I see bad news with respect to the number of striper in New Hogan Reservoir outside Valley Springs in Calaveras County. Where have the vast numbers of this species of fish at this lake gone? Why has their size been on a decline every year as well?
I first noted the striper decline as far back as 2012. So far in 2018, I have only seen two brief boils – the churning of the water when these fish feed – over this entire season. I have seen the decline, bank anglers have seen the decline, boaters are aware of the absence of striper and guides Monte Smith and Jason Meeuwse are in agreement, something is hurting our once fine fishery of the landlocked striper at New Hogan.
Meeuwse and I have recently sent several emails to the Fish and Game Commission to report the problem. As with most state agencies, it is almost impossible for a few urgent emails to do more than get standard replies: “The petition process is how all regulatory changes are introduced to the commission,” said the response Meeuwse and I each received.
It was 1981 when striper were introduced at New Hogan. The limit for fishermen and women back then was three striper that were a minimum of 16-inches long. In 1986, the limit of three was increased to five fish, and anglers were allowed to keep fish of any size. Any size? Wait, it gets worse; in 1996, the bag limit was increased to 10 striper of any size. I know for a fact that two good striper will easily feed a family of six.
Longtime friend Dave Paulo asked me to go fishing and, after telling him about the New Hogan striper, I said we should go to New Hogan and cover the whole lake with my boat. We launched at 6:30 a.m. in early October and began our adventure.
I first motored east up the Calaveras River arm. Light rain began to fall. Looking for birds and surface splashes, we inspected every cove along the way, all the way up to the narrows of the river canyon. My sonar showed nothing.
Over the next five hours and 5 gallons of fuel later, we had covered all of the lake. We searched the main lake to the dam, Wrinkle Cove, the southern end of the main lake and the Bear Creek arm completely and found nothing. Finally, we found the birds and bait up the Whiskey Creek arm. With bait-trolling rods set up to roll anchovies, Kastmaster spoons, pencil poppers and Zara spooks on spinning outfits, we spent the rest of our day trolling and casting. The results featured one bite, which yielded Dave a 20-inch striper.
“The number of striper now is nothing compared to previous years,” Dave agreed.
What is causing the problem with these wonderful fish? Is the 10 fish of any size limit to blame? Is it poaching at night? Is there a problem with the threadfin shad that the striper rely on for food? Two local guides shared their interest on this problem.
Smith wrote, “The stripers have been in decline for many years at Hogan reservoir. I think the bag limit of 10 is way too many; it should be cut to four per person a day, and also there should be a size limit of 18 inches. This should be enforced! There could be a slot limit as well. The size over the last five years has greatly diminished. Last year we caught many stripers, but nothing over 5 pounds. This year we caught only a few fish and (we were) not marking hardly any fish on the sonar, and many others also had the same reports as myself. The main problem for the low number of striper this year is due to heavy poaching. A friend of mine witnessed two boats running nets between them. A rod and reel will not hurt a fishery, however, netting them will. This problem has to stop! I have personally witnessed a truck with fishermen leaving in the morning hours when I arrive, and when I leave in the afternoon they are back again, same guys and truck. I believe Fish and Wildlife does not care if these striped bass are in this lake or not. This could be a great fishery again, but will take years to rebuild.”
Meeuwse wrote to the Fish and Game Commission: “As a local fishing guide, I am concerned about the striped bass population in New Hogan Reservoir. Over the years, there has been a decline in numbers of striper and the ones that are caught are getting smaller and smaller in size. Before the limit changed to any size/10 fish limit on striper at New Hogan, the striper were plentiful and of good/respectful size. Since the change in limit, there has been a steady decline in numbers and quality of striper. As a fishing guide, I want to understand the concept of the Fish and Game and be able to tell customers and others the reason for the striper decline at New Hogan.”
Tip of the week – This is a call to all who fish at New Hogan Reservoir and have witnessed the decline of the striper population. I believe the answer is a limit of two striper of a minimum of 18-inches and no fishing for striper at night. This may mean more game wardens watching this lake, but hopefully the fish will grow rapidly once again.
Help save our hard-fighting, good-eating striper by contacting the Fish and Game Commission at email@example.com or call 916-653-4899.
On the water:
Bass – As the water cools, the threadfin shad move into the warmer creek arms to feed and the bass and trout soon follow. Try surface plugs, shad-patterned reaction baits and swimbaits in shallower water and drop-shots and heavy jigs in deeper water.
Don Pedro – The trout are between 30 and 50 feet deep and hit Speedy Shiners, Triple Teazers and needlefish.
New Melones – The trout will be moving up as the water cools. Do not overlook the creek arms that hold the baitfish.
Pardee – The lake closes Nov. 4 and reopens Feb. 14.
Camanche – Trout plants have begun for the new season. Troll in the top 30-feet for plenty of action.
Amador – Trout are planted weekly here. Try bank-fishing from the dam to the spillway.
High Sierra – The fall and early winter are fine times to catch big wild trout in the upper-elevation lakes as they feed near the surface.
Contact William Heinselman at firstname.lastname@example.org.