I think that our diminishing water resources over the last few years are causing anglers to rethink harvesting practices. Many good fishermen tell me they suspect that moderating the number of fish and the size classes we all keep are important factors that can add up to big impacts for the future. Some new ideas, I believe, make sense.
The bass world went to catch and release quite a while ago, but I believe many striper anglers also are reflecting trends and catch-management strategies that are spreading among anglers fishing for all kinds of species. They are moving away from the old, unsustainable meat fishing philosophy. One concept that I am impressed with is selective harvesting; I think it makes a lot of sense for fish not part of a “put and take” fishery program. The main idea is for anglers to release their big fish, the ones with the ability to spawn successfully and pass on superior genes, while harvesting a few of the smaller fish.
One of the problems with catch and release for many anglers is that they would like to eat some of their fish, and they are used to doing that. Getting these folks to convert to a pure release format is nearly impossible, so putting together a simple strategy that allows for keeping a few smaller ones while releasing the rest is the only way I’ve seen to keep moving the needle toward greater conservation and a sensible middle ground. Proponents on both sides can get a little fanatical, but I like having the selective option, especially when I injure fish and they are going to die.
Another area I’ve seen many fisherman revisiting is the handling and successful release of the fish they catch in order to give them the best chance of staying healthy. This year, many striper guys have called me about how to more efficiently release a fish, especially a big one, that has come up from depth and has the “bends.” Once these fish are let go, without help, many will just float on top of the water and eventually die. Beyond 60 feet in depth, 30% seem to go back OK, but the rest need help.
This year, many striper guys are using two tools more than ever. The first is a bass-type “hollow fizzing needle” to puncture the fish about 1 inch or so behind the lateral fin, releasing the internal pressure. It’s recommended that anglers use an alcohol swab to sanitize the needle, but the real problem is that many puncture too deeply. It’s an inexact science, but someone well trained can do a good job. Bass guys have been doing it for a long time. The other tool is the amazingly effective Seaqualizer release ( Seaqualizer.com). Designed for deep rockfish and stripers, it locks on to the lower jaw of the striper while the back end of the tool has an attachment that allows an angler to clip it onto a downrigger ball/cable or weighted drop line. A pressure release allows you to set the depth you want the jaws to open — 30, 50 or 70 feet. Sometimes you can watch the fish on your graph as it swims away!
My overall method now is to land the fish using a Boga grip (controls the fish), unhook it, clamp on the Seaqualizer, let it down to 50 feet, hit auto return and get ready for the next run. It’s quick, non-invasive and highly effective. Protecting the fish we catch with well thought out strategies is as important as simply releasing them, since in the end a dying fish is no better than one we eat. Releasing our fish conscientiously with care is more critical than ever. Never give up!
Don Pedro bass and trout bite solid, Dave Hurley said. Lake Success bass on fire, Chuck Stokke said. Isabella crappie bite wide open Jacob Rutledge reported. New Melones bass action crazy, John Lietchy said.
Fly fishing report
Longer days and warmer weather have kicked In some early-season hatches on the Merced and Kings rivers. Look for Golden Stoneflies (#16) on these rivers to show themselves around the 1:30-2 time frame. The March Brown Mayfly (#12) hatch should start as early as this week. Flows are nice, with fairly easy wading. No need to be on the water before noon. Ever wanted to try fly fishing in the surf? Check out a one-day surf fishing seminar on April 11 at Monterey Bay’s north coast.
Call: Sierra Fly Fisher Guide Service (559) 683-7664; Yosemite Rivers Fly Shop (559) 641-7788