Monterey Bay Fishing Report

Monterey Bay

Barred Surfperch, Barred Surfperch
Robbie Cadwallader from Aromas is best known for setting motorcycle land-speed records, but he’s no slouch in the surf as this Sunset Beach perch attests.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Let's Go Fishing

by Allen Bushnell

 Overall, fishing has slowed considerably for most Monterey Bay anglers. The primary factor is the relentless series of big swells hammering the coast since mid-December. And, we are not done yet. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration marine weather forecast indicates yet another giant swell is due to peak this coming weekend. NOAA reports, “Large northwest swell continues hazardous seas, increased wave action, and shoaling near harbor entrances for smaller vessels. Strengthening high pressure over the eastern Pacific provides a calmer weather pattern moving forward. The next northwest swell and stronger winds are expected to arrive at the end of the week.” Specific forecasts for the open ocean areas outside Monterey Bay includes a swell of 12-14 feet with an 18-second period for Saturday. Inside the bay, the swell forecast calls for 9-11 feet. The open ocean forecast also includes winds up to 25 knots and wind waves up to eight feet. Inside the bay, west winds are expected to reach 15 knots with two to three foot wind waves.

It is important to know and remember that these wave height forecasts project the “mean” significant wave height. Tom Ainsworth, from the NOAA/National Weather Service Forecast Office in Juneau, AK further explains, “The wave height value in a forecast, and reported by ships and buoys, is called the significant wave height. Significant wave height (Hs) is defined as the average height of the highest one-third waves in a wave spectrum.” It gets a bit more complex but for practical purposes, at least one percent of the swells will be 1.67 times the maximum swell forecast, and the maximum (theoretical) wave height would be twice as tall as the swell forecast. So, if our forecast calls for 10-foot west swell, One out of a hundred waves is likely to measure 16 feet. And, the possibility exists of a 20-foot swell hitting the coastline when the forecast warns of only 10-foot swells. Once again, these are very dangerous conditions and all caution should be taken near the shoreline, or while at sea.

With rockfish season now closed, and the halibut off to their deep water wintertime habitat, ocean anglers find the pickings are getting slim. Dungeness crab was slowing down even before the big series of swells hit. Many experienced crabbers pulled their pots in mid-December due to the low crab counts per pot. Sand dab fishing is extremely popular during the wintertime on Monterey Bay. Both the Dungeness crab and sand dabs go into hiding when the swell is up as it has been lately. Most Charter operations are taking a vacation now, or running only occasional trips. Chris’ Fishing Trips in Monterey is hanging in there. Owner Chris Arcoleo says he is getting his boats out whenever he has enough clients to cover the boat costs, with weekends being a bit busier. Chris’ reported catches of up to 30 sanddabs and two or three Dungeness crab on their combo trips last week.

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