Captain “Jolly” Jay Sorensen
September 28, 1937 – June 22, 2020
Tribute by Restore the Delta Board Secretary, Roger Mammon
The Delta mourns the loss of one of its strongest advocates. Jay Sorensen of Stockton, California passed away peacefully in his sleep. After successfully beating throat cancer 5 years ago he valiantly lived with complications from the radiation therapy that left him unable to take nourishment by mouth.
A lifelong Stockton resident, he was an avid fisherman and guided thousands of people fishing on the San Joaquin River including celebrities, sports figures, and even politicians. It is estimated he spent 10,000 days fishing over his 50 years as a guide. The nickname “Jolly” came from his penchant for humor and joke telling.
He was the first to sound the alarm in 1974 about the deteriorating Delta ecology and fisheries. He no longer saw Striped Bass spawning in the San Joaquin River as they had for decades. This was just 14 years after the State Water Project went on line in conjunction with the Federal Central Valley Project. Jay rallied his fishing friends and founded the California Striped Bass Association to advocate for the fishery and the Delta. The Association expanded and currently has five active Chapters. It is the oldest continuously operating fresh water fishing organization in the State.
He authored “Let’s Go Fishing” in the Rio Vista Herald for over 20 years as well as writing for other publications.
To raise the profile of the Delta in 2009, Jay became heavily involved with the Delta Visitors Center and Farmers Market located on Highway 12 at Highway 160.
Jay was awarded the Hal Schell Award by the Bay/Delta Yachtsman in 2015.
On January 4, 2019 he was inducted into the California Outdoor Hall of fame joining the likes of John Muir, Ansel Adams, and fellow Stocktonian Pete Otteson.
For the past 14 years, Jay strongly supported Restore the Delta, attended our fund raising events, and made generous contributions.
One of Jay’s favorite sayings was, “The Delta is my Sistine Chapel”.
Rest in Peace Jay, smooth sailing and good fishing on your Sistine Chapel in Heaven.
Please also read this obituary by Dan Bacher appearing in The Record.