Fall 2016 Update
The author holds forth on one of his favorite subjects, the black perch aka: "pogey"
Hey everybody! Time for your September 2016 Coastal Update!
First off, with my book finally out and available, there is just a whole lot of Sea Forager stuff going on this month. Sea Forager Seafood CSF turns THREE this month! Wow. We've got lots of events to celebrate at. And thanks to all the folks who came out for the big book relase par-tay at the Exploratorium. Below please find various events and book readings scheduled for later this month. Hopefully you can come out and say hi if we pass through your town on tour!
Now, here's your update:
At long last, we sent out salmon fillets to our customers two weeks in a row. These fish were all caught by Dave Toriumi on The Pioneer. He kept saying “Hey, you're lucky, I'm the only guy out there catching anything.” Which I figured was just a bit of fisherman pride speaking. But then the bite that I was expecting to go off, never happened, the end of the month closure kicked in, and three days of stiff winds kicked the entire fleet in the stern. And now here we are. I guess David was right. He was the only one (at least in these waters) catching anything.
The good new for shore fishermen and sporties is that the net pen fish in HMB have started showing up in the harbor, and I hear the shore casters up in Benecia have been getting fish every day for the last few weeks. So things on that front are looking up. Expect that when the winds die down and the swell dies there will be a lot of fish piled up off Bolinas and it will be time to call The Outer Limits or the New Rayann, (the best two boats in the fleet, where salmon are concerned).
As I'm writing this, I got a text from a boat out by the green can in HMB. Limits of salmon for 4 guys. So maybe the bite is picking up.
Well there was a brief window in July where the bass pluggers in Pacifica and OB, were catching massive redtail perch on – get this – hair raisers! Needless to say, by the time I was available for beach casting, the bite was off and there were only rumors of the massive fish of yester-week. C'est la vie, C'est la mer! Anyhoo. I just got off the phone with Sea Forager advance scout and double agent the notorious Champion de la Banana, who informs me that even the most excellent Pinoy shore casters down along the Mussel Rock to Sharp Park beaches have been striking out on perch. And that's the word right now on perch. Lots of small silvers and medium sized barreds and not much else.
The big schools of sardines and mackerel that were hanging out around the harbor in HMB and from the Golden Gate to The Bay Bridge, appear to have moved south. With some reports of mackerel off of Monterey and a few showing up at the SC Wharf and Capitola. Lots of jacksmelt around if you're in it for the kiddies (jack smelt are fun for kids to catch) and... strangely, small pampano, for those who can get offshore in the HMB area.
But man, the anchovy abundance this year has been really incredible. Last week there were huge anchovies in the surf near here. Sso big in fact that throwing a net on them did not gill them at all! I'm talking lunker sized, 8 inch anchovies. Trophy sized! Went down to the docks with my little boy Django (age 3.5) and caught quite a few pinner sized chovies on micro-Sabiki... which was quite a hoot. Luckily we have friends on the docks who catch more than we do!
The surf smelt and night smelt fishing was just absurdly bad this year. The nightsmelt were pretty much done spawning by March (in any case that's when I gave up walking the beaches all night and returning with sore feet, aching back and nothing to show for it). The only surf smelt that I've heard of were caught by the few bass pluggers who saw some fish and just happened to have throw nets in the nap sack. So in other words there were like 4 people in this area that got any surf smelt this year. Still hoping for a late season resurrection... but it seems unlikely at this point. I have received very little intel from points further north... but from what I hear, it's been poor fishing all the way up to the Oregon Border...
For those of you looking to capitalize on an under-utilized species. The kingfish (aka: white croaker, aka: pauper fish) numbers outside the harbor in HMB have been insane. Marking them on the sonar I can't believe how gigantic some of these schools are. Yes, (as I wrote in my book), kingfish are loaded with worms, but for those who aren't squeamish, the meat is good, and they are extremely easy to catch on medium to large sabikis, fishing the bottom over sand and mud.
Lots of lost souls wandering the beaches right now. It was going so well there for a minute and then, poof! The bite turned off. I keep looking for bass in my secret spot on a cliff near my house (when you are standing directly above the water at noon you can see everything that swims by), but unlike last year there hasn't been a bass to be seen. So that one bass I broke off back in May, (the one that I dove on as it swam back out to the sea—thereby solidifying my local reputation as a reckless, fool and lunatic), well, that was it for the year! Given that I ended up catching that particular fish, I must conclude, that... well... I'm glad I dove on it. Even if I'm still the laughing stock of the local beaches. Otherwise it woulda been a totally striper-less year. And my only memory of it woulda been the haunting image of that gorgeous fish swimming away.
The halibut bite has been fair to great this year. There's still quite a few fish in the Crissy Field area, and up to Paradise Cay. Further north, lots of fish have been caught in Tomales Bay lately, and outside the Golden Gate at the North Bar and up the Marin Coast. But most of what I've seen has been caught by commercial guys running wire-line hoochies or four to six rods per boat and I haven't gotten a great deal of info from the sporties out there. I heard there were a lot of fish caught near Capitola yesterday (9/4) and Champion de la Banana mentioned some south bay fish down in the Coyote Point area (this past weekend: 9/3-9/4) In any case, they're still around so break out the live bait rig, the swim baits (for shroe fishing) and/or the kayak... it's not going to get any better from now till the end of “hali season.”
Very weird how many thousands of lingcod are out there right now. It strikes me as slightly insane that people are still buying swim baits and P-line bars and all kinds of expensive bottom rigs, when live kingfish are so readily available—and work so much better than anything else.
You'd think that with all the kingfish I've been using for lingcod bait lately I might catch the occasional hali when drifiting off the rocks onto sandy bottom, but I haven't caught a single halibut this year. Go figya! Do halibut not like kingfish? Or is the fat content just not enough to entice a hali? Why then do they so readily slam a topsmelt or a shiner... open to opinions on this. Anyone out there catching hali on kingfish?
Low Tide Foraging
Well seaweed season is at its end, and with the clamable minus tides disappearing till November there isn't much to get excited about for the next two months. There's some decent poke-poling/littleneck tides from Sat Oct. 15th to Mon Oct. 17th but they're so late in the day, you won't have much of a window. Remember there are legal restrictions about clamming after sundown and here's the Biotoxin hotline number once again: 800-553-4133.
I'll be on the road promoting the Sea Forager's Guide, and I hope to see you out there. Heads up - due to the wildfires my reading at the Henry Miller Library in Big Sur has been rescheduled for November 19th, so I hope to see you then or at another book party-sing along soon. I'll be doing a really fun sustainable seafood feast at the almighty CAMINO restaurant in Oakland on 9/15 - details for this and other events HERE.
Oh and by the way... just a reminder: only 114 days till herring season! Huzzah!