By Tom Stienstra, Aug. 2, 2018
From the old salts to the fresh-faced tourists at Fisherman’s Wharf, paths have converged on the party boats to get in on the best fishing in years on the bay and Marin coast.
This is a Triple Crown: limit fishing for salmon on the Marin coast, limits for striped bass (with bonus halibut) in San Francisco Bay, and limits for rockfish (with bonus lingcod and cabezon) at shallow reefs at Half Moon Bay, Marin, and near the Farallones.
This weekend is set with some of the best tides of summer for fishing, aligned with a dark moon cycle, and light winds in the forecast. Everything in the cosmos has aligned.
“The scores are amazing,” said Keith Fraser, who has been running Loch Lomond Live Bait in San Rafael since the 1970s. “A+ for salmon, A+ for striped bass, A+ for halibut, A+ for rockfish. We’ve never given grades like that.”
“Every day, it’s salmon limits, I mean every day,” said Jacqueline Douglas, captain of the Wacky Jacky out of San Francisco. “The new people don’t even know what they’re doing — we’re trying to teach ’em — and they go home with salmon limits and feel like a million dollars. They say, ‘Get away from the troubles of the world and go fishing.’ With my years, that means something.”
From all accounts, the high numbers of juvenile fish also being caught and released are “mind-boggling,” Fraser agreed and gives promise for future summers.
The bay is full of juvenile anchovies and that has drawn in striped bass from the delta, halibut from the ocean. Offshore, the water is cool, 52 degrees, from months of upwelling this spring, and full of plankton. The food chain, with acres of krill, small anchovies, and other baitfish, has made the Gulf of the Farallones one of the richest marine environments the Pacific Coast, with whales and shorebirds joining in.
Here is a capsule summary of the best of it:
In the past week, the schools of salmon seemed to move en masse to the Marin Coast and merge off Muir Beach, with other schools nearby at Rocky Point. Huge bait piles (on the fish-finder), said Capt. Tom Mattusch, on the scene with the Huli Cat out of Pillar Point Harbor. Another smaller school was located off Pedro Point in south Pacifica, he said. After a wild scene of diving, feeding birds between the Golden Gate Bridge and Point Bonita at the mouth of the Bay, a few boats trolled and caught salmon here as well. It seems only occasional wind can trim the bite to an average of 1 to 1.5 salmon per rod.
Sample scores: Hog Heaven out of Sausalito had 46 salmon (limits) for 23 people; Lovely Martha out of S.F. had 42 salmon (limits) for 21 people; New Easy Rider out of Berkeley had 48 salmon (limits) with a 27-pounder, for 24.
Striped bass/halibut: The seasons for striped bass and halibut run year-round; in fall, striped bass migrate to the North Bay and delta, halibut migrate to the ocean and coast. The striped bass limit is 2 (18-inch minimum); halibut limit is 3 (22-inch minimum).
Salmon: The season for salmon in the Bay Area coast runs through Oct. 31. The limit is 2 (20-inch minimum).
Rockfish, lingcod: The season for rockfish, lingcod and cabezon runs through Dec. 31 in coastal waters less than 240 feet deep. The limits are 10 rockfish (with sub-limits based on species), 2 lingcod (22-inch minimum size), 3 cabezon (15-inch minimum) within the 10 rockfish limit.
Fishing license: Buy your California fishing license prior to trip; 800-565-1458, or www.ca.wildlifelicense.com/InternetSales
Boater Card: For 2018, anyone under 21 must have a California Boater Card to operate any powered vessel, issued by the Division of Boating and Waterways. $10. Good for life. Contact: www.CaliforniaBoaterCard.com.
Sea conditions: Pillar Point Harbor, 650-726-6070, extension 2
Tackle: Gus’ Discount Fishing Tackle, San Francisco, 415-752-6197, www.GusDiscountTackle.com; Hi’s Tackle Box, 650-588-1200, South San Francisco.
Bait: Loch Lomond Live Bait, San Rafael, 415-456-0321.
A complete list is available through the Golden Gate Fishermen’s Association at www.ggfa.net — click on charter boats.
San Francisco: Wacky Jacky Sportfishing, 415-586-9800, www.WackyJackySportfishing.com; Lovely Martha, 650-619-6629 or Facebook; Bass-Tub, 415-456-9055, www.basstub.com.
The tides are perfect this weekend for potluck fishing — where you use live-bait and drift over a likely spot — for striped bass and halibut in San Francisco Bay. You match the tides to the spots, best for stripers at the reefs at Alcatraz, Treasure Island, Southampton, and in the North Bay at Red Rock, Brothers Islands. For halibut, the top spots are Paradise Cay, Richardson Bay, Angel Island, Berkeley Flats. You get tons of small fish, lots of action.
With the wind calming, the ocean lying down, deep-sea fishing for rockfish has been a sure thing all along the reefs out of Half Moon Bay, Marin and at the Farallones.
Tom Stienstra is The San Francisco Chronicle’s outdoor writer. His Outdoor Report can be heard at 7:35 a.m., 9:35 a.m. and 12:35 p.m. Saturdays on KCBS (740 and 106.9). Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @StienstraTom
*A COMPLETE LIST OF FISHERMAN SPORTFISHING BOATS MAY BE FOUND HERE: http://www.visitfishermanswharf.com/sport-fishing/