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California fish and game (Volume 1952-1954) online

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personnel changes associated with reorganization and
no new work was initiated. However, the system of
catch records so vital to understanding the status of
this important fishery was maintained, and surveys



of spawning success were made each year. Much of the
field data accumulated during the preceding five years
of intensive work was analyzed and published. A new
federal aid project was planned for initiation early in
the next biennium, to pick up and continue the former
long-range striped bass program.

Outstanding accomplishments in relation to this fish-
ery during the biennium were made by other agencies
in the field of screening large diversions. The depart-
ment was associated with these activities in an advisory
capacity.

Practical Effects

The fish preservation project at the Contra Costa
Stream Plant intake was successfully terminated by the
Bechtel Corporation and the Pacific Gas and Electric
Company. Information gained from this project was
applied by Bechtel Corporation to design of the new
Pittsburg Stream Plant. As a result, this installation
should not present a serious hazard to the striped bass
population.

Development of a new type of louver screen by the
U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service staff assigned to the
Tracy Pumping Plant also promises to resolve the ex-
tremely difficult screening problems which have arisen
there.

Sturgeon

It has become increasingly apparent to personnel
working on the striped bass fishery in recent years that



FORTY-THIRD BIENNIAL REPORT



39



sturgeon are once again abundant enough to support
a fishery. These fish have been heavily protected since
1917. On the basis of departmental recommendations
the Fish and Game Commission adopted an open sea-
son on sturgeon angling for 1954.

Sacramento-San Joaquin River Salmon
and Steelhead Study

This important federal aid project (F-7-R), begun
during the biennium, is presently aimed toward two
important objectives. The first is an evaluation of the
anadromous fish losses occurring at the numerous
water diversions in the Central \^alley. Second is the
derivation of a sound and practical management plan
for the steelhead trout of the Sacramento River. Valu-
able data are also being gathered on king salmon, as a
service to the Marine Fisheries Branch.

Work on the diversions has thus far been confined
chiefly to the 246-mile section of the Sacramento
River between the Cities of Redding and Sacramento,
in which there are more than 300 points of diversion.
All but one are pumping diversions, consisting of from
1 to 13 pumps and ranging in capacity from less than
one to more than 2,300 cubic feet per second.

During the 1953 irrigating season initial surveys
were made of each pump. Included was all the basic
information on factors believed to influence fish losses,



such as periods of operation, depth and position of
intake, size and type of pump, etc. Notes were also
made on whether or not the pump could be effectively
tested for fish losses. Preliminary sampling was also
done at several diversions.

With this phase of the work completed, several rep-
resentative pumps are being tested with fyke nets
through the 1954 irrigating season. Nets are placed in
discharge outlets of the pumps. At the end of the sea-
son reasonable accurate estimates may be made of total
numbers and species of fish lost through these pumps.
Similar pumps may then be evaluated on the basis of
these findings.

Results to date indicate that loss of seaward migrat-
ing king salmon fingerlings through diversions in the
Sacramento-Redding area of the river is small, mainly
because the majority of the young salmon migrate
from this area during January, February, and March.
Heavy irrigation does not normally begin until several
weeks later. Observation of one 20-inch pump in Co-
lusa County revealed that a loss of considerable mag-
nitude can occur when there is early irrigation. At
this pump over 1,200 young salmon were captured
when the discharge was strained with fyke nets for
200 hours early in March. This is a much higher
figure than the combined take of this and several other
similar sized pumps during the entire month of May.



A steelhead is returned to the Sacramento River after being lagged near Fremont Weir. Inlormalion on numbers and migrations of salmon and

steelhead are obtained.





40



DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND GAME



Damage Assessed

Most of the sampling is being done on pumps in the
12- to 24-inch class. They are by far the most nu-
merous, and heretofore practically nothing has been
done toward assessing their damage to the fish popu-
lations.

The apparent increase in the numbers of steelhead
and steelhead fishermen on the upper Sacramento
River since completion of Shasta Dam raises questions
about the adequacy of present regulations such as bag
limits, length of season, and closed waters. Another ex-
tremely important question requiring an answer is
whether or not it is economically feasible to improve
steelhead angling in the Sacramento River system by
stocking yearling hatchery fish.

This project is working toward answering these
questions b>" marking and planting hatchery reared
steelhead, tagging adults on their upstream migration,
creel censusing anglers, and checking upstream and
downstream migrations on iMill Creek, one of the more
important tributaries to the upper river.

The steelhead planting experiment is being carried
out in cooperation with the United States Fish and
^^'ildlife Service and Kamloops, Incorporated, a sports-
mens" organization with headquarters at Redding. The
fish are raised at the Coleman Fish Cultural Station
where eggs are taken from wild fish, trapped ascending
Battle Creek to spawn. A total of 215,438 marked year-
ling steelhead were planted during the biennium. The
63,590 fish released in 1953 were planted in Battle
Creek, .Mill Creek, and the Sacramento River at Ord
and Princeton Ferries. Creel censuses indicated a large
number of these fish were caught from Mill Creek and
Battle Creek before migrating seaward. Therefore, the
entire 1954 release of 151,848 fish was made in the
Sacramento River at Princeton Ferry, where the fish
are not nearly as vulnerable to angling pressure before
migrating downstream.




Success or failure of this program may be deter-
mined from the relative numbers of marked fish to
wild adult steelhead found in the sport catch, in proj-
ect operated river traps, at the Mill Creek Counting
Station, and at fish collection facilities of the Coleman
Fish Cultural Station.

Fyke Nets Operated

During the 1953-54 steelhead and salmon runs, seven
large fyke nets were operated in the Sacramento River
near Knights Landing. These nets are used in coopera-
tion with the Marine Fisheries Branch to capture adult
fish for tagging and fin mark examination.

All data pertaining to salmon were turned over to
the Marine Fisheries Branch, while this project has
responsibility for the steelhead data. Between July 8,
1953, and June 15, 1954, a total of 2,114 steelhead was
trapped and examined for marks. Of this number there
were 59 marked fish from the 1953 spring plant. Peter-
sen disk tags were placed on 1,472 steelhead over 14.5
inches long. Anglers thus far have returned 301 tags,
showing a harvest of 20 percent.

The counting station on Mill Creek is at the fish
ladder over Clough Dam, five miles upstream from the
confluence of this stream with the Sacramento River.
There have been 67 marked steelhead (9 percent)
among the 715 that have been counted at this station.

During the steelhead fishing period between Octo-
ber 1953 and February 1954, 674 anglers were inter-
viewed. Seventeen tagged fish (13 percent) were
found in their total catch of 131 steelhead over 14.5.

These high proportions of tagged fish clearly show
value of operating large fyke nets to determine the
contribution being made by planting steelhead.

Considerable work on king salmon spawning area
surveys and counts was performed during the bien-
nium. This was done in cooperation with the Marine
Fisheries Branch and the United States Fish and Wild-
life Service.

Wormwater Fish Studies

A new state-wide warmwater research program was
organized early in 1953. One purpose of this program
is to learn how to improve angling in the growing
numbers of warmwater reservoirs and the many miles
of California streams not now supporting a good sport
fish population. Supervision of other studies such as
those on catfish and striped bass also is a part of the
program.

Much emphasis during the biennium has been placed
on providing forage for largemouth black bass. Studies
of our warmwater reservoirs have shown that low pro-
duction is often not due to poor spawning, but rather
to a lack of suitable forage for the little bass. When
they reach a length of about three inches, small bass



Tagging has provided much information on the Sacramento Delta cat-
fish. Sportsmen have cooperated in the return of these tags.



FORTY-THIRD BIENNIAL REPORT



41



assume a fish diet and there are not enough fish of the
right size available in most California lakes.

jMost native minnows, because of low productivity
or natural and man-made environmental changes, have
not been able to support the heavy predation required
of a good forage fish, and attention has been directed
to exotic species. The principal experimental intro-
ductions during the biennium have already been de-
scribed under "Management."

Lack of success of forage minnows in some water
supply reservoirs is being investigated. The role of
copper sulfate, a widely used algicide, as a limiting
factor is being studied with promising result.

Work also was begun to determine harvest rates of
black bass. This knowledge is needed to increase
understanding of black bass populations under Cali-
fornia conditions, and for formulating sensible regula-
tions. Tagging studies were begun at Clear Lake, Lake
Count\', and on several Southern California reservoirs
to discover how many of the bass are being caught
each year.

Control of rough fish such as carp is the most
important management technique now in use. A pro-
gram to develop new methods of control was begun.
Promising preliminary results were obtained with the
use of poisoned bait for partial control of this species.

Catfish Study

Federal Aid project F-2-R was initiated in January,
1952, when there were indications that the Sacra-
mento-San Joaquin Delta white catfish fishery was
being depleted. Primary goal of the investigation was
to determine the rate of exploitation of the Delta
catfish population and the factors affecting its appar-
ent depletion. A detailed study of the life history of
the catfish was also planned. Knowledge about age
and growth, food habits, size and age at maturity,
reproductive characteristics, and migrations was
sought, since this information is fundamental to wise
management of the fishery.

Activities of the project were focused on the study
of the Delta fishery for the first year. A thorough
study of the commercial catfish fishery was com-
pleted and was compared with the sport fishery.

Results indicated that the catfish population was
under heavy fishing pressure and that the commercial
fishery, although a minor one in terms of average
annual gross income, was taking a disproportionate
share of the annual catch. It also was learned that a
number of commercial fishermen were wasting catfish
and, in addition, were illegally selling undersized fish.

In brief, the small commercial fishery was producing
conflict out of all proportion to its value.

By the end of 1952, the project had sufficient infor-
mation to justify a recommendation that commercial
fishing for catfish be banned in California. It was
predicted that elimination of this undesirable fishery




n








Catfish food studies being carried out at Carmichael Laboratory. Con-
tents of stomacfi are being examined.



would result in improved angling and an increase in
size of the individual catfish in the Delta. This recom-
mendation was accepted by the 1953 Legislature with
passage of Senate Bills Nos. 44 and 45.

Investigation of the valuable Delta fishery has con-
tinued to be one of the most important activities
of the project. Two tagging experiments have been
conducted to ( 1 ) develop a suitable tag for catfish,
(2) determine fishing mortality, and (3) obtain in-
formation about the movements or migrations of cat-
fish.

Tagging Study

From these experiments, a dependable catfish tag,
the disk-dangler, has been developed and adequate
information about the movements of the Delta white
catfish has been obtained. A third tagging study is
now in operation to determine angling mortality. This
additional study was deemed necessary because calcu-
lation of mortality rates from previous studies was
complicated by the presence of the commercial fishery
and lack of confidence in one type of tag that was
employed.

A total of 6,966 white catfish has been tagged in the
Delta since inception of the project. Anglers who
captured tagged catfish have responded well to re-
quests for information pertaining to the catch of such
fish with 620 tags returned by July, 1954.

The Foothill Sportsmen's Club of Oakland con-
tributed generously to the tagging publicity cam-



42



DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND GAME



paign by sponsoring semiannual prize drawings for
persons \\ho returned tags. Merchandise and cash
prizes were awarded to anglers selected at random.

Considerable data concerning life history of the
delta catfish is being collected at regular intervals.
Although much laboratory work remains to be com-
pleted, this phase of the project is progressing well.
A check is being maintained on the effect of the re-
moval of the commercial fishery and from all indica-
tions the ban was a sound move. Angling seems to
have improved and the average size of the catfish
definitely has increased.

Since the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta supplies
appro.ximately 50 percent of the catfish caught in
California, close contact with the fishery will be main-
tained for the duration of the project. Information
provided by project investigations should enable the
department to insure wise utilization of this important
resource by regulations based on facts.

Other important catfish areas receiving attention
from the project were Clear Lake and the Colorado
River. In 1952, 1,500 white catfish and brown bull-
heads wxre tagged in Clear Lake in order to determine
the rate of exploitation. Returns after one year in-
dicated a minimum annual fishing mortality of only
2.5 percent.

Because of doubts as to the validity of these results,
another tagging experiment is planned for the winter
of 1955. Food habits of Clear Lake catfish and bull-



heads are under study also. This work will, among
other things, define the degree of competition between
catfish and largemouth black bass and the effect of the
insecticide, TDE, upon the food supply of the catfish.
This insecticide has been used in the control of the
Clear Lake gnat.

A survey of the Colorado River channel catfish
population was conducted in 1954 with several hun-
dred fish tagged and released near Blythe. Tag returns
have been numerous in spite of the short interval since
the catfish were released. Apparently the Colorado
River channel catfish population is under heavy fish-
ing pressure and results of this study will guide the
Department of Fish and Game in recommending
sensible bag limits.

A survey of catfish populations in Northern Cali-
fornia will be made during the summer of 1954 in
response to requests by sportsmen for more liberal
catfish bag limits in that area.

Fish Disease Studies

In the spring of 1953 the fish parasitologist's head-
quarters were shifted to the Berkeley Fish and Game
Disease Laboratory of the Game Management Branch.
Investigations on diseases of hatchery and wild fish
continued. "Trouble shooting" at the hatcheries was
actively pursued, and a large number of visits were
made to assist the regions with the prevention and
control of disease.



GAM E
MANAGEMENT



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Record and near-record bags recorded for most species.

Four new waterfowl public hunting areas added.

Game habitat development emphasis placed on deer.

California receives largest Pittman-Robertson apportionment to
date.

Game resources appear to be holding their own.



FORT^'-THIRD BIENNIAL REPORT



45



GAME MANAGEMENT

Game Management activities during the bienniijm were carried out by the department during a
period of record or near-record bags of most game species, and constantly increasing hunting pres-
sures in every part of the State. Through constant cflForts to provide improved habitat conditions and
sound game management, the resource appears to he holding its own and in some cases showing gains.

At the same time great strides were being taken
along the hnes of keeping the game resource in sound
condition, equal steps w ere made to provide more op-



feeding was authorized for duck clubs on a licensed
permit basis.



portunities for public shooting for sportsmen of the
State. During the biennium important additions and
improvements were made in the field of pheasant co-
operative areas, waterfowl management areas, public
shooting areas for deer, and in winter deer ranges.

Following reorganization of the department, ef-
fected during the biennium, the Game Management
Branch of headquarters staff coordinates the Pittman-
Robertson federal aid in wildlife restoration program,
directs research activities, keeps records and prepares
statistics and acts in an advisory and coordinating ca-
pacity for regional matters. Preparation of policy rec-
ommendations on game management and regulation is
another function of the branch.

Operational functions of Game Management such
as maintenance df waterfowl management areas, pheas-
ant cooperative hunting areas, investigation and con-
trol of game depredations, predator control, trapping
and transplanting beaver, game range examinations,
maintenance of winter deer ranges, raising and stock-
ing of game farm birds, operation of public hunting
areas and numerous other miscellaneous activities were
conducted as regional functions.

Other important activities of the branch during the
biennium included active participation in the work of
the Pacific Waterfowl Flyway Council, made up of
representatives of the western states who make recom-
mendations to the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service on
setting open seasons and attempting to solve various
problems of the flyway; participation in an interstate
committee on deer browse restoration problems com-
mon to most western states, and working closely with
Oregon and Nevada in management of deer herds
which have interstate migration patterns with Califor-
nia.

The council, on which Chairman William J. Silva of
the California Fish and Game Commission was an ac-
tive member, and Game Management Branch Chief
Ben Glading, secretary, was instrumental in obtaining
more liberalized seasons and bag limits for California
hunters during the past biennium.

Through efforts of the council several special water-
fowl seasons were authorized as crop depredation relief
measures. Among these were the 1953-54 late winter
widgeon season in Imperial Valley, the late brant sea-
son, and a coot reduction season in the spring of 1954.
As a further crop relief measure prehunting season



THE GAME HARVEST

Game bags of most species showed a high level dur-
ing the biennium and record kills were reported for
many. At the same time game population remained at
good levels in spite of tremendous hunting pressure,
which was an important factor in the increased bag.
Statistics on the game bag were compiled from hunter
questionnaire surveys and from a tabulation of deer
tags.

Indications are that despite the present high popula-
tion levels, game will continue to suffer from en-
croachment of agriculture and industry unless wildlife
is given its proper place in planning for future develop-
ment of the State. Most likely to suffer a reduction in
numbers are waterfowl, whose habitat has been subject
to constant decrease over the years.

With deer, the most pressing problem is a more ade-
quate use of the resource by harvesting more animals.
Field investigations by the branch have shown that
present deer populations in many sections of the State
are overusing their range to the point of seriously dam-
aging the food supply. Failure to harvest the annual in-
crease in deer population, which is the case today, will
result in the deer herds adjusting their own numbers
by periodic and wasteful die-offs and herd increases—
a boom-and-bust routine.

For a better understanding of the total bag figures,
the essentials of the hunter questionnaire system are
summarized. The hunter questionnaire has been stand-
ard procedure since 1948, and is a statistical process
recommended by the Opinion Research Center of the
University of Denver. Questionnaires are sent to a 2-
percent random sampling of hunting license buyers.
Resulting data is considered typical of the entire hunt-
ing public and projected mathematically to get a state-
wide figure. Exaggerated results are obtained through
such a system, but the factors leading to the exaggera-
tions remain constant from year to year so that the
indicated trends of game bag are considered reliable.
Answers are checked with expected hunting prospects
as determined by field surveys, and through combining
the two sources of information valuable data is ob-
tained.

More accurate figures on pheasants and waterfowl
bag were obtained by checking the questionnaire re-
sults with known bag on cooperative hunting areas and
on waterfowl management areas. Interestingly enough



46



DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND GAME



PHEASANTS BAGGED ON COOPERATIVE
HUNTING AREAS



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35,000



30,000



— 25,000



20,000



15,000



10,000



5,000



1949



1950



1951



1952



1953



HUNTING SEASON

the number of hunters using these areas tallied closely
uith the projected number from questionnaire figures.

Bag and population levels of the various species:

Quail: Two successive mild winters and improved
precipitation in desert areas have resulted in a general
increase in quail throughout the State. These condi-
tions were reflected in the highest bag on record re-
ported for 1953.

Pheasants: An e.xceptional hatch of birds in the
spring of 1953, as indicated by field surveys, and in-
creased hunting pressure resulted in the best bag on
record. Pheasant tag sales have indicated a continued
increase in the popularitv of the ringneck as a game
bird.

Doves: Year after \ear doves produce the second
largest bag of any game species, and population re-
mained good during the biennium with a record made
in the 1953 bag.

Pigeons: Although the 1953 pigeon bag was the sec-
ond best ever recorded, the previous year was light.
These birds show an erratic distribution pattern from
year to year, with marked fluctuations in the bag
which ma\" have no relation to the numbers of birds
present.

Ducks: Ducks have consistently produced the
greatest bag of any of the game species, and the two
seasons during the biennium were no exception. Dur-



ing the two-year period there was a marked increase
in ducks wintering in California, as shown by the
yearly census conducted jointly by the department
and the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Reflecting this
increase was the record year for 1952, and a close sec-
ond in 1953.

Geese: Hunter bags for geese reached all-time highs
during the biennium. Best year for goose hunters was
1953.

Rabbits: Rabbit hunting is assuming more and more
importance in the state-wide picture, as shown by the
fact that the combined total of cottontails, brush, and
jackrabbits taken exceeds the number of some of the
more popular game species such as quail, pheasants and
geese. Rabbits are taken mainly in the southern part
of the State, where there are large numbers of hunt-
ing license holders and a limited amount of other game
close at hand.

Bear: California bear hunters had their best year in
1953, although relatively few hunters seek bears, prob-
ably because well-trained dogs are a near-necessity for
successful bear hunting. Many bears are taken while


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Online LibraryCalifornia. Dept. of Fish and GameCalifornia fish and game (Volume 1952-1954) → online text (page 6 of 14)