Lund, director of UC Davis’ Center for Watershed Sciences.
Lund and UC Davis water law expert Richard Frank said the State Water Resources Control Board, which oversees water rights in the Delta, has the authority to make sure all pumping operations – including those conducted by the U.S. government – comply with the state’s environmental protection laws.
The water board, controlled by Gov. Jerry Brown’s appointees, is already holding hearings on proposals that would significantly reduce pumping in order to improve the Delta’s water quality – a move that would fly in the face of Trump’s efforts.
“The state has … a great deal of ability to protect what it sees as the environmental interests,” Lund said. Officials with the state water board didn’t return messages seeking comment.
Obegi said the state has other powers as well. The federal Central Valley Project Improvement Act, signed into law by the first President George Bush, directs Reclamation to obey California’s environmental laws, he said.
The Trump administration’s pumping proposal is a response to an effort begun in August 2016 by the National Marine Fisheries Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which oversee protections for Delta fish, to re-examine decade-old rules that govern pumping operations. When that effort was begun, the Obama administration was still in office and it was widely assumed that the two agencies would strengthen protections for the fish, possibly at the expense of water deliveries.
The Trump proposal also is a response to a controversial law signed by President Barack Obama in late 2016, called the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act. The law directs pump operators to “maximize water supplies for the Central Valley Project and the State Water Project.”
The law is short on details. It also creates additional protections for the Delta’s ecosystem, according to Obegi.
Those protections are contained in the intricacies of how the state and federal governments work in tandem to run water through the Delta. If the state believes the federal government is violating California Endangered Species Act protections by increasing pumping, it’s obliged to reduce its own State Water Project pumping activities, according to Obegi. At the same time, the law signed by Obama in 2016 says the federal government can’t do anything that would force the State Water Project to reduce its water deliveries.
The upshot, Obegi said, is the state could use the Obama law to try to prevent the Trump administration from ramping up pumping activities. But he said there’s so much wiggle room in all of the relevant laws that it isn’t clear whether California would succeed in thwarting Trump’s plan.
“It’s got the potential to be a pretty chaotic year,” Obegi said.

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