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Fish rap: Year marked by stellar salmon season
With the New Year coming up this weekend, itís a good time to reminisce about local fishing this past year. Next week weíll take a look at the upcoming seasons for 2005.
The salmon season for 2004 will go down in history as one of the best ever. Sea conditions kept the water cool close to shore. From opening day in April to the seasonís close on Oct. 3, fishing for salmon never dropped below consistent, and often rose to the level of astonishing.
Local boats began the season fishing from Ano Nuevo to Pigeon Point. Vast clouds of krill fed hordes of salmon and pods of grey and humpback whales. Limits were the rule for the boats that made it up to the area, often battling high winds and heavy seas to reap their rewards.
As the season progressed, big schools moved into the Monterey Bay, often feeding very close to shore and affording even the kayak anglers plenty of opportunity to catch their limits.
The hot bite centered on Moss Landing toward the end of June and during July. A resident school of fish seemed to occupy the Soquel Hole area for the entire season. Not only did limits of salmon become commonplace, but the quality of fish was amazing.
We always have a number of 25- to 30-pound fish caught locally, but in 2004 fish of that grade were being weighed in daily. Giant salmon, like the 47-pound king caught by Salty McConnell from the Wild Wave made an occasional appearance. It was truly a phenomenal year for salmon.
The sea conditions that supported our fantastic salmon year had the opposite effect for albacore fishing. The warm water currents remained far offshore, and tuna fishing was inconsistent at best. Sport anglers and charter boats had occasional days of high scores, but nothing like the 2003 season, when triple-digit days were a regular occurrence. More often, the boats would return from traveling 60 miles out to sea with only few fish or worse, skunked.
The halibut season proceeded in fits and starts from April through the summer. It seemed that every time the fish would move into the shallows for spawning, we would get a new groundswell, and the fish would scatter toward deeper water again. Finally, in late summer and early fall the bite turned on, especially off the North Coast beaches. Flatties from 15 to 30 pounds were caught daily, and a few were reported in the mid-40 pound range.
There was a huge turnout for the rockfish season opener, Aug. 1. Those who put their time in fishing the local reefs and rocky areas off the North Coast had no problem getting bag limits. The quality of rockfish this year was terrific too, with big black rockfish and a steady catch of large vermilion. Anglers caught a lot of ling cod this year, but only a few were kept, due to the 30-inch minimum size limit imposed this year. Word has it the rules will change back to two lings at 24 inches for next year.
Bushnell can also be heard on KSCO 1080AM with the Friday morning fish report at 6:45am. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:14 AM Pacific
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