Sand dabs now, salmon later

Monterey Bay

Sand dabs now, salmon later
Tim Wright aboard his boat Sea Alice reminds us what is in store as salmon season opens Saturday April 2 this year. This monster king salmon came in last May.

by Allen Bushnell

Chris Arcoleo from Chris’ Fishing Trips has been making hay all winter, going for quantity while fishing sand dabs in the middle of the bay. Their three big boats, the Check Mate, Caroline and Star of Monterey work deeper coastal waters from 250-300 feet for the tasty little flatfish. Sand dabs tend to congregate thickly and seem to be voracious most of the time. Clients aboard Chris’ Fishing Trips continue to catch “as many ‘dabs as they want.” The company’s reports don’t even bother counting them anymore. Typical trips return with hundreds of sandadbs for clients using sabiki type rigs baited with squid. For the past few years, Chris’ winter counts have included a significant number of Petrale sole as well. These are larger flatfish that bite on the same rigs as sanddabs with hook sizes as large as #4. Last Sunday’s trip aboard the Caroline netted 19 Dungeness crab, “lots of sanddab” and ten Petrale. On Tuesday the Check Mate filled up on the ‘dabs, then added 60 Petrale sole to the bags. Saturday’s trip on the Caroline scored 13 Dungeness along with 40 Petrale for the 16 anglers aboard.
Arcoleo is well prepared for our upcoming salmon season. Sending boats out everyday, he maintains a current grasp of conditions on the soon to be salmon grounds. When asked for some predictions Arcoleo responded, “Oh yeah, there’s salmon out there right now. We’ve been seeing quite a bit of fish. Don’t know if they’ll still be there when the season opens but it’s a pretty good bet. We’ve been getting some on the sand dab rigs (and releasing of course). The water looks great and there’s tons of bait all over the place.”
In Santa Cruz, Rodney Armstrong has been fine-tuning his new boat, a beautiful Maine Coaster, for this year’s salmon opener. Operating as Santa Cruz Coastal Fishing Charters, Armstrong has parlayed years of commercial salmon and crabbing experience towards a quality six-pack fishing outfit. The new boat Knot Alone is a classy looker with clean sweeping lines, first-class cabin and spacious deck. “Get ready for a smooth comfortable ride. She's 35'4" long 12'1" wide with a bit more speed than the Streaker,” says Armstrong.” The Salmon Streaker was good to us, but we can't wait to be running in the Knot Alone! Now we got a head, 5kw generator, killer stereo system, heating, and of course most importantly tons of fishing room!” Armstrong has very positive predictions for this year’s salmon season around Monterey Bay. He reminds us, “Im out there every other day for commercial crabbing.The water looks really good, with lot of life. There’s a few whales around and some jellyfish on the inside. Lots of bait everywhere, mostly anchovy but a few sardines around as well. My crabber buddies working below Half Moon Bay report the whole area near Pigeon Point and Deep Reef has been insane with bait and krill. I have high hopes of a good season again. For our six-pack trips, we’ll be trolling but might try mooching as the season wears on, especially if the jellyfish get bad like last year. I got high hopes for sure!” 
Surfcasters around the bay have had their work cut out for them. Another series of west swells have impacted the area. Most of the broad mid-bay beaches have been flattened to some extent as a result. Savvy anglers are finding fish and generally the perch size is increasing. There were a number of barred surf perch in the 13-15 inch range caught last week from beaches ringing the bay. While good rip currents can still be located at many beaches, we are finding it pays to work the parallel troughs between the shorebreak and the outside sandbars. If using bait or the popular GULP! sandworms on a Carolina rig, you can feel your weight kind of “stick” in certain areas. This situation is often created by the inside slope of a sideways trough on the surfline. Without creating slack in your mainline, the bait can be left soaking. A trough location is a good place to be, as it serves as a pathway of deeper water for the fish to move along. Usually there is a current involved that may sweep your bait along with it. Just keep the slack out of your mainline and be ready for a hungry perch to nibble or chomp. These troughs are often narrow and exist under the whitewater of a previously breaking wave. It doesn’t necessarily look like there’s a deep spot there at all. You are fishing by feel. Another advantage to these parallel troughs is they are often a lane used by roving striped bass to dart in and out of a breaking wave area in search of prey, though there has been a distinct lack of striper action on Monterey Bay so far this year.

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