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Projections suggest banner year for salmon, striped bass
Sunday, March 20, 2005
The coming salmon season has a chance to be the greatest in a generation for the Bay Area coast.
The same is true right now for striped bass in San Pablo Bay -- the best fishing in 25 years.
While environmental news is dominated by doomsday stories, those in the field and on the water can see the best of times on the bay and ocean for striped bass and salmon.
It started two weeks ago when striped bass roared by the thousands into San Pablo Bay.
"It's astronomical," said Keith Fraser of Loch Lomond Live Bait in San Rafael. "One guy comes in and says, 'I had 35.' The next boat comes in and they say, 'We had 47.' We're seeing people catch and release 20 to 50 bass in a few hours." Field scout Sushi Bob, for instance, said he caught and released 67 striped bass in four hours.
These are not the big adults, now staging in the Delta to spawn in April, but hordes of what are called "schoolies." Most are 3 to 7 pounds, with about 1 out of 10 ranging 10 to 13 pounds.
Like all bay fish, striped bass bite according to tides. Next Saturday (at the Golden Gate), a low tide of 0.7 feet at 5:34 a.m. is followed by a high tide of 5 feet at noon, and then a low tide of 1.1 feet at 5:30 p.m. Add about 90 minutes for San Pablo Bay.
This is how to fish these tides: At first light, head to northwestern San Pablo Bay, roughly from China Camp to the pumphouse to catch the big incoming tide. Anchor and use ghost shrimp and grass shrimp for bait. At 11 a.m., pull anchor and head to the Marin shoreline to catch the top of tide and the first two hours of the outgoing tide. Troll the San Rafael shoreline, Red Rock, Marin Islands or San Quentin, using half-ounce Worm-Tail jigs (chartreuse is the top color this year).
Have you ever caught 10 striped bass in a few hours? How about 15, 20 or 50?
You now have the chance.
Here come the salmon
Meanwhile, the salmon season opens April 2 for the Golden Gate Fleet, as well as for anglers out of Monterey, Half Moon Bay and Bodega Bay. What they will find, according to state and federal scientists, is that the ocean is full of fish.
Each year, scientists project the number of adult salmon in the area, with the typical forecast about 600,000 to 700,000 salmon. These annual estimates are conservative, and in 13 of the past 20 years, the actual numbers, and the quality of fishing, was better than projected. The lowest forecast for salmon was 452,000 fish in 1992. The highest was just over 1 million in 1998.
Last year, a good year for Golden Gate Fleet, scientists projected 831, 000 salmon, and the actual numbers came in at 871,000.
So get this: Scientists are predicting 1.67 million adult salmon on the Bay Area coast this year, a mind-blower. That's right, more than double the number of salmon from last year's forecast, and nearly triple the number of fish seen in a typical year.
The time is now to book your first trip of the season, spool up new line on the reel, and start dreaming of heading out the Golden Gate at dawn for your first hook-up of the year.
Double opener: A twist this year is that Monterey Bay will open for salmon on the same day as the Golden Gate Fleet. In the past, Monterey opened two weeks early, and you could often get a jump on what to expect. No more. The salmon season will likely open on the first Saturday of April from now on.
Baitfish are in: Capt. Mike Gaddis, who has been running trips for giant squid on the Superfish out of Emeryville, said he stopped near the Farallon Islands last weekend to scan for baitfish activity. "There was a lot of bait offshore and clouds of bait marking (on the fishfinder) near the Farallones," Gaddis said. "Life, everywhere."
Backdrop of El Niño: One side story is how this winter's mild El Niño event will affect the summer fishery. The consensus is "not much." Craig Stone at Emeryville Sportfishing Center, responded: "We've had a lot of southerly driven rain with south winds, so it's not unusual to have somewhat warm water out there this time of year. That is typically turned around by some howlers out of the northwest, cold air and strong winds right out of the Arctic. It's 56 degrees out there now. We could get a big blow out of the north and drop it down to 51, 52 degrees."
The spring northers: Wind out of the north in the spring also set off upwelling, which brings cold, nutrient-rich waters to the surface and also starts the marine food chain.
Overlooked: Amid the excitement over striped bass and salmon, sturgeon in the Lower Delta and San Pablo Bay are off the radar. A big snowpack in the Sierra and the resulting meltoff will increase freshwater flows into the Delta into June, so the peak sturgeon season this year will likely be in April and May.
Bay baitfish: While the commercial herring season was bad in the S.F. Bay this past winter, the problem was not the number of fish. Actually, the word on the docks is that herring were plentiful, but they were too small, below the mesh size required by the commercial netters. Meanwhile, anchovies are expected to make their annual entry into the bay in mid-April and, in turn, attract halibut in from the ocean.
The TV show, "Great Outdoors With Tom Stienstra," airs at 6:30 p.m. Sunday on KBHK-44 and Bay Area Cable 12.
E-mail Tom Stienstra at firstname.lastname@example.org
Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:14 AM Pacific
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