San Francisco Fishing Report

THE FISHING REPORT San Francisco
Pacific Ocean

Golden Gate: This is a figurative car race going past on a lonely salt flat. This is watching it fade into the distance, nothing but salty dust in the air to mark the occasion. This is, for us, the end of the run and the start of the offseason. Only, this is the ocean on a Wednesday, yesterday, with only three big boats able to make the day. This is three party boats and a grand miserable total of eight salmon. Then again, this was a day on the ocean, and that alone, that one watery fact — that is our excuse, if not outright redemption.

As it was, and it wasn’t much, the boats got started before light, got to where they needed to go (up the Marin coast a few clicks, then out toward the green bucket), found the birds and put the lines down into the swirling schools of bait. And besides the widely occasional punctuation of a fish, that’s how the day ended. But complain? Who would? If you’re out there now, you’re there because you love the ocean. Assuming such love, you’ve been out there plenty, caught fish, and, overall, it’s been one hell of season. With 11 days to go before the unofficial start of winter, this is it before the end.

The rest: Good news is that fishing remains open for rockfish and lingcod. Better news is that Dungeness crab season opens Saturday. Best news is that you can combo up and fish/pull for both. General plan here is to get the pots out soaking (jars of calamari and hanging fish carcasses, usually rockfish, such good stuff), make a leisurely run for the islands or up the coast toward the Towers or Point Reyes, catch cod until you’re mad between the ears or bored with bouncing lead against rocks, then run back to the pots for your crab. Good, good times.

The bays

S.F.-San Pablo: The South Bay in general and Oyster Point in particular, for no faintly plausible reasons, boast the steadiest action going. Out on the fishing pier at Oyster Point yesterday, two halibut were landed within an hour of each other. The regular irregulars have this down to a minor science: jig up bait (anchovy and small smelt), lower bait, sometimes catch bigger fish. When it works, it’s great. When it doesn’t, the local bait shop also sells beer and peanuts. Moving on toward active, at least one local deckhand prowls the sloughs and ponds for halibut. And he does remarkably well. Problem here is access. Some of the sloughs and many of the ponds are on private holdings, whose owners take none to politely to you tromping around the shoreline, in your patched waders, slinging bait. Still, if you can scout out some legal access, the ponds are a solid bet this time of year, as the halibut seem to settle in for winter or to spawn or to sunbathe or just because. Out at Coyote Point, the solitaries and socials casting from the beach and jetty are getting striped bass. Never many, but enough to keep you out there, casting your Hair Raisers or anchovy or smelt. Heading back up toward the city, Candlestick Point is a fine place to catch ‘rays and small sharks, and a reasonable place to hang on the hope of landing a halibut or striped bass. There are more bass around the PG&E plant and then around toward China Basin. In you’re walking the shoreline, try throwing a Hair Raiser (white is always a fine choice) around the rotted out pilings or rocky areas.

Suisun-Delta: Jordona Santiago of Martinez Bait and Tackle brings the report from out front, where the sturgeon, she relays, are staggered from shallow to deep, and the bass aren’t exactly models of consistency, either. Starting with the former, diamondbacks have been caught, of late, in water from mud-running shallow to 35 feet deep, having taken an assortment bait that includes grass and ghost shrimp, eel, salmon roe, bullheads and even the odd anchovy. Two areas, many fish: Buoy 4 and the third row of rust at the Mothball Fleet. Now bass: The Sandbar near the Mothball seems best. Or at least it’s gathering the most attention, with a number of fish to 18 pounds landed over the weekend and into the week on bullheads, grass shrimp, anchovy and pile worms, according to Santiago. … Now Barry C.: Diana Canevaro, known as the true muscle in the family, made the first sturgeon trip of the Canevaro season Saturday. She had four customers aboard. They landed three keeper sturgeon, they broke off one (or the knot came undone, though reports are sketchy). They also put back five undersize sturgeon. The fish, Diana said, were right where they should be, which is in the oh-so aptly named Sturgeon Alley, above Roe Island, then along Ryer.

Freshwater

Rivers: The Smith got its rain and it opened above Rowdy Creek. And that was good. The guides chased the salmon all the way up toward Jed Smith State Park but found that the kings were fading toward dark, and that was bad. So they’re back on the lower river, and the fishing is excellent. Large, ocean-bright fish, and many of them. Tuesday, guide Harvey Young had three boats out with six anglers, and they ended with limits, six fish to 25 pounds. Top getter is the sardine-wrapped Kwikfish (K-14 and K-15) trolled through the slow water, namely the Sand Hole … The Trinity is shamefully low. “Almost the worst I’ve seen it this time of year,” said guide Steve Huber, who has seen it plenty. “We get fish (steelhead) early in the morning and then again late in the afternoon. In between, nothing much happens.” To illustrate: Yesterday, after a shot of rain Tuesday night, Huber’s client hooked a steelhead on the first drift, then two more. Then nothing. For the fly fishers, of which there are many, dead drifting stonefly patterns produces, and GloBugs are working, too … On Lower Sacramento, the guide boats are packed in tight at the Barge Hole, where Battle Creek empties into the river, and they’re fishing over a mix of dark and not-so-dark salmon. They go after them with large, sardine-wrapped Kwikfish (K-15 and K-16) in the a.m., then switch to salmon roe when the sun arches over. A few of the guides, anti-socials and river wanderers these, are looking downstream, below Red Bluff. The fish here tend to be brighter, more silver than gray, but the trade-off is less action. If you’ve had your fill of salmon, consider trout and steelhead fishing. With the salmon bedding down toward procreation, the river’s other fish are on the opportunist feed, gobbling any stray eggs that bounce by. As a result, 20-40 trout fought and released in a day is common, plus a few steelhead near Battle Creek. Or this: salmon in the morning, then steelhead and trout to round out a thoroughly amazing experience. Locally, the guides are calling it a “Grand Slam” trip. And if you’re wondering about the fourth species, so are we … The American is starting to see some numbers of salmon, but not the kind of numbers interested parties would like. Guide Bob Sparre was out on a night fishing trip yesterday, and the river was fairly silent. No salmon rolling, none splashing. He did mark them on the meter, however. Better yet, his group had two takes and an 18-pounder in the boat in the first hour of fishing.

“The Fishing Report” can be heard Sundays at 6 a.m. on 680 AM. E-mail Brian Hoffman at bhoffman@sfchronicle.com.
Brian Hoffman

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