Wednesday, February 28, 2018

   Tomorrow is the CDFW Annual Salmon Information Meeting in Santa Rosa, at the Sonoma County Water Agency, 404 Aviation Boulevard. The season won't be set at this meeting but it might be possible to get a little insight into what kind of season we may have this year. The information handout shows that last year's adult returns were the second lowest in the last twenty years (and we've had some pretty crappy returns during that time). That's 44,500 adults last year (worst was in 2009 with a bit over 40,000). The good news is that there were (relatively) a lot of jacks, over 24,000. That could mean a fair amount of expected returns for this season. Let's hope. I'm just looking for an opportunity to try.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

     It looks like someone didn't get the word and is preparing for abalone season. I'm told that this picture was taken in Bodega Harbor a few days ago. I'm not sure how tall the channel markers are, but it it seems safe to say the shark is big. We haven't seen one of those here for a bit, but we did have some gray whales swimming in the Tomales Bay early in the week. Not as exciting but not as bitey, either. Speaking of large biting fish, we didn't have any here this week. Even the surfperch bite was slow. The crabbing remains the same with a few Dungeness being caught in the bay but mostly reds making their way into the traps. The outer bay has been better for Dungeness but is go guarantee of success. At least there's jacksmelt...

CDFW to Host Public Meeting on Ocean Salmon Fisheries
man with fish
Chinook salmon taken by an ocean sport angler near Trinidad, Calif. 
CDFW photo by M. Scatchard
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) invites the public to attend its upcoming annual Salmon Information Meeting to learn more about the state of California's salmon fishery. The meeting will be held Thursday, March 1 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Sonoma County Water Agency, 404 Aviation Blvd. in Santa Rosa (95403).
A review of last year's ocean salmon fisheries and spawning escapement will be presented along with the outlook for this year's sport and commercial ocean salmon fisheries.
Anglers are encouraged to provide input on potential fishing seasons to a panel of California salmon scientists, managers and representatives who will be directly involved in the upcoming Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) meetings in March and April.
Salmon fishing seasons are developed through a collaborative process involving the PFMC, state, federal and tribal agencies, and West Coast stakeholders interested in salmon fishery management and conservation. Public input will help California representatives develop a range of recommended season alternatives during the March 8-14 PFMC meeting in Rohnert Park, Calif. Final adoption of ocean salmon season regulations will occur during the April 5-11 PFMC meeting in Portland, Ore.
The 2018 Salmon Information Meeting marks the beginning of a two-month long public process used to establish annual sport and commercial ocean salmon seasons. A list of additional meetings and other opportunities for public comment is available on CDFW's ocean salmon web page.
The meeting agenda and handouts will be posted online as soon as they become available.

Edit: Additional photos of the Bodega Harbor shark have surfaced. See if you can identify the species:
   I think it's the cousin of Bruce from Jaws.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

     Kelly Goligowski caught this 14 pound halibut on live bait drifting the channel near Hog Island today, about an hour after I told Gage I wouldn't take him halibut fishing because there weren't any halibut to catch. (Once Gage thought I might be full of it; now he knows for sure.) I guess the halibut like calm, 75 degree weather too. Unfortunately the crab don't seem to care about the weather and Dungeness crabbing remains slow in the bay but better out in the outer bay.
    If you hadn't seen it already, here's a Fish and Wildlife press release that will make you angry. Abfish, please watch your language when you comment.

Three Abalone Poachers Hit with Heavy Fines, Other Penalties
officers with evidence
Evidence seized in the Liang case 
CDFW photo
The Mendocino County District Attorney's Office has settled three major abalone poaching cases involving Fort Bragg, Sacramento, and Bay Area abalone poachers, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) announced.
Two of the settled cases resulted in hefty fines and other penalties for restaurant owners:
  • Steven Yuan Qin Liang, 47, of Fort Bragg pled guilty to felony conspiracy involving the purchase and black market sales of sport-caught abalone for personal profit. Liang, owner of the Asian Buffet restaurant in Fort Bragg, was ordered to serve 360 days in the Mendocino County jail, placed on probation for 36 months, and ordered to pay a fine of $15,000. He is prohibited from obtaining a sport or commercial fishing license for life.
  • Bryant Chiu Shiu Lee, 44, of Sacramento, pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge of purchasing abalone for black market resale. Lee, owner of the Sushi CafĂ© in Sacramento, was placed on probation for 36 months and ordered to pay a fine of $40,000. He is prohibited from obtaining a sport or commercial fishing license for life.
Liang and Lee were both convicted in late 2017, following a joint investigation by the CDFW Special Operations Unit and Mendocino Coast squad that began in June 2015.
In the third case, the strange circumstances surrounding an emergency rescue led to an investigation and eventual conviction.
  • Justin Joseph Adams, 44, of Alameda, pled guilty to charges of conspiracy and taking abalone for black market sale. He was ordered to serve 210 days in the Mendocino County jail, was placed on probation for 36 months and was ordered to pay a fine of $15,000. He is also prohibited from obtaining a sport or commercial fishing license for life.
In April 2017, wildlife officers received information from the Mendocino County Sheriff's Department, Elk Volunteer Fire Department and Mendocino Volunteer Fire Department about odd circumstances surrounding a cliff rescue in Elk, Mendocino County. Adams had been dropped off by a friend the day before at the headlands just north of Cuffy's Cove in Elk. He climbed down a steep cliff to the water's edge and harvested abalone during low tide, but when the tide returned, his return route was blocked. When he failed to appear at a pre-determined pick-up location, a friend called in a missing persons report. Rescuers found Adams stranded on the side of a steep cliff and extracted him around 2 a.m.
Wildlife officers suspected poaching activity may have factored into Adams' predicament. The day after the rescue, CDFW Lt. Joel Hendricks and Warden Don Powers donned wetsuits and swam to the location below where Adams was rescued to look for evidence of poaching. In a deep cut under the bluff, directly under the location of Adams' rescue, they found two bags containing 38 abalone. One of the bags also contained a half-consumed plastic bottle of water. After obtaining a DNA sample from Adams via a search warrant, they sent the sample and the water bottle to the California Department of Justice Forensics Laboratory. The lab matched the DNA evidence from the bottle to Adams.
Trafficking of illegally harvested abalone on the black market continues to pose a significant enforcement problem and further exacerbates the pressure on the abalone population. Black market values will likely increase with the closure of the 2018 sport abalone season. Wildlife officers continue to conduct in-depth investigations and arrest those who continue to poach and commercialize abalone.
"It is immensely important for wildlife officers to work with district attorneys who understand the importance of prosecuting poaching crimes against the dwindling abalone resource," said CDFW Deputy Director and Chief of Law Enforcement David Bess. "The Mendocino County district attorney's office has an excellent track record in this regard."
CDFW's wildlife officers and biologists alike hope to see the return of a recreational abalone harvest as soon as the abalone population rebounds.