Basin-Delta Mothersite


Salton Sea Home Page

State of California
The Resources Agency
Department of Fish and Game

1958, 1963 THROUGH 1967, AND 1969


Inland Fisheries



1/ Retired

Table of Contents




Description of the Salton Sea

History of the Fishery


  • 1958 Creel Census
  • 1963 Creel Census
  • 1965 Creel Census

Statistical Analysis


  • 1958 Creel Census
  • 1963 Creel Census
  • 1964 Creel Census
  • 1965 Creel Census
  • 1966 Creel Census
  • 1967 Creel Census
  • 1969 Creel Census



List of Figures:

List of Tables:

  • Table 1. Known Fish Fauna of the Salton Sea, 1969
  • TABLE 2. Summary of 1958 Creel Census
  • TABLE 3. Total Estimated Catch and Estimated Angler Days, Salton Sea Creel Census.
  • TABLE 4. Estimated Catch by Boat, Shore, and Jetty Anglers, With Mean Catch Indexes for Each During Creel Census Peiods 1964-1969.
  • TABLE 5. Estimated Mean Length of Angler Day 1964-1969.
  • TABLE 6. Percentage Composition by Species of the Estimated Annual Harvest 1964-1969.
  • TABLE 7. Comparison of Boat Launchings and General Recreational Use Days From State Park Recreation Area Improved Sites, and Estimated Angler Use Days From Creel Summaries, by Percentage Decline From Base Year 1965.
  • TABLE 8. Estimated Kilograms Harvested of the Three Species of Fish, 1964-1969 and the Estimated Kilograms per Hectare Based on 93,890.4 Surface Hectares and Mean Weights of 1,587.57, 680.39, and 226.80 grams for Corvina, Sargo, and Bairdiella, Respectively.
  • TABLE 9. Comparison of Mean Numbers of Boat Hours Use Per Census Day and % Use by Category 1964-1969.

List of Appendices:

  • APPENDIX 1. Dates of Creel Censuses Completed Within the Scheduled Six Months.
  • APPENDIX 2. Creel Census, Salton Sea, Comparative Tabulation 1964. (Total Hours of Use)
  • APPENDIX 3. Creel Census, Salton Sea, Comparative Tabulation 1964. (Total Anglers)
  • APPENDIX 4. Creel Census, Salton Sea, Comparative Tabulation 1964. (Estimated Catch Statistics)
  • APPENDIX 5. Creel Census, Salton Sea, Comparative Tabulation 1965.(Total Hours of Use)
  • APPENDIX 6. Creel Census, Salton Sea, Comparative Tabulation 1965.(Total Anglers)
  • APPENDIX 7.. Creel Census, Salton Sea, Comparative Tabulation 1963.(Estimated Catch Statistics)
  • APPENDIX 8. Creel Census, Salton Sea, Comparative Tabulation 1966.(Total Hours of Use)
  • APPENDIX 9. Creel Census, Salton Sea, Comparative Tabulation 1965.(Total Anglers)
  • APPENDIX 10. Creel Census, Salton Sea, Comparative Tabulation 1965.(Estimated Catch Statistics)
  • APPENDIX 11. Creel Census, Salton Sea, Comparative Tabulation 1967.(Total Hours of Use)
  • APPENDIX 12. Creel Census, Salton Sea, Comparative Tabulation 1967.(Total Anglers)
  • APPENDIX 13. Creel Census, Salton Sea, Comparative Tabulation 1965.(Estimated Catch Statistics)
  • APPENDIX 14. Creel Census, Salton Sea, Comparative Tabulation 1969.(Total Hours of Use)
  • APPENDIX 15. Creel Census, Salton Sea, Comparative Tabulation 1969.(Total Anglers)
  • APPENDIX 16. Creel Census, Salton Sea, Comparative Tabulation 1969.(Estimated Catch Statistics)
  • APPENDIX 17. County of Residence Data - 1966
  • APPENDIX 18. County of Residence Data - 1967
  • APPENDIX 21. County of Residence Data - 1969


A Summary of Salton Sea Creel Censuses
1958, 1963 Through 1967, and 1969



The Salton Sea, a 932.4 km2 (360 mile2) inland sea, located in southwestern California, was formed by flooding waters of the Colorado River during 1905-1907. For over 40 years after its formation it lay undeveloped as a sport fishery. Attempts were made by the Department of Fish and Game to establish various fresh water and marine game fishes in this saline water, but were unsuccessful until the Department introduced marine species from the Gulf of California, during 1950-1956. Of the more than 31 species introduced, only three survived to form the existing sport fishery: the orangemouth corvina, Cynoscion xanthulus Jordan and Gilbert; sargo, Anisotremus davidsoni (Steindachner); and a croaker, Bairdiella icistia (Jordan and Gilbert). By 1958, it appeared a sport fishery was forming. A 34-day creel census, was conducted from October 22, 1958 through January 4, 1959, provided proof that a sport fishery existed for these three species.

In 1963, in order to evaluate angler use and harvest, weekend creel censuses, which incorporated angler use counts from an aircraft and routine ground census stations, were designed and tested. With modifications, a census program was begun in 1964. Sampling periods consisted of six weekends each year.

This paper summarizes the census methods and results during 1958, and from 1963 through 1967, and 1969. From 1958, when the first documented catches were made, the fishery grew rapidly. In 1965 an estimated 540,000 corvina, 148,000 bairdiella and 143,000 sargo were harvested. In 1969 309,000 corvina were taken and the bairdiella and sargo catch peaked at 573,000 and 297,000 fish respectively.

In 1969 the catch dropped to 91,000 corvina, 157,000 sargo and 386,000 bairdiella. Angler use fell from a high of 377,000 angler days in 1965; and 355,000 in 1967 to 246,000 in 1969.


Thanks are due to numerous Department personnel who assisted 4:1 and contributed to this project. Edward Cramer performed the first exploratory creel censusing in 1958 and 1959. Employees who participated in all or most of the censuses conducted from 1963 through 1967 and 1969 were Ira Sharp, Frank Hoover, James St. Amant, Robert Vernoy, Larry Puckett, Shoken Sasaki, Glenn Black, and Eugene Beeman. The majority of the airplane flights were made by Department pilots Pat Symons and Loren Goehrlng Jack Whalls contributed significantly to the statistical design.

Salton Sea State Recreational Area personnel provided valuable assistance, particularly Yoshiye Omaye. Local business people were extremely cooperative, in particular John Williams, Helen Burns, Red and Dick Bringle, and Mike and Trif Leonte.

Editorial review was made by William Richardson, John Fitch and James St. Amant. Thanks are also given to Sherry Avants for the extensive typing required for this project.


Except for waterfowl hunters and a few desert dwellers, the Salton Sea, the largest inland body of water in California, lay largely undeveloped as a recreational area for over 40 years aster its formation by Colorado River flood waters in 1907. During this period, California Department of Fish and Game attempted to establish a sportfishery through the introduction of various fishes (Walker 1961, de Stanley 1966). None of the introductions was successful except for the longjaw mudsucker, Gillichthys mirabilis Cooper, and an annelid, the pile worm, Neanthes succinea Frey and Leuckart, from San Diego Bay.

During 1948, introductions of anchovies, Anchoa mundeoloides, and anchovetas, Cetengrsulis mysticetus (Gunther), obtained from Mexico through commercial channels, were attempted, but were also unsuccessful.

From 1950 through 1956, thousands of fish, representing 35 species, were captured by Department seining crews at San Felipe, Mexico (Walker 1961), and transported to the Salton Sea.

During 1952, Department fishery biologists discovered the orangemouth corvina and the gulf croaker had survived, and the latter had successfully reproduced in large numbers (Douglas 1953, cited by Walker 1961). Based upon the success-ful introduction of these two species, the Department then obtained funds from the Wildlife Conservation Board to carry out a research study to aid a possibly developing fishery. Also the Salton Sea Project Advisory Committee was formed to advise and assist on the study.

In 1953, The University of California, Los Angeles, contracted for a three-year study. The results of this study are summarized in "The Ecology of the Salton Sea" (Walker 1961). At the completion of the University study in 1956, the Department assumed responsibility for sampling with gill nets and seines and collecting basic limnological data. Sargo were found to have spawned in 1956 and in 1957 net sampling showed that both orangemouth corvina and bairdiella were reproducing.

By 1958, anglers were taking fair numbers of all three of the introduced species, but very little was known of angling techniques, bait preferences, species distribution, life histories, angler effort and success. In October, one man was assigned to conduct random creel censuses. The assignment was terminated in early January, 1959 and investigation work was limited to minimum gill net sampling. In 1962 it became apparent from sampling and reported angler catches that a large population of corvina was present and was providing a major sport fishery.

In order to evaluate this new resource, an experimental creel census was designed to measure angler use and harvest on a routine basis. A trial run was made in February 1963, and with modifications, was continued through 1969, with the exception of 1968, when no census was attempted. This report summarizes the creel census efforts in 1958 and from 1963 through 1969.


The Salton Sea is located in southeastern California in an ancient trough or basin with no outlet, and a bottom elevation of 85 m (278 ft) below sea level (Figure 1). Approximately 3/4 of its 58 km (36-mile) length is in western Imperial County with the remainder extending into Riverside County. It varies in width from 14 km (9 miles) to 24 km (15 miles), and covers 932 km2 (360 mi2). At a surface elevation of approximately 71 m (232 ft) below sea level, and a maximum depth of over 12 m (40 ft) surface area is about 93,000 ha (230,000 acres) with a volume of 678 x 106m3 (5x106 acre-ft). (Pomeroy 1965, Federal-State Reconnaissance Report 1969.)

The surrounding terrain is typical low desert habitat bordered on the north, the northeast, and the southwest by rugged, granitic mountains. The weather is characterized by high summer and moderate winter air temper-atures. Highs during summer of 43.3°C (110°F) are not uncommon. Water temperatures fluctuate from 10°C (50°F) in winter to 36°C (96.8°F) in summer (Pomeroy 1965).

Precipitation averages 6.4 cm (2.5 inches) (Pomeroy 1965). Occasional violent winds cause temporary discomfort to local inhabitants, disrupt local angling, and may cause minor property damage. The present sea was formed during 1905 and 1906 as a result of the Colorado River diverting through a rupture in an irrigation channel near Yuma, Arizona, into the Cahuilla Basin (Salton Sink).

Modern day farming operations, made possible by the complex irrigation systems utilizing Colorado River water, are carried on in the Coachella Valley to the north and the Imperial Valley to the south of the Salton Sea. As the soil is high in salts deposited by the evaporation of an ancient sea which once covered the area Walker 1961), and elaborate system of drains has been installed for leaching salts from the soil to make it more suitable for agricultural use. Such leach water drains into the sea and makes up a portion of its inflow.

Other sources of inflow include minor flows from springs and streams, bypassed unused irrigation water, treated domestic waste water from communities in the Coachella and Imperial valleys, and domestic and farmland wastewater (mainly untreated) from the Mexicali Valley via the New and Alamo rivers.

Thus, the Salton Sea is highly eutrophic as a result of an overabundance of mineral nutrients in most of its inflows. Symptoms of such eutrophism are evidenced by heavy phytoplankton blooms which cause a temporary anoxia upon their death and decomposition, resulting in localized sporadic fish kills and obnoxious odors. This in turn reduces the aesthetic appeal of the Sea, and limits water contact recreation. However, high quality fishing on the Sea has resulted from this productivity (FWAQ 1970).

High evaporation rates, combined with reduced inflow, increased salinity rapidly. Salinity increased from 3,600 ml/l (3.6 ppt) in 1907 (Ross 1914) to about 40,000 ml/l (40 ppt) by 1948 (Walker 1961). However, with the rapid develop-ment of agricultural practices in the two valleys, return flow from more irrigation runoff became available, consequently reducing the salinity. By 1964, salinity was about equal to that of ocean water and the Sea had attained a surface elevation of about -71 m (-232 ft) (Pomeroy 1965). In 1968, the salinity approached 39,000 ml/l (39 ppt) in one area (M. Sheldon, Imperial Irrigation District, pers. commun.).


Figure 1. Salton Sea and Vicinity



Flood waters during 1906-1907 probably carried most of the fish species present in the lower Colorado River at that tine into the Salton Sea. Evermann 1916 reported various fishes to be abundant; however, the only species he listed that are now present are: the desert pupfish, Cyprinodon macularius, Baird and Girard (native to the Salton Sea area (Black 1980); and the striped mullet, Mugil cephalus Linnaeus. The mosquitofish, Gambusia affinis Baird and Girard, first noted in 1929 (Coleman 1929) is still present.

A commercial mullet fishery flourished for several years, but, with the construction of Imperial Dam near Yuma, Arizona in the late 1930s, ingress to the irrigation system on the American side of the International Boundary and thence into the Salton Sea was blocked. The New River was believed to be too heavily polluted to permit fish passage from Mexico. Since the mullet does not spawn in the Sea, the fishery declined from lack of recruitment (Walker 1961). Although mullet still existed in the Sea, commercial fishing was prohibited by law in 1931. However, in 1942 limited commercial fishing was allowed, but was again prohibited in 1953 because of the danger of netting the newly introduced corvina.

Threadfin shad, Dorosoma petenense Gunther, were brought into California in 1953 to serve as a forage species in the Colorado River. Eventually they reached the Salton Sea through irrigation channels and now make up a small part of the fish fauna. The species does not spawn in the Sea; recruitment occurs from incoming fresh water sources.

A forage species of some importance became established in the Sea in 1963 when Dollies, Poecilia spp., escaped or were released from nearby commercial tropical fish hatcheries.

In 1971, in attempts to control aquatic plants in the vast irrigation systems of the area, Imperial and Coachella irrigation districts began annual introductions of large numbers of tilapia. Initially Tilapia mossambica were introduced, but when plant control was not achieved by this species, T. zillii were introduced. Tilapia are now well established throughout the system, including the Salton Sea proper. Positive identification of a mouthbrooder tilapia has not been determined. Presently, this species is extremely abundant in the Sea and is utilized as a sport fish. The impact of this species on the Salton Sea fishery is yet to be ascertained.

The present fish fauna consists of 11 species (Table 1).

TABLE 1. Known Fish Fauna of the Salton Sea, 1969

Common Name

Scientific Name

Orangemouth corvina

Cynoscion xanthulus Jordan and Gilbert


Anisotremus davidsoni Steindachner


Bairdiella icistia Jordan and Gilbert

Threadfin shad

Dorosoma petenense Gunther

Desert pupfish

Cyprinodon macularius Baird and Girard

Mosquito fish

Gambusia affinis Baird and Girard

Striped mullet

Mugil cephalus Linnaeus

Longjaw mudsucker

Gillichthys mirabilis Cooper

Sailfin molly

Poecilia latipinna LeSueur

Shortfin molly

Poecilia mexicana Steindachner


Tilapia spp.

1/Tilapia zillii were captured in the Sea by gill net in early 1976. T. mossambica is also present and possibly other yet unidentified tilapia species is found in the Sea (unpublished Department data).



1958 Creel Census

The first 3-month census was designed to inventory the Salton Sea's developing fishery resource for angler use and harvest estimates and to explore angler concentrations and fish movements, and locations.

Also, a body of water the size of the Salton Sea, with a shoreline of 180 km (110 miles), much of it inaccessible, posed the almost insurmountable problem of obtaining angler counts with limited manpower within a given time frame.

An initial creel census was begun October 22, 1958, and was terminated January 4, 1959, a total of 34 days. One clerk interviewed anglers around the periphery of the Sea, mainly on weekends when angling pressure was the greatest, and collected information on the numbers of hours fished and number of each species caught by both boat and shore anglers. Length (TL), weight and scale samples were taken from corvina to determine age and growth rates.

A very rough estimate of total anglers using the fishery during the census period was obtained by expanding the number of anglers contacted each census month by a factor derived from computing the ratio of census days to non-census days within that particular month.

1963 Creel Census

By 1963 the Salton Sea had become popular for both sport fishing and general recreation. Real estate sales were increasing and 12 marinas were in operation.

Information obtained from the 1958 census had been outdated by the increased use of the resource by this time, so an experimental creel census was designed to attempt to solve problems inherent in sampling such a large body of water. The most critical problems consisted of:

1) Manpower limitations.
2) Selections of suitable sampling sites .
3) Covering seasonal variations in angler use.
4) Obtaining the most valid use counts within a time frame.

Manpower and Sampling Site Requirements

In the planning state, it was obvious that manpower restrictions would not permit census interviews at all 12 marinas; consequently, boat anglers were interviewed at only six marinas and two roving clerks censused shore anglers on the east and west shores. A ninth clerk made use counts by boat or aircraft.

Locations of Sampling Sites

The 12 marinas varied considerably because of their geographic locations, char-acter and depth of bottom deposits in the shore zones, and the availability of various supplies and comfort needs. These differences dictated the amount of recreational use. At Redhill and Benson Landing, use was restricted to angling because the surrounding shallow mud flats were not conducive to wading, swimming, or water skiing. Wide sandy beaches at Salton Sea Beach and State Park Headquarters attracted many water sport enthusiasts. Other marinas varied within these two extremes. Eventually six marinas were selected: Salton Bay, Benson's Landing, Redhill, Niland, State Park Headquarters, and Desert Shores (Figure 2 ).

Seasonal Variations in Recreational Use

Very little was known about seasonal variations in recreational use at the Salton Sea. Summers were often unbearably hot and daytime recreation was limited during summer months. The major fishing activity usually began in the spring after water temperatures approached 20°C (68°F).

Determination of Method to Obtain Use Counts

A single 22-day creel census was conducted from Friday, February 22, through Sunday the 24th. Census hours were from 0800 to 1800 hours on Friday and Saturday, and from 0800 to 1300 hours on Sunday. Two-hour flights were made by a Department aircraft three times each day. The pilot flew a counterclockwise pattern around the Sea with occasional flights across the center. One man accompanied the pilot and recorded numbers of angler boats, non-angler boats, and shore anglers.

In order to facilitate distinguishing between angler boats and non-angler boats, boats in forward motion with no evidence of fishing rods or trolling gear, i.e., flags, etc., were considered as non-angler boats. Boats obviously engaged in water sports, but with fishing gear visible were considered within the angler boat category.

Census clerks gathered the following data:

1) Angler catch by species.
2) Hours fished (with emphasis on obtaining complete angler day data).
3) Numbers of anglers per boat (from marina interviews).
4) Numbers of boats launched both for angler and non-angler use (from marina interviews).
5) Weights and lengths of species caught, time permitting.

Two-hour flights were scheduled at 0900, 1300 and 1700 hours on Friday and at 0700, 1100, and 1500 hours on Saturday. Sunday flights were at 0700 and 1100 hours.



Figure 2. Marinas Chosen for Creel Census Sites

The 1963 census demonstrated it was possible to obtain harvest and angler use counts by this technique. Therefore, it was decided to schedule an annual creel census program designed as follows:

1) One weekend census in April, May, June, September, October and November each near the middle of the month or as close as possible to maintain consistency. The six months selected provided an opportunity to cover angling use and success throughout most of the water temperature range.

2) Shore and jetty anglers were tallied separately.

3) The original six marinas chosen for boat angler interviews were reduced to four (Redhill, Salton Bay, Desert Shores, and State Park Headquarters) because of manpower limitations.

4) The original area chosen for shore-angler contacts on the went side of the Sea was deleted because access and use were found to be negligible.

5) The west side clerk was reassigned to cover shore and jetty anglers from Salton Bay Marina to Desert Shores.

6) The original daily plan of three 2-hour flights each was retained, but flights were made at 0800, 1200 and 1600 hours.

Additionally in 1964 census clerks were instructed to record:

1) County of residence. (The Pomeroy salinity study got underway during 1964. In order to assist in the economic phase of the study, beginning with the September census, county of residence of anglers contacted was incorporated into the creel census interviews, and city or town of residence was deleted.)
2) Total boat launchings and boat rentals for the day at all four marina census stations.
3) Rental boat statistics if close by marina census station.
4) Interview and record data from each member of a party separately.

1965 Creel Census

The l965 census closely followed the 1964 design with the exception of the flight time. To gain a more statistically valid estimate of angler use, four l-hour flights were made each day. Angler use offshore was minimal in 1963 and 1964; therefore offshore patterns were eliminated in 1965.

Flight times were randomly selected for the entire year with two flights scheduled in the morning and two flights in the afternoon, with an even distribution of flight times over the year. Creel censuses in 1966, 1S67 and 1969 followed this format. No aircraft was available to conduct census in 1968.


An IBM fortran coding form key punch card proved to be an ideal census form. Replicas of the fortran card were made on sheets approximately 22.9 cm x 34.3 cm (9.0 x 13.5") with 24 horizontal spaces to facilitate use in the field. During 1965 a computer program was written to expedite processing of the data, which were summarized on the computer. The census form permitted the key punch operator to work directly from field data.

Expansion of creel data to obtain estimates of annual use and harvest for a given year was accomplished through the use of daily boat launch records kept by the Department of Parks and Recreation at their headquarters at North Shore. These records yielded a ratio of weekday to weekend boat use. To confirm the validity of using this method, during 1964, 1965, and 1966, a postcard return system was set up to obtain estimated numbers of boats launched at 6 marinas. Returns showed close similarity of monthly launching to those kept by Department of Parks and Recreation.

In order to minimize the bias that might result from seasonal variations in catch rates, each year was divided into two periods: May through September and October through April. In other words, the warmer-water months were treated separately from the cooler-water months. Mean figures of angler use and harvest were derived from those censuses occurring within each of the two periods, and were applied to their individual periods. It was necessary to assume weekday statistic of catch rate was the same as the weekend rate in order to obtain estimated total use and harvest. These two totals were combined to obtain estimated annual use and harvest. Night angling is allowed in the Salton Sea area. Therefore, an unknown segment of the possible 24-hour angling day was not being sampled. An estimate of 10% night use (based on spot checks) was adopted and added to the expanded daily estimates of use and harvest beginning in 1964.


1958 Creel Census

The census clerk contacted 155 boat and shore anglers who fished a total of 486 hours and caught 121 corvina, 243 bairdiella, and 11 sargo over the 34-day census (Table 2). The catch per hour varied widely for the three species caught (Table 2). Bairdiella had the highest rate at 1.13/angler hour by boat anglers, and sargo the lowest rate at 0.06/angler hour by shore anglers. Boat and shore anglers had almost the same success taking corvina at rates of 0.25 and 0.24, respectively. Actual use counts were expanded by applying a ratio of total use counts of census days to total days not censused. It was estimated that 568 anglers utilized the fishery from October 22, 1958 to January 4, 1959.

During the census period, corvina of over 5.4 kg (12 lb.) were recorded. Corvina of 0.4 to 2.3 kg (1 to 5 lb) were fairly common. Sargo were taken in the sport catch for the first time, and appeared to be well established, as were bairdiella

From a sample of 50 angler-caught corvina, total lengths ranged from 19.0 cm (7.5 inches) to 78.7 cm (31.0 inches). Weights ranged from 56.7 g (2 oz) to 5.6 kg (12.5 lb). Mean length and weight was approximately 55.9 cm (22.0 inches) and 1.8 kg (4 lb).

The most successful angling methods were inshore drift trolling with live mudsuckers or small bairdiella, live bait still fishing, and casting with artificial lures. Dead or frozen mudsuckers and cut shrimp were used with some success. Successful baits for bairdiella were liver, shrimp, and beef. Sargo preferred shrimp. Twelvepound monofilament line was recommended for corvina angling with medium to heavy action rods. Bairdiella and sargo were taken on light tackle, Successful corvina anglers mostly depended upon locating inshore schools of fish which could be very time-consuming. Schooling movements varied widely at specific locations during the census period. For example, at Sandia Corporation harbor, located at the Salton Sea test base, the corvina inshore movement occurred from 1500 hours until 2000 hours daily early in the period. This later changed to a larger movement from 0600 hours until 1500 hours daily.

The census clerk found the greatest angler activity and catch success from the northern end of the Sea clockwise to North Shore and then down the eastern side to Bombay Beach. The Sandia Corporation area on the southwestern side was also popular and productive.

TABLE 2. Summary of 1958 Creel Census


Boat Anglers
Shore Anglers

Total anglers



Total hours fished



Average angler day (hours)



Total corvina caught



Corvina caught/hour



Total bairdiella caught



Bairdiella caught/hour



Total sargo caught



Sargo caught/hour



1/ includes jetties and piers

 1963 Creel Census

During the 28-day census, 599 boat anglers were interviewed. They fished 1917 hours and caught 32 corvina and 67 sargo at the rate of 0.02 corvina/hour and 0.04 sargo/hour. The 295 shore anglers interviewed fished 672 hours and caught 43 sargo at the rate of 0.06/angler hour. No bairdiella were taken by either boat or shore anglers. The aircraft census clerk counted 638 antler boats and 399 non-angler boats for a total of 5,721 boat angler hours of use and 3,837 boat non-angler use. Sixty-two percent of the total number of boats counted were used for angling. Shore anglers counted from the aircraft totaled 870 for a total of 2,838 hours use.

Boat anglers fished an average of 3.5 hours per day and shore anglers averaged 1.2 hours. An estimated 1,625 boat-angler days and 1,267 shore-angler days were expended during the census period. The total expanded catch was estimated to be 97 corvina and 38 sargo.

Two census clerks measured fish taken at unassigned census stations (marinas) to augment measurements taken at assigned census stations.

Corvina ranged in total length from 37.3 cm (14.7 inches) to 74.8 cm (31.0 inches), with a mean of 56.3 cm (22.2 inches). Mean weight was 1.6 kg (3.5 lb).

The total angler day use for the entire year was estimated to be 325,000 days. (Derived by solving a simple proportion between 1963 and 1964 State Park boat launch records and applying this ratio to the computed total use statistic for 1964.)

1964 Creel Census

Only seven of 12 planned census days were completed. A storm drove anglers off the Sea on Sunday during the April census. The June and October censuses were canceled due to unavailability of the aircraft.

Twelve thousand nine hundred and thirty-six anglers, comprised of 1,427 shore, 9,625 boat and 1,884 jetty anglers, fished during the seven census days. Mean length of angler day for the seven census days was estimated to be 4.34 hours for both shore and jetty anglers, and 4.79 for boat anglers. Because of insuf-ficient data on completed trips for shore and jetty anglers, boat angler estimated length of day was applied to shore and jetty anglers estimated beginning in September.

Of the estimated 557,648 fish harvested this year, 71.7% were corvina, 9.8% sargo, and 18.5% bairdiella.

1965 Creel Census

Ten days were censused; the airplane was not available in November.

The total angler-day use estimate increased 370, and the estimated total harvest of corvina increased 357 over the estimated for 1964. The estimated annual harvest of both sargo and bairdiella were about equal, with sargo having a greater increase than bairdiella over 1964 (Table 3).

TABLE 3. Total Estimated Catch and Estimated Angler Days, Salton Sea Creel Census.

Total Catch by Year









Totals -all


Angler Day Use


Boat anglers harvested an estimated 40,296 corvina during the 10 census days at a mean rate of 0.37 fish per hour (Table 4). Peak harvest and success rates were tabulated by boat anglers during the May census with an estimated catch of 20,398 corvina over the 2-day census period at a mean rate of 0.62 fish per hour. Although boat anglers harvested more sargo and bairdiella than shore and jetty anglers during census days, catch per hour rates were the lowest of the three methods (Table 4).

Fewer numbers of jetty anglers harvested more sargo and bairdiella at higher catch per hour rates than shore anglers (Table 4). An estimated 22,248 boat, 3,191 shore, and 2,335 jetty anglers used the fishery during the 10 census days.

Mean length of angler day was 4.72 for the three categories of anglers (Table 5). Corvina represented 65% of the estimated 830,792 fish harvested this year with sargo and bairdiella making up 17% and 18% of the catch, respectively (Table 6).

1966 Creel Census

Five weekend censuses were completed. The November sampling was canceled due to inclement weather.

The total angler-day use estimate dropped 10% from the 1965 total, the estimated harvest of corvina dropped 74%, and a dramatic upswing of sargo and bairdiella harvest estimates occurred (Table 3 ).

During the 10 census days, boat anglers harvested more sargo and bairdiella at higher mean catch per hour rates than they did corvina (Table 4). Jetty anglers harvested more sargo and bairdiella at higher mean catch per hour rates than did shore anglers, and also exceeded boat angler catch per hour rates for the same two species (Table 4). The estimated numbers of all three categories of anglers using the fishery during the 10 census days showed a decline from the 1965 esti-mates of 42% for boat anglers, 26t for shore, and 195 for jetty anglers.

Percentage composition of the total estimated harvest varied greatly from the 1965 estimate. Corvina contributed only 17%, while sargo increased to 34t, and bairdiella to 495 (Table 6).

1967 Creel Census

The May census was canceled due to the unavailability of the aircraft; one day was lost from the November census weekend due to a severe storm; and the April census weekend was affected to an unknown degree by high winds which drove most boats inshore or off the Sea on Sunday. Despite these inimical conditions, the total annual angler-day estimate showed a partial recovery from the previous year's estimate. The total estimated corvina harvest was more than double the 1966 estimate and exceeded the sargo harvest, although sargo numbers increased 4% over the previous year. The bairdiella harvest increased 41% to attain a new high (Table 3 ). Over the nine census days, boat anglers recorded the highest mean catch per hour rates for corvina and bairdiella of any preceding year, shore anglers recorded the highest rate for bairdiella, and jetty anglers recorded the highest rate for sargo (Table 4). Of the estimated annual harvest of all three species; corvina made up 25%, sargo 25%, and bairdiella 49% of the total.


TABLE 4. Estimated Catch by Boat, Shore, and Jetty Anglers, With Mean Catch Indexes for Each During Creel Census Periods 1964-1969.












No. Fish/hr

No. Fish/hr

No. Fish/hr

No. Fish/hr

No. Fish/hr

No. Fish/hr

No. Fish/hr

No. Fish/hr

No. Fish/hr






























































TABLE 5. Estimated Mean Length of Angler Day 1964-1969l/


Shore Angler
Boat Angler
Jetty Angler











1/No census in 1968.

TABLE 6. Percentage Composition by Species of the Estimated Annual Harvest 1964-19691/














1/ No census in 1968.

1969 Creel Census

This was the first year all of the planned 2-day censuses were completed. Total estimated angler use days dropped 44% from the 1967 total, and the total estimated harvest of all fish dropped 46% from the estimated 1,178,270 in 1967 (Table 4).

The total estimated harvest of corvina dropped 70% from the 1967 estimate, sargo declined by 47%, and bairdiella by 33t (Table 3). Of the three species, bairdiella were harvested at the highest mean catch per hour rates by boat, shore, and jetty anglers over the 12 census days (Table 4). Of the total estimated harvest of 635,114 fish, corvina made up 14%, sargo 25%, and bairdiella 61% of the total (Table 6).

Comparison of Three Use Categories

Estimated annual totals of boat launchings and general recreational use days from the State Recreation Area and annual totals for estimated angler days from the creel census summaries peaked in 1965. All show a similar downtrend from the peak year through 1969 (Table 7).

Estimated Total Weights of Harvested Species, and Kilograms per Hectare (lb per acre) 1964-1969

An estimated 998,000 kg (2,177,000 lb) of all species at 10.5 kg/ha (9.4 lb/acre) were harvested in the peak year of 1965. An estimated 339,000 kg (749,000 lb). at 3.6 kg/ha (3.2 lb/acre) were harvested in 1969. These estimates were based on a surface area of 94,000 ha (232,000 acres). During the five census years, an estimated 2,345,000 kg (5,170,000 lb) of corvina were harvested (Table 8).

Comparison of Boat Category Use by Percent, from Aircraft Counts 1964-1969

Boat use on the Salton Sea was predominantly by anglers and varied from 71% to 76% of total boat use over the 5 years (Table 9).

Angler County of Residence Summary from Creel Census Interviews 1966-1969

Angler county of residence data were summarized from creel censuses completed 1966 through 1969, minus 1968. A total of 14,193 anglers was interviewed, of which 91% resided in the six southern counties of California. The greatest number (39%) originated in Los Angeles County, and the lowest (8% each) from Orange and Imperial counties. San Diego and San Bernardino counties totaled 15% each, Riverside County 12%, other counties 2% and out-of-state 1%.

TABLE 7. Comparison of Boat Launchings and General Recreational Use Days From State Park Recreation Area Improved Sites, and Estimated Angler Use Days From Creel Summaries, by Percentage Decline From Base Year 1965.

General Recreational
Angler Use




Use Days












































1/ Chosen Base Year
2/ No census attempted


TABLE 8. Estimated Kilograms Harvested of the Three Species of Fish, 1964-1969 and the Estimated Kilograms per Hectare Based on 93,890.4 Surface Hectaares and Mean Weights of 1,587.57, 680.39, and 226.80 grams for Corvina, Saargo, and Bairdiella, Respectivelly.


Per acre


634,408.6 kg
(1,398,871.0 lb)

27,174.4 kg
(81,969.55 lb)

23,451.2 kg
(51,7009.9 lb)

695,034.2 kg
(1,532,550.4 lb)



856,675.4 kg
(1,888,969.3 lb)

997,388.8 kg
(214,742.30 lb)

33,575.4 kg
(74,033.8 lb)

987,639.6 kg
(2,177,745.3 lb)



218,478.7 kg
(481,745.5 lb)

193,571.9 kg
(426,826.0 lb)

91,883.3 kg
(202,602.7 lb)

503,933.9 kg
(1,111,174.2 lb)



498,185.5 kg
(1,080,859.0 lb)

201,799.8 kg
(444,968.6) lb)

129,934.0 kg
(286,504.5 lb)

821,919.3 kg
(1,812,332.0 lb)



145,188.1 kg
(320,139.8 lb)

106,980.2 kg
(235,891.3 lb)

87,640.2 kg
(193,246.6 lb)

339,805.5 kg
(749,277.7 lb)



2,344,936.3 kg
(5,170,584.5 lb)

636,915.1 kg
(1,404,397.8 lb)

366,484.1 kg
(808,097.5 lb)

3,348,332.5 kg
(749,277.7 lb)


TABLE 9. Comparison of Mean Numbers of Boat Hours Use Per Census Day and % Use by Category 1964-1969.

Angler Boat
Non-Angler Boat













Ages and sex were recorded in 1966 end 1967 to obtain additional insight into the fishery and provide information requested by the Development Research Associates under contract with the California Water Resources Control Board. This information was utilized in analyzing and evaluating the potential economic benefits of the Salton Sea and surrounding area under controlled and uncontrolled salinity conditions, for use in the Federal-State reconnaissance study.

The age classification parameter was set at 16, at which time a fishing license must be possessed. No breakdown by sex was made for those anglers under 16. Sixty-three percent of the anglers interviewed were adult males, 24% adult females, and those under 16, 13%.


During the creel census efforts, beginning in 1958 and continued from 1963 through 1969, the fishery was observed from its infancy to its high point in 1965, and to an apparent downtrend by 1969.

The decline in corvina harvest in 1966 can be partially attributed to heavy winds and storms over most weekends in the spring and lasting through June.

Successful corvina angling often requires long boat trips, sometimes far offshore. Heavy winds and rough water conditions primarily affect the corvina catch, with lesser affects on the bairdiella and sargo catch which are most generally taken from shore and jetty and close inshore by boat.

A high increase in the bairdiella harvest occurred in 1966 and 1967 with a compar-atively lower decrease in 1969 (Table 3). The sargo harvest also increased during the same period, but at a lower rate than bairdiella. Possible reasons for this increase in bairdiella harvest are:

1) The increasing influx to the Salton Sea by "panfish" anglers, mostly without boats.
2) The susceptibility of bairdiella to the angler in the shore zones and from jetties.
3) The increase in size of bairdiella in the Salton Sea over those in the Gulf of California (Boyd Walker, pers. commun.) which has added to its popularity on light tackle, and its excellence as a table fish. Many are attaining lengths of over 12 inches.

Boat anglers also harvested large numbers of bairdiella in 1966 and 1967 at high catch rates. This can be partially explained by the storms in 1966 which kept boats inshore during censuses in April, May, and June, and the increasing popularity of bairdiella as live bait for corvina angling. Many boat anglers fish initially for bairdiella and then resume their quest for corvina when sufficient bait has been collected. Many of these bairdiella have been tallied during creel census interviews.

The decline in the total angler-day use estimate in 1969 and the dramatic decline in the corvina harvest cannot be explained. However, estimates from State Park Head-quarters of paid boat launchings and general recreation use days show declines since 1965 generally paralleling those of the Annual Angler Use Day estimates, but not necessarily of the same magnitude (Table 7).

The results of this series of creel censuses as sununarized in this report demonstrate the importance of this recreational fishery to anglers and recreationists in general, particularly to those in Southern California and to 2 lesser degree to other areas in California, other states, and foreign countries. Lists of anglers categorized by county or origin show the highest percentage of anglers reside in Los Angeles. However, during the colder winter months when creel census data are not collected, an influx of recreationists from colder regions in California, other states, and Canada, COMR south for the season and reside in trailers or motor homes in the numerous parks around the Sea.

During an economic survey, as part of the Joint Federal-State of California salinity control study, it was estimated that recreational facilities and property within the intermediate vicinity of the Salton Sea were valued at over 150 million dollars. This denotes a sizable investment in the resource. This investment is dependent on the fishery to a large extent. Boat use Counts clearly shed the boat angler far out numbers the non-angler boat user and is supporting the basic economy of the area by keeping the marinas in business through launching fees, sales of gasoline, bait, and tackle. The angler also patronizes the various stores, restaurants, and motels.

The major threat to the Salton Sea fishery and other recreational values of the area is the eventual rise of salinity that sill prevent the reproduction of fish and degrade the water quality. It is essential that a salinity control program be initiated. It is concluded from the results of this study that the Salton Sea has a unique, viable, self-supporting fishery, providing one of the highest, if not the highest quality angling inland waters in the state.


Black, Glenn F. 1980. Status of the desert pupfish, Cyprinodon macularius (Baird and Girard), in California. Calif. Fish and Game, Inland Fisheries Endg. Species Prog. Special Pub. 80-1.

Coleman G. A. 1929. A biological survey of the Salton Sea. Calif. Fish and Game, 15(3):218-227.

de Stanley, Mildred. 1966. The Salton Sea yesterday and today. Triumph Press, Inc., Los Angeles. 51-52.

Dill, William A. and Chester Woodhull. 1942. A game fish for the Salton Sea, the tenpounder, Elops affinis. Calif. Fish and Game, 28(4):171-174.

Douglas, P. A. 1953. Survival of some fishes recently introduced into the Salton Sea, California. Calif. Fish and Game, 39(2):264-265.

Hanson, Jack A. 1970. Salinity tolerances for Salton Sea fishes. Calif. Fish and Game, Inland Fisheries Admin. Rpt. 70-2.

Lasker, R., R. H. Tenaza, and L. L. Chamberlain. 1971. The response of Salton Sea Ash eggs and larvae to salinity stress. Calif. Fish and Game, 58 (1):58-66.

Pomeroy, R. D. 1965. A reconnaissance study and preliminary report on a water quality control plan for the Salton Sea, report to California State Water Quality Control Board by Pomeroy, Johnston and Bailey, Pasadena. 1-15, III 4, 15.

Ross, W. H. 1914. Chemical composition of the water of Salton Sea, and its annual variation in concentration 1906-1911. In the Salton Sea, by D. T. MacDougal. Carnegie Inst. Wash., Publ., No. 193, P. 35--46.

Salton Sea, California, Water Quality and Ecological Management Consideration, July, 1970. Federal Water Quality Administration, Pacific Southwest Region, U.S. Dept. of the Interior. p. 4.

Salton Sea Project California, Federal-State Reconnaissance Report. October 1969. B.S. Department of the Interior and the Resources Agency of California. P. 59.

Walker, B. W., ed. 1961. The ecology of the Salton Sea, California, in relation to the sportfishery. Calif. Dept. Fish and Game, Fish Bull. (113):1-198.



APPENDIX 1. Dates of Creel Censuses Completed Within the Scheduled Six Months (Zoom)

APPENDIX 2. Creel Census, Salton sea, Comparative Tabulation 1964

APPENDIX 3. Creel Census, Salton Sea, Compartive Tabulation 1964


APPENDIX 4. Creel Census, Salton Sea, Comparative Tabulation 1964*

APPENDIX 5. Estimated Catch by Boat, Shore, and Jetty Anglers, With Mean Catch Indexes for Each During Creel Census Periods 1964-1969


APPENDIX 6. Creel Census, Salton Sea, and Jetty Anglers, With Mean Catch Indexes for Each During Creel Census Periods 1964-1969


APPENDIX 7. Creel Census, Salton Sea, Comparative Tabulation 1965


APPENDIX 8. Creel Census, Salton Sea Comparative Tabulation 1963


APPENDIX 9. Creel Census, Salton Sea, Comparative Tabulation 1966

APPENDIX 10. Creel Census, Salton Sea, Comparative Tabulation 1966

APPENDIX 11. Creel Census, Salton Sea, Comparative Tabulation 1966

APPENDIX 12. Creel Census, Salton Sea, Comparative Tabulation 1967

APPENDIX 13. Creel Census, Salton Sea, Corparative Tabulation 1967

APPENDIX 14. Creel Census, Salton Sea, Comparative Tabulation 1967

APPENDIX 15. Creel Census, Salton Sea, Comparative Tabulation 1969


APPENDIX 16. Creel Census, Salton Sea, Comparative Tabulation 1969


APPENDIX 17. Coounty of Residence Data - 1966



APPENDIX 18. County of Residence Data - 1967



APPENDIX 18a County of Residence Data


APPENDIX 18b County of Residence Data - Continued

 APPENDIX 21 County of Residence Data