The California Delta is home to a world-class black bass fishery, but the fishery has been under attack from environmentalists, water rights groups, and farmers in California who wanted to eradicate all bass from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and its tributaries. The groups claims that because non-native bass were introduced to California in the late 1800s, that the fish is an invasive species that threatens the state’s Salmon and the endagered Delta smelt.
Yesterday, The American Sportfishing Association (ASA), along with a coalition of leaders in the recreational fishing and boating community, announced they had defeated the attempt to get rid of the California Bass and Petition number 2016-011, which called for changes to recreational fishing size and bag limits for these species, was withdrawn by the petitioners. The petition was scheduled to go under review by the California Fish and Wildlife Commission.
Supporters of the recent petition included several south-of-Delta water agencies, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, the California Farm Bureau Federation and the California Chamber of Commerce.
The opposing coalition, composed of the American Sportfishing Association, B.A.S.S., California Sportfishing League, Coastal Conservation Association California, Coastside Fishing Club, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, Fishing League Worldwide, the National Marine Manufacturers Association and Water4Fish, sent a joint letter opposing the petition.
“Our coalition had science on our side and we were able to show the Fish and Wildlife Commission that all fish need water and this was simply a water grab that sought to make striped bass and largemouth and smallmouth bass the scapegoats for the status of salmon stocks,” said ASA Government Affairs Vice President Scott Gudes.
Representing millions of sportsmen and women nationwide, including tens of thousands in California, the coalition engaged their supporters who sent a clear message to the Commission that this was a water issue, not a fish issue.
“This is a real victory for anglers. But we need to be vigilant. No doubt the agricultural industry that pushed this proposal will be back. Anglers need to stay unified,” concluded Gudes.
In 2012, the commission rejected a similar proposal on a 4-0 vote, after sport-fishing groups and fisheries officials argued that degraded habitat, not well-established predators, is the root problem for the decline in native Delta smelt and Chinook salmon.