If the tuna don’t bite wide open all summer long and within 10 miles of Point Loma, it’s because the damned seiners caught them all — and something needs to be done! If massive schools of sand bass don’t materialize like clockwork on the flats each summer, it’s because the sport boats have decimated the population — and something needs to be done! Basically, any time the fish aren’t biting fishermen tend to blame someone else, and something needs to be done!
This constant rush to declare a fishing emergency and then demand that something be done about it is an undesirable byproduct of the information age. The Internet allows fishermen to accumulate massive amounts of unfiltered data about what is or isn’t biting at any given time. This information overload often leads to stress and worry about the state of our fish stocks when the fishing slows. The stress manifests itself in strong opinions often based on unsupported, anecdotal evidence. These opinions can lead to knee-jerk reactions which can cause long-term consequences such as closures and changes to regulations.
Take the sand bass spawn in Huntington Beach for example. Admittedly, it’s been pretty lousy fishing the last few summers. But has the sand bass fishery completely collapsed like people say it has? Or is the slow fishing in the area due to other factors like water temps and bait availability? No one really knows. But considering that the sand bass have had huge spawns in Mexican waters and there seems to be no drop off in the amount of fish caught locally during the non-spawning months, I’d say that it’s more likely due to conditions than to overfishing.
In response to the public outcry to help conserve saltwater bass populations, the California Department of Fish and Game will be meeting to determine new regulations to stem the “complete collapse” of our bass fishery.
There are three options on the table and the commission will be allowed to combine any or all of them to craft the new regulations. The first option is to increase the minimum size to 13, 14 or 15 inches, which will give bass more years to spawn before they are big enough to be kept by anglers. The second option is to lower the limit from 10 bass per angler to somewhere between zero and 10 bass per angler. The final option is to close the sand bass fishery for one week to three months during the spawning season.
When looked at individually, all three options seem fairly benign, but if you look at a worst-case scenario ruling, it would be devastating to sport fishing in Southern California. Imagine what a two-fish limit of sand bass with a minimum size of 15 inches and a closure from June 1 to August 31 would do the local sport boat fleet. Most of the boats would be out of business within a year. Let’s hope the DFG does not make such changes.
The DFG has given fishermen the opportunity to submit our opinions for review prior to making a ruling. The public is welcome to come and speak at two meetings, the first is on August 8th in Ventura and the second is on November 7th in Los Angeles. You can also email your opinions well in advance of the meetings so they’ll have time to actually consider them. The email address to submit comments is [email protected]
Now the big question — what comments should you submit? Well, that’s up to you but here is a copy of the email that I’m going to send in. Feel free to copy and paste it if you agree with what I’m saying.
Dear Sonke Mastrup (Executive Director of the Fish and Game Commission),
I am writing you today to express my views on the proposed regulatory changes regarding kelp bass, sand bass and spotted bay bass. While I applaud the commission’s decision to take action to protect our saltwater bass populations, I caution you to carefully consider the potential impact the new regulations will have on Southern California’s sport fishing fleet. I support an increase in size limit to 14 inches for all three species and a five-fish bag limit for each species with a total limit of 10 fish. However, I strongly advise against instituting a spawning season closure for sand bass, there is simply not enough data to support the argument that the fish are receiving too much pressure during that time and closing sand bass during the summer months would put undue strain on other fisheries, such as calico bass, sculpin and rockfish while completely hamstringing the half- and three-quarter-day sport boats that depend on the business that the sand bass fishery brings.
Enter name here… Make sure to include your address.
It’s that simple. Just copy it, paste it, make whatever changes you see fit and send it. As I said earlier, I don’t believe that any of our bass species are in trouble but I do think that increasing the size limit is a good thing as it will give fish a couple of more years to spawn and increase the population, which will make for better fishing in the future.
Regarding the change to limits, I’ve always thought that keeping 10 bass was excessive, well except when I used to earn my side money filleting them as a deckhand, but that’s besides the case. A 14-inch bass probably weighs close to 2 pounds and the opportunity to keep five that size or bigger should be enough to keep people going out on sport boats.
Whatever your opinion about size and catch limits, it is imperative to fight the seasonal closure of any species and do not ask them to make any species solely catch and release (even spotted bay bass). Once these fisheries are closed, they are going to stay closed. It’s important to fight against any more closures. Even if you don’t agree with a single thing I’ve said, please take the time and send an email or show up to a meeting to express your opinion on the proposed changes. As anglers we have sat back and watched from the sidelines for too long. Now is the time to use the powers granted to us by standing up and making our voices heard.
California Saltwater Bass Regulation Changes