To say the trophy striped bass fishing on the Sacramento River this last week, was good is a understatement. It would better be described as phenomenal. Striped Bass in the 20, 30, and 40 pound class all made their way to fishing guide Mike Rasmussen's net this week. Schoolie sized linesides also helped fill the Koffler Boat's kofflerboats.com fish box this week and took a little bit of the monotony of chucking one and almost two pound glide baits all day (as required for the big boys and girls). The Northern California weather this last week brought river water temps back down quite a bit, after the unseasonably warm first week and a half of February. Where river water temps almost hit 60 degrees (almost spawning temperature for striped bass). The much colder and more damp air temps in combination with two different days of miserable bone chilling north wind brought river temps back to around 50 degrees. Give or take a degree depending on the time of day the temperature was monitored. A much more suitable temperature for the giant stripers when it comes to pre-spawn foraging, adding the last little bit of weight they can possibly add before next months migration of the primarily male schoolies, who will start to show on next months full moon cycle as well as find and stay close to the groups of big sow stripers that await the proper spawning conditions needed in the Sacramento River to complete the spawning cycle. Peak weight of these colossal striped bass is currently reaching it's climax, as the giant females and males in-river are very close to reaching sexual maturity. Male striped bass this week were already leaking when put in the net, and while unhooking.
The daily success this week certainly depended greatly on the Northern California weather. The end of last week was very successful and weather conditions were mild and the wind was calm, but by the end of the weekend and early this week the North Wind showed up accompanied by much cooler weather. Fishing over the weekend was much tougher then the later part of the week and the bone chilling North wind made staying comfortable nearly impossible. Casting in the wind and boat control also drastically affected the daily fish count. Even still some striped bass still came to the boat for the fishermen that stuck it out, although sticking it out just wasn't any fun in the much more wintery conditions then Northern California has had in the last month and a half. Making a big appearance on the Sacramento River last week were some Lake County locals of Lucerne and Nice California of the Wild West Bass Tour anglers, who brought their heavy artillery down to the Sacramento Valley to fish with striped bass fishing guide Mike Rasmussen of SalmonSacRiver.com . With Lake Shasta in Northern California off limits to contestants in the Wild West Bass Team Tournament, the bass pro's decided to spend the day chasing the giant striped bass that Rasmussen has been fishing for this winter. "The outcome of our day when fishing for these trophy caliber striped bass, solely depends on the clients ability to make an accurate cast and many of them". Explains Rasmussen. Going on to say that up to several hundred cast per person are usually made during a day on the river, with the likelihood of only less then a half dozen attempts by the giant bass to take the offering. Sometimes only one or two chances in a full days effort will be offered up by the giant stripers. "Those Wild West boys from Lake, Co certainly made nearly 800-1000 cast collectively, and made their opportunities count". Says the fishing guide. Rasmussen reported the group of five anglers fished for five hours strait casting big custom glide baits in the 13 inch size range for only four bites. But landing all four fish. "These guys came with all the right gear for a successful trip. They threw heavy 9ft rods with 30 pound mono, and ran loose drags". Rasmussen reported. Attributing their 100% hook to land ratio on their experience with tackle and knowledge of fighting fish. The group landed a 44lb, 36lb, and a pair of 18 pounders for the days efforts and left for the bass tourney at Lake Shasta all pumped up!
Some recent controversy has fired back up over the harvesting of the very large and old trophy striped bass that were taken by a group of clients that fished with fishing guide Mike Rasmussen of Mike's Guide Service. The controversy was fired up on social media over the posting of a 80 pound limit of two trophy striped bass that were retained by the group. Comments and public opinion quickly made their way onto the post page/s. Some angry and some in support of the harvesting of these oversized stripers. The mainly misinformed public took to the comment field of the post with sad or disgusted innuendos as if the harvesting of the two large stripers in question were the last two on the planet. On the other side of the coin you have the supporters of harvesting the giant linesides, either in support of a anglers choice to retain or release a fish in question, or under the assumption that the stripers are to blame for the dramatic decrease in salmon population on the Sacramento River and Northern California in general. To clarify a few things and out of the respect for other veteran striped bass fishing guides that live and work locally on these same waters, fishing guide Mike Rasmussen explains his reasonings and policies when it comes to the harvesting of trophy striped bass. Rasmussen explanations were explained like this: As a client of SalmonSacRiver.com, Mike's Guide Service, or a fishing guide working with Mike's Guide Service, it is your (the client) choice weather you want to retain the trophy striped bass you just caught or to release the fish in the interest of preserving the species as a whole. Personal preference and decisions on retention remain that of the clients that catch the fish. PERIOD!! Mike Rasmussen informs the anglers of the age of the usually decades old fish and common practices of releasing the bigger sow stripers. Please note when on a guided fishing trip for these large striped bass, it is not the intension of the fishing guide to cast and catch these striped bass and hand off the rod. The guided fishing trip is intended for the client to make all the cast and get the strike, hook and fight the fish for the entire experience. Generally the guide while working doesn't make many cast. So with that said a over excited client when landing a trophy striper will sometimes want to take a large striper for consumption or to take the striper to a taxidermist for a skin mount. Either way Rasmussen would like to make it clear that the decision when guiding ultimately ends up with his clients and that is their decision to make after paying 250$ a seat. It is looked down upon to degrade or publicly comment on the decisions made by excited and adrenaline filled clients, only taking away from their efforts in the hundreds if not thousands of casts it takes to catch a trophy striper, taking away from their experience and excitement when led to believe they have just committed a atrocity of sorts.
In fairness to other sport fishing guides here in Northern California and striped bass enthusiast as a whole, misconception and personal ideologies attribute to the defense of many, that the striped bass are desemating the Sacramento Valleys stock of native salmon. In particular the Sacramento River salmon runs which in recent years has struggled to stay at even a minimal amount of typical Sacramento River salmon runs. Sure it has been witnessed by many anglers and river guides that have seen or have first hand knowledge of seeing the Sacramento River surface boiling with stripers that are gorging on salmon smelt on their way down river to the Pacific Ocean, in fact the argument used by striper advocates that striped bass and Northern California salmon have co-existed together for over a hundred years now and are not to blame for the declining salmon runs of the Sacramento River or any other river in Northern California. This assumption was accurate up until a decade ago when striped bass fed heavily on the baby salmon who were reluctant to migrate down the drought stricken Sacramento River. Policies with the DWR and flow changes, along with the removal of the Red Bluff Diversion Damn which gave refuge to existing salmon smelt allowing them to hide in the aquatic vegetation and grow, before riding a tidal wave of river water down to the California Delta every year when the gates of the diversion damn were pulled in mid September and the excess volume of river water rushed down river turning the water a dirty color and giving refuge to the young salmon that migrate by all the striped bass on their way down river. Not to mention hatchery practices of DFW and Colman National Fish Hatchery who dramatically reduced the amount and size of salmon smolt being produced and released into the Sacramento River. Releasing salmon smolt into drought stricken waters of the Sacramento River is a death wish for countless tax payer raised baby salmon who are engulfed by the hundreds of thousands by schoolie stripers who await their arrival in ambush spots on the lower Sacramento River. Sacramento River flows averaged 12,000 cfs and greater during the out migration of our Fall Run Chinooks and during the spawning period of the adult chinooks who in the 1980's and early 1990's could be found spawning by the hundreds and thousands on all the riffles of the Sacramento River from Woodson Bridge in Corning, Ca all the way to downtown Redding, Ca. Producing millions and millions more salmon fry naturally in the Sacramento River. DWR (Department Of Water Resources) and their water management has led to two decades of leaving the salmon rads (spawning beds) high and dry killing all natural spawned chinook salmon on the Sacramento River. Today very few if any Fall Run Chinook Salmon can be seen spawning on the same riffles that supported thousands of spawning salmon only two decades ago.
The most alarming and unknown news to date for the general public are the statistics gathered in the last couple years of returning Fall Run Chinook Salmon. Already on a downward spiral because of production cuts to hatchery raised salmon and DWR water management practices reducing the river flows during and just after spawning salmon lay there eggs, leaving the beds high and dry causing 100% mortality to the much smarter and more successful survival and return rate of the naturally spawned baby salmon. The controversial trucking program used by Coleman National Fish Hatchery and DFW which let the baby salmon be trucked down to and released into the California Delta with the intent to by pass predation (striped bass) and warmer Sacramento River water temperatures, despite warnings from studies that show baby salmon imprint when out-migrating. By imprinting the returning adult salmon know exactly where to return to spawn again. Without imprinting or being released in river it was feared the salmon would not know where to return to and may stray into any other river that seamed suitable. With this all said let me give you the catastrophic and disappointing results from the 2017 returning Fall Run Chinook Salmon on the Sacramento River. Statistically speaking the trucking program used for three consecutive years to deliver the salmon smolt to the California Delta with the intent to help salmon numbers in the Sacramento River was a complete and utter disaster and failure. Fishermen and women pay close attention to what you are about to read. A little over 2,000 Fall Run Chinook Salmon returned to Coleman National Fish Hatchery this 2017 salmon season (the last year of returning salmon from the three year trucking program). Of those 2,000+ salmon just under 30 salmon were salmon that returned from the trucking program that delivered 13,000,000 smolt the the California Delta. Expecting a 1% return ( as in-river releases typically receive ) of 130,000 returning adult Chinook Salmon to Coleman National Fish Hatchery, The mind blowing and devastating realization has become less then 30 salmon returned instead of the 130,000 that are supposed to return as the 1% goal of the Federally Funded Hatchery. Leaving this years return rate compliments of DFW, and Coleman National Fish Hatchery at .000002%. Essentially nothing folks. To make matters worse the Federal hatchery was only able to produce 6 million baby salmon this year (2018) with the help of the retrieved salmon from the American River Hatchery and a small amount recovered from the other state run hatcheries in Northern California. In total Coleman National Fish Hatchery has less then half the amount of baby salmon needed to reach the goal of 13 million babies to be released and to return in the amount of 1% at 130,000. This put in place to mitigate the loss occurring to natural spawning habitat cut off by Shasta Damn. So sportsman of California it is fair to assume you can expect a major cut back or closure to salmon fishing within the state in the very near future.
So are salmon declining as a result of predation led on by striped bass in the Sacramento River. Most likely they are to some degree. The level of damage and any kind of fact based studies are not available and mostly unknown. It can be assumed that during these crucial times in Californias struggling and depleted salmon runs any amount of predation (especially the during these low water conditions brought on by water management) is detrimental and furthers the losses to a struggling population of Sacramento River salmon. It is important to remember that striped bass were brought here in 1879 by train from the East Coast in the number of 132 small specimens and again in 1882 by train from the East Coast where another 300 small stripers were delivered and dumped into the bay. This non-native species after 10 years could be found in San Francisco fish markets and after another 10 years the stripers were producing over a million pounds of processed fish for California's consumption. A female striped bass 36 inches in length will produce close to 2,000,000 eggs while the same length salmon will produce about 2,000. Striped Bass are a prolific species and will never be wiped out or depleted to the point of closing the fishery. Salmon are depleted to the point of fishing closures as the species hangs onto survival and depends on water that it will most likely never be seen again. Striped bass present a very small part of a huge problem facing the Sacramento River salmon and would not be a issue as far as predation is concerned if water management practices were regulated on their behalf. And/or more baby salmon be produced by hatcheries in Northern California. At its current state of turmoil striped bass predation on salmon is a small issue to a huge underling water/politics issue facing the State at its currently drought stricken time.
Mike's Fishing Guide & Charter Service For Sacramento River Fishing targeting King Salmon, Sockeye Salmon, Striped Bass, Sturgeon, Shad And Trout the best Sacramento River Fishing guide and Sacramento River Charter on Sac River