Extreme Swells This Week

Monterey Bay

Barred Surfperch, Barred Surfperch
Kevin Comartin from Aptos is getting good practice in for surf perch season which should be taking off in the coming weeks.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Let's Go Fishing

by Allen Bushnell

This week the California coast including Monterey Bay area experienced an extremely muscular swell from the west/northwest. The immense power of these waves was evidenced by the high number of surf rescues performed by the Monterey Bay area first responders. One man is still missing after being swept from the rocks near Pacifica Pier on Tuesday. Famed surf spot Steamer Lane was still listed as eight to ten feet as of Wednesday evening. Strong winds are forecast to continue through Friday. The swell is predicted to drop to three to five feet by Saturday, then pick up again on Sunday with a forecast of a renewed west swell measuring six to eight feet. Mild winds are expected for the weekend. It may be a really good time for Dungeness hunters to get out and locate their crab pots, which have a tendency to travel during high wave events with heavy currents.

Commercial Dungeness season is approved to open December 16. Delayed due to concerns over whale entanglements, the season opener has been in limbo since mid-November. Though the most recent aerial “whale-count” in northern California nearshore waters showed a slightly higher number than scheduled to allow commercial season to begin, the alphabet agencies on Wednesday approved opening the season under an “advisory” status. Surprisingly, most commercial Dungeness crabbers along the coast are choosing not to begin operations until a clear open season is announced. Part of that decision is the crabber’s sincere concern for the migrating whales, and part is frustration with the multi-leveled ambiguity coming from governing organizations. Setting out for a season of crabbing takes a gigantic investment, which crabbers are not willing to lose should these agencies exercise discretion under an “advisory” opener and shut the season down again before expenses can be recouped.

The big swell and heavy currents have moved tons of sand this week, and we can expect to see outstanding structure on the beaches of Monterey Bay. That is just what’s needed for good perch and striped bass fishing. While it’s still a bit early in the year for stripers, perch fishing from the beach has been getting better and better for the past few weeks. With the sand building up in some spots and being dredged from others, the rip current channels, horizontal troughs and surf zone “holes” all have the potential for holding big schools of active feeding fish.

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