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California fish and game (Volume 1952-1954) online

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sons. This reflects nature's failure to restore to the
population new recruits in sufficient numbers to main-
tain a healthy fishery.

Explanations Sought

E.xplanations of why survival from each season's
spawning has been poor in the last five years, why
there is practical 1\- no spawning on the Southern Cali-
fornia grounds, and whv there has been little apparent
movement of sardines from Mexican to California
waters, is being sought by all the agencies working
under the direction of the Marine Research Com-

Either one of two conclusions or a combination of
both appears inescapable; that there has been an un-
precedented series of years of unfavorable oceanic
conditions, or that the sardine breeding stock has been
hea\-il%" impaired b\- past heavy catches.

Because the part man has played in the serious re-
duction of the species is the only factor which can
be controlled, the Department of Fish and Game is
deeply concerned with the human phase of the fishery.
It has regularly, but unsuccessfully, recommended
regulation of the sardine fishery. Although the im-
portance man has played in the fishery still is a matter
of dispute in some quarters, the department feels
strongly that the sardine resource cannot wait until all
the facts are available, and that commercial extinction
of the species is likely unless action is taken.

Failure of the industry has been so complete that the
danger of continued overfishing cannot be ignored
either by responsible agencies or by the citizens of Cali-
fornia. Accordingly, the department, after consulta-
tion with leaders of the industry and with sportsmen's
organizations, presented to the 1953 Session of the
Legislature a management plan designed to restore the
sardine industry as well as that of the Pacific mackerel,
and to maintain the anchovy and jack mackerel fish-

Sordine eggs being artificially ferlilized aboard the research vessel

Yellowfin. The larval Fish are kept alive lor several days for research


eries. The plan, which would have authorized seasonal
catch limits to be set by the Fish and Game Commis-
sion on the basis of abundance of the viarious species,
was not adopted. Thus the industry, not entirely ready
to accept conservation measures, continues to operate
on a day-to-day basis, unregulated, and fast fading
into memories of what was, and what might have been.


Although the California oflF-shore sport fishing catch
declined considerably during the biennium, the salt
water angler still can choose a fishing boat from a
fleet of 1,000, and he can find a sport boat landing in
every major California port and most of the minor

Fishing accommodations range from small commer-
cial craft with room for one or two anglers to luxuri-
ous boats with staterooms and galley service available.
A4ost of the sport fishing fleet is concentrated in South-
ern California waters and the greatest catch is made
there. In addition, there is an almost equal fishing ef-
fort from private boats and piers.

Private ownership of skiffs and small boats is in-
creasing rapidly and may be contributing to an ap-
parent stabilization of growth in the sport boat fleet.
In 1953 sport boats reported a reduction of 70,000
passenger days from the 1952 figure of 563,000 pas-
senger days. At least part of this reduction can be
traced to poorer fishing. Following is a table showing
comparative commercial sport boat catches of the
three most important game fish species:

Numbers of Fish

Year Albacore Yellowtail White seabass

1952 187,000 59,000 41,000

1953 - 23,000 26,000 28,000

Offsetting these decreases, jack mackerel were taken
by Southern California sports fishermen in great num-
bers, 195,000 in 1953 as compared to 4,500 during the
previous year. This created fishing for thousands of
anglers, and marked the first instance that these fish
assumed any importance in the sport fishery.

Removed From List

An important development during the biennium was
the removal of the kelp bass, a highly important game
fish, from the commercial fish list by the 1953 State
Legislative Session. At the same time a minimum size
limit of 10 J inches was imposed. Both moves, based
on research facts, were widely endorsed by the sports
fishing industry and contributed directly to sound
conservation of this fishing.

Tagging and life history work with the kelp bass
was continued, with more than 3,000 fish tagged dur-
ing the two-year period. An important development
was the use of monofilament nylon, which was found
to be superior to stainless steel or silver for tagging
certain kinds of sports and commercial fishes, and


which has been used exclusively since 1953. Three
hundred kelp bass were transplanted from San Cle-
mente Island to Santa Catalina Island in November,
1953. More than a quarter of these fish were recovered
at the latter area, with no recoveries from the trans-
planted group at San Clemente Island.

An experiment, conducted beginning in September,
1953, on removal of starfish from the outer break-
water of Los Angeles harbor, revealed several bene-
ficial developments. Twelve tons of starfish were re-
moved with the aid of more than 200 skin divers. The
fish were found to yield a meal product of some value,
and could possibly form the basis of a new fisherv.
Later observations in the area indicated among other
benefits a heavy survival of young mussels.

Development of underwater breathing apparatus,
for observation of fish in their native environment,
has contributed much basic knowledge and facts about
the life history of sports fish.


As pressures in marine sport fishing continue to
grow, the demand for live bait increases correspond-
ingly, especially in Southern California. Boats devoted
almost exclusively to supplying this bait have met the
increased demand not by expanding in numbers but
through increased efficiency. During the past two
years at least 10 new boats have replaced older craft.

In the sheltered waters of Los Angeles-Long Beach
Harbor, lights suspended from skifl^s and powered bv
gasoline generators are anchored at nightfall. When
sufficient fish, measured by the use of echo sounders,
have collected under these lights a bait net is set around
the school, pulled by a power gurdy, and the bait
tanks and receivers filled. Thus a steady supply of bait
is available to the party boats of Los Angeles Harbor
and vicinity w hich leave for the fishing grounds at or
before dawn.

Prior to these innovations the bait fishermen located
the fish visually about daybreak, and pulled the nets
by hand. Many times the part\' boats had to wait for
bait and could not leave for the fishing grounds until
long after daylight.

Operate in North

Until 1952 the live bait fishery was confined to the
waters south of Ventura. Then with the expanded use
of live bait on the sport fishing boats of. Santa Bar-
bara and northward, a fishery developed to meet the
new demand. Now live bait fishermen are operating as
far north as Morro Bay.

Anchovies always have been the mainstay of the live
bait fishery, but prior to the catastrophic disappearance
of the sardine, 15 to 20 percent of the bait consisted of
sardines. In 1952 less than 2 percent of the catch was
made up of this species and in 1953 less than 1 percent.
Other species, such as white croaker, kingfish, queen-

Some o/ the electronically equipped bait vessels of the Bait Haulers'
Co-op in Los Angeles Harbor.

fish and smelt, occur in the fishery, but anchovies con-
tinue to dominate the catch. In 1952 and 1953 it com-
prised 95 percent of the take and during the past seven
years has supplied over 80 percent. The anchovy pop-
ulation in Southern California waters has so far been
able to supph' a demand that has increased almost two-
fold in seven years.


Growth was the dominant characteristic of the tuna
industry during the biennium. Signs of this growth
were evident in all segments of the industry through-
out the period. An important milestone was the open-
ing of the world's largest tuna processing plant at
Terminal Island, Los Angeles Harbor, in November,
1952. This plant has operated continuously since its
dedication. To keep pace, other companies modernized
their plants or regrouped for strength.

Perhaps the growth of the industry is best reflected
in the statistics of the period. A new high in produc-
tion was attained in 1953 and preliminary^ figures for
the first six months of 1954 indicate that the case pack
is 22 percent above the like period of 1953. The Cali-
fornia fleet contributed the major portion of the raw
product but importations grew steadily in volume with
no signs of a let-up at the biennium's close.

The price of raw fish, further exemplifying growth,
increased from 1320 to 1350 per ton for yellowfin,
from 1350 to $400 for albacore, from 1310 to 1350 for
bluefin, and from $260 to $310 for skipjack. In each
instance the latter price was being paid at the end of
the biennium.

Potential Not Realized

This growth of the tuna industry followed the U. S.
Government's decision not to increase the tariff or
import duties on raw or processed fish. In some quar-

Scale samples being taken during yellowfail tagging operations off
Guadalupe Island, Bo/'o California.

ters this decision was regarded with gloom, but the
industry, engrossed in its own expansion, apparently
underrated its potential.

The fleet operated at near capacity throughout the
biennium. The brief layover shortly after the period's
beginning was the one exception. Various members of
the fleet engaged in exploration for new fishing
grounds and experimented \\ith gear new to the tuna
fishery of the Eastern Pacific. Vessel loss was materi-
ally reduced over the preceding biennium.

In r\vo instances old reliable fishing grounds failed
to yield as in the past. The failure of the equatorial
fishing grounds off Central and South America in the
winter and spring of 1952-53 is associated with the
phenomenon known as "El Niiio" (a change in ocean
currents caused by weather conditions), which is a
complete reversal of usual meteorological and oceano-
graphic conditions. On the other hand, there is no
ready explanation for the poor fishing experienced by
the purse seine fleet in the Gulf of California in the
spring of 1954. Compensating for these failures was
the discovery of a new fishing bank off southern Peru,
representing a southern extension of the South Ameri-
can fishing grounds.

Experiments with new gear and fishing aids included
design of a rapid-closing purse seine net; use of suction
pumps for speed in transferring bait aboard bait boats;
trials with Japanese long-line gear for subsurface fish
in established fishing grounds as well as in new areas;
and the use of new electronic devices such as fish
scanar, fishlupe, etc., which enable the fisherman to
find and follow subsurface schools of fish.

Tuna research forged ahead during the biennium,
using available resources to the fullest to meet the
challenge of a growing industry. A full scale tagging
program was inaugurated to stud\- the migratory pat-

terns and rate of growth of yellowfin tuna, skipjack
and albacore. Results have been spectacular. The trans-
Pacific migration of albacore was revealed when an
albacore, tagged off Santa Catalina Island, was recov-
ered 324 days later 500 miles southwest of Tokyo,
Japan. Two tagged albacore, released off Guadalupe
Island, Mexico, in August, 1953, were recovered in
February, 1954, near Midway Island, in the mid-
Pacific Ocean, by Japanese long-line fishermen. The
growth potential of yellowfin tuna was demonstrated
with the recovery of a tagged fish at liberty for one
)'ear, which had gained 25 pounds.

Picture Not Complete

While some of the recoveries have been outstanding
in themselves, the over-all recovery rate is insufficient
as yet to give a complete picture of the migrational
patterns of the various species. In an attempt to in-
crease the returns, the tagging program was expanded
greatly ear the close of the biennium.

Th; program of exploratory fishing and gear devel-
opment was channeled toward the search for subsur-
face stocks of tuna and the whereabouts of albacore in
the off season. The M. V. N. B. Scofield carried on
exploration in the equatorial waters off Central and
South America in cooperation with the Inter-Ameri-
can Tropical Tuna Commission and Scripps Institution
of Oceanography. A complete report was being pre-
pared for publication at the close of the biennium.

The search for albacore with the M. V. N. B. Sco-
field in the off season (fall, winter and spring) demon-
strated that these fish are not off our coast during the
winter and early spring months.

The studies on age and rate of growth of yellowfin,
skipjack, albacore and bluefin were continued through-
out the biennium. Analysis of the skipjack and albacore
length frequencies were started toward the end of the
period, with presentation anticipated in the near fu-


Sport fishing for salmon in the ocean off California
has developed into big business within the past 10
years, and, according to estimates based on tagging
and sampling programs, rivals the commercial catch
not only in numbers of fish taken, but in economic
value to the State as well. The fishery is estimated to
be worth $8,000,000 annually.

Salmon landings made by commercial fishermen in
California's ocean and river fisheries averaged 7.6 mil-
lion pounds during 1952 and 1953, representing an in-
crease of about 250,000 pounds per year over landings
of the previous two-year period.

The increase was entirely due to ocean troll landings
which averaged 6.8 million pounds during the past two
calendar years. Decreases of about 240,000 pounds



were shown in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River gill
net fishery- landings during the period of the report, as
compared to the years 1950 and 1951. Curtailment of
the area open to gill netting, imposed b>' the State Leg-
islature, was responsible for the smaller landings. Re-
strictions created bv the law affected an entire season
for the first time in 1952.

At the same time shipments of salmon into Califor-
nia by common carrier averaged 770,000 pounds per
year during 1952 and 1953, a decrease of 140,000
pounds under the two previous years. Most of the
shipments are bound for Los Angeles.

Sport Fishing Study

Because of the ever-increasing pressure on the sal-
mon population by the new sport fishery, it became
apparent that more factual knowledge of its methods,
catch composition, and economic as well as recrea-
tional value would be required to assure proper man-
agement regulations, thus assuring safeguards for
future abundance of the salmon resource on which it

Plans formulated and approved in 1953 for a fed-
eral aid project will supply the necessary minimum
investigation of California's ocean salmon sport fishery.

Marking and Mark Recovery

In 1950 an interstate salmon marking program \\as
started on the recommendation of the Pacific Marine
Fisheries Commission to determine, among other
things, the contributions made to the ocean fishery in
different areas by salmon originating in various river
systems of the Pacific Coast. The actual marking was
described in the last biennial report.

An obvious corollary to a marking experiment is a
carefully planned mark recovery program. California,
in cooperation with Oregon, Washington, British
Columbia, and Alaska, has such a recovery program.

Men stationed at coastal ports from Monterey, Cali-
fornia, to Pelican, Alaska, search for marked fish in
the catches landed b\' ocean salmon troUcrs. This pro-
gram is coordinated by the Pacific Marine Fisheries
Commission with which British Columbia and Alaska
voluntarily cooperate. Activities of this commission
are more full\' discussed in another section of this

Pertinent data is summarized regarding each mark-
ing experiment made by the department since 1950 in
the table entitled "Salmon Marking and Recovery,"
Appendix Table 40. Marking experiments conducted
by Oregon and Washington are not included; re-
coveries of California marks made by them, as well as
by British Columbia, are included for 1952 and 1953.
No California marks have been recovered off Alaska to

A word of explanation is necessary in regard to the
higher survival rate of hatchery fish as compared to
wild captured fish in the release of 1949 brood year
king salmon in the Sacramento River.

Because of difficulties in capturing wild salmon
fingerlings without injury, only "cull" fish were taken.
Fish hatched at Coleman Station, a salmon hatchery
operated by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, were
bigger and in better condition than the wild fish when

Results of the experiments to date show that in 1952
the 1949 brood year king salmon from the Sacramento
River were taken in greater numbers by the combined
ocean troll fisheries of Oregon, Washington, and Brit-
ish Columbia than by the California fishery. Final
analyses will demonstrate whether or not this hap-
pened again in 1953. Conversely, the majority of sil-
ver salmon taken by the California fishery originated
in Oregon's coastal streams. Hence, when something
changes the salmon producing potential in one state,
the economy of other states will be affected.

Parf of the California salmon fleet anchored at Point Reyes, where as many as 300 boats sometimes anchor during the run.


tZ38r f





Demonstration of this one fact alone would be
enough to make these marking experiments a success;
however, a great deal of additional data is being col-
lected, the anal\'sis of which may well prove to be of
even greater value to proper management of this re-
newable resource.

King Salmon, Ocean Tagging

During the 1952 season, 1,318 king salmon were
tagged, all off San Francisco from boats furnished by
the Golden Gate Sportfishers Association. The coop-
eration of this association of party boat operators not
only saved the State several thousand dollars, but
assured a good catch of fish and produces a better
sample of the fish taken by the sports fleet than could
have been obtained by any other method. The San
Francisco Tyee Club, a group of sportsmen organized
for the purpose of conserving the salmon, has con-
tributed to our program by posting over 1 1,000 for
the return of certain lucky salmon tags. These bonuses
have been a great help in assuring the return of tags.

Returns of king salmon during the biennium which
were tagged in 1952 are shown in the table by the
area of recapture. The figures reflect the fact that most
king salmon are now^ taken in the ocean and that nearly
all the salmon taken off San Francisco come from the
Sacramento-San Joaquin River system.

The principal purpose of this cooperative program
is to determine the best size limits for the ocean sal-
mon fisheries.

Catch Sampling

In addition to obtaining reliable figures on the pro-
portion of marked fish in the ocean catch, the depart-
ment's samplers are getting valuable information for
detailed analyses of the fishery and the two species
of salmon supporting it. A summary of fish examined
during the ocean catch samphng program is presented




e.vamined 63,361

Silver King Silver

9,111 165,346 25,628

Percent of catch
sampled „.- 12.8% 33.3%

Average weight 12.2 lbs. 8.2 lbs. 12.8 lbs. 7.9 lbs.

Percent of catch
by weight ..... 88.5% 11.5% 91.6% 8.4%

Additional material collected has included random
length measurements, scale samples and lengths for
age analyses, sexual maturity data, and data regarding
weather and prices and their effect on fishing effort.

An unusually large number of pink or humpback
salmon were taken off California as far south as San
Francisco during July, 1953. Based on sampling data,
it is estimated that about 700 were landed. This is the
first time in recent history that this salmon has ap-
peared in such large numbers in the California fishery.

In conjunction with ocean catch sampling. Marine
Fisheries Branch personnel sample the catch of the gill
net fishery operating in the Sacramento-San Joaquin
River delta. Marks recovered here serve as a valuable
check on ocean recoveries.

Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta King Salmon

mi 19S3

Number examined 10,391 17,192

Percent of catch sampled .- 27.4% 43.7%

Average weights 19.5 lbs. 20.3 lbs.

Spawning Area Surveys

Annual inventory of the spawning populations utiliz-
ing the spawning areas in California's rivers is made
each fall and winter. During their survey trips crews
examine thousands of salmon that have died after
spawning, and while examining these carcasses find
many marked or tagged fish. The data collected on
these surveys completes the cycle in the search for
facts upon which to base wise salmon management

An important demonstration of the homing instinct
in silver salmon was demonstrated by mark recoveries
on the north coast in 1953. Early in 1951, more than
16,000 marked silver fry were released into Lindsey
Creek, the only one of several small tributaries to the
Mad River that received marked fish. Because silvers
spawn and die at the end of their third }-ear, survey
crews expected and found them back in the winter
of 1953.

During the fall of 1953, survey crews participated
in redevelopment of a salmon population in Clear
Creek, a tributary to the upper Sacramento River.
This stream once had a run of king salmon that
spawned above the site of a dam which since con-
struction has barred its passage for years. The dam is

Departmeni crews checking ihe commercial salmon catch for ftn marks.
Measurements are taken at the some time.

at the head of a steep gorge and the problem of get-
ting fish by both gorge and dam was a difficult one.

Establishment of a run by transplanting ripe adults
into such a stream was attempted. In cooperation with
the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Coleman Station
personnel, 1,428 adult king salmon were trapped at
Keswick Dam on the Sacramento River, and released
in Clear Creek above the dam.

Survey crews observed later, and some were cap-
tured for identification. Complete results of this ex-
periment will not be available until after 1957, when
most of the fish that are going to return will have
done so. By the time the fish return, the department
plans to have an adequate fish ladder completed
through the gorge and over the dam.


The meteoric rise of the jack mackerel fishery in
1947 was attributable in a large part to the almost
complete failure of the sardine fishery and the dimin-
ishing Pacific mackerel landings. A second important
factor was the increased use of depth-sounding devices
for locating schools of fish not visible at the surface.

After seven years of fairly heavy fishing effort the
fishery is now confined almost exclusively to Southern
California because the jack mackerel have disappeared
from other waters. During the years 1947 to 1950,
Monterey was a fairly important port of landing but
since 1950 the contribution from that area has been of
little significance. The catch since 1947 has fluctuated
almost yearly" with little correlation to observed con-

Preliminary age work completed during the bien-
nium indicates the commercial fishery is largely de-
pendent upon fish ranging from one to four years of
age. Fish of this age vary in size from about five to 14
inches. Each year, however, several purse seine loads
of very large jack mackerel are taken and these fish,
ranging in length from 20 to 25 inches, appear to be
from 10 to 20 or 25 years old. These very large jack
mackerel have become an important constituent in
the Southern California sportfisherman's bag during
late spring and early summer of the past two years.


Scientists, commercial fishermen and sportsmen have
been keeping a close watch and are feeling some de-
gree of alarm over the diminishing stock of anchovies
off the California coast. This feeling reached a. climax
after the 1952 season of heavy pressure off Central
California when the anchovy stocks reached a point of
diminishing return to the fishermen, and there were
not enough large schools of the species to make fishing
profitable on a steady basis. Since the summer of 1953
all anchovies processed in Central California packing

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Online LibraryCalifornia. Dept. of Fish and GameCalifornia fish and game (Volume 1952-1954) → online text (page 9 of 14)