Gong Hey Fat Choy (恭禧發財)

IMG_2389-2Yesterday was the flattest day I have ever seen on the Forebay and today I received this message in my fortune cookie.  Im still trying to estimate how big that fish really was that was caught last week on the Big Lake.

There was a great post on Dan Blanton’s BBS from Captain Mike Costello–one the most prolific guides on the Delta and San Luis Reservoir.  Check out the numbers .

Posted by Capt. Mike Costello on 2013-02-02 11:40:38 on Dan Blantons Bulletin Board

I wanted to share with Dan’s viewers my final striper catch numbers for the 2012 year. The data is collected from January through December, and is from all my Delta striper charters leaving out of Tower Park Marina. The good news is we were up 432 legal-sized stripers from 2011 to 2012. In 216 charters, my clients and I landed 2751 stripers over 18 inches, giving us a 13 fish per day average. We were also up slightly on double digit fish from a low in 2011 of only 41 fish over ten pounds, to 54 linesiders over ten this past year. We finished the season with 3 over twenty pounds, with our biggest fish topping off at 27 lbs.The slight increase in larger fish was good news but when I look back at numbers in the past, such as 2003, it is alarming. Ten years ago, in only 24 guide days in November, we landed an astonishing 65 stripers over ten pounds with 24 of them being over fifteen pounds, one month’s total surpassed the entire year of 2012. In 2008 we landed 200 stripers over ten pounds with a whopping 21 over 20 pounds, then the decline started. In 2009 we landed 112 fish over ten, and followed it up in 2010 with only 90 over ten pounds, and finally in 2011 we had an all-time low of only 41 double digit fish. Hopefully we have reached the bottom of the bell curve and now we are climbing upwards again.Stripers have the potential to live up to 30 years of age, so how did we suffer such a major decline in double digit fish in only 3 years? Even up in the rivers during spawning time, both conventional and fly anglers are finding very few large fish. I have my theories and most of it revolves around specific fishing pressure that was placed upon stripers for a three year period from 2008 to 2011, these fish just did not magically disappear, but that topic can be discussed at another time.

With better results this past year, including one day where my clients landed an astonishing 110 stripers over 18 inches in one day, the biggest problem the Delta faces is the lack of forage fish. As was mentioned a few weeks ago on this board, thread fin shad in the Delta have virtually disappeared. I asked a US Fish and Wildlife Biologist about the bait that I see often in abundance during the Fall in the shallows. I was told that the bait that I mistook for being thread fin shad are actually silversides, and that for some reason stripers do not forage on them as they do the shad.

To sum it all up, the California Delta is still one of the most amazing and unique fisheries in the world. I just entered my 24th year as a full time fly fishing guide and with over 5500 guide days under my belt, I look forward to each day getting in my boat and heading out on the water, hunting for that trophy linesider. My excitement builds with each cast and I could not imagine doing anything else. We just wrapped up January, and we were up almost 70 fish from last year, finishing with 166 legal stripers in 21 guide days, so get out and fish and take advantage of one of the best fisheries in the world.

On a side note, my new book, Where A Trout Calls Home, will be out later this month, and Dan, I already have a copy reserved for you. The book follows Riley the Rainbow Trout, and all his river friends over the course of the year. Written for young anglers in the 8 to 12 year old range, adults will also find it entertaining and educational. I will be doing a book signing at the California Fly Shop on Sunday, Feb. 17th and then I will also be signing books at the Pleasanton Fly Fishing Show the following week on Sat. and Sun.

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