Aqueduct striped bass tourney set for March 28 2009
by STEVE MERLO, contributing columnist
[email protected] | Thursday, Mar 12 2009 9:47 PM
Last Updated: Friday, Mar 13 2009 10:27 AM
Despite the fact that I am for deregulation of the striped bass harvest, I still love fishing for them, especially in the California Aqueduct where the limit in the Southern Valley District holds at 2 fish, 18 inches or better. Eventually though, I see the limit removed and a no-size-limit regulation going into effect in a political trade-off to allow the unimpeded flow of Nor-Cal water into the Southern San Joaquin.
But until that happens, there are plenty of fish swimming in the concrete canal that beckon to be caught, and even with the soon-to-be-proposed legislation, I do not believe the stripers will be seriously impacted.
I prefer to think of the coming laws as a chance to cull the "canal" of smaller stripers and open the door for other species to once again get their fins in the door, so to speak. Back in the late 1960s and early '70s, for instance, countless largemouth bass, crappie and bluegills called the canal home. Along with white and channel catfish, the water project offered plenty of fish to target, and until the striped bass made it into our area, gave a lot of fishermen a chance to battle with them.
Fishing was so good back then that my brother and I had a small but lucrative business selling live minnows to anglers chasing the huge crappie living under every bridge along the canal's path. We'd run over to the nearest irrigation ditch, net gobs of mosquito fish and place them in huge tubs out in the back yard. Whenever anyone needed the perfect crappie bait, they would call and tell us how many they would need for the next day's venture.
The tiny fish were then placed in separate pails on the front porch with the angler's name on it and the price, and we always doubled, or even tripled, the order at no extra cost to them, or us, for that matter. On some nights before we went to bed, there would be 7 or 8 buckets on the front porch, and the shoe box we left out there always had more money in it than it was supposed to have. We never lost a penny due to dishonesty.
Anyway, along came the striper, slowly and efficiently migrating from the Delta down to us, eating everything in their path until, years later, only a few species still thrived — the lowly carp, white catfish, slimy hitch and lots of linesides. So devastating was the stripers' arrival, that even they ran out of food, including the shad biomass,and for a long time, they were skinny and malnutritioned, save for the lunkers that fed almost exclusively on carp, hitch and their own brethren
Right now, the canal is teeming with 3-to 10-pound striped bass, and they're always biting, or so it seems. The recent arrival of several invasive species, yellow-finned gobies and mottled sculpin, has given the Aqueduct stripers new life and they are getting bigger and fatter than ever. Anglers are catching lots of them, and so, along with the fishing, comes the bragging, and, of course, the "smack talk" about who's the best fisherman in the canal. Personally, I think it's a no-brainer, but then, what do I know?
Well, now there's an opportunity to prove which angler deserves the 'best' aqueduct striper fisherman title. Organized by Bakersfield's Alfred Drake and sponsored by Fishing Times
, Bob's Bait Bucket and KPN Tackle, "Smack Talks II," an aqueduct striped bass fishing tournament, will be held on March 28. A two-fish, 20-inch size limit will be in effect for the artificials-only tourney, and the event only costs $20.
Entrants can sign up early by contacting Daniel Aguilar at [email protected]
or pay an additional $5 at the headquarters on the day of the event. All proceeds from the contest will benefit the Relay 4 Life-American Cancer Societies. Check in will be from 5:15-5:45 a.m. at the Quail Lake parking lot, and anglers are honor bound to stay on any part of the aqueduct from Bakersfield to Palmdale.
After the 1 p.m. weigh-in, anglers will be feted to a huge raffle, and first through third place monetary awards, including big fish of the tournament. A fundraising barbecue, hosted by Relay 4 Life and prepared by Team Family Matters/Ameriprise will be available including carne asada, chicken tacos, chile verde and rice and beans, all donated by local SuperMercado La Mina.
"Smacktalks I", the first event, drew 30 anglers without any advertising or sponsorships. The event promoters are hoping to involve as many additional fishermen as possible in order to return a significant amount of money to the top three finishers. Payouts will be percent, based on 60, 25 and 15 percent of the total entry money.