Thursday, May 13, 2021

 

     So the guys that come here every May and clobber the halibut spent five days here and, well, didn't. They did catch two on their last day. Generally, the guys on the three or four boats catch 20 to 40 halibut during their visit, but this year, by the last day they were pretty darned happy to catch these two. The fish had white spots when caught which I was told means that they just entered the bay. Again, I don't know that that's true but these fellows weren't catching any and then, some, so.... There's a few indications that the anchovies are on their way and my guess is that these halibut, like the pelicans and terns we've seen recently, are expecting the 'chovies to arrive shortly. You don't need anchovies for a good halibut bite but it sure helps.


       We did try for halibut for one drift this morning. Only one. No bites, and we ran for rockfish. Mostly it wasn't much better for us. In about three hours we caught about half-limits of rockfish down off Ten Mile in a place where you can normally limit in an hour or so. So we ran down to 4 by 3 (the reef four miles from Point Reyes and three miles from Ten Mile) where we were shut out. No bites. There was a super krill line at 100 to 130 feet down, though. So, being only a few miles from Point Reyes we ran the rest of the way. As you can see from Gage's smile, there's really nothing like bouncing a swimbait off of a rock and into the mouth of a hungry 15 pound lingcod. The last four trips we caught nothing but nausea in the slop at the Point but today the lings were happy. The UV hot squid 8" Pitbull Hot Tail was Gage's weapon of choice today. Other notes from Point Reyes: The rocks were covered in pink bird crap from the Common Murres covering them. The crap was pink from all the krill they've been eating. The last couple of days we haven't had the Northwest wind and the tiny break has already allowed the water to brown up a bit. If the wind ever quits for a longer stretch we'll be in good shape for a productive season. Of course, the wind blows tomorrow, so we're not really missing out on those closed salmon yet. But soon....

Saturday, May 8, 2021

     This halibut was caught this morning on a dead anchovy fished between Hog Island and the weather buoy. I also heard of a few caught today back by Marconi (Marshall). Cameron, Gage and I gave the halibut a try on Thursday, trolling from Marconi back to seven feet of water off of Inverness for a grand total catch of about 200 moon jellyfish and 500 pounds of that slimy, stringy algae that fouls up your swivels. The water was 60º but seemed devoid of any baitfish until we trolled back up to Heart's Desire Beach where there were schools of baitfish but not biting fish for us. There's a few fish around, as a few guys are catching a couple, but it ain't good. I guess if you're tired of dodging boats in San Francisco bay the relative peacefulness of Tomales Bay might look pretty appealing, and from my experience this week, peaceful and cold were the two operative words. Oh, and windy. Three operative words. 
      Crabbing has been pretty slow with most people catching one or two but nobody leaving here recently has been preparing for a crab feed unless they bought some somewhere. The Bay Area dead whale count has increased to nine (seven grays, a fin and a sperm) with the few confirmed causes of death so far being ships but "entanglement" is always listed as a possibility or likelihood for the undetermined deaths in the press releases. Luckily for us and the gray whales, the grays are no longer endangered. They are currently declining in number (a 24% drop since 2016) but they did the same thing in 1999-2000 and rebounded to higher numbers by 2015, so it is theorized that this may be a normal population fluctuation. The fact that sport and commercial crabbing occurred throughout that time would seem to indicate that crabbing has a negligible influence on Gray whales.

 

Monday, May 3, 2021

     If wind-driven upwelling is good for the fish, then wow, we are gonna have a lot of fish! I think, though, that at some point the ocean is supposed to calm down for a bit and warm enough to life to bloom in the nutrient-rich water. Right now the ocean here is a Vichyssoise incapable of feeding anything. The Bodega Bay weather buoy drifted off into oblivion last January (no date arranged yet for a replacement) but the Point Reyes waverider shows that the water temp has dropped from 52.5º F to a not-so-balmy 49.3º F today. I guess the current takes that cold soup South where it can warm up and feed things like plankton, krill, pelagic red crab and all the things that eat them. I just hope that there's enough food out here for the salmon smolts that are hitting the ocean soon. 

     There are a couple of wayward pelicans around now, so if you believe that the birds know what's going on in the ocean better than we do (I have strong suspicion that it's true) at least a couple of them think the anchovies are coming. It's only a couple, though, so I don't anticipate anchovies for another week or three. These are the pelican optimists and optimists are often disappointed. 

   The whale show in the Outer Bay has been really good with lots of spouting and spy-hopping. The CDFW has issued an advisory to the commercial guys to limit their traps to 180 feet of water or less in California waters North of the Sonoma/Mendocino County line starting on the 10th. The rest of the state needs to continue following best practices for whale safe fishing. This is a sneak peek at next year's Dungeness season for us. And God help us all if they determine that the Mexican gear stuck on the gray whale calf (it appeared, tangled, at the California border) is actually crab gear. The round buoy trailing the whale would indicate that it is not from here, but since California can't dictate what happens in Mexico (the war on drugs worked, right?) it seems likely that regardless of whose gear is tied up on that poor baby whale our regulations may change yet again. What we can't change elsewhere we will try to fix here.

    So, the crabbing in the bay has been sloooow. There were a few boats that caught a few over the weekend but even most of them said that the weather was too windy for even decent crabbing. It is likely that the low number of keeper Dungeness in the bay may have contributed to the low number of retained crabs as well. Shore snarers are still getting a few but times are hard for most crabbers. 

Thursday, April 29, 2021

     Once, I was told to talk to the hand. Here's what it had to say today: "Perch are in very consistent bite at tide change decent grade of fish lost count" Yes, that's Gage's hand and report. From 50 pound bluefin to redtail surfperch in a week and still excited. The stoke is real. For those new to the report, Gage's weapon of choice for surfperch is more or less a Carolina rig with a Berkley Gulp! Sandworm in camo. 
     When the wind and water have allowed the rockfishing is pretty good, especially if you go a bit farther. Farther where? Well, the guys that are doing well aren't sharing GPS coordinates, but a few have admitted to taking more time to get to the spot and back than they spent fishing for limits. I know it's hard to believe, but it seems that the less a spot is fished the more likely the fish there will be friendly. Crazy, I know, but places nearer Point Reyes generally seem to be good choices and spots near Tomales Point and Bodega Head, not so much. Don't get me wrong, the local reefs have fish but you need to work harder for them. You can either hone your craft close to the harbor or trade gas for bites by going farther. I have a Costco card and a good working relationship with the guy managing the pumps there, so I'm going to go for it, weather permitting. 
     Water temperatures inside the bay are slowly creeping up and the first pelicans made an appearance here today, hopefully in anticipation of a flood of anchovies into the bay. A few halibut have been getting scratched up by Hog Island recently but warm water and the bay turning into anchovy soup should turn the scratch into a good bite. May starts on Saturday and by the end of it there should be should be a more consistent halibut bite, if not a good one.
      Crews are boarding the American Challenger again this week to finally finish their inspection of what petroleum may still be aboard. They had only inspected 7 of 11 tanks before. There is still a very slight chance that they might try to haul it off the rocks. Apparently some of the authorities are concerned that members of the public might want to board the derelict vessel and therefore endanger themselves. Who would do that? 

 

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

     Cameron wrote that last post while I was away. He didn't get it posted but I saw it on the computer this morning and hit publish. The final part of the tuna story is that, yes, Gage caught all the fish. In three days of fishing we boated one bluefin and lost three others, one at the rail (sorry, Eddie). Sometimes the fish don't bite. Captain Aliyar worked hard to try to find the fish but they wouldn't come out and play. I learned many things about fishing on this trip. The most interesting thing was when I started sizing up the fishermen, looking to see who was the guy with the least experience. There's always that one guy that doesn't know what he's doing that gets in the way and tangles everyone else. I'm looking at these guys and can't figure it out. Then I realize, crap, it's me. For the record, my tangles were few and minor and never cost anyone a fish. I did snag a kelp paddy and holler "Fresh one!" like a complete jackass, so, there you go. 

     CDFW released the final rules on salmon season, and in the San Francisco region (Pigeon Point to Point Arena) we officially open on June 26 and end on October 31. The minimum size is 20". At least by that time of year the fish should be getting closer to shore.