Amazing salmon bite for bay fishermen

Noisy winds and swells in the Little South shouldn’t have a huge negative impact on boat-based fishermen this week. Surfers may have to search the beaches for some clean water, as the kelp and seaweed in the surf line were annoying to many over the weekend. However, these weather and water conditions are very positive factors for fishing in Monterey Bay these days – tons of bait and lots of hungry fish. It’s a catch-all year for anchovies, with huge schools and bait outside and close to the wave line. When there is a lot of bait, we find a lot of fish!

John Bartsch is showing off a pair of halibut caught this week as he and Joe Baxter get restrictions on the use of live bait near Santa Cruz. (Contributed)

Salmon fishermen all over the bay had a great week fishing. While scores varied from day to day, prominent companies among the fleet managed to manage the fish limits every day. It’s a mixed type of king salmon, ranging from shaker “pinner” to pigs in the 20 and 30 pound range. There are quite a few silver salmon in the mix too, so be sure to identify your fish before you put this salmon on the head. Best practice is to get a good look even before you put the fish in the net and release any silverware without removing them from the water at all. The slack line is often enough for silverfish to snap the hook and swim away. You may have to get to the bottom with the long-nose pliers and turn the hook yourself. This can be done easily without touching the fish. Another technique is to move the spear down the line, giving a little adjustment or twist once the spear touches the hook.

Water temperatures remain relatively cool. This, combined with the huge biomass of king salmon making their way into the spawning waters, has resulted in a very good season for salmon so far. Some of the results this week include Chris Sportfishing outside of Monterey who posted 21 kings to 20 fishermen aboard Check Mate on Friday. Feeding on salmon, Chris feeds the drifting bait under the weight of a banana around the edges of the thick bait balls, of which there are plenty in the bay at this time. Mooching is a very exciting and rewarding technique. The fisherman catches with a rod in his hand, feels the bite and sets the hook. It’s more complex in terms of hunter IQ than hunting, and lighter equipment makes a successful fight more satisfying.

The Santa Cruz Six Pack Go Fish makes the most of a bite of salmon in the bay. On Thursday, Skipper JT Thomas reported, “We fished Monterey Bay today for salmon. We had a crew limited to one. Fifteen large king salmon.”

On Wednesday, JT said, “The bite was slower, but customers caught four large salmon fish weighing up to 23 pounds.”

Private boaters report frequent early limits, often running home before 8am.

“Water conditions were lovely in the morning with light winds blowing in the afternoon,” Capitola Boat and Bait reported Friday.

We saw a steady stream of halibut being captured around the Capitola both on the New Brighton side of the large kelp beds as well as westward toward Pleasure Point. The halibut is inland all the way to the shallows near the shore. Tranquil, clean water conservation areas are perfect for surfing at low tide with KastMaster, sticky baits, or smaller white swimbaits. You may have to weed out several short halibuts before tying up the guard, but this is all fun work. Treat the shorts gently and then quickly release them to keep the mortality low. Halibut that have been suspended can become infected when their bodies are rubbed with sand or rocks. Using a fine rubber net will avoid halibut tails splitting, which is another common source of released halibut infection.

Don’t overlook the very viable halibut fisheries from the local Santa Cruz Pier. Santa Cruz Rental Boats reported on some good flat-fishing Thursday, saying, “The bait is back at the pier! Halibut as well, we saw seven rangers land on the pier. The largest was 36 inches!” Halibut at the wharf.

Allen Bushnell also operates the Santa Cruz Kayak Fishing and Surfcasting Guide Service. Please send any reports, photos or questions to

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