California fishing is great – but it could be world-class with these two simple steps

Roger George is The Bee’s fishing expert and guides in the Central San Joaquin Valley.
Roger George is The Bee’s fishing expert and guides in the Central San Joaquin Valley. THE FRESNO BEE

This time of year it seems that everything is coming at me at one time, causing me to get reflective. We got the water we needed, the bites are going crazy all over the spectrum, the spawn is on and big fish are showing up – what more could you ask for? Here’s my wish list for Valley fishing.

It’s really a miracle that we have the kind of fishing we do in spite of the lack of monitoring and tracking our fisheries seem to get. Yes, there is a substantial cold-water program to stock and replenish our cold-water species in a broad “put and take” system – and that program stands on its own merits and successes. However, I still find it amazing that there is really no “warm-water” program that does similar things like planting or tracking fisheries for all the warm-water species that are left on their own to reproduce.

If we had something remotely close to the kind of fisheries programs that Texas has long been promoting, we would have some fishing that would be truly world-class.

First, I know it sounds ridiculous to even suggest that it might be possible to somehow coordinate reservoir water levels during the spawn. Even just a little bit could have major consequences. I’ve seen folks try to move heaven and earth to accommodate the salmon effort on the river, so why not throw a little bone to the other fish? May I say – as ridiculous as it sounds – that it seems we have gone so far as to politicize the fish we will or won’t support. We’ll fund a massive project with little chance of success when just a small percentage of that same funding would have an incredible effect on our existing, thriving fisheries. Let’s get real and take care of what’s taking care of us.

Second, I would really like to see something like a new fee on our fishing licenses that would only fund game wardens, for example. Keep the money strictly for that purpose – no General Fund ploys to take it! We need more of these guys out in the field. We also need to rethink our fines and penalties for breaking the law. I’m talking about the major players, like the guys who were just caught with a huge crappie overlimit of hundreds of big slabs. It’s going on more than we know. From what I see, just at San Luis – and what other concerned anglers tell me about other lakes – we seem to have a pretty committed group of poachers who believe taking overlimits and undersized fish is their privilege, with few strong deterrents to stop them. A few of these guys can do more damage than 50 regular anglers could ever do. They are a bane to our sport and we need to up the ante.

My point: In spite of lack of any water management program that might enhance our spawns, no warm water fisheries planting, limited monitoring programs, active poaching and overfishing, as well as underfunded and understaffed wardens, we still have a fishery that has thrived. It is a testament to the tenacity of Mother Nature that even though we have had a severe drought, the fish have come back better than I could have hoped.

I can’t help but wonder what we would have if we got serious?

Never give up!

Roger George is The Bee’s fishing expert. He can be reached at rogergeorge8000@sbcglobal.net,

at facebook.com/Rogergeorgeguideservice and @StriperWars on Twitter.