Greetings! Let's jump right in:
The sport salmon season has really been exceptional this last two months. Esp out of HMB. Though as of this writing the fish seemed to have moved north (and of this writing they've moved off of Pacifica again). Lots of small fish (20-25in) but a fair number of big ones mixed in. I have to admit it sure was a blast when the fish showed up outside the harbor down here in HMB. But as fun as it is to troll for them, the lines at the ramp really harshed my mellow. I mean for reals. We're talking about a line of cars backed up from the launch ramp to Miramar (a mile of boat trailers). On Monday it took me 1 hour to get from the light at Capistrano to the water, and by the time that happened the bite was over. Meanwhile, this miscreant (see below) was banging out sport limits every freakin' time I talked to him. (And again today launching at the pier). Which is to say, who the hell needs a boat with a motor on it? No pollution. No fumes. No lines at the ramp. Drive your boat to where the fish are: Davenport? Pescadero? The Ritz? Montara? Pedro Point? Linda Mar? Rockaway? Wheel it down the beach and whack the fish like a true champion!
Josiah "Radagast" Clark with a sport limit for two on his two-man kayak somewhere near Pacifica. Josiah has 13 salmon so far this season on his yak.
Which is to say, on every slow day that the Boston Whaler contingent was complaining about lack of fish I ran into kayakers with limits. What does that tell us? Hmmmm. Maybe there's something to say for stealth?
Commercial salmon opened Aug 1st. And as of this writing no one I know has made it back to dock. No use coming in when you're 20 miles out and you have 4 fish on board. The wholesale price started at $8.25 and I suppose it's gonna go up from there. So buy 'em soon if you're gonna buy em at all!
Advance scout Champion de la Banana, calls to tell me 6 salmon were landed on Pacifica Pier today. One of the nice developments this year has been the return of real salmon mooching on everybody's favorite pier.
Looking forward to the harbor fish coming in this month in HMB.
Well as good as it's been I haven't seen any of it. Which is why I downloaded somebody else's photo (thanks Ethan Gordon of sportfishingmag.com). Bummed. It's just part of the reality that given a few hours to fish I tend to want to justify the expense of owning a boat (or fish open access lingcod and try to pay it off!). So striper fishing has taken a back seat. Drove by OB yesterday on my way home and counted 20 pluggers and sand crab soakers in the surf between Pacheco and Taraval and quite a few more down south of Sloat. Pretty big turn out for a Wednesday evening so you gotta figure there's been fish there.
Writing this is depressing me. Not one striper in 2017? Not one? Not sure how I can live with myself. Maybe I'll try tomorrow.
Sea Forager comrade in fish, driver and warehouseman Jack Luong caught these from shore, folks!
Really the halibut numbers this year were outstanding in the bay. I mean day after day after day. Everytime the bite seems to be drying up the Lovely Martha goes out and bags 30 limits in a few hours. But it seems like the fish are moving out now and if you really want to get on them, the main action is outside the gate (or just inside it). There's also quite a few monster hali coming in at the launch ramp in Princeton. And I've even heard rumors of fish inside the harbor! Which, when you consider the amount of bait in there, makes a lot of sense (see “Anchovies” below)
Yours truly posing with Mikey's 25 pound ling. (Sorry Mikey, I lost your photo)
Where do these fish keep coming from? It's insane, really. I mean every single time I go out to the green can outside the harbor I bag at least two. Always big. Always on the same bait: a whole squid if I'm lazy. Or a live kingfish if I'm feeling like jigging for 30 minutes before I start my ling drift. It's weird because there seem to be comparatively so many fewer rockfish than lings. Which to my mind is like having a forest where the tiger population outnumbers deer by 10-1. Another thing that mystifies me is that almost every lingcod I've ever caught has a partially decomposed octopus in it's belly. That means there must be lots and lots of octopi down on the bottom. How do I target them specifically? I wonder if clay jars like they use in the mediterranean would work here? Shrimp pots? Anyway, it's food for thought. Maybe I'll experiment this month, see what happens.
All I got on rockfish right now is what I've garnered by looking in the fish dumpster in HMB. Which is to say, lots of brown rockfish (bolina cod) of late. This is definitely in keeping with what I've been seeing on my boat when I'm fishing lingcod. Unfortunately all the most beautiful brownies I've caught this year have been dropped back in the water—you can't keep brown rockfish when fishing open access only species. Ah-well. One can dream about a nearshore permit, can't one?
I just called three of my go-to perch fishing nutjobs and guess what? They've all eschewed perch for bass the last two months. Apostates! So I got nothing on perch. Might have to run down to my fave beach tomorrow and see what's doing. At which point I will update this page.
Gone with a capital G. What the hell? Not a single one to be found. I called a fishery biologist friend down in Monterey and he told me that the recent el Nino most likely had a drastic effect on surfies. But to illustrate how bad it is, before 2016 the lowest amount of commercially harvested surf smelt (at least between 2000-2016) was something like 48,000 pounds. Last year's total? 5,000 pounds (approx). That's about ten to twelve percent of the previous 16 year low. Yikes. Where oh where have my surf smelt gone?
The reason this makes me so nervous is that the osmerid family has proven to be so susceptible to dying off. Candlefish, delta smelt, longfin smelt (not to mention the European smelt) all seem to be heading the way of the dodo bird. Is Hypomesus pretiosus next?
Well at least I caught a few this year. Which is a lot better than I can say for surf smelt. I've been hearing that the bait jiggers on Pacifica Pier keep snagging them (nighties), but haven't confirmed this. Eating those nightfish really reminded me how much I prefer their diurnal cousins. Planning a trip up north to see it I can find some surfies. But I hear even up there it's been dismal. Still selling A-frames, for those dogged few who just can't give up!
My word! There sure have been a whole lot of 'chovies in the water this year. I mean last year there were a lot of 'em but this year the numbers have been stupendous. And if you get to the deeper ones, they're insanely huge. Literally surf smelt sized. The most consistently reachable from shore have been those unstoppable schools out front of surfer beach in HMB. And of course at Piers 7 and 14 in SF. Just look for birds diving.
Huge amounts of nice bull kelp on the beaches down here of late. And the nori is still looking decent (it starts to get frayed and brown as the fall approaches). The big tides are gone but there's still quite a bit of intertidal stuff if you're interested. And the kelp forests outside the harbor here are as thick as ever, easy top reach via kayak or even surfboard.
2. KNOW YOUR FISHERMAN:
If you're still looking for a delicious, ethical seafood source, check out my sustainable seafood CSF. See our new SF Bay Area pickup locations (Albany! Emeryville! Foster City!), and drop me a line if you'd like to host (and get free fish.)
3. New Tour dates are up! For those of you who appreciate a good heads up, you can put this on the calendar: November 5th and December 3rd for my rare Mega Low Tide Tour in Half Moon Bay (Sea Forager Seafood CSF members get 50% off tour tickets!) Here's a nice piece about my tours and the fish family in Edible Silicon Valley: A Sea Forager's Tale.
4. Help Wanted: Sea Forager Seafood is looking for part-time help with fulfillment and delivery at Fisherman's Wharf, email me for details: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Until next time, fish on!