Friday, January 27, 2023

    2023 is shaping up and so far, I'm not a big fan. This evening after work, as Cameron and I were leaving the boathouse, we saw a light in water. I walked down to edge of the water to get away from the lights and could then see that the light was not in a boat or kayak but just above the water. It was flashing, and I saw either S-O or O-S before I ran back up the beach and yelled and Cameron, "Get the tractor! Someone's in the water! My boat's in the boatyard!" My boat is usually a mile away at my house, but as luck would have it, my boat trailer needed some service and yesterday I put the boat on the Shrimp Boat/Wrybread's old trailer as he had a new-to-him, better crappy trailer. I couldn't take the boat home since the wheels are literally falling off the old, crappier trailer. Cameron, understanding the need for speed, got the tractor hooked to the trailer and rapidly headed for the launch. Somewhere in the middle, the tongue of the crappy trailer broke off. What a buzzkill. Cameron bailed out of the tractor and ran for Wrybread's kayak. I jumped out of the boat and chained the tractor hitch to the remains of the trailer, not well, but good enough to get in the water. As I slipped the boat into the water, Cameron paddled in and we changed places in the tractor. I left the trailer within 60 seconds of the guys camping in site 605. They had seen the light go by as well. Well, once on the water, no more light to be seen. We motored slowly down the channel towards the mouth, following the path of the light we had seen earlier. I shut off my nav lights to see better. No light to be seen. Twenty minutes later, out off the end of Sand Point, I saw a light, I was almost on top of it before I saw it. I ran over and found....a head lamp, no head in it, pointed straight up and floating right at the surface. No person. When we saw the light earlier it was pointed horizontally and flashing as the shore. Now, nobody home. What an emotional rollercoaster. I thought I found him. As of this writing, nobody has. The kayak was found, but it appears that our kayaking crabber was not wearing a wetsuit nor a life jacket. After nearly taking a breaker over the boat (If  Cameron's voice hollering "Go! Go! Go!" was any higher only dogs would have heard it) we left. No point adding our bodies to the mix. To the family, I'm sorry for your loss, and we tried, but my wife says I can't risk my life beyond a certain point and driving around in the dark west of Sand Point qualifies as that, so... I am sorry. We tried our best. Henry One, the Sonoma County Sheriff's helicopter crew, found a kayak after we left the water but the Marin County Fire Department's jet ski crew were unable to tow it in. As I write this the USCG helicopter and the 47 footer from Bodega Bay are still out looking. I hope they find him, and I hope he's okay, For the rest of us, wear your life jacker. If you're in a kayak, life jacket plus wetsuit. In a fine article I read in Pacific Coast Sportfishing magazine they recommended that kayak fishers "plan for success but dress for failure." You may get wet. Wear clothing appropriate for that possibility. Occasionally people die because cold water does that. 

Monday, January 23, 2023

    The crabbing in the bay isn't as bad as one would expect from all the recent rain. The catching isn't good, but it isn't nothing, either. The shore casters are snaring a few, mostly reds with a few Dungeness in the mix. Last week there was so much fresh water that there were dead red crab on the beach at every low tide. There was even one that tried to limp into the boathouse. This week the dead ones are coming out of boiling water, so we'll say the conditions are much improved. The bay water is even green again. The big tides this week helped to change out the water, even though the currents made catching difficult.


     Last night around 6:20 or so, as I walked from my garage to the house I noticed a light off of the day beach. It looked like it was near the "shark pit", where the surfers do their thing but sensible people tend to avoid it. After finally getting my cheap spotting scope to focus I found a boat with two guys in it with waves breaking over them. The light was from a cell phone. I called the USCG but they were already aware. Neither of the Coast Guard boats could get to where the boat was (and get out again; that's the trick. Getting in trouble is easy) but the Coast Guard helicopter was able to pick the boaters up with their basket and fly them off to Santa Rosa airport. With the 12 foot swell I kinda thought they were screwed, but thanks to Paul Cormu and Igor Sikorsky (and a few others, I'm sure), and luck, they're okay. This morning Gage and Cameron went out and towed the boat off the beach about 500 yards from Sand Point (where luck and the tide deposited it) and got it back on its trailer. The owner came by in the afternoon to collect it and mentioned hoarsely (he'd been yelling a lot last night, I think) that he'd run out of gas and didn't have an anchor on the boat. Even better than learning from your own mistakes is learning from someone else's. Have plenty of gas and anchors on your boat. 

    John Lopez sent me this information that should absolutely be shared.  Here's his email: "Howdy Willy,

I am[and others] concerned about another move by federal and state authorities to cordon off more ocean.  While we all are concerned with protecting our ocean and ocean fishing rights.  But sometimes the government mandates create unintended consequences.  

I would like to suggest all of us as commercial and recreational stakeholders make sure we are part of the planning and decision process. If our voices are not heard due to silence and apathy other voices will be heard that do not have our perspective and information.  Meeting January 31, 2023. The online/virtual zoom meeting on January 31 at 10:30am, go to to register


First overview meeting:

John Lopez 
Point Reyes Station
Member Golden State Salmon Assoc.
Coastside Fishing Club

California "native" born and lifelong fisherman" It seems that some folks think that the MPAs aren't big enough and need to be a third of the coast. While I don't know if the MPAs have accomplished their goals (Not sure of the goals), it seems to me that regulations have been effective and are tailored to specific short and long term goals which is even better than blocking certain spots and saying, "No!" 

Sunday, January 15, 2023

   For those waiting for the herring to spawn, guess what? The herring aren't waiting for you. These washed up yesterday. Today we saw cormorants and pelicans chasing (probably) herring from Clam Island to Sand Point. The calendar says they're not done yet. The pile of eggs in Gage's hand kind of say different, but what do they know? They're just eggs. They gotta be at least teenagers until they know better than you.

   Some big surf videos for the surfers:


Wednesday, January 11, 2023

    Hi. I'm still alive, no matter what my posting may look like. Not much to talk about until now. Here's the headline: "

CDFW Lifts Trap Restrictions in the Commercial and Recreational Dungeness Crab Fisheries 

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) will lift the Dungeness crab trap prohibition in Fishing Zones 3-6 (all areas south of the Sonoma/Mendocino county line) for the recreational fishery on Jan. 14, 2023 at 8:01 a.m. CDFW will lift the 50 percent commercial fishery trap reduction in Fishing Zones 3-6 on Jan. 15, 2023 at 8:01 a.m. The current 50 percent trap reduction for the commercial fishery and trap prohibition in the recreational fishery will remain in place until lifted on the respective dates.

Based on available data and as indicated by historical migration patterns, humpback whale abundance is at or near a seasonal low within the Dungeness crab fishing grounds. As a result, CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham is lifting the trap restrictions in Fishing Zones 3-6 for both fisheries because of lowered entanglement risk. However, a Fleet Advisory will be issued for the recreational fishery and will be continued for the commercial fishery to remain vigilant and avoid setting gear in areas where whales are transiting or foraging. All anglers are also strongly encouraged to follow best practices, as described in the Best Practices Guide.

CDFW anticipates the next risk assessment will take place in mid-February 2023." Crab pots will be cool again, for a little bit, starting on the 14th. So aside from filling reservoirs and preventing salmon smolt death, the other cool thing about the recent storms is that the whales, like Elvis, have left the building. Of course, taking advantage of that will be difficult as the weather sucks and the water is full of trees and parts of trees. It only takes one log to ruin not only your day but maybe also your boat and possibly your life (depending on how you meet). If you go, watch out and good luck. I saw a post on Instagram this morning showing commercial pots outside of San Francisco Bay that were full of dead crab and mud (the mud causing the death of the crab. Crab can't breathe mud) due to the high swells and storms. Tomales Bay is full of mostly fresh water, which, unsurprisingly, crab don't like. Deep holes may have happy crab but shallow water is pretty crab-free. Snarers, good luck and cast far.

    Speaking of the storms, here's some photos of the big swell at Dillon Beach sent over from local DB fisherman Robbie: 

Here's next year's groundfish (rockfish) regulations: "

San Francisco Management Area

Ocean waters between 38°57.5' N. latitude (Point Arena) and 37°11' N. latitude (Pigeon Point)
Includes a portion of Mendocino County, all of Sonoma, Marin, San Francisco, Alameda and Contra Costa Counties, and most of San Mateo County

Click image below to open file in new tab

screenshot of San Francisco Management Area regulations summary - click to open PDF in new tab

" This sucks, mostly, but in particular the worst part (to me) is the part where between May 15 and July 15 you must fish only deep but you can't keep Olive rockfish but Yellowtail are okay. I can't tell the difference. I'm afraid that the good wardens of CDFW may have the same problem. Here's a few tips on telling them apart, according to "The Yellowtail Rockfish has a narrow body with a depth that is 31% to 35% of standard length. They have reduced head spines compared to other rockfish. They have a dark brown to greenish brown coloration on their back above the lateral line and are brown and tan with yellow tinges below the lateral line. Some fish are melatin – very dark. Their scales are flecked with orange-brown to brown above the lateral line and are brown or tan flecked with yellow below the lateral line. Their head has yellow or green striping that is more prominent below the eyes. They have a series of white or pale blotches just below their dorsal fins. All their fins are yellow or orange. Fish taken from deeper waters have a darker coloration, however these bright colors and blotches fade immediately upon collection. Their head is relatively short with a small terminal mouth and large eyes. Their anal fin has 3 spines and 7 to 9 rays; their caudal fin is slightly indented; their dorsal fin has 12 or 13 spines and 13 to 16 rays; and, their pectoral fins have 17 to 19 rays. They have 31 to 39 gill rakers. Their body is covered with scales.

 The Olive Rockfish has a narrow elongated bodies with a depth that is 29% to 33% of standard length. They are streamlined and lack head spines. They have a dark greenish-brown or brown coloration dorsally which gradually changes to lighter greenish-brown, brown or gray ventrally. They have greenish or light colored blotches just below their dorsal fin and greenish-yellow or drab fins. Their head is mid-sized with a small terminal mouth and medium sized beady eyes. Their anal fin has 3 spines and 8 to 10 rays; their caudal fin is square to slightly indented; their dorsal fin has 12 to 14 spines and 15 to 17 rays; and, their pectoral fins have 17 to 19 rays. They have 29 to 36 gill rakers and their body is covered with scales.

"  They seem pretty similar to me. There's a lot of overlap. A lot. Pretty much, if you catch a fish that may be either of these in deep water and it blows up from decompression sickness you can't keep it. If you can release it safely then you can keep it. Obviously. If it's easy and makes sense, it's wrong. 


Thursday, December 29, 2022

     What's up? I hope you had a good Christmas or whatever solstice holiday you're in to. The days are getting longer now! No fimbulwinter for you! Hopefully not for me, either. Dungeness continue to be caught inside the bay and out, although getting out has been hard (read: impossible) for a bit with swells over 15 feet shutting down the mouth of the bay. For the next week the forecast doesn't look much better between the swell and the wind. It looks like the rockfish will be safe for a few months. We have a few more weeks of crabbing without the use of traps, at least that many, but the commercials haven't started dropping pots en masse yet, so if the weather gives us an unpredicted break it might be worth quick run to Salmon Creek. 

    Brad Stompe sent over a report from last Thursday. My apologies for the late post but there have been a few things going on and I get easily distracted. "Hey willie,

I was fishing out of Bodega on Thursday and heard the call from Coast Guard about the capsized boat.  Good on ya for stopping and helping that poor soul out.  I'm mostly fishing the coast in my Grady 228 these days, but still have my trusty 17' Montauk that I have spent many hours in off the Sonoma and Marin coast.  Fortunately I have yet to swamp it, but I always believed that it would float a little higher above the water line than what was shown in your pictures.  I'm curious to know what size Whaler that was and do you think the hull was already water logged.
That off shore wind was a challenge for us trying to get a straight up pull on our rings and hoops, but we did manage 3 limits of decent crabs and then scooted up to Ft. Ross Reef for a couple limits of medium rockfish (no lings damn it) before heading back to beat the minus tide at the boat ramp.
I always enjoy reading your reports and depend on them as a source of information for that area.  I wish you tight lines and a safe and productive new year.


Brad Stompe

Battled ship grey Grady 228 "Mary Frances"" It was a 13 foot Whaler with a 50hp motor. Unsinkable and unrollable are two different things.