The California Striped Bass Association (CSBA) originated with a Chapter in Stockton, California on April 14, 1974 and remains the oldest fresh-water fishing club in the state of California. The CSBA is a non-profit organization to preserve, conserve and enhance striped bass while promoting recreational sport fishing, environmental awareness and good fellowship. CSBA is one of the largest and most active fishing clubs in California’s Central Valley.
In addition to the original Stockton chapter, other chapters have been established in Modesto, West Delta, Isleton, Sacramento, Fresno, Colusa, and Ukiah. A State Board, which is composed of three members from each chapter, is the governing body for all nine chapters. The chapters have activities throughout the year for members such as derbies, potluck dinners, picnics, workshops, seminars and fundraising activities. A monthly chapter bulletin is sent to each member informing them of the monthly general meeting, the program, matters of interest affecting the fishery, chapter activities and a fishing report. Meetings vary with guest speakers, films, and fishing seminars. Each chapter conducts or participates in free children’s fishing days or derbies. Some chapters grant scholarships for students studying for careers in fish and wildlife vocations.
CSBA also works with other fishing groups on legislative matters affecting the fishery, water quality problems, etc. We also work with the California Department of Fish and Game and state legislators making our ideas, views, and suggestions known.
Our MOTTO “Dedicated to the Preservation, Conservation and Enhancement of Striped Bass” means that although we enjoy our sport fishing, we want to protect and enhance our fishery to insure that future generations will have a chance of catching this great sport fish… the STRIPED BASS.
Striped Bass History
For those of you just getting started in the thrill of striper fishing, a few facts from the Department of Fish and Game: Two small plants of striped bass from the East Coast were made in California. The first release of 132 small fish was made near Martinez in 1879 and in 1882 an additional 300 were released in lower Suisun Bay. Within 10 years a commercial fishery had developed and did well until it was closed in 1935 in an effort to build up the sport fishery.
Striped bass appear to depend rather strongly on an anadromous existence. Although planted fish will often grow well in fresh water, most attempts to establish breeding landlocked populations have been failures. Landlocked striped bass succeed in breeding only in situations where there are rivers long enough and with sufficient flow to keep the eggs suspended until they hatch (about two days). An outstanding success has been in Santee – Cooper Reservoir in South Carolina. Other successes have been in Millerton Lake near Fresno and the Colorado River system in California. San Luis Reservoir in western Merced County has a large population of striped bass but there is not satisfactory way to determine if any of the young fish there were actually spawned in the lake. The water for the reservoir is pumped via canal from the San Joaquin Delta, and, every spawning season, large numbers of very small striped bass pass through the fish screens and pumps and arrive at the reservoir. The stripers in Lake Mendocino and San Antonio Reservoir were planted there and provide fishing, but have not shown any evidence of successful reproduction.
Striped bass begin spawning in the spring when the water temperature reaches 58F. Most spawning occurs between 61 and 69F, and the spawning period usually extends from April to mid June. They spawn in fresh water where there is moderate to swift current. The section of the San Joaquin River between the Antioch Bridge and the mouth of Middle River, together with the other channels in this area, is one very important spawning ground. Another is the Sacramento River from Courtland to Colusa.
Female striped bass usually spawn for the first time when they are about 5 years old and 24 inches long. Many males mature when two years old and only about 11 inches long. Most males are mature at age three. A 5-lb female spawns about 200,000 eggs in one season and a 12-lb fish is capable of producing up to about one million eggs. The eggs are quite small when in the fish – about 1/25 inch in diameter – but after being spawned they absorb water, triple their diameter, and become transparent and very hard to see. This is a good safety measure. That which is not seen is less likely to be eaten. The eggs are only slightly heavier than water. With moderate current they are held suspended while developing. Without any water movement they sink to the bottom and die. The larval bass are hatched in about two days, the length of time depending upon the temperature. Warmer water causes faster development.
Survival of Young
The abundance of legal sized striped bass in the Sacramento – San Joaquin Estuary appears to be largely determined by survival in the first months of life. Variation in survival of young bass ( less than 1 ½ inches long) is affected by the magnitude of water diversion from the estuary and magnitude of river flows passing through the Delta. Diversions remove many young during the first few months of life (May, June and July) and river flow probably affects survival, at least in part by controlling the transport of young bass to suitable nursery areas. It takes stripers three years to reach legal length (18 inches) so good fishing depends upon precipitation and upon water management several years earlier.
Striped bass are only about 1/6 inch long at hatching and average about 4 inches at a year, 10 inches at two years, 16 inches at three, and 20 inches at four. A 20-year-old striper will be about 48 inches long and weigh about 40 lb.
Striped bass feed on many forms of animal matter. Crustaceans and fish make up the bulk of their diet. Small bass consume large quantities of Neomysis, a small opossum shrimp which is abundant throughout the Delta. As they grow, the bass start adding larger items to their diet. Anchovies, shiner perch, shrimp, and herring are among the items taken in quantity. In the up river areas, the young of their own kind, and threadfin shad, are often taken.
Striped Bass Problems
State and Federal Water Projects In 1960ish state and Federal water projects were installed that pumped large quantities of water from the Delta. Coinciding with the large water diversion projects, the population of striped bass began declining dramatically. In the early 1960’s the striped bass population was approximately 3 million adult fish and by the early 1990’s the striped bass population was approximately 775 thousand adult fish. Approximately 30% of these fish were hatchery reared. Most recent estimates of the striped bass population is approximately 300 thousand adult fish.
While water diversions are a significant factor in the decline of the striped bass, other problems have contributed to the decline of the striped bass as well. The significant problems affecting the striped bass are listed in general order of importance as follows:
1. Delta Water Diversions: The State Water Project and The Federal Central Valley Projects.
2. Reduced Delta Outflows.
3. Water Pollution, Toxic Chemicals and Trace Elements.
4. Dredging and Soil Disposal.
5. Illegal Take and Poaching.
6. Exotic Aquatic Organisms.
7. Bay-Fill Projects.
8. Commercial Bay Shrimp Fishery.
9. Annual Summer Die-Off of Bass.
10. Diseases and Parasites.
Working Toward the Solution
CSBA was instrumental in obtaining legislation that authorized the STRIPED BASS STAMP. This stamp supported the striper hatchery program among other projects. Millions of hatchery-reared striped bass were released in the Sacramento/San Joaquin delta system. In 1992 the planting program was discontinued by order of the Director of the Department of Fish and Game due to possible effect on winter-run salmon. CSBA and many other experts do not agree with this order. CSBA’s members got together with the “NO FISH -NO STAMP” petitions and the stamp was pulled. In 1998 the striped bass stamp was reinstated based on assurances that striped bass would be allowed to be stocked under a permit from the National Marine Fisheries Service and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. Annually, the striped bass stamp generates close to $1,500,000. A Striped Bass Stamp Fund Advisory Committee was established to determine how the stamp money would be spent while a portion of the money (15%) must be spent on projects that benefit the salmon. ______ of the six members of the Striped Bass Stamp committee are CSBA members.
So far, in part from the striped bass stamp fund, an Aquatic Toxicology Laboratory was opened at the Elk Grove, CA hatchery. This lab generated information for setting water quality standards. Some of the other programs that are being funded with remaining funds by the striped bass stamp are:
- Increased enforcement of striped bass regulations.
- Funds studies of the striped bass, plus many other programs.
- Provides game wardens with different types of special equipment to be used for striped bass regulation enforcement.