Delta fishermen just dodged another bullet aimed at their fishery. A petition to change bass and striper limits to a point where advocates hoped the species would be eliminated was withdrawn after massive pushback from Delta fishing interests.
Groups such as the California Striped Bass and other powerful bass associations along with the Golden Gate Salmon Association united to fight the draconian proposal. At the last minute, it was withdrawn before a hearing in Folsom. It was a shot to the heart of the Delta fishery – one of the best in the U.S.
It’s a near miss, for now, and we need to analyze and learn from it quickly because it’s going to be repeated. I’m betting adversaries will learn and pivot to other issues in the next political, legal and media attack on our fisheries! I’m going to be brutally honest about the way I see the battles playing out and what I think we each must do.
The first lesson from this encounter is that we can no longer afford for each fishing organization or interest to be an island! We must realize it will take a strong coalition to keep our sport – or we risk being swept aside. Most groups are focused on their turf with very little interest when it comes to protecting the entire sport. The Delta threat forced diverse groups to actually come together and work as a unit.
Secondly, I believe that the mistake the opponents made was to include bass in their “predatory” annihilation list. The Delta is a world-class bass fishing mecca and threatening it unleashed the fury of the bass world. We need that kind of clout and economic power to deal with the one-sided attacks. It unified everyone. This may have been a blessing in disguise. Any thinking angler now understands an attack on stripers also will be an attack on bass, crappie, catfish, etc. – and vice versa. There are no more safe harbors.
The next step for the opposition is to ramp up rhetoric about “non-native species” bias. This will not be about the Delta – it will be a crusade by elected officials that these imported bad fish eat everything they see, and we need to rid the state of them. It will be a politically driven frenzy that has nothing to do with facts or fishery biologists’ recommendations but instead an extreme ecological agenda. Think not? You only need to look at the legislators who are supporting bills – and in some cases already signed them – that advocate such a viewpoint. Lobbyists are hard at work to get your elected officials to think that way. It’s not hard to convince legislators you’ve got the solution – especially if no one is there to correct the narrative. Without effective lobbyists, we are sitting ducks.
Unfortunately, many anglers who supported the Delta have relaxed, thinking we won, but the opposition will be coming back! Will we fight or get steamrolled? It’s critical to proactively build an overarching organization for California anglers that will represent all of our interests. That’s not easy.
We also need to shift from a defensive mentality to an offensive one where we define the battleground. I think we also need to work with farming interests to find common ground: We all need water. (Yes, I said that!) Next, we need to challenge this ridiculous “non-native” narrative when it comes to species fully integrated into our ecosystem for more than a hundred years. Let’s bring back the natural, range-fed “original native” dinosaurs! Political correctness run amok.
We must take the initiative. Settling for being reactive is deadly in war and politics. This is both. The opposition is betting we do nothing! The war is here. Never give up!
Roger George is The Bee’s fishing expert. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org,