Predator fish that anglers love faces uncertain future in California water wars

The Sacramento Bee –

In California’s never-ending water and fish wars, the striped bass doesn’t get nearly the publicity as its celebrity counterparts, the endangered Chinook salmon and Delta smelt.

Yet the striped bass is at the heart of a protracted fight over California’s water supply, 140 years after the hard-fighting fish, beloved by anglers, was introduced here from the East Coast.

Wealthy agricultural and Southern California urban water interests, tired of seeing their Central Valley water supplies reduced to protect native fish, have been quietly waging a war against the bass because they prey on hatchling salmon and adult smelt. They’ve repeatedly tried to introduce legislation or change regulations that would reduce the numbers of striped bass from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

Time and again, though, their efforts have been thwarted by opposition from sport fishing associations and fisheries scientists who say the fish that anglers call “stripers” are being used as a “scapefish” to deflect attention from the profound ecological problems caused by too much water getting pumped from Central Valley rivers to farms and cities.