Clear lake HitCH reCeive ProteCted StatuS
In September of 2012, the California Fish and Game Commission received a petition to list the Clear Lake Hitch, a dominant baitfish found in the waters of Clear Lake, CA as a threatened species under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA).
On March 6th, 2013 the Commission considered the petition, evaluation report, recommendations received by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and public comments on the subject at the noticed meeting. Based upon the information provided and deliberations, the Commission concluded that the petition contained sufficient evidence to indicate that the listing of this species as threatened or endangered was warranted.
By law, once candidacy is published, the Clear Lake Hitch receives the same protections afforded to all species listed under the CESA. What does this mean for anglers fishing Clear Lake?
The Clear Lake Hitch has been an important link the the Clear Lake food chain and is one of the reasons that bass at this fishery obtain the size they are famous for. The popularity of swimbait fishing on Clear Lake is directly tied to the fact that bass do feed heavily on this species and the listing of the Hitch could potentially lead to a situation like Japan faces with the Ayu baitfish and largemouth bass being considered as an invasive species.
Section 2080 of the CA Fish and Game Code prohibits “Take” of any species that the commission determines to be an endangered species or a threatened species. “Take” is defined in Section 86 of the Fish and Game Code as “hunt, pursue, catch, capture, or kill, or attempt to hunt, pursue, catch, capture, or kill.” This definition leads to some ambiguities
Based upon this definition, will recreational and tournament anglers now be in a position to be prosecuted should a legally caught largemouth expel its stomach contents into your livewell and you are now in possession of Hitch? What happens when you accidentally snag and kill a hitch while retrieving your crank bait or rip bait? An aggressive warden could show up at a tournament, start inspecting livewells, and issue a bunch of tickets based upon the definition of “Take”
Bass West USA has sent letters to 19 individuals within the California Department Fish and Wildlife ranging from the Commissioners, Directors, Law Enforcement branch, and Fisheries branch to get a clear answer to the above questions and will keep you posted when we receive a reply.