Offshore salmon fishing makes its return this weekend

By: George deVilbiss
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I’ve been waiting to say this for a long time and I don’t think anybody saw it coming. The Department of Fish and Game recently announced that the ocean salmon fishery will commence full operations for the sport angler on Saturday after being fully closed to both commercial and recreational anglers in ocean waters for the last two years. For now, the season dates are only from April 3-30. The reason the season was initially set for just the month of April is that the Pacific Fisheries Management Council will make all final determinations regarding salmon fishing towards the end of April. The DFG cannot just arbitrarily open something like the salmon season. They had to have the okay from the PFMC to begin with. For the month of April only, the DFG rules and regulations fall under the old regulations when the season was last open, three years ago. Any alterations to the season will be made after the PFMC’s final decision. Possible alterations that may be made are many. Season dates could be shortened. Bag limits and size limits could be changed. Or, the status quo may be maintained and simply allow a full blown ocean salmon fishery. Before May 1, we’ll fully know what fishery may exist. The only waters that won’t be open will be Horse Mountain north to the Oregon Border, which covers Shelter Cove, Crescent City and around the mouth of the Klamath River. The salmon fishery from Horse Mountain to the Mexican border will be open April 3. For now, though, you can definitely smell the diesel of boat motors all up and down the coast. Major ports that provide salmon fishing include the Monterey-Santa Cruz region, Half Moon Bay, San Francisco Bay ports at Berkeley, Emeryville, Sausalito, and in San Francisco, Bodega Bay and Fort Bragg. Since there has been little activity on the water, assuming there are fish out there, it will probably take the boats a while to find the fish. First problem is finding the bait balls as salmon generally hang out around the large balls of anchovy. So, at first, it will probably be hit and miss for both the party boats and the private boats regardless if you mooch or troll. Want to go? Here are some contact numbers: Santa Cruz-Monterey: Monterey Sportfishing 408-372-2203; Stagnaro Fishing Trips 408-427-2334. S.F. Bay Area: Berkeley Marina 510-849-2727; Emeryville Sportfishing Center 510-654-6040; Caruso’s in Sausalito 415-332-3500; Pillar Point at Half Moon Bay 415-726-7133. Bodega Bay: Bodega Bay Sportfishing Center 707-875-3344; Will’s Fishing Adventures 707-875-2323. Fort Bragg: Fort Bragg Sportfishing Center 707-964-3000; Telstar Charters 707-964-8770; Bragg-N 707-961-9692. When it comes to something like trolling for salmon, I like smaller boats. No offense to the other boats at Fort Bragg, but the only boat I’ll ride at Fort Bragg is the Bragg-N, a 34-foot Boston Whaler that’s 12-feet wide. While the boat will accommodate a maximum of six, it’s common to only have three or four anglers aboard. Other advantages to a smaller boat: you can experiment. If you don’t like the depth Pat recommends or you’re not getting bit, you can raise or lower the downrigger yourself or drop down more pulls on the lead balls. It’s just a great experience on board with the added bonus of a generally much higher success rate per rod. Again, nobody knows what the bite will be like. If it is a good bite, the bag limit is two fish per person and minimum length is 20 inches. It is extremely important to know your fish, as well. If you don’t see purple on the back of the fish as you bring them up behind the boat, chances are you’ve got a coho (silver salmon). If you see white in the mouth of the fish, you’ve got a coho. Coho salmon may not be retained. Additional requirements of the ocean salmon regulations may be found on the DFG’s web site at CURRENT FISHING Collins Lake: It’s just simply red, red hot fishing at this lake with so many huge fish being stocked and caught. They’ve got pens of big fish being raised that through April and May will be planted in the lake and that goes along with the trucks that show up weekly with trophy-sized trout. Trollers and bank slingers are all scoring with some trout easily hitting the 9 pound mark. Like I say. Big trout. Camp Far West: The lake is still coming up and is now into the grass line. As the water warms, bass begin cruising those grassy areas, so spinnerbaits get bit well. Lots of two-pounders and an occasional big bass up to three and a half being found. No word on crappie. Folsom Lake: The salmon-rainbow bite continues for trollers dropping down 20 feet. The trick is to go slow. A good number of flashy little lures will work, but Speedy Shiners are definitely taking their share. And, of course, a threaded-on night crawler never fails. Sierra Ice Fishing: Looks like it’s over with for the season. With the spate of warming weather, ice is getting thin in most lakes and is becoming too dangerous to venture out onto. Boca, one of the more popular lakes, it’s thawed enough for anglers to actually begin successfully fishing from shore around the dam. If you have any questions, comments or concerns, contact George directly at GeorgesColumn@AOL.COM.