Sunday, March 31, 2019

    The water warms up a little and look who shows up. This striper was landed this morning and a 29 incher was caught yesterday morning. The pictured one ate squid. I heard that there was another one on that broke off after a long fight. Gage's striper count was low but he had a couple of photos from the past few days:

   Yes, the second photo is a mini-mud-marlin and perch "double". Not quite what he was looking for, but action nonetheless. As I write this the Tomales Bay water temp is 62 degrees. I tried to get my test fisherman to go jig it but he's got striper on the brain. He's probably right to skip it, as the warmer bay water also happens to be a bit more on the brackish side. Click on "Plots" on this page to see the inverse relation between the temp and salt in the bay now. If the rain ever pauses long enough for the bay to salt up a bit the halibut bite should be start in the way back soon after. I'm not sure how much salt makes a halibut happy, but 21-23 PSU is significantly less than the 30-32 PSU in Horseshoe Cove. 
   Tomorrow is our rockfish opener. If you don't mind a little rain the weather looks pretty good. Remember, this year you're allowed only one ling (22" minimum) in possession and ten rockfish. Of those ten rockfish, three can be blacks, three can be cabazon (15"minimum) and two can be canaries. No yelloweye or cowcod allowed, and gentlemen, if you don't know a yelloweye from a vermillion, learn it. It's too expensive to be ignorant.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

   There are still some nice Dungeness to be caught out there. Well, there's a few less now, but still quite a few. Snares and traps from boats are definitely the ticket. These crab only took a couple of hours to climb in the trap.
   Speaking of crab, a lawsuit will close the commercial Dungeness season early, in April, and change the way the commercial guys fish in the future. Here's the press release, but don't gloat too much; we're next.

Entanglement Settlement Protects Whales, Sea Turtles and California’s Crab Fishery

SAN FRANCISCO — Californians will be pleased to know that Dungeness crab will be caught off the coast with greater care for endangered wildlife under a settlement announced by the Center for Biological Diversity, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations (PCFFA).
The legal settlement protects whales and sea turtles from entanglement in commercial Dungeness crab gear. The Center for Biological Diversity sued CDFW in October 2017 after a drastic increase in the number of whale entanglements off the West Coast.
“As I’ve said many times, no one wants whale entanglements to happen,” said CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham. “This agreement represents hours of intense negotiation to help ensure they don’t happen while supporting the resiliency of the crab fishery in the long run. I am thankful for the leadership of the Center for Biological Diversity and the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations who realized something needed to be done together.”
“This is great news for whales and sea turtles fighting extinction off California’s coast,” said Kristen Monsell, a Center for Biological Diversity attorney. “The settlement will reduce serious threats from crab gear to these beautiful and highly endangered animals. This agreement is a turning point that gets us closer to zero entanglements and a healthy ocean.”
The lawsuit was brought by the Center for Biological Diversity against CDFW (Center for Biological Diversity v. Bonham) in federal court in San Francisco. The Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, which represents crabbers, intervened in the lawsuit.
The settlement, subject to court approval, creates a comprehensive approach to the problem of whale entanglements. It expedites state regulation, ensures stakeholder input from the Dungeness crab Fishing Gear Working Group and formalizes a first-ever commitment by CDFW to pursue a federal permit for protecting endangered species. While these steps are executed, the settlement calls for this year’s crab season to end three months early and prescribes protective measures for future springtime fishing seasons, when the greatest number of whales are present off the California coast.
In November 2018, CDFW announced it would seek a federal permit under the Endangered Species Act to address protected species interactions with the crab fishery. Obtaining a permit and developing a conservation plan as part of that process can take years, so the settlement spells out interim protections.
“This settlement represents the path back to normality for California’s crab fishery with built-in protections for whales and crab fishing operations under the Endangered Species Act,” said Noah Oppenheim, executive director of PCFFA. “The past several years have been extraordinarily challenging for fishing families, and the actions we’re taking here are no exception. But in the end, we’re going to emerge together with a resilient, prosperous, and protective fishery that will continue to feed California and the nation.”
Details of the settlement can be found at

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

  The crabbing has been pretty good for this time of year, as normally February is pretty dead for Dungeness. I haven't heard of anybody limiting inside the bay but boaters seem to be catching 3 to 15 keepers a day, depending on who you ask. Snare casters are generally catching dinner from shore, and a pair of guys last week caught 15 Dungies between them. The ocean water has salted back up and the surfperch have returned to the beach with a few of the regular surf fishermen doing very well over the weekend on redtails.
     April 13 is the official opening of salmon season here (Point Arena to Pigeon Point). The current regulations are here if you want to see them. The minimum size is 24 inches until April 30th, when the season closes. Don't worry, it will reopen on May 1st, but the final determination of the seasons duration will be made in April. It looks like it will probably run through October again. For a look at the current options see here.  Something to look forward to in the future is a push to restrict salmon fishing further to leave more salmon for the killer whales in Puget Sound. Since there aren't many Chinooks left in Washington they're looking at the Sacramento and Klamath fish as being important whale food. Probably the'll just end up removing some hydroelectric dams on the Snake and Columbia Rivers (and replace them with CO2 generating power plants. I thought those were bad?) to make room for more salmon spawning habitat. Spawning habitat is good, but how about hatcheries? Grow a surplus? Make (relatively) clean power and salmon? I'm sure that's too easy.
   California halibut season is open year-round but the catching is generally limited to when the water is warmer (57º-65º). You can catch a halibut in colder water but you'll spend less time catching more fish in the right conditions. San Francisco and San Pablo Bays have many square miles of shallow water to soak up the sun and warm up sooner than Tomales Bay. They're catching a few halibut now but it will get much better in the coming weeks. The water in Tomales Bay is actually warm enough to be interesting (57º) right now. The salinity is low near Hog Island (21 PSU compared to a norm of about 31-33) but closer to normal near the mouth. The clam channel has had some early fish in the last few years and may hold some now. They probably won't bite, but they're probably there. Don't worry, though, spring is officially here, so the West wind will soon have the water chilled down to the forties.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

   Gage tells me that it's kind of weird taking his own fish pictures. Since he normally holds his fish out to make them look bigger, doing them himself requires the opposite. This one is his personal best barred perch, caught yesterday on the beach. He also caught a few normal-sized ones, all on the incoming tide on Berkley Gulp! Sandworms. I guess that the fish like having actual saltwater instead of the muddy brackish stuff we had. I can't complain too much, as all that fresh water is supposed to be good for salmon smolts. I can't wait for the 2021 salmon season.
   Actually, this season looks pretty good. We might get April 6 through October if we are lucky. Here's what better informed people are saying about this year's season:" Good Salmon Forecast for 2019 Suggests Plentiful Fishing
Good rainfall two years ago pays off

Santa Rosa, CA  -- Today officials forecast 379,632 adult Sacramento Valley salmon are now in the ocean off the West Coast, compared to 229,400 a year ago at this time.  This suggests a return to relatively plentiful salmon fishing in 2019 is likely.  In the month ahead, officials with the Pacific Fisheries Management Council will use this forecast and other information to set times and areas open to both sport and commercial ocean salmon fishing for 2019. 

The reason for the uptick in this year’s salmon forecast is directly linked to the better Central Valley river conditions during the very wet spring of 2017.  Increased natural runoff from rivers in the Central Valley always boost salmon survival, as measured two years later when the fish return to spawn as adults. 

“We are looking forward to a good salmon fishing season this year,” said GGSA president John McManus. 
In addition to the Sacramento salmon forecasts, more salmon from other Central Valley rivers and hatcheries, as well as from the Klamath and other north coast rivers, will add to ocean numbers.

“We could see the best season since 2013, which was a really good one,” said GGSA director and publisher of USA Mike Aughney.  “Then as now, the good times came two years after really wet winters and springs in the Central Valley.  If water managers would leave more water in the rivers during some of the drier years, we’d always have more salmon.” 

Since baby salmon are considered one year old when they leave the Central Valley in the spring, and most return as three year old adults, you can always count on good fishing two years after lots of rain and snow.  (Yes, with this year’s rain and snow, 2021 should be a good year too!)

The less good news is that the number of adult salmon that returned to the Sacramento Valley to spawn in 2018 fell short of targets for the fourth year in a row.  After three years of missing the target, the National Marine Fisheries Service increased the so-called minimum escapement target from 122,000 to 151,000 fish in 2018.  They may do the same again this season which could result in a shortened season or some areas being closed.  These decisions will be made over the next month but no matter what, most expect good fishing once the season finally gets under way. 

In spite of the relatively rosy 2019 forecasts, the entire Central Valley is still recovering from the last great drought which greatly reduced salmon in various Central Valley tributaries.  A few years of good returns to help rebuild the natural spawning stocks is welcome news. 

“Drought could revisit us almost anytime, in fact it’s probably just a matter of when.  We need to build and fortify in the good years so we don’t get wiped out again in the bad,” said GGSA secretary Dick Pool.  “That’s why GGSA is working overtime to get salmon recovery, habitat improvements, and hatchery improvements on the new governor’s radar.”

Over diversion of the Central Valley rivers in years with less rainfall is a major reason for declines in the salmon population.  The State Water Resources Control Board is currently trying to rebalance how water is shared in the Central Valley.  GGSA is working to make sure the needs of salmon are heard in this process.

The Golden Gate Salmon Association ( is a coalition of salmon advocates that includes commercial and recreational salmon fisherman, businesses, restaurants and chefs, a native tribe, environmentalists, elected officials, families and communities that rely on salmon. GGSA’s mission is to restore California salmon for their economic, recreational, commercial, environmental, cultural and health values

Currently, California’s salmon industry is valued at $1.4 billion in annual economic activity in a normal season. The industry employs tens of thousands of people from Santa Barbara to northern Oregon. This is a huge economic bloc made up of commercial fishermen, recreational fishermen (fresh and salt water), fish processors, marinas, coastal communities, equipment manufacturers, tackle shops and marine stores, the hotel and food industry, tribes, and the salmon fishing industry at large.  Salmon are a keystone species that reflect the health of both their fresh and salt water environments."