[env-trinity] SF Chron 8 8 10 Insight Editorial Section

Byron Leydecker bwl3 at comcast.net
Sun Aug 8 10:56:03 PDT 2010

A better era for California anglers

David Schurr

San Francisco Chronicle August 8, 2010 04:00 AM Copyright San Francisco
Chronicle. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.Sunday, August 8, 2010


Liz Hafalia / The Chronicle

The decline in the California king salmon population has affected fishermen
like those at Fisherman's Wharf.

TL&o=0> http://imgs.sfgate.com/graphics/utils/plus-green.gifView Larger

On marriage, gulf oil leak, emissions law 08.08.10


It was a still and foggy morning. Two anglers loaded their 25-foot
sport-fishing boat with sandwiches, ice and bait. Under the calm gray sky,
they headed out under the Golden
<http://topics.sfgate.com/topics/Golden_Gate_Bridge>  Gate Bridge and north
to Duxbury in Marin
<http://topics.sfgate.com/topics/Marin_County,_California>  County. Within
minutes, they could smell the familiar odor of decaying marine life left on
the rocks by the last high tide. Sea lions were barking and lounging as the
boat cleared Point <http://topics.sfgate.com/topics/Point_Bonita_Light>
Bonita lighthouse and skirted up the North Channel near the infamous Potato
Patch shoals.

It was early September 2005, and the summer salmon season had been stellar.
Harbors from Monterey to Crescent City had been jammed with boats claiming
their prized salmon. That day, fishermen launched their boats with precision
and tact, respecting their fellow warriors. This was a ritual for anglers,
because getting out of the harbor early is essential for success, and many
days found the ocean too rough to attempt.

After the placid gray morning, the sun broke through the fog, and a ripple
came upon the sea. A steady north breeze filled in as more boats appeared.
The ocean was alive. Kingfishers and murres dived on anchovies pushed up by
schools of voracious salmon gorging themselves. An occasional sea lion
popped up in a swirl of blood and scales and flipped a fish high into the
air, almost smiling as he looked you in the eye.

On the boat, downriggers held spinning bait at a depth of 90 feet, lines
were clipped and the rods were ready. The little boat quickly trolled back
and forth while the anglers patiently watched their fish-finders for red
dashes or bait clouds.

Suddenly a rod popped up as the downrigger released the deep line, and with
a burst of adrenaline, an angler rushed to the back of the boat. Within
minutes, a chrome flash neared the top of the water column and dashed off
again, peeling 30 or 40 feet of line from the reel.

Finally, the hefty king salmon, with translucent blue and silver hues, was
netted from the icy Pacific <http://topics.sfgate.com/topics/Pacific_Ocean>
. This prized game fish has an oily scent that cannot be erased from your
mind. Twenty-five five pounds of the richest food source known to man went
into the box. As the lines were reset, the boat slowly trolled back. The
surface of the briny ocean was slick with fish oil as broken anchovy bodies
drifted by, remnants of a feeding frenzy repeated over and over again. 

Although the fishing was excellent that year, something was wrong. The
juvenile fish known as "shakers," occasionally caught and released, were
missing. I interviewed charter boat captains and commercial fishermen in
ports up and down the coast, and the consensus was the same: No juveniles
were being caught. An entire class of fish was absent from the ecosystem. As
a result of this tragedy, research began, and I became a scientist and a
fishery advocate.

After a year of dismal fishing in 2006, a sharp decline in numbers was
evident. The once sustainable California
<http://topics.sfgate.com/topics/California>  king salmon had been reduced
to a mere brood stock. The wave of upset affected the entire food chain.
Birds and mammals are still suffering today. The fishery is gone, the
ecosystem has collapsed. Politics aside, this resource has been lost.

Sport <http://topics.sfgate.com/topics/Recreational_fishing>  fishing and
environmental groups are desperately working to reverse this situation, but
they face many challenges. Like government subsidies and social programs,
when a resource is given away - in this case water, a public trust - it is
extremely difficult to get it back.

Since I was a young man, I fished for salmon, first in the rivers then on
party boats leaving San <http://topics.sfgate.com/topics/San_Francisco>
Francisco twice daily (when the bite was hot). Finally, I bought my own
boat, learned navigation and boating safety and lived to fish for salmon.

This fishing heritage, however, has not been passed on to my son. I remember
some years ago when I was talking about the salmon decline to my
grandfather, who is a World War II
<http://topics.sfgate.com/topics/World_War_II>  veteran, and he simply said:

"We used to hunt Elk in Bakersfield, too, son."



Byron Leydecker, JcT

Chair, Friends of Trinity River

PO Box 2327

Mill Valley, CA 94942-2327

415 383 4810 land/fax

415 519 4810 mobile

bwl3 at comcast.net 

bleydecker at stanfordalumni.org 



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