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Berkeley: San Francisco Bay boats reap the rewards of a great early season on salmon and halibut

BY CAPT. DAVID BACON/WON Staff WriterPublished: Jun 25, 2019

BERKELEY — The options looked great for San Francisco Bay boats where salmon catches were pleasingly high, halibut fishing was better than ever before and striped bass aggressively foraged. Rockfish trips were also productive and limits were common.

BAY LIMITS — Anglers aboard the California Dawn came back early last Thursday with 78 halibut for 26 anglers, full limits, plus 4 stripers. “It doesn’t do much justice by saying it’s been a season to remember,” said Capt. James Smith. “Incredible,” he said.

On some weeks it is hard to make a bad decision on fishing destinations or target species. At Fish Emeryville, Andy Guiliano said, “The ocean bounty was in full display this week as the fish gods seemed particularly generous to Bay Area fishermen. A full smorgasbord of inshore and offshore fish was well represented as summer officially began. Halibut and striper fishermen enjoyed perhaps their finest week in a year that has been full of superlatives.”

New Huck Finn and Kingfish both turned in days of double limits of halibut and striped bass, posting scores of five fish per rod. Sundance tied up early Thursday with double limits. For the week, the scores hovered around a remarkable 4 game fish per person with more often than not an angler going home with a limit of each. Toss in another 3 to 5 shaker’s per angler and the volume of fish seemed inexhaustible.

Bass Tub from Fisherman’s Wharf pulled 26 bass and 16 halibut for 13 folks on a half-day trip. The next day’s half-day trip totals were 28 bass and 16 halibut for 14 anglers. Capt. Jonathon Smith on Happy Hooker out of Berkeley Marina reported limits of bass all week and 25 to 45 halibut every trip. Similarly, California Dawn had a consistent week of 100-plus fish counts with limits of bass daily and 45 to 65 halibut a trip. Seven-year-old Xander Ching caught a 13-pound halibut that was almost as tall as him.

Rockfishers reaped the ocean bounty as both Farallon and Coastal trips hammered the fish populations. Sea Wolf targeted both areas with a tank of live anchovies and scored limits of both quality rockfish and lingcod. Coastal reefs are taking on the familiar summertime pattern filling in with quality browns, coppers and vermillion, with the lingcod counts slightly better on the inshore reefs than Islands.

Salmon anglers also found limit style fishing most of the week. Other days a solid fish and a half per rod or a few fish short of limits. Tigerfish, Pacific Pearl and Sundance all found limit style fishing. Several areas of fish were located, with boats spread from the Marin County coast, west to Point Reyes and inside the Farallon Island chain. Fish quality has been exceptional with the average fish 8 to 14 pounds and many fish in the teens to upper teens.

Eric Walter fished aboard Lovely Martha and caught a 24-pound salmon near Point Reyes, one of the better catches of this young season. On Wacky Jacky, a kid named Teo Cook fished with his family and caught a 20-pound salmon. On New Rayann from Sausalito, Paul Daly took a 17 pounder.

At Berkeley Charter Boats, Scott Sutherland said, “Limits of salmon every day this week, actually for nearly two weeks straight! A common score was 140 salmon for 70 fishermen, including a few 20-plus pounders on El Dorado, New El Dorado III and New Easy Rider combined.” Lance Casnip got a 22-pound salmon on El Dorado near Point Reyes. Jordan Miller had a 23 pounder on New El Dorado III and Stan Rosenberg got a big 26 pounder on New Easy Rider. Then on Saturday the bite slowed somewhat. Sutherland added, “Every couple of weeks or so the salmon move, and we can’t relocate them right away.”

After a great week of fishing, Top Gun’s Capt. Steve Mitchell said, “We’ve been steadily taking limits of striped bass off the rock pile and halibut in various hotspots all week. We averaged over a couple of fish per rod, if not limits and the bite is steadily growing to be the best that it can be. One thing is for sure… if the bait is there you can bank on seeing us there because we try our best to keep our clients on the fish.” Cubby Bear caught a 16-pound halibut and Jason Walls had a brace of great stripers to 12 pounds.

EASY LIMITS — Flash I and Flash II have been getting easy limits of bass every day. The crew has also been catching some fish to take home. The hotspots have been Arch rock, F Buoy and the north east side of treasure Island. Capt. Steve Talmadge said they’re doing well on halibut when the tides are favorable.

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