Northern CA Saltwater

Insane halibut bite continues inside San Francisco Bay

BY CAPT. DAVID BACON/WON Staff WriterPublished: May 14, 2019

BERKELEY — A continuing supply of live bait, decent weather and good tides combined to deliver another week of darn-good halibut fishing throughout San Francisco Bay. Incidental catches were striped bass and even white seabass, and even rockfish runs were highly productive both along the coast and at the Farallones.

kirkscatchKIRK’S CATCH — Kirk Weir of Folsom shows off his beautiful 18-pound halibut taken off of SFO airport while fishing aboard the California Dawn with Capt. James Smith.

Halibut counts were steady and good throughout the Bay Area. May is a good halibut month in general and this May in particular. Anglers through the week benefitted from live bait (generally anchovies) availability, decent fishing weather and good tides. Halibut counts ranged from a fish per rod to much higher. Even half-day trips resulted in good numbers.

There were striped bass caught along with the flatties and happy bonuses like the 14-pound white seabass caught by Gary Fertada on California Dawn while fishing in the Berkeley Pier area Monday. There were 7 keeper white seabass caught on that trip. Halibut counts through the week were between 35 and 57 fish. Justin Kelley caught a 20 pounder and 9-year-old Ruby Olmo caught a halibut almost as big as her. Pacific Dream took out 17 people who caught 32 halibut and 8 bass. Capt. Jonathon Smith on Happy Hooker reported trips every day but Tuesday and between the halibut and bass it was mostly over 2 fish per rod.

White seabass served as exciting incidental chances while fishing halibut. Scott Sutherland at Berkeley Charter boats reported live bait potluck trips averaging 2 plu fish per person. Most fish were halibut, but on some days, stripers showed up and an occasional white seabass was landed, including the 20 pounder caught by Donald Reyes at the Berkeley Flats aboard El Dorado. Some of the better halibut catches were Daniel Nguyen’s 22 pounder on New El Dorado III and Aiden Mack’s 18 pounder on New Easy Rider. Brent Heinrich got an impressive 25-pound striper aboard New El Dorado III on Berkeley Flats.

There were lots of short halibut and stripers caught, but persistence paid off in keepers. Capt. Bill Clapp on Jilly Sea out of Berkeley Marina said, “We were raided by small Stripers at Treasure Island, then again with undersized Halibut in Alameda, but scratched out some nice fish anyway drifting live bait.” Capt. Clapp’s passengers Dave Erlwein, Haines Ely and Simm Ely took home two keeper halibut apiece.

Capt. Aaron Anfinson on Bass Tub reported good fishing. On a light load trip with 10 people the count was 11 halibut and 13 bass. Both Flash I and Flash II are now running live bait rips out of Fisherman’s Wharf, according to Capt. Steve Talmadge. On one trip the count was 9 keeper halibut and 2 bass for 5 people. On Friday it was 7 keeper halibut out of 25 caught. A boat full of kids the day before got 5 keepers out of 22 halibut caught. Lovely Martha fished the Bay and had limits of bass on half-day trips 4 days in a row. Mike Rescendez added a hefty halibut that went 29 pounds.

The live bait, potluck fishing was awesome for Fish Emeryville boats. There were 50-plus halibut caught every day, all week. The top halibut score of the week was 61 flatfish on New Huck Finn. Tigerfish had 34 halibut and 16 striped bass for 15 people. Early in the week, white seabass popped up to spice the fish counts. Andy Guiliano at Fish Emeryville said, “The wide-spread area of game fish inside the Bay is amazing. A real time proof source that adequate water flowing down the Central Valley should never be construed as a ‘waste’. Bass and Halibut can be found spread out along a 15-mile stretch running from above the Berkeley Pier to the Oakland Airport, and on the west side down to Coyote Point. Phenomenal!”

Heading out the Gate for rockfish and lingcod was another sack-filling option. Sea Wolf continued to hammer away at the rockfish and lingcod population. They scored limits daily of great quality yellows, olives and reds. Lingcod were a bit more elusive this week, with half to full limits of the elongated dinosaurs.

FULL OF FISH — Big numbers of halibut are being pulled over the rail in San Francisco Bay currently, and these anglers netted 57 halibut and a striper while fishing aboard the California Dawn with Capt. James Smith on May 4.

FUN IN THE FLATS — Live anchovies were available as of May 3 in the Bay, and Max Towle of Pleasant Hill took advantage of the opportunity by fishing the Berkeley Flats for two keepers and 5 shakers in 1.5 hours of fishing.

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