Anglers shift focus to rockfish as salmon counts dwindle

Santa Cruz - Santa Cruz, CA

Fishing has been quite productive in 60-70 feet of water near Capitola this week. Here’s Everett Bowles, Julian Renz and Ed Burrell with their big fish from Wednesday morning.

by Allen Bushnell

Salmon fishing on and around the Monterey Bay has slowed considerably. The big schools that created fleet pandemonium last week have scattered and most anglers are getting a fish per rod or less. Winds have also been high, making it difficult for anglers to put in the long hours needed on a scratch bite. It’s become that situation where the fish are here one day, then gone the next. All the more reason to go fishing every day, I’d say.

The large charter boats on the bay are switching over to rockfish as salmon counts dwindle. Kahuna Sportfishing from Moss counted four salmon last Saturday, and only one on Thursday. But Kahuna’s Tuesday rockfish trip came home with full limits of rockfish for 17 anglers. In Monterey, Chris’ Fishing Trips got skunked for salmon on the Star of Monterey Saturday, but six trips during the week netted full limits up to 220 rockfish for anglers aboard the Check Mate and the Star. Every rockfish trip found at least one ling cod as well.

In Santa Cruz, Stagnaro’s Fishing Charters has been fishing the local reefs for rockfish this week. Owner Ken Stagnaro reported, “We’ve had a consistent slow upwelling, and the fish are chowing on baby rockfish and plankton. Their bellies are pretty full. Our full-day trips are averaging 3/4 limits and the half-days about five fish per rod. This is a typical spring pattern for rockfish. It’s a bummer that depth restrictions are keeping us away from the deeper areas where the chili peppers lurk. In years past we could always count on the canyon edges for great fishing in April and May. Also, the heavy winds have been holding us off from the north coast.”

Rodney Armstrong runs the six-pack operation Santa Cruz Coastal Charters. They did pretty well this week as Rodney says, “Today we fished in the deep water for rockfish. It went very well. We had limits for all six clients. We had big reds, canaries, browns, yellowtail and bocaccios.”

Go Fish Santa Cruz Charters had similar results on Wednesday, fishing the deeper reefs well north of Santa Cruz. Beth Norton reported for Go Fish, saying, “We had a rock cod and ling cod fishing trip today. JT took the boat north of Davenport, where the clients caught limits of a variety of quality rockfish and four nice ling cod. The water and weather was nice.”

Halibut fishing is heating up in the shallows. In Monterey, near Del Monte Beach and the “Hotel” area, halibut have been caught in 15-70 feet of water. Santa Cruz anglers are finding the best halibut bite near the Santa Cruz Harbor and Mile Buoy, or Capitola’s Mile Reef. Forty to 65 feet of water seems to be the ticket. Live bait is always best, but anglers are also hooking flatties casting swimbaits and bounce-balling with hoochies or squid. A few undersize halibut were reported caught (and released) by surfcasters from the calm beaches below Capitola.

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