The California Fish & Game Commission voted on Nov. 7 to rescind the black bass slot limits currently in place at Lake Oroville, McClure Reservoir, Millerton Reservoir, Orr Lake and Siskiyou Lake.
Removal of the slot limit – which prohibits the take of bass between 12 and 15 inches - will go into effect March 1, 2013. The slot limit will be replaced by the state regulation of a minimum 12 inch length and a five fish limit.
The prevalence of catch-and-release practices, changing bass populations and the goal to make fishing regulations more uniform all have made the slot limit obsolete, according to the Fish & Game Commission report.
Oroville anglers disagree. Locals wanted to increase the slot limit and voiced that opinion at a meeting with a DFG representative two years ago. The Fish and Game Commission opted to vote in favor of regulation simplicity rather than managing a trophy bass fishery.
The slot limit at Oroville has been in place since 1983 when it was enacted to promote the harvest of redeye bass. It also allowed the harvest of plentiful black bass smaller than 12 inches.
Surveys taken from 2002 to 2010 show spotted bass are now the dominant species at Oroville and redeye bass are all but gone. Anglers reported releasing 97% of all black bass caught even though 43% were legal to keep. Given the current state of bass at Oroville, the slot limit is not warranted, Fish and Game believes.
Don Reighley, a member of the Black Bass Action Committee executive board and a 12-year member of the DFG’s Warm Water Advisory Committee, believes the lifting of the slot limit will have a negative impact on the black bass fishery and Oroville economy.
“I don’t think it’s a good deal,” Reighley said. “The local consensus was to change the slot to 14 to 17 inches. That would allow for bigger fish plus allow those who want to eat fish something substantial to take home.”
Reighley said DFG said there was not enough data to support bumping up the slot limit.
Hearings took place June 20 in Mammoth Lakes, Aug. 8 in Ventura. The vote took place in Los Angeles. None, obviously, were held in Northern California.
“The town of Oroville had no input other than the meeting at Huntington’s two years ago,” Reighley said.
“We’re going to see all the fish that were in the slot limit being harvested,” said Fil Torres at the Bass Tackle Depot in Oroville. “Most of the bass fishermen do catch and release, but the general public will harvest those slot limit fish.”
Reighley believes there was more at stake than regulation simplicity. “I think the DFG is very reticent to enhance non-native species,” he said. “They are not going to do anything they are going to get sued on later down the line. That’s my opinion and there’s no proof in that. If they really wanted to do something for the town of Oroville they would have upped the slot limit. It would still have provided a good fishery for those who want to keep fish. A lake full of stunted fish is not good.”
The reasoning behind lifting the slot limits at McClure and Millerton reservoirs and Orr and Siskiyou lakes is the limit has not yielded the desired results. Lifting the regulation would serve to streamline regulations.
The official DFG position is the change of the regulation will have no impact on the fisheries.
Keywords: Lake Oroville, Black bass