Focus on halibut, rockfish as salmon become scarce

Monterey Bay

Amy VanTassel and Rachel Critchett from Corralitos caught limits of rockfish plus a few halibut and lingcod while fishing with Santa Cruz Coastal Fishing Charters on Wednesday this week.

by Allen Bushnell

Anglers all around Monterey Bay enjoyed another great week of fishing, despite some windy days and a strong south swell. King salmon are scarce but still in the mix, feeding on abundant anchovy schools. The best reports came in from Mulligan’s Hill up to the Soquel Hole. The kings are scattered, and they are deep. Most catches were reported by trollers working close to the bottom in 200-260 feet of water, using hoochies or anchovies behind a flasher. Most boats have switched over to fishing halibut or rockfish because salmon are becoming scarcer by the day.

Thankfully, halibut fishing remains very strong on the flat sandy areas of the bay. Chris Arcoleo at Chris’ Fishing Trips has seen enough halibut action this week from his private boat pals that he’s arranged a dedicated halibut trip scheduled for Monday. The likely target area is Sand City up to Marina for the flatties. Boats working out of Moss Landing can turn either left or right when they leave the harbor to find a good halibut bite. The beaches near Salinas Rivermouth have plenty of bait and the halibut population is dense in that area. The Pajaro Pipeline area may be ground zero these days for halibut, both big and small. Private boater Joe Baxter provided the low-down on Sunday saying, “My buddies had three legal and seven short hali’s at Pajaro today. There are tons of ‘chovies in 50 feet of water from Santa Cruz Harbor to Natural Bridges . We fished hali’s for 1.5 hours in 45-70 feet in front of the Harbor. No Love. South swell was strong not a lot of cod locally. We had limits of cod and worked hard for them locally shallow.”

As the south swell dies off, we should see more halibut moving in to the shallower water in Capitola and Santa Cruz. It’s also getting to the season when the North Coast spots start to get hot for halibut. Rockfishing was better from the deeper waters this week. Carol Jones from the Kahuna out of Moss Landing listed a typical trip’s catch on Sunday. “We had 18 anglers and we headed towards Big Sur. Our final count showed 10 copper rockfish, three lingcod, two Pacific mackerel, one Spanish Mackerel, 161 assorted rockfish and nine vermilion rockfish (up to 7.5 pounds). In Santa Cruz, JT Thomas aboard the beautiful Miss Beth uses the same strategy, traveling north towards Ano Nuevo and Franklin Point for productive bottom fishing. Beth Norton reported for Go Fish Santa Cruz, saying, “The boat apparently likes fishing at Franklin Point because it went back there again today. Clients had early crew limits of a variety of rock cod. Their limits included some big vermillion.”

Savvy surfcasters found ways to beat the big south swell this week. Many beaches were unfishable due to the heavy wave action and tons of ripped up kelp in the water. There are a few beaches, however that are somewhat protected from the brunt of a south swell. Usually the steeper beaches without an outside sandbar are a good bet in these conditions. Robbie Cadwallader and John Poff from Santa Cruz worked one of their local spots in Santa Cruz over the weekend, finding clean water and lots of barred surf perch. “Most of the fish were small, but  every cast got at least a nibble if not a grab,” Cadwallader reported. His dedication paid off with one giant grab on Saturday morning. He successfully landed a 15-inch BSP that easily weighed over two pounds.

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