The Rightous Indignation of some Fly Fisherman and the ZERO day

Went out today;  got nuthin’.   “Had fun though”.   My cousin once said that’s what guys who cant catch fish say.  I agree.  The Lake is low and the water is warm.  I think the stripers are schooled up deep in over 80 feet of water (Portugeese Bay and along the dam).    Its time to hit the lake at 4AM if you want to hit the window of oportunity to catch them in the shallower waters.

Last week a fly fisherman caught a 32 lbr and at least 18 other fish  off the rocks of the dam near Romero at 9 In the morning. Today at 9, I threw everything I had at the rocks including plastics and plugs and got nothing. In fact,  I checked around and nobody I spoke with or saw did well that day. San Luis is a finicky lady and and some times, in what seems ideal conditions, it doesnt give up any of its fish to anyone including the meatpackers.  Even Len Bearden said that about fishing in the GLORY DAYS.   I met a local bait fisherman who lives in Santa Nella who was too worried about the wind to launch. I had seen his boat before,  he had a Lowrance HDS5 with side sonar on his old boat and he told me he fished the lake twice and sometime more a week for years.   He fishes anchovies, bait and  minnows.   We exchanged phone numbers and he headed over to the forebay while I fished the lake. I think I made a new local friend that I can call to check conditions.

Im going out on a limb to say that it is my opinion that the lakes fish populations are not being effected by meat fishermen.  First of all,  for the size of the lake, there is relatively low fishing pressure.  A crowded day for me is when I cant move along a shoreline that I like without encroaching on a bait fisherman and those days are rare and I fish mainly weekends and Mondays.   Yes ,  there is fishing 24 hours a day,  but with fees for night fishing this is even on the downswing. The  real threat to the fish populations in SL is the flow of water in and out of the lake. In  general, I don’t see local bait fisherman catch and kill more than their allotted two fish although I do remember witnessing and turning in poachers who killed large amounts of small stripers in the 70 and 80s–ice chests full. Of course there are poachers, but it seems to me that even the bait fishermen want San Luis to be a sustainable fishery and kill only what they are allowed to.  My opinions are influence by my conversations with locals who fish the lake almost daily for food.  The only real authorities on the conditions at San Luis are the locals who fish it daily, and the biologist who count the fish–Park Rangers in general know nothing other than how many people paid to get into the lake that day and they don’t know anything about who walked in on the other side.  According to these locals who basically live on the lake, there are still lots of large fish in the lake and the fishing is influenced by the conditions in the Delta. Most fly fishermen from San Jose are not as in touch with the temperament of the lake as the locals who fish it daily and in all weather.  There will always be baitfishermen who will catch their limit but I see no reason for flyfisherman in their righteous indignation blaming bait fishermen or fly fisherman who kill and consume fish within the regulations,  for the “demise” of San Luis Reservoir.  Limits are set by scientist to make sportfish like stripers, sustainable. Based on my personal  marine biology education at Davis, setting limits in sportfishing is a complex science that takes into consideration the annual fluxuations in fish populations in nature without harvest.  Just like Game Management.   The limits imposed are working in San Luis.  Limits take into consideration the estimated loss to poaching as well and without them there would be no fishing at all, not even catch and release.  Still–kill the poachers.

If you really want to get mad at someone, dont blame fish eaters. Besides, if you eat to much stripers from the Delta,  you will die of mercury poisoning anyways.  Darwin will weed out the poachers.

Blame the DFG for not monitoring the fish popluation and modifing regulations
Blame the Park Rangers for not patrolling and enforcing regs
Blame the SCVWD for drawing the water down so low
Blame the SCVWD for restricting us from fishing the dam with ridiculous rules that we have no platform to change.
Blame Poloticians for sending too much Delta Water to Southern California.

Stripers are a hardy and prolific species and adapt to their environment.  They are not going to be eradicated by sportsfishing pressure especially with the conservative 2 fish limits imposed.  Trying to fish the stripers to extincion in California when water conditions are ideal would be near impossible even with zero limits. In recent hearings considering eradication of stripers by raising the limit to 10 fish,  several biologist felt that even this would still be ineffective in erradicating stripers in order to protect the salmanoids.  Also,  San Luis is not a closed system,  there are many habitats between San Luis Reservoir and the ocean that are unfished or are unfishable including miles of aquaducts and river inlets that act as reservoirs for small stripers. For instance, I have caught stipers in Anderson and Calero Reservoir and this year there were huge schools of stripers in the mouth of the Pajaro River.  The stripers today at San Luis are so deep and away from the shoreline that I dont believe that the baitfisherman without boats can get to them until fall.

It is ridiculous to ostracize a fly fisherman who kills an occasional fish and eats what he catches.  Especially fly fishermen who release way more than they kill.  In a  Brazillian Release Mortality Study, it was estimated that 3-4% of stripers die when release on average.  The best way to not kill fish at all is not to fish and any fisherman that thinks he is better because thinks he kills LESS fish is hypocritical.

What is the reall efect of pulling a fish out of the water for 3 minutes to take a picture or weigh it and release it?  Just because a fish swims away doesnt mean it will live–anyone with an aquarium knows that.  I release 99 percent of the fish I catch at San Luis and I do worry about those fish surviving even after taking precautions.  Flyfishemen should humble themselves and realize that fish pay the price for our passion no matter how many fish we release.    We catch and release a TON of fish and 3-4 percent of them DIE.  In an Australian peer review publicaton  –the Journal Comparative Biochemical and Physiology–it was suggested that a fish out of the water more than 4 minutes has a less than 50 percent chance of survival.

Then there are those fishermen who hide there successful fishing reports to “reduce” fishing pressure.  They frown on those who report good fishing.   Tackle stores that send people to a lake are bad because it ruins the fishing for themselves.   It’s just selfish. Today Im reporting on a no fish day,  but I can assure you, Ill be back on the lake as soon as I can. The message is of all things to do for entertainment, fishing  (any fishing)  is the best thing I can think of and you should try it. Eating fish that you catch is a joy and health benefit.  Its  ethical, sustainable and only part of the joy of the sport.

Ill hit SL next week probably several times,  now that half the water is in the forebay now.  I suspect the fish are also there and heading for LA in the aquaduct. Ill see next week.

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