Hi guys, after a long hiatus from Coastal Updates, I'm back! Before we get to the details here's some relevant Sea Forager stuff:
New tours: 2 new mega low tide tour dates are up - June 26th and July 24th tickets HERE
- HELP WANTED: I'm looking for part time fulfillment and delivery help down at Pier 45 in SF, email me for details (kirk at seaforager.com)
- Summer Events: Atlas Obscura, the Bay Parade, Sea Forager dinner at 18 Reasons, and fish butchery skills class at The Local Butcher Shop, details HERE
Nightsmelt nets for sale! I've been asked about these for years, now they're available on my site HERE, and I'll be offering night smelt tours too (inquire)
Well the winter of hell is finally coming to an end. Or is it? I'm looking out the window right now at some deeply ugly water; birds getting blown every which way, chop as far as the eye can see. Finally got the boat up and running and now there's nowhere to fish. Oh well.
...Now it's a week later and the water is flat as a lake and the boat is back in the garage. Go figya. Nothing has made me appreciate my intertidal tendencies more than boat ownership.
Night Smelt: Well it took 3 and a half months but I finally found some "nighties." Eee gaads, I swear to Poseidon I've walked 50 cumulative miles since late Feb on local beaches. And “finding them” might be a bit misleading. 2.5 hours of hard dipping produced a whopping total of 12 pounds on night one. And 4 pounds on night two. Thing is, the numbers have been so bad the last few years it feels like a moral victory to have caught any at all. Hopefully things will pick up as all this brown water moves offshore.
Update to Update:
Ok... here's the deal... it takes me a looong time to post these updates (not necessarily to write them). I wrote the above section and then never found the time to format or even just hand it over to the Fishwife for posting. I continued dipping on every smelt moon with paltry results and then, finally FINALLY last night I banged 'em. Hip hip hooray! Seeing more than ten fish in the net per dip sent me into wild paroxysms of joy. Ended up with easy sporty limits in about 20 minutes of dipping. In fact I'm so excited about this that guess what? That's right! I'm going to schedule a few guided nightsmelt trips (which I haven't done in years). Be forewarned I am more inclined to take mothers and kids, (min age, 14) than dudes... for several reasons, any of which I am willing to discuss if questioned in a civil tone.
And furthermore... if you are one of the many people who contacted me in the past few years in hopes of getting a custom made A-frame nightsmelt dipnet, only to have your hopes dashed, I am glad to announce that I am selling A-frames again! (see below).
Only thing is, I'm not making them! Not sure if you guys understand how long it takes to make a good A-frame. Well, with two kids, a business, a new book I'm working on, and my own humble fishing ambitions I just don't have the time for it. But happily, my protégé in smelt jumping Nathan Schmitz, does! And frankly Nate's nets are the most beautiful ones I've ever seen—my own included. Why are Nate's so cool? Well, probably because he's a carpenter and wood worker by trade (which I am not). These nets are really awesome. Check out the big one with the bent wooden cross bar. And the sleek and streamlined “Black Beauty” model. These hand-made nets are really works of art that are also durable and guaranteed to capture night smelt. They are custom made so you can choose mahogany, or spruce, natural grain, or paint. Ogle and order HERE!
I've been looking once a week for about two months but haven't seen any promising signs. In truth the water's been so durned turbid I wouldn't have seen any fish if they had been spawning under my nose. Last week I went down to the former surf smelt capital of our local area—Martin's Beach. In the 5 hours that I fished for perch in that location (my throw net sitting in a bucket within sprinting distance at all times), I saw a sum total of exactly two Caspian terns. One of them was 100 yards offshore the other flew over the swash zone and never even condescended to look down. Not even once. A marine biologist I know once told me that big water years tend to be good surf smelt years, to which all I can say is, I'll believe it when I see it. Or rather, I'll believe it when the terns start seeing it.
Speaking of Martin's, here's the latest in the ongoing battle over access to the beach:
Spoke to the great Alexiadis (aka: Pete The Greek) this morning after dropping off the kids. He was sipping coffee, and holding forth outside the baitshop in Princeton.
“Kirk, I never see water like this since I been fishing here.” Was the general theme of our conversation. Last year at this time Pete was wrapping up big schools of jack mackerel, pacific mackerel and sardine with his purse seine, this year he can't even find any basura (aka: jack) smelt. Go figya. I guess we got spoiled by the warm water these last few years. Who knows, maybe all that fresh water will bring in some big clouds of plankton (?) Or maybe this is just the lull before the big schools of baitfish swarm in towards shore. One can dream no?
Lots of anchovies in the bay right now. At least the live-bait boat Maya Nicole docked behind Scomas seems to be nailing them. BTW if you lust for fresh anchovies you can get them at the bait dock behind Scoma's. Mixed quality to these. Some big and some small—mostly small. I checked in on the septaugenarian Russian anchovy contingent on Pier 7 the other day. And was happy to see they had a few anchovies. But again, nothing to write home about. (Of course the best are on the Sea Forager Seafood CSF store.)
There are some monstrous, (taxidermy-worthy) anchovies in Princeton Harbor right now—and unfortunately tons of teeny-weeny “pinners.” Hard to know when the lunkers are reachable from shore though you gotta figure if they're in the harbor now it's just going to get better as the summer progresses.
Jacksmelt (basura smelt)
There seem to be a few of these on all the local piers—as per usual. If you like stinky fish with heavy scales and lots of worms, go crazy, they're everywhere.
All the bass, or at least most of them, seem to be in SF Bay right now. South Bay has been great. East Bay and North Bay. They tell me Fort Point/Crissy has had a few mad evenings too, if you feel like elbowing your way in and crossing hair-raisers with strangers.
As far as the surf bite goes. It's been all about the 12 inch dinks. I actually got one of these in my A-frame net last month. Hopefully the hawgs will move onto the beaches sometime soon (rumor has it that there are big fish showing up now south of SF).
This rumor is now confirmed.
Talk about dinks. Man, the shaker hali bite has been wide open since the first week in March. Unreal. One of the party boats had over a hundred shakers last weekend—or so I'm told. They posted on their website that halibut have a very high survival rate when released. Not sure what data they looked at for that. I remember talking with a DFG guy that did a study on this and found that there was 80 percent mortality in flatties that get landed with a net or hit the deck of the boat. Watching the net flying down on the party boats the last few weeks leaves me wondering if these guys are functioning with a full compliment of cognitive tools. I mean for God's sakes hold 'em over the rail and shake 'em off the freakin' hook! That's why they're called shakers, right? Because they're so little they don't need to be netted. Seriously, am I the only one who's been seeing this?
No dink here! Check out this hawg halibut caught by buddy Dan Garcia on F/V Fishing Star. (actually Dan attributes this fish to his fishing partner "Speediachi") 36 pounds! This big girl was carved up for Sea Forager Seafood subscribers! Yum!
Butt really ;) it's been a great hali year thus far, and there's a lot of good water ahead of us.
Spotty fishing mixed with good/bad days. And then lately some great ones. That's been the report almost everywhere. As per usual, the best boats in the whole fleet are The Outer Limits and the New Rayann both operating out of Sausalito.
As for commercial salmon, after a decent first week, it's been pretty much belly up. Which is why what little local salmon has been making its way to SF is landing here at some truly astronomical prices. Most of the usual high-liners for the SF commercial fleet, boats like the Miss Allison and Josephine are up here grinding out hook and line halibut to the tune of 3 to 15 fish per day, waiting for the bite to pick up down south, I guess.
Heard today that the best bite for salmon right now is off Morro Bay. Not everybody from our area is particularly thrilled at the idea of going that far, but some of the guys from Monterey and Moss will likely make the trip. Hoping for better news on the next update.
Judging by all the pix people keep sending me of eels, there are a lot of them right now. But honestly, there's always a lot of monkeyface around. That's sort of the beauty of it, right? You don't have to know a damned thing about seasonal migration patterns, water flow, or really anything to catch a prickleback, just stick the damn pole in the hole.
I got a text from a Sea Forager tour alum, who told me she's been deep frying the eel skins to great effect. First I ever heard of this. I know the monster chef, Mateo up in Marin deep fries the fish whole (gutted) with skin on. And people rave about his eels so why not?
To anyone who actually sees me on that silly show I did for Canadian television. I'm sorry to report that the guy who “ike jimed” the friggin eels, was not aware that I had already whacked them on the noggins before he delivered his “coup de grace.” Not sure if they left the footage in, but there's also a moment there where you can see the eel flopping as he skins it. And honestly, the nail through the head thing rarely works with monkeys because their skulls are too soft. Just offering this by way of disclaimer.
Jeez, skinning live animals, nails through the head... this is some dark sounding stuff, yikes. Let's move on.
Picture By Leighton Kelly... (Only for private download please!)
Not to toot my own horn, but I really did have an epic day for pile perch, striped perch and rubberlips on the last day of perch season in SF Bay. To those adherents of the cult of the Gulp worm, let it be known that these fish would not touch a scented camo-colored annelid, but were willing to basically hurl themselves at my feet for pieces of ghost shrimp. And frankly that's become my favorite bait for perch. And happily it's the small/med ones that work the best and stay on the hook longest.
I'm very excited about my new commercial seaweed license. Can't wait to get out to the kelp beds for that. But inshore I'm noticing a lot of nori in the upper inter-tidal right now folks. And it isn't the withered, frazzled, snail- eaten stuff from later in the summer. It's the totally brownish green, dull looking, and flabbergastingly non-descript algae that good nori always is. If you want some locations just e-mail me.
Nori deep fried in bacon fat is a really really happy thing. I mean, while you're throwing eelskins in the frier why not toss some nori in too—for a total orgy of deep fried intertidal wonderment.
Humans ain't the only ones who appreciate a big clam
The old clam barge at Lawson's, (no longer running, but you can rent a skiff)
Speaking of inter-tidal wonderment, I got some horsenecks on my mudflat tour here recently and was sort of shocked at how shallow they were—10 inches deep. This is sort of unheard of with local horse necks. In fact I broke a few shells (which I rarely do at this point in my clamming career) because it just didn't register that the clams were all going to be so shallow. Someone on the tour asked me if it was due to the rains this winter. Not sure but it sounds like a good explanation.
If you want to buy a clam tube for digging horsenecks contact the guys at Lawson's Landing. Not sure if they stills ell them but they used to:
Littleneck clamming has been good in Tomales Bay (the only place in these parts that has harvestable quantities) except that I am alarmed by the number of dead ones. I'm going to assume it's the same issue as with the dead mussels in SF Bay: too much fresh water in an enclosed area (bay). Anyone who's spent any time at all along the bay shoreline the last few months has no doubt noticed the massive amount of dead mussels. The rockwall where I do my tour in SF has been completely de-nuded of mussel growth. I've heard similar reports from Marin but again only in SF Bay, the ocean mussels I've seen seem ok. At least they were up until the May 1 closure. More on this as the summer progresses.
And that's gonna do it for my Late Spring/Early Summer Coastal Update, 2017. Hope to see you guys at, on, or in the water... soon!
PS: If you're looking for a bit of summer adventure, Mikey Dvorak offers guided trips on all the local shad rivers. Call him at 703-946-9567 to book a drift boat shad trip now! Mention Sea Forager and get a 5 percent discount!