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California fish and game (Volume 1954-1956) online

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October 31st and for sperm
\\ hales \piil lst-No\embei ^Oth

Heiring fis/itng with a beat/t iei/)e iicuf Marshall, Tomales Bay.

(Fish and Game Photo by J. B. Phillips)

lowing: "During the period from September I, 1955,
to March 31, 1956, the total amount of anchovies
which may be taken or received for canning, includ-
ing canned pet food, shall not be more than 21,000
tons. During the period from April 1, 1956, to March
31, 1957, the total amount of anchovies which may
be taken or received for canning, including canned
pet food shall not be more than 35,000 tons."

In addition to this regulation on total catch, legis-
lation was enacted to protect the young anchovy. The
law now declares: "No anchovies less than five inches
in length measured from tip of snout to tip of tail
may be purchased for any purpose except for use as
bait; provided that the allowable percentage of under-
sized anchovies which may be contained in any load
or lot purchased shall be not more than 25 percent by
w eight of all anchovies in said load or lot."

This and similar legislation on the California yel-
lov\tail mark the first time that total annual bag limits
have been placed on any commercially taken Cali-
fornia marine fish.

New Techniques

During the biennium new techniques were insti-
tuted to maintain a close check on the relative health
of California's anchovy population. Since 1955, weekly
samples of bait have been collected from the major
sportfishing landings from Morro Bay to San Diego.
Length frequency and age analyses of these samples
have been found to reflect accurately the sizes and
ages of the bait utilized throughout the year along
the coast. Valuable information on the relative
strength of incoming year classes in Southern Cali-
fornia will now be available.

In former years, young sardines formed an im-
portant portion of the California live bait catch. The
bait sampling program will also lead to accurate esti-
mates of the relative numbers of juvenile sardines
which move inshore each year to the Southern Cali-
fornia nursery grounds.

In addition to the bait sampling program, and per-
haps more spectacular, is the recently instituted series

of airplane spotting flights designed to assess the
abundance and distribution of anchovies as well as
sardines and mackerel in coastal waters. .'Mthough
still in the developmental stages, this program of
identifying and estimating abundance of various
pelagic species shows great promise, both as a sup-
plement to vessel surveys as well as a new research
tool of its ow n.


The Pacific herring fishery has alwa\s been of
relativel\- minor importance in California. But, with
the "disappearance" of the sardine from the coast
of California, attention has been focused upon all
other pelagic species, the Pacific herring not excluded.

The herring catch that had remained around 300
tons yearly from 1920-1947 rose sharply to over 4,000
tons in 1948. From 1948 to 1956 the catch fluctuated
w idel\-. .-Xs the abundance of sardines and other
pelagic fishes diminished, the demand for herring
rose; and when other more preferred species, such as
the anchovy and mackerel were abundant, the demand
for herring decreased. The peak catch of herring
came in 1952 when over 5,000 tons were landed.

Unfortunately the herring processed for human
consumption met serious sales resistance. Adult her-
ring become soft and do not process well when sub-
jected to cooking pressures and temperatures. As soon
as this was discovered, several members of the indus-
try applied to the Fish and Game Commission for
permits to reduce herring into meal and oil.

Short Term Study

\'ery little was known about the status of the
herring population in California so, in 1954, the com-
mission ordered a short-term intensive stud\-. The
information from this study would be used to deter-
mine whether reduction permits should be granted.
The stud\- was completed in 1955 and the results
were published in early 1956. Generall\' the findings
were as follows:

The herring population in California waters is of
relatively small magnitude compared to the vast herring
stocks in Canadian waters where from 100-200 thou-
sand tons are taken annually. Estimates based on the
numbers of eggs deposited by the total spawning
population during the spawning season (January to
March) in Tomales and San Francisco Ba\s indicated
a total population of around 16,000 tons. Admittedl_\'
the data used to compute the California population
are rough approximations, but the results do indicate
a population of such small magnitude that excessive
take of fish on the spawning grounds would threaten
the resource.

Herring Easily Caught

Of primar\- interest in terms of management is the
fact that prespawning schools of herring are easily
caught in Tomales Ba>'. Boats equipped with round



haul nets are used in the deeper parts of the bay and
fishermen using beach seines and gill nets operate
along the beaches where the herring gather to deposit
tlieir eggs.

Herring entering San Francisco Bay to spawn, on
the other hand, are much less vulnerable to fishing
activity. Strong tides, tide rips, and rocky shore lines
make it difficult for fishermen to catch the fish. The
population entering San Francisco Bay to spawn was
estimated to be about three times as great as the
population entering Tomales Bay. Thus, even though
tlie San Francisco Bay spawning population is much
larger than the population entering Tomales Bay,
increased markets for herring would bring about
greater pressure upon the better fishery because of
the easier availability of the Tomales fish.

All Year fishing Pressure

Where adult herring go after spawning in San
F"rancisco and Tomales Ba\s was not fully disclosed,
hut evidence indicates that considerable numbers con-
centrate in the Monterey Bay area upon returning to
sea. In 1952, over half of the \earl\' tonnage was taken
in the summer months in Montere\- Ba\-. Thus, the
adult herring spawning in Tomales and San Francisco
Ba\s ma\' be subject to fishing pressure all \ear

As a result of the surve\', the commission refused
to grant reduction permits.


In 1955 the Legislature changed the composition of
the members of the Marine Research Committee, and
the membership of the committee now consists of
nine men, of whom five represent the production
phase of the fishing industry, one represents organized
sportsmen, and one represents organized labor.

.Marine investigations carried on under the coordi-
nation of this committee were continued by California
.Academy of Sciences, California Department of Fish
and Game, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Hop-
kins Marine Station, and the U. S. Fish and Wildlife
Service. Under this study oceanic phases of the pelagic
fish, including sardines, mackerel, anchovy, herring
and squid, were investigated, bringing together addi-
tional information concerning the pelagic marine fish-
eries of the Pacific Ocean.

Limited catches of the supporting fisheries con-
tinued during the period, with, a small increase in the
catch of sardines.


During the past two years the otter trawl fishery
continued to produce the State's major source of fish
for the fresh fish market. Over 30 million pounds of
assorted bottom fish are brought in each year by Cali-
fornia's trawl fleet. These landings have continued at

this high level in spite of increasingly strong compe-
tition from imported frozen fish fillets.

Although there has been little change in the pound-
age of fish landed, there has been a marked change in
the relative proportion of the various species in the


Dover sole is still the leading species, but bocaccio
rockfish has increased rapidly and has taken second
place from English sole. There has also been a marked
increase in the combined landings of several other
species of rockfish which are usually marketed to-

The relatively small fillet return from rockfish is
offset b\' using the remainder of the fish as pet or
mink food. The marketings of rockfish and flatfish
"frames" along with varieties and sizes of fish now
considered undesirable for human use, has made it
possible for the trawl fishermen to operate at price
levels which otherwise would be impossibly low.

Research by the department on bottomfish has in-
cluded mesh studies to determine the sizes of webbing
which will do the best job of retaining marketable
sizes of fish and releasing those which are too small.
Part of this work has been done as a cooperative study
under the coordination of the Pacific Marine Fisheries
Commission. The latest such experiment was per-
formed in 1956 and was carried out bv Washington
State Department of Fisheries and California Depart-
ment of Fish and Game men, working together on
California's research vessel, the N. B. Scofield.

Sampling Program

A continuing program of sampling the trawl catch
is being carried on at San Francisco and Eureka. Addi-
tional information is obtained from the daily log of
fishing activit\- which each trawl fisherman is required
to turn over to the department. These logs and records
of the daily landings of each boat are collated and
checked. The combined information obtained from
these processes has served to keep the management of

A typical bag of boltam fish, invertebrates and debris taken during
halibut tagging work near Long Reach.

(Pierpont Landing Photo)

this fishery in step with good conservation practices
through knowledge of existing biological and industry


The rockfish or "rock cods" are abundant in Cali-
fornia waters, wherein about 50 species are found.
Adults of the many species of rockfish are taken from
shallow water close to shore to well offshore and a
depth of about 2,400 feet.

Some of the forms occurring in California are dis-
tributed from Lower California to Alaska, but others
are more restricted in their distribution. A few species
are small, hardly reaching 10 inches when fully grown,
while some other species may attain a length of 36
inches. For the most part, rockfish are found oflF rocky
coasts or over a rocky or gravelly bottom, but a few
species occur over a hard sandy bottom.

Rockfish were of commercial importance in Cali-
fornia as early as 1875. In 1900, the catch was be-
tween one and two million pounds. In 1918, the catch
had increased to eight million pounds as a consequence
of the increased demand for food during World
War I. Following a postwar slump, landings increased
CO 13 million pounds in 1945, reflecting World War II
demands. Following another postwar slump, the annual
catch has fluctuated between 1 2 and 1 3 million pounds
since 1953.

Sportsman's Take

During the past 10 years, sport fishing in ocean
\\aters has become well established and rockfish are
now an important component of this catch. Party boat
catch records for all California reveal that in 1947
about 2 \A million fish were landed by anglers, of which
rockfish comprised about 10 percent; in 1955 slightly
over three million fish were landed, of which half
were rockfish.

In addition to the catches made from the several
hundred party boats operating in California ocean
waters, rockfish are also caught by anglers operating
from motor boats, skiffs, piers, and shore and are also
taken by skin divers.

Prior to 1943 most of the commercial fishery for
rockfish was in southern and central California. The
majority of the catches were made by means of set-
lines, a series of baited hooks attached to a long line.
During this period only about 5 percent of the annual
total was landed by operators of the old-type drag
net that was rigged for catching flatfish on the bottom
of the sea.

Dragnet Modified

Late in 1943 a modified version of the dragnet, de-
signed for capturing rockfish, was introduced into
Northern California. This modification, termed a
"balloon trawl," proved so successful that by the end
of 1944 most of the catches of rockfish were being
made with this type of gear in northern and central
California waters. Although dragnet gear is now ac-

A fureico longline vessel, the Franz Joseph, drifting 10 miles offshore
while fishing for sablefish.

(Fish and Game Photo by J. B. Phillips)

counting for the bulk of the rockfish landed in Cali-
fornia, there are still a few small boats that fish with
setline gear, particularly along the section of the
Southern California coast where dragnets are pro-

Frozen Filleis

For man\- years a large portion of the rockfish catch
has been marketed in the form of fillets. During
World War II the freezing of fillets was given a strong
impetus because of military demands. A small portion
of the catch is marketed in a fresh, dressed form. In
previous \ears small amounts of rockfish have been
salted. Experimental canning of rockfish has been
tried but did not prove profitable.


Results of studies on the sablefish (black cod) which
were carried on jointly by the fisheries departments
of Alaska, Canada, VVashington, Oregon, and Cali-
fornia were published by the Pacific A'larine Fisheries
Commission in Bulletin 3, released late in 1954.

Sablefish form the basis of a minor but steady fish-
ery along the Pacific Coast, primarily because of the
popularit\- of the product in a smoked form. Since
1946, the average annual Pacific Coast landings have
been about 10 million pounds, with California account-
ing for about 2 million pounds. The fishery is ex-
ploited by both longline (setline) and otter trawl
(dragnet) fishermen.

Studies on the abundance of sablefish in California
waters, based on an analysis of the commercial fisher\',
indicate that the catch per trip has continued to remain
fairly constant since 1941. Fluctuations in seasonal
catches are quite closely correlated with economic fac-
tors. Inasmuch as the greatest portion of the Pacific
Coast catch is placed in cold storage for future smok-
ing, a large cold storage holding in one year is asso-
ciated with a relatively low catch in the ensuing year,
and vice versa.

Because the return per unit of effort is being main-
tained and because there have been no new develop-
ments in the utilization of this species, further regula-



tion of this fishery in California is not being proposed,
for the present.

Five-Way Study

Studies on sablefish were made by California, Ore-
gon, Washington, Canada, and Alaska. Additional data
w as supplied by the International Pacific Halibut Com-
mission. The work was coordinated by the Pacific
Marine Fisheries Commission and culminated in the
publication of the Commission's Bulletin 3. The work
showed that the sablefish stocks are divided into sev-
eral diff'erent populations, that California's populations
appeared to be in good condition but that some of
those farther north were not.

Boat catch studies conducted since the publication
of Bulletin 3 have indicated that California's sablefish
stocks are still in good condition.


During the biennium the N. B. Scofield completed
nine cruises in 412 operating days. These cruises cov-
ered the coast between \'ancouver Island, British Co-
lumbia and the Gulf of Panama and offshore to the
Galapagos Islands on the equator. The vessel also
w orked as much as 500 miles offshore from Southern

Three trips were made into the waters off Mexico,
and Central and South America to investigate sub-
surface populations of yellowfin tuna by means of
long-line gear. Two other cruises, in which long-line
gear was used, were made oft" the Pacific Coast to
determine the albacore's migratory routes.

Three trips utilized trawl gear, two to investigate
flatfish populations in the Northern California area
and one to carry out exploratory work on shrimp off
Central California. A cruise was conducted in South-
ern California waters to tag and release abalones.


The Yello\\fin completed 18 cruises during the
biennium in 411 days of operations. All but two of
these cruises were made to carry out pelagic fish
investigations on the commercially important sardines,
anchovies and mackerel. For the most part these in-
vestigations were made in the coastal waters of Cali-
fornia and Baja California, between San Francisco and
Alagdalena Bay.

Yellowtail and ahalone tagging were accomplished
on the two "nonpelagic fish" trips. Pioneer experi-
mental work in the development of electro-fishing
collection devices were conducted aboard the vessel
with excellent results. Fish were positively attracted
from relatively long distances in salt water, presaging
the advent of more efficient operation in marine

In Ma>% 1956, extensive dry rot was found through-
out the Yelloivfin, rendering the vessel unsafe for fur-

ther offshore biological research. It was removed from
offshore service and preparation made to decommis-
sion and replace it.


The 26-foot diving boat Mollusk is designed for
working close to rocks in shallow water where it can
operate in rock\- areas which would result in the
destruction of less maneuverable craft. The boat has
been used exclusively in the abalone investigation.
Equipped w ith compressor, diving stage and ladder,
deep sea diving equipment, hose and underwater tele-
phone, it enables department personnel to work in
comparative safety while conducting underwater sur-
veys and operations.


The primary function of the NmitUiis has been that
of mothership and base operations for the abalone
investigation. Because the Mollusk is small and has no
accommodations to sleep or feed the necessary crew,
the 50-foot Nautilus goes along whenever the investi-
gation is so far from a port that it is not practical to
return to harbor each evening.

The Nautilus is equipped with an electrical gener-
ating s\stem which is used to supply the power for
underwater lights used by personnel in the study of
night time habits of abalone and for underwater pho-
tography. Occasionally, aqualung diving is conducted
from the Nautilus but for the major portion of the
underwater work conventional diving gear is used.

The Nautilus is well equipped for other investiga-
tional work and during the biennium was used in the
following investigations:

Herring: The herring schools in San Francisco Bay
were charted with the electronic underwater gear.
Gillnets and blanket nets were used in sampling the
herring schools.

Crab: Experimental crab traps were used to test the
effectiveness of different sized escape openings for
releasing undersized crabs. Beam trawls were used to
collect crabs in the very small sizes.

Shrimp and Prawn: Shrimp surveys and some ex-
perimental fishing with prawn traps were carried on
from the Nautibis.

Survey vesse/ N B. Scofield h designed for use wifh many types of gear.

(Photo by Claude M. Krcider)



^ 1^ Ilk




Increased services to the investigations of the de-
partment marked the 44th biennium in statistics. Dur-
ing this time, replacement and addition of business ma-
chine equipment enabled more detailed and more com-
prehensive analyses to be made.

Special tabulated reports of data, both biological
and statistical, were prepared. Correlation of data from
fish receipts, log books, questionnaires, and original
source documents recorded by field scientists gave the
basis for this information. Reports were likewise tabu-
lated for the Inland Fisheries and Game Management

The acquisition of newer, improved tabulating
equipment permitted the absorption of these additional
duties through more efficient and versatile operation.


The stafi^ issued three publications during the bi-
ennium. Statistical Circulars Nos. 29 and 30 presented
the annual statistics of fresh and canned fishery prod-
ucts for the years 1954 and 1955, respectively. Circular
30 had in addition a table of processed sport-caught
fish— the first time sport processing has been separated
in the records. Fish Bulletin No. 102 represented the
complete commercial fish catch for 1953 and 1954, in-
cluding the jack mackerel and sardine yield per area
from California waters from 1946-1947 through 1954-
1955, illustrated by charts, tables and accompanying

Since January, 1955, preliminary monthly landing
figures have been published in cooperation with the
U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This leaflet, recording
preliminary figures, is printed in Washington, based
on monthly landing figures supplied by the depart-
ment and distributed both by the department and the
U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Prior to this publica-
tion, state-wide monthly preliminary figures were not


Early in 1955, the California Fish and Game Com-
mission recommended the formation of a committee
of persons interested in the kelp problem to consider
the history and the future of the kelp resource and
advance a program to bring about a concerted attack
on the problem by all interested groups.

Two important results have come from committee
efforts: (1) a working agreement between the kelp
industry and the sport fishing industry was reached;
(2) a five-year study of the relationships between fish
and kelp, water conditions and kelp and other rela-
tionships has been set up with the University of Cali-
fornia. Preliminary financing of this project is under
contract with the department.

In the latter half of 1955 and the early part of 1956,
the department resurveyed the commercial kelp beds
off Southern California by airplane, with some addi-
tional check by boat and from shore. New maps were
drawn and these were compared to maps made in 1912.
Four categories were used to assist in the comparison:
heavy, medium, thin, and gone. Of 44 beds thus com-
pared, five showed no change between the two sur-
veys, 17 had declined in abundance, and 22 improved.
The beds which shov\ed no change comprised 16
square miles, those which declined 35, and the im-
proved beds 44 square miles.

A number of the beds have declined to the point
where they are practically nonexistent. All of these
beds that have practically disappeared are located in
close proximity to sewage outfalls with discharges in
excess of 40 million gallons per day. These include:
two beds near the outlet of San Diego Bay, three off
White Point, and two in Santa Monica Bay.

Seismic Explorations

Department of Fish and Game personnel observed
all offshore seismic oil explorations conducted by use
of explosives during the biennium and reported all
observed damage to marine life.

Each seismic exploration crew is accompanied at all
times by an official representative of the department,
whose dut\' is to observe the operation and take what-
ever steps are necessary to keep damage to marine life
to an absolute minimum. Companies holding seismic
permits from the Fish and Game Commission defray
costs of the department observers.

One seismic crew operating in Southern California
waters from July, 1954, until March, 1955, detonated
1,382,826 pounds of black powder with an observed
kill of 389 fish. A second, operating in the same general
area between October, 1954, and May, 1955, detonated
1,148,985 pounds of black powder with an observed
kill of 665 fish. No crews operated between May,
1955, and January, 1956. Seismic exploration recom-
menced in the Santa Barbara area in January with
632,070 pounds of black powder detonated between
Januar\' and June, 1956. A total of 860 fish was the
observed kill. A fourth crew operated in the Santa
Barbara area during the biennium and between June
11, and June 30, 1956, detonated 51,795 pounds of
black powder, killing 56 fish.

In all, four regular seismic crews operating in South-
ern California waters during the biennium detonated
3,215,676 pounds of black powder which killed 1,970

In addition, a series of experimental seismic shots
were made in an effort to find a cheaper and safer sub-
stitute for black powder that would do as little dam-
age to fish life. Observations were made of the use of
explosives in pier removal near Elwood and in sewer
outfall construction at White Point.


A molber takes her ducklings for a rubber-necking tour around Honey Lake, State waterfowl management area.

(Fish and Game Photo by \Vm. Anderson)

Game management activities and services during the

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