Waterdog ban

spectr17

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WATERDOGS BANNED? -- matthews column 21feb01

State plans to ban waterdogs for use as bait

In December, the Fish and Game Commission adopted a regulation that would ban the use of waterdogs for bait throughout the state of California. The new regulation is set to be implemented beginning sometime around March 15. Most anglers are a little surprised to learn this news. Perhaps shocked is a better word. Waterdogs, the immature form of the salamander, are perhaps the single most effective live bait that can be used by bass anglers, especially in the spring when bass are spawning and protecting their young. Banning them for use would have a major impact on bait sales and angler success in the spring. It is a great bait for beginning anglers to use because they are easy to fish and often lead to success. The Commission adopted the regulation under pressure from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in hopes of protecting the native California tiger salamander, a federally listed species. The Department of Fish and Game, apparently without any evidence to refute or support the biology provided by the USFWS and some flawed data in gathered on the economic impacts the ban would have, went along with the proposal.

Woefully inadequate public notification of the proposal, which moved through the Fish and Game Commission late last year, makes it seem like the Commission intentionally kept the regulation quiet. In talking with tackle shops from Bakersfield to San Diego County, I was unable to find a single one -- all of them licensed bait dealers -- who received notification when the Commission was having hearings about the proposal to ban the sales of imported waterdogs for bait sales. State law requires that the Commission file public notices of their meetings and proposed actions and make an effort to contact those who will be most affected by the change. Yet, there is no evidence that all licensed bait dealers in California -- those most affected by the change -- received any notification of the proposal that would affect their livelihood.

Rick Klein of the Bait Connection, a bait Corona distributor, said that in the documentation provided to the Commission by the DFG said there would be no financial impacts over the loss of waterdog sales. Klein sells between around 250,000 waterdogs to bait and tackle shops in the Los Angeles, Riverside, and San Bernardino region and that another distributor in the San Diego regions sells an equal number. Since waterdogs fetch over a buck a piece on the retail marketplace, that is over a half million dollars in sales. Tim Baker, who is the main tackle buyer for the Turner's Outdoorsman chain of stores operating throughout Southern California, said that "the biggest impact isn't just on waterdogs, it's on the additional sales that go with them -- sinkers, hooks, line and things that people buy when they come in to get waterdogs."

Abdelmajid Awad, owner of the Lakeside Market in Moreno Valley, said he sells over 1,000 waterdogs a week once the bass bite gets going at Lake Perris. Awad said that he first learned of the ban on waterdog sales two weeks ago when he received a letter from the DFG. "I had heard this was going to happen. Once in October, I called the state Fish and Game and they told me that as far as they knew, waterdogs were not going to be banned," said Awad, who renewed his bait license on that assurance. He said he had called the Long Beach office and the staff there forwarded his call to Sacramento to make sure he received accurate information. Well, so much for good information. But apparently common sense and good information aren't required to make changes that ultimately will cost people in the fishing industry millions of dollars and make fishing a little more difficult for beginners and veterans alike.

Apparently, the threatened California tiger salamander apparently will hybridize with the imported salamanders/waterdogs brought in from out of state, according to the USFWS. This federal agency provided evidence this has happened in a laboratory but apparently not in the wild. It also said that it had evidence that someone "purposely," in the words of DFG spokesman Steve Taylor, introduced these non-natives into the wild where the threatened salamanders live. The implication was that anglers would try to get rid of native salamanders for some reason. That implausible argument makes me wonder about the rest of their supposed data.

I would bet you that stray house cats eat a bunch of endangered Steven's kangaroo rats around Moreno Valley, or could. Yet the USFWS hasn't suggested that we ban cats statewide -- or even in Moreno Valley for that matter. Rainbow trout hybridize with golden trout, but we haven't banned rainbows except from waters where goldens occur. The reality is that imported waterdogs are not used for bait in waters where native salamanders live anywhere in Southern California. No place. In fact, they probably aren't used as bait anywhere in the state where the native critters live. Yet some knee-jerk reaction has banned one of the best baits in the state based on USFWS science that has no basis in fact, faulty DFG economic data, and a Commission notification process that failed miserably at alerting the affected parties.

The Fish and Game Commission needs to pull this regulation back from of the Office of Administrative Law, where it awaits final approval and rethink this issue, looking more critically at the claimed possible waterdogs impacts on the native species and the economic of the issue. You can ask the Fish and Game Commission to do this by calling its office today at (916) 653-4899. Tackle shop owners are especially encouraged to make the call.
 

BigDog

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They also did this a few years back with Gobies (Mudsuckers). Then, they backed up and withdrew it. Hopefully, they will have the same delay intelligence this time also.
 

spectr17

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Bigdog,

That's hard to beleive DFG actually changed the reg back. Usually once a law or reg is passed it's all but written in stone. Hopefully they'll change this reg back.
 

gordon

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I was at Lake Parris Sat. they have already stopped selling waterdogs..
 
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