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The Reel Life

The Reel Life: Goodbye full moon cycle, hello early limits

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Oceans and bays

The full moon cycle pushed the salmon bite from limits to one fish a rod. Now that the cycle has concluded, the bite is back to early limits for the fleet. We are already seeing larger fish at 30-plus pounds even though it is just July.

Last week, five friends and I jumped aboard the Chasin Crustacean, based in Fort Baker at the base of the Golden Gate Bridge. The fleet split up, with half going to Stinson Beach and the other half to Pedro Point. Water looked good, with lots of bait after our one-hour boat ride. We had a steady bite until noon, landing a total of 10 fish to 20 pounds. As the tide changed, we decided to move out to the north shipping channel, where we caught one silver and two more kings to fill our limit by 1 p.m. Weather was relatively calm, overcast and foggy with winds to 10 knots.

In Bodega Bay, Rick Powers reported limits this week of salmon and rockfish for his 40 clients on the New Sea Angler. The six-pack boats have also been experiencing limit-style action in 300 feet of water off Tomales Point.

Lakes and rivers

The river salmon season opened last week, with extremely disappointing results. Low-water and high-water temperatures made for a difficult bite. I saw one guide with four fish, but most boats managed only a couple of salmon. I would expect the bite to improve as more salmon make their way from the ocean to the rivers as we move into fall.

Lake Tahoe crawfish

I recently read an article that scientists believe there are over 300 million crawfish in Lake Tahoe. They were introduced into Marlette Lake in 1895 and quickly made their way to into Tahoe. This crustacean has many names — not only crawfish, but crayfish, mudbugs, yabbies and crawdads. One of their main predators was the Lahotan cutthroat trout. These trout have unfortunately dwindled in numbers, causing the crawfish population to explode.

Though a handful of companies have harvested crayfish in Lake Tahoe over the years and sold them to restaurants in Reno and Tahoe, there are currently none in operation. Most crawfish in the U.S. are consumed in Louisiana, where it is a favorite of the Cajuns. This is a fun, kid-friendly activity that can be a very tasty treat.

So how to you catch them? Best bet is a minnow trap, a cylindrical wire mesh trap with two concaved holes in each end. I have found the best bait is a can of cat food with a few holes punched in the top. Throw the trap out with a line or a buoy and wait. If you leave the trap overnight, results are usually the best. All our local lakes and streams also have a population of the crustacean.

USFWS bird banding program

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service's bird banding program was initiated in 1920. Since then, more than 23 million birds have been tagged. Currently 250,000 birds are banded annually. Many conservation organizations will also band birds, such as Ducks Unlimited, California Waterfowl Association, and most State Wildlife Departments.

One of the primary motivations for banding ducks was to identify the wintering areas and migration routes used by ducks. Band recovery distributions during the past 100 years are the foundation of the familiar flyways-based management system that is used today.

Band recoveries can also show biologists how the waterfowl harvest is distributed throughout states, flyways, or the continent. Moreover, band recovery data can be used to estimate age-, sex-, and species-specific survival; harvest rates and derivation; crippling losses; recovery rates; and band-reporting rates.

Dedicated and experienced research assistants use wire traps baited with grain to capture ducks through the hottest days of August and well into September. The birds are typically molting at that time and either cannot fly or have difficulty getting airborne.

Harvesting a banded waterfowl is a badge of honor for any hunter. The odds of getting a banded bird is about 1000 to 1. I have been lucky enough to have bagged five banded birds in my life — three hen mallards, one drake mallard, and one Canada Goose. Three were in the Bay Area, one in southern Oregon that had a $100 money band, too, and in Canada.

The one I got last season hunting in Canada was a hen mallard banded six years prior in Salt Lake City. Even my golden retriever, Sophie, has one to her name. We were fishing in Tomales Bay a few years ago and I let her out of the boat for a little potty break. She came back with a decomposing 14-year-old loon that had been banded off San Rafael. I guess that loon did not like to travel much, having covered only 20 miles in 14 years.

Chinook salmon eggs return to McCloud River after 80 years

As part of a long-term effort to return winter-run chinook salmon to the McCloud River, 20,000 salmon eggs were placed in the river for the first time since Shasta Dam was built in the early 1940s with a $1.5 million grant from the Department of Water Resources.

The fertilized eggs were placed in a special incubator to keep them safe until the eggs hatch, according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. After they hatch, the young fish will later be trapped in the river and released downstream of the dam so they can migrate out to the ocean.

The endangered winter-run salmon once spawned in the McCloud River. But after Shasta and Keswick dams were built, the fish could no longer reach the river. The fish now spawn in the Sacramento River in the Redding area, but the recent drought and warm water in recent years have killed thousands of eggs, which require cold water to survive.

Brent Randol can be reached at brentrandol@comcast.net or 707-481-3319.

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