From my seaforager.com site:
First off... my apologies. It's true, I took a month off. It takes quite a bit of time to write these updates
and I... well... I just couldn't find the time. Spent two weeks in Ireland, playing music, fly fishing and fantasizing about catching 100 pound conger eels. Also made several trips to NY.
Anyway, now I'm back! And let's face it: June is the month we've all been waiting for!
So without further adieu:
We knew it would happen this year. We knew the miracle chinooks would return to us. And guess what? They did. And the beauty is, they're only going to get closer. Virtually all the salmon in this region spawn in the Sacramento, so as the months progress they will creep closer and closer to
the Golden Gate. Right now the fish are located: 1. Just off Pescadero, 2. from Whiskey Buoy to the Farralone Islands and 3. from Point Reyes to Bodega.
Eventually they will be reachable by kayak and small skiff from various points along the Marin Coast. Most of the fish have been in the 10-20 pound class. Unbelievable that a mere 2 years ago fisheries biologists were talking about extinction (extirpation actually). Which proves yet again that King Salmon are a remarkably resilient species and fisheries biologists (understandably) tend towards pessimism. In truth the environment doesn't have to be perfect for salmon to prosper, it just has to be reasonable.
As I've said here before, even the most pessimistic fisheries managers do not generally equate salmon decline with over fishing. In truth, salmon in California is by and large an artificial fishery (this is my opinion, it can, of course, be argued). It is supported by an intensive state managed hatchery system. Your tax dollars hard at work.
And so if you do not avail yourself of the opportunity to eat a fresh local salmon, you're losing out in a myriad of ways... financial and otherwise. Salmon despite being predatory do not retain toxins like other predatory fish--they don't live long enough to bio-accumulate toxins. In short: they're high in all the good stuff associated with fish, and low in the bad stuff.
Also, if you're getting spoiled by all these fresh local kings in the marklet, be aware, the commercial salmon season closes for the month of June, so if you want local salmon in June, you'll have to catch it yourself.
I would highly suggest, that anyone reading this coastal update go out and book a trip on one of the local party boats. They're fishing every day. You've got some great options:
The New Rayann out of Sausalito, is probably the best salmon boat in the fleet.
But you can't go wrong with any of the other boats there. The Salty Lady, and the Outer Limits are also tops. If you're in the East Bay, check out the party boats out of Emeryville and Berkeley (but I will say this, when I worked for DFG as an observer I was treated very poorly by many of those boats, so I'm not giving any endorsements... except for the Golden Eye 2000... They're all running trips daily, weather allowing. The Half Moon Bay Boats have been running down to Pescadero and north to "S" Buoy--so take your Dramamine if you get queasy on the water. My personal favorite boats out of HMB are The New Captain Pete, (say hi to Dennis for me) The Queen of Hearts, (meet Megan, coolest deckhand on earth), the Hulicat and last but not least the New Gravy (say hi to Cap'n Guy--and if you're lucky you may see my fishing partner Mikey D. as deckhand).
Spotty at best, but a few fish are being caught in the usual places: Berkeley flats, south bay and Pacifica. I personally do not understand striped bass abundance and decline. Two years ago they were everywhere. I stood in slack jawed amazement as I watched 4 anglers catch and release 27 stripers in a row at San Gregorio Beach. I walked down to Baker Beach made two casts and went home with 24 pounds of striped bass. Now I think I'm up to 10,000 casts without so much as a bump. It's gotten so bad I've actually lost my faith in the noble Hair Raiser.
Yikes. If salmon abundance is not directly proportionate to fishing pressure, I hate to say it, but I fear halibut abundance is. Remember three years ago when the salmon season closed so everybody and his mother went fishing for halibut? Party boats were limiting out in three hours? Halibut derbies with 200 boats on the water seemed like monthly occurances? Hmmmm. Now all of a sudden there are no fish to be found. Or I should say, few fish to be found. Even the rockstars of halibut fishing are reporting a lot of 1-2 fish days (trolling four rods in the bay). Some people want to deny this. I'm not one of them. The ocean stocks are supposedly quite healthy and maybe the arrival of anchovies in the bay will bring the flatties in. One of the party boats out of Berkeley did fairly well today. Let's check back in a month and see how it's going before we get too deep into doom and gloom scenarios. Oh and for those of youwho may be interested the photo above was snapped as I was starting my tour on The St. Francis Jetty. The angler was using frozen anchovies on a two-way leader. Lucky for him I had a landing net in the truck!
And now for something totally out of the ordinary. The salt encrusted fish-head otherwise known as "Lombard Of The Intertdal" encourages you to get away from the coast and head in-land!
Yes, I realize my expertise lies in the field of coastal resources. But local shad do in fact live most of their lives off the Pacific Coast, even if the only chance you ever have of catching them is in a river (like salmon they're anadromous). As any local shad fisherman will tell you, April is the beginning of shad season--but right now, with June beginning, the numbers have been off the hook!
To those transplanted East Coasters who never thought they'd see an American shad again, be assured, California has a robust shad fishery. The fish here tend to be a bit smaller than their Atlantic counterparts, but even a small (3-4 pound) shad on light tackle is an incredible thing to experience.
Now... as to the eating of shad. It is a matter of historical record that shad are not only edible but delicious. "Planked shad," is one of the great old time American culinary inventions (though I have never done it myself). And a case could be made that the shad run on the Schuylkill River in Pennsylvania in the year of 1777 saved George Washington's troops from starvation:
"Then, dramatically, the famine completely ended. Countless thousands of fat shad, swimming up the Schuylkill to spawn, filled the river….Soldiers thronged the river bank….the cavalry was ordered into the river bed….the horsemen rode upstream, noisily shouting and beating the water, driving the shad before them into nets spread across the Schuylkill…
So thick were the shad that, when the fish were cornered in the nets, a pole could not be thrust into the water without striking fish….The netting was continued day after day…until the army was thoroughly stuffed with fish and in addition hundreds of barrels of shad were salted down for future use."
Anyway, the challenge with shad is how in the hell do you deal with the bones!? I mean I'm talking epic
bones. Unreal bones. Miserable bones. There's like 6 people on earth who know how to debone a shad--and I'm not one of them. Nevertheless... I still hold out that one day I will learn. And really, if ever there was a great fish for catch and release fly-fishing, this is it. Shad run on the Sac, the Feather, the American and the Yuba. They also run on the Russian but a little more irregularly. The spawns begin in late April and usually go through June. You don't need a boat and can do quite well throwing darts and bead heads from shore. I really have to say, this is an awesome fishery and even if I haven't figured out how to eat a shad, it would be remiss of me not to mention that the rivers are teeming right now.
Pardon me but I've got a sebastes complex: I can't stop eating rockfish. I've probably written at length about rockfish on one of these coastal updates in the last year, but if I did I can't find it. So here we go again:
Rockfish is one of the great recreational fishing resources along the coast. Generally the rockfish that you see in markets aren't the ones you're going to catch. The market rockfish tend to be deepwater species like chilli peppers, channel rocks, rough eyes, blackgills etc. The nearshore species: browns, black and yellows, blacks, gophers, chinas etc., are the province of hook and liners. (I should point out that these nearshore rockfishes commonly show up in the live tanks in Asian markets--at insane prices).
So it's like this: the rockfish you catch from shore are generally three types: black rockfish, brown rockfish and grass rockfish--with the occasional gopher or black and yellow. Lately I've been catching quite a few grass rockfish while poke poling the San Mateo county coastline... so poke poling is definitely an option.
When you get out on the water in a small boat or kayak you can fish deeper reefs that hold more fish. The coolest thing about fishing for rockfish is that they come in so many colors and patterns. Included here are a few of the more vividly colored ones:
A couple of great resources for people interested in getting more info about rockfishes:
Many of the aforementioned party boats (see above) will be doing rockfish trips this summer so check in at the docks for specifics. And one more thing. Make sure you have a good understanding of the rules and can identify this species (see below) before you head out:
This is what 4,000 dollars in fishing violations looks like. These are canary rockfish that some unfortunate sole brought back to the harbor at Princeton two years ago. I snapped the photo while the warden was writing them a ticket. Be forewarned, all canary rockfish must be thrown back. Yellow-eyes too. If you don't think you can learn to identify these species, don't go fishing for rockfish.
The way to catch rockfish? Here are your options...
Jigs, swimbaits, P-line anchovies, live bait, dead bait, squid etc. It ain't rocket science. If you're in a boat you'll do better on days when you aren't drifting very fast, or when the swell is minimal. If you're on shore, low tides will allow you to get further out into the tide pools and rocky areas where they tend to hang out. Speaking of low tides...
Now as far as foraging and gathering goes, June is quite simply the best month of the year. You're looking at two big windows of opportunity: 6/4 to 6/9 and 6/18 to 6/24. Your best bet for abalone picking (as opposed to diving) will be Tuesday June 5th. The tide that day is simply monstrous at -1.9.
But if you can't get far enough north for ab picking, during the early June minus tides, I suggest you take a few moments to walk down to the bay, look at the ocean, check out a few tide pools or whatever. A minus 1.9 tide reveals a whole universe of marine life that is rarely seen by human beings.
Like for instance this amazing nudibranch I filmed on one of my Inner City tours:
If you want to get deep into the whole minus tide foraging thing, consider going for razor clams in the north country up near the Oregon border, or take a kayak out into Tomales Bay for monster horsenecks, or go cockling, or... I dunno... try to break my state record eel! You've got all kinds of options, and the mega low tide cycle lasts four days (6/4 to 6/7). The best days being 6/5 and 6/6.
Here's a little informational thing I posted on the Monkeyface News a few years ago:
I've been seeing quite a bit of nori growing on the rocks in the Pillar Point area. I do not actually think this is the same species imported from Japan. It seems tougher and a wee bit thicker than "true" nori. Anyway it's quite tasty. And it seems to be everywhere I go along the rocky shores of late. Look for it high up in the tideline, growing in small "tufts" on the larger rocks.
And that's just about gonna cover it for June. I've been doing very well on surf smelt of late, but night smelt have been virtually non-existent. Be sure to check-in July 1st as I will once again be going into great detail about the different "forage fishes" that are catchable locally (News Flash: anchovies have been coming into the bay in droves--use a Sabiki rig and fish from Pier 7, at high tide. Best place to buy chovies: any of the live bait receivers in the bay, the best place for Sabiki rigs... you guessed it: Gus' Discount Tackle, 38th and Balboa).
Be sure to check in at Seaforager.com for upcoming tours. (I have a Princeton Harbor clam tour on June 7th and July 6th that are certain to sell out and plenty of Inner City Tours throughout the month).
Until then, hope to see you: at, in, or near the water.