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Smelt Stats

May 15, 2018



Erik Wilson



This picture was shared to our group recently and it sparked a lot of interest and discussions. For those that don't know me, I'am an avid fly fisherman, and also enjoy very much casting zara spooks to rising striped bass, you can also find me standing in the most miserable weather, in my waders, in ice cold water fishing for winter steelhead. I'am an outdoor enthusiast, and I guess you could also call me a nerd, because not many years ago, my father lived on a natural pond that was about 15 acres in size, and had more 6 to 8 lb Florida strain bass than any body of water I have ever fished. I acted like I was the fish biologist for that pond lol. I studied everything I could to assure the pond grew the largest and healthiest bass that we could. Harvesting certain sizes of bass was important as it kept the proper balance of trophy bass. I may not have a degree in biology but I do have a pretty good grasp on all things fish related. Having said all that, the image of the striper with a belly full of salmon is all to very real and despite many who would rather keep their head in the sand, the non native striped bass, is prolific in our river systems. It is a fish eating machine. They run in schools and corral any fish that they can fit in their mouths. They will eat their own if need be. They are eating vast amounts of SALMON wether people want to believe it or not.

 

I came across an article as I was in search of, how many salmon does California hatchery's produce every year. I found one study and I quote said this, "Central Valley hatcheries between 1946 and 2012. Approximately 2 billion fish were released during this period."

 

I'am also aware that water shipped south of the delta are required to tally how many Salmon that are destroyed by the pumps. Environmental regulations do exist that put a limit on those pumps to protect both Salmon and Smelt. Often times pumps are restricted at the same time the delta is experiencing heavy flows. But more importantly is understanding if those regulations are actually helping Salmon and Smelt.

 

If you take 2 billion fish and divide that by 66 years, you end up with an average of 30+ million Salmon per year. Since October of last year till right now 17,338 Salmon have been destroyed by pumps. Lets just say for the sake of argument that from May till October of this year and the pumps tripled the number killed already, what percentage of Salmon mortality can be blamed on pumps? If I added the 17,388 killed already and then tripled the rate for the next 6 months that would add up to nearly 70,000 Salmon. Sound like a lot doesnt it? But it represents only 1 quater of 1 percent of Salmon. Where are the other 29,930,000 Salmon going? There are many factors that are hurting Salmon and only one 2 group of people that are harmed by their decline, 1 is the Salmon fisherman, 2 is the farmer, but only 1 is blamed for their demise and that's the farmer. There are currently no efforts to curtail striped bass numbers. Only reduce flow of water to farmers. No other group of people have been burdened and fiscally damaged to fix the plight of Salmon and Smelt than the farmer.

 

So instead of looking to many other factors, we are going to build tunnels for billions that we dont have. WHY? On one hand the need for tunnels is proof that the environmental regulations on pumps have failed to yield any meaningful results. Because people in our goverment and special interests will not address the many other factors causing Salmon and Smelt numbers to continue decline, Los Angeles is starving for water because their water is also bottle necked because of environmental rules. So they have the numbers and the money to build and end round to the enviormental rules, that end round are the twin tunnels. I personally see the tunnels as another debacle and fiscally stupid for a state with no money. Before considering building those tunnels I feel it would be a wise move to understand what's happening to the other 29,930,000 Salmon. Before spending another dollar, we should have all the information on the table, even if it upsets striper fisherman like myself. What is fair is fair. You can't continue to hurt family farms and turn your eye to a striped bass's belly full of an endangered species lol.

 

I have heard it said that Salmon and Stripers coexisted for nearly a hundred years. But a 100 years ago there was not grocery stores, and restaurants serving Salmon to a population of 300,000,0000 people. Yes, humans eat a lot of Salmon too. And every Salmon you eat was denied it's oppurtunity to reproduce. We dont eat Salmon after they reproduce. The only Salmon that reproduce are the ones who miraculously escaped predation from fishes and the forks of human beings. Subsidizing fish populations with hatchery fish come with risks. Those risks include the deterioration of the genetics of the wild Salmon population that has thousands of years of adaptation suited to each river system. I dont have the answers to fixing them, I just want all the question asked. Is that ok?

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