Let's Go Fishing Report

Monterey Bay

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Let's Go Fishing

by Allen Bushnell

Unlike the shoreline of Santa Cruz, Monterey County beaches remained accessible for surfcasting last week. All California State Parks remain closed, which means the State Park parking lots many anglers use for beach access are not available. Even some local neighborhood parking was blocked off last week to discourage potential beachgoers who might violate the Covid-19 social distancing suggestions or regulations. Santa Cruz beaches, and by extension the Santa Cruz Harbor were deemed off-limits by the County Health Department for a period ending April 15. At this time of writing, the ban is scheduled to expire on Thursday, at which time we can resume safe-practice use of beaches and hand-launch ramps at the Santa Cruz Harbor.

Surfcasters working the beaches between Monterey and Moss landing did well last week, Lots of big perch and a good quantity of small striped bass were caught using a variety of lures and bait. Marina fisherman Glen Sales also notes “There are tons of sandcrabs right now. That always makes for good fishing.” After the last rainstorm two weeks ago, the Salinas River finally opened up to the ocean, releasing hundreds (if not thousands) of schoolie-size stripers into Monterey Bay. We can expect these fish to be prowling further and further from the Salinas Rivermouth within the next few weeks.

In an interesting side-note, Monterey angler Tim Frahm from Trout Unlimited is eager to invite local anglers to participate in partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists on a striped bass research project in our area. Surprisingly, there has been very little formal study of that species in our area. It’s been obvious for years that spawning striper populations occupy both the Pajaro and Salinas rivers. Now is a good time to take a closer look at specifics. To do so, an app is now available for anglers to record their striper catches on Monterey Bay, including the general area of the catch. 200 stripers have been tagged in order to provide even more detailed info to NOAA researchers.

Trout Unlimited described reasoning behind this study stating, “California’s central coast once produced a lot of wild steelhead. Steelhead were a staple food for the labor force that built some of the state’s famed Spanish missions over 200 years ago. Today, however, central coastal steelhead are threatened. Trout Unlimited, through our Golden Gate and Steinbeck Country chapters, is working with state and federal agencies to recover them. One way TU is providing support for this effort is through a novel program created in partnership with the NOAA Fisheries’ Southwest Science Center in Santa Cruz. This program aims to better understand the relationship between striped bass and steelhead in this region through collection of angler catch data”

The Pajaro and Salinas Rivers are regulated as “Steelhead Rivers.” It is not clear how viable any steelhead spawning populations may still exist in these rivers. In fact, the steelhead trout are Frahm’s primary concern. Why then study stripers rather than steelhead? Frahm explained, “We can’t manage a fishery or recover population unless we know about their life history and how they use the streams lagoons and beaches of the Central Coast. Getting info about striped bass is to better the recovery of steelhead in these waters as well as to increase opportunities for fishing striped bass.”

Additional information on this study and downloads of the phone app are available here: bit.ly/36ehHCk, via TU website www.tu.org or contact Tim Frahm directly at tfrahm@tu.org.


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