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An Historical Review of the
Fish and Wildlife Resources of the
San Francisco Bay Area

by John E. Skinner
WATER PROJECTS BRANCH REPORT No. 1
June, 1962

Commercial Fishing Boat
ANADROMOUS FISHERIES
Page 1 of 6

Striped Bass  Pages 71 - 83

Commercial Fishery

Striped bass (Roccus saxatilis) were introduced into California in 1879 by Livingston Stone at the suggestion of Mr. S. R. Throckmorton of the California State Board of Fish Commissioners. Stone obtained 132 fish from 1 to 3 inches in length and 30 medium sized specimens from the Navesink River in New Jersey. These were brought out by rail and deposited in Carquinez Strait at Martinez in July of 1879. An estimated 25 fish died enroute and several others were discarded, so the number released is not exactly known, but is usually quoted at 132. A second plant of 300 fish obtained from the Shrewsbury River, New Jersey, was undertaken by Mr. J. G. Woodbury of the California Fish Commission and Mr. Emmet L. Marks of New York. These fish were placed in Suisun Bay off Army Point, near Benicia.

Therein lies one of the most remarkably successful attempts ever made to establish a species in new waters. Conditions must have been ideal because those planted made phenomenal growth and the species increased at a prolific rate. A few were reported taken in 1880, and several more appeared in the San Francisco markets between 1880 and 1884. A fish weighing 17 pounds was taken in 1883 and another of I8-½ pounds was offered for sale in 1884. By 1888 several thousand were displayed in the markets and the commercial fishermen began to direct their efforts toward them. Eleven years later (1899), a mere twenty years after the introduction, the commercial catch as recorded by the U. S. Bureau of Fisheries was 1,234,000 pounds.

As late as 1888, striped bass sold for as much as a dollar per pound in the San Francisco market. However, by 1890 due to increasing abundance the price had dropped to 18 cents per pound and, according to Smith (1895), between 1889 and 1892 the average price received by the fishermen fell from 25 to 11-½ cents. In 1893 and 1894 the price was further reduced to about 3-½ cents. Quoting Smith: "On June 21, 1894, the day following the large catch on the Berkeley Flats in San Francisco Bay the wholesale price in San Francisco was 3-½ cents and the retail price 7-½ cents a pound." (The report by Smith incidentally is one of the best we have on the early introduction and distribution of striped bass in this state.)

The State Board of Fish Commissioners in 1910 stated: "From the commercial standpoint the striped bass stands next in value to the salmon as a food fish in this state. It is also one of the most highly prized of the game fishes, being eagerly sought after by thousands of anglers throughout the State."

Again quoting Smith: "In referring to their abundance, mention is made of the presence of a numerous body of fish on the Berkeley Flats in San Francisco Bay, in June, 1894, and in the San Joaquin River in December,1893.

"An idea of the abundance of this species may be gained from the following statement by Mr. Babcock, [California Fish Commission]: 'On June 19, 1894, the fishermen struck a school of striped bass on the Berkeley Flats in San Francisco Bay; on June 20 one boat caught 1,500 fish and the other boats made large hauls. 'These fish weighed on an average 6 pounds apiece.'

"It is doubtful if in recent years at any point on the Atlantic Coast so large a catch of striped bass— 9,000 pounds—has been taken by one boat in one day's fishing."

The bass distributed themselves widely, very shortly after being introduced. Within a few years they were found as far upstream as Sacramento and Stockton. Less than a year after being placed in Suisun Bay a specimen was taken in Monterey Bay. They appeared in the Russian River by 1890 and in Tomales Bay at about the same time. By 1893 one was taken at Santa Cruz, and the following year two were seined at Redondo Beach, Los Angeles County.

Small populations of striped bass became established on the Russian and Salinas Rivers as well as Elkhorn Slough near Monterey Bay. In Oregon, stripers are found in Coos Bay and the Umpqua River. However, in spite of a considerable coastwise dispersion, the overwhelming center of abundance of the striped bass has been and remains in San Francisco Bay and the Delta Area.

The principal commercial fishing grounds for striped bass were located on the San Joaquin River in the Delta country and the majority of the catch was taken in gill and trammel nets. River landings reached a peak between October and February, with the maximum catches made in December. In San Francisco Bay itself landings were most abundant during the summer.

Records of commercial landings are available for most, but not all, years between 1889 and 1915. However, between 1899 and 1915 it is evident that the catch regularly exceeded one million pounds (Appendix B-4). After 1915, regulations became progressively more restrictive and the annual commercial catch dropped below a million pounds (Appendix B-2). The species was completely removed from the commercial category in 1935.

Several reports have been written about this species in California. Scofield (1931) described the life history, fishery and commercial catch. Craig (1928 and 1930) analyzed the commercial catch records and discussed the status of the fishery. Clark (1933) continued this work and came to the same general conclusion, namely that the supply was at the time capable of supporting the existing fishing pressure. Both cautioned, however, against neglecting the effects of the rapidly growing sport fishery.

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Citations

Calhoun, A. J.
1949 California Striped Bass Catch Records From the Party Boat Fishery; 1938-1948. California Fish and Game, Vol. 35, No. 4, pp. 211-253.
1950 California Angling Catch Records from Postal Card Surveys: 1936-1948 With an Evaluation of Postal Card Non-response. California Fish and Game, Vol. 36, No. 3, pp. 177-233.
1951 California State-Wide Angling Catch Estimates for 1949. California Fish and Game, Vol. 37, No. 1, pp. 69-75.
1952 Annual Migrations of California Striped Bass. California Fish and Game, Vol. 38, No. 3, pp. 391-403.
1953a. State-Wide California Angling Estimates for 1951. California Fish and Game, Vol. 39, No. 1, pp. 103-113.
1953b. Distribution of Striped Bass Fry in Relation to Major Water Diversions. California Fish and Game, Vol. 39, No. 3, pp. 279-299.
1957 Striped Bass Fishing Map (Revised by John E. Skinner). California Department of Fish and Game.

Calhoun, A. J., and John E. Skinner
1954 Field Tests of Stainless Steel and Tentalum Wire with Disk Tags on Striped Bass. California Fish and Game, Vol. 40, No. 3, pp. 323-328.

Calhoun, A. J., and C. A. Woodhull
1948 Progress Report on Studies of Striped Bass Reproduction in Relation to the Central Valley Project. California Fish and Game, Vol. 34, No. 4, pp. 171-187.
1950 Striped Bass Reproduction in the Sacramento River System in 1948. California Fish and Game, Vol. 36, No. 2, pp. 135-145.

Clark, G. H.
1929 Sacramento-San Joaquin Salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) Fishery of California. California Fish and Game, Fish Bulletin No. 17.
1932 The Striped Bass Supply of California, Past and Present California Fish and Game, Vol. 18, No. 4, pp. 297-298.
1933 Fluctuations in the Abundance of Striped Bass (Roccus lineatus) in California. California Department of Fish and Game, Fish Bulletin No. 39.
1934 Tagging of Striped Bass. California Fish and Game, Vol. 20, No. 1, pp. 14-19.
1936 A Second Report on Striped Bass Tagging. California Fish and Game, Vol. 22, No. 4, pp. 272-283.
1938 Weight and Age Determination of Striped Bass. California Fish and Game, Vol. 24, No. 2, pp. 176-177.

Cole, Charles E.
1930 Angling for Striped Bass. California Fish and Game, Vol. 16, No. 4, pp. 286-290.

Craig, J. A.
1928 The Striped Bass Supply of California. California Fish and Game, Vol. 14, No. 4, pp. 265-272. 1930 An Analysis of the Catch Statistics of the Striped Bass (Roccus lineatus) Fishery of California. California Department of Fish and Game, Fish Bulletin No. 24.

Hatton, S. Ross
1940. Progress Report on the Central Valley Fisheries Investigations, 1939. California Fish and Game, Vol. 26, No. 4, pp. 334-373.

Jackson, H. W. and R. E. Tiller
1952 Preliminary observations on spawning potential in striped bass (Roccus saxatilis). Maryland Dept. Res. and Ed., Pub. 93, pp. 1-6.

Johnson, W. C, and A. J. Calhoun
1952 Food Habits of California Striped Bass. California Fish and Game, Vol. 38, No. 4, pp. 531-533.

Morgan, Alfred R. and Arthur R. Gerlach
1950 Striped Bass Studies on Coos Bay, Oregon in 1949 and 1950. Oregon Fish Commission, Contribution No. 14.

Pearson, John C.
1938 The Life History of the Striped Bass or Rockfish, (Roccus saxatilis) (Walbaum). U. S. Department of Commerce Bureau of Fisheries, Vol. XLIX, Bulletin No. 28.

Raney, Edward C, Ernest F. Tresselt, Edgar H. Hollis, V. D. Vladykov and D. H. Wallace
1952 The Striped Bass (Roccus saxatilis). Bulletin of the Bingham Oceanographic Collection, Vol. 14, Article 1.

Scofield, N. B.
1910 Notes on striped bass in California. Biennial Report, Calif. Board of Fish and Game Commissioners for 1909-1910, pp. 104-109.

Shapovalov, Leo
1936 Food of the Striped Bass. California Fish and Game, Vol. 22, No. 4, pp. 261-270.

Skinner, John E.
1955a. California State-Wide Angling Estimates for 1953. California Fish and Game, Vol. 41, No. 1, pp. 19-32.
1955b. Observations on the Shad Gill Net Fishery in 1954. California Department of Fish and Game, Inland Fisheries Branch, Administrative Report 55-3.
1957a. Incidental losses of Striped Bass in the Sacramento River Gill Net Fisheries for Shad and Salmon. California Department of Fish and Game, Inland Fisheries Branch, Administrative Report 57-2.
1957b. Status of the Striped Bass—Sturgeon Study and Suggestions for its Future. California Department of Fish Fish and Game, Inland Fisheries Branch, Administrative Report No. 57-11.

Smith, Hugh M.
1895 The Striped Bass History and Results of Introduction. U. S. Fish Commission Bulletin, Vol. 15, pp. 449-458.

Woodhull, Chester
1947 Spawning Habits of the Striped Bass (Roccus saxatilis) in California Waters. California Fish and Game, Vol. 33, No. 2, pp. 97-101

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