An Update On Sand Bass Numbers, Minimum Lengths
Author note: This blog installment was penned by Michelle Gandola.
Sand bass – that's the hot topic on our coast. Fishermen are worried about our access to sand bass and calico bass along the West Coast in the near future. The fact is there's a high biomass of sand bass in Mexican waters and warmer areas.
As our weather and ocean temperatures change, so do the populations and movement of the sand bass in California. On August 8th at 11 a.m., the California Dept. of Fish & Game will have a meeting that'll allow the public to lend their voice to the issues. The Sportfishing Association of California has opted to be conservative and will recommend to the CADFG to increase the length of a "keeper" bass to 13 inches. This will result in 1 to 2 additional years of spawning for each fish. The facts and biology support this as the best method to ensure the health of this fishery.
Here are some additional facts: Sand bass catches in Southern California are dependent on a population of resident fish and large increases in numbers following significant warm-water events. Prior to the 1983 El Nino, catches aboard Commercial Passenger Fishing Vessels (CPFV) averaged approximately 200,000 fish per year with a small spike following the 1973 El Nino. Beginning 2 years after the 1983 El Nino, catches started to climb and remained high until 2003 (there were two El Ninos within the period 1992 and 1997). Since then the levels are slightly lower than those of the 1983 El Nino.
Whether warm water results in greater spawning success, or if there's a mass movement of fish from northern California is unknown. Perhaps both factors contribute to high sand bass abundance following major warm events.
There were 738,000 fish harvested in 2000 and 195,000 landed in 2008. This is a 74% decline and shows the population has returned to pre-El Nino levels. During the period from 1975 through 1979, sand bass catches averaged 132,000 fish – 37,000 less than the last 4 years (2006-2012). What this shows is that barred sand bass catches have reached low levels in the past and recovered to produce large catches without changes in regulations.
The Sportfishing Association of California (SAC) was founded in 1972 by leaders in the Southern California sportfishing industry. The SAC promotes, advocates and lobbies for the interests of the Southern California sportfishing community under the mission to promote marine recreation and educational activities while protecting ocean resources. Michelle Gandola serves the SAC as director of PR and marketing. Visit CaliforniaSporfishing.org for more.
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