Monterey Bay Fish Report for 2-9-2024
Storms wreak havoc on fishing scene
by Allen Bushnell
Anglers around the Monterey Bay region found themselves in the middle of yet another major weather phenomena again this week. Locally, sustained winds were clocked around 40 miles per hour while gusts on nearby peaks hit 80 to 100 mph this week. Precipitation is always appreciated, especially after the recent years of drought in California. But, things get kind of scary when terms like “atmospheric river” and “bomb cyclone” begin to be bandied about. When accompanied by huge waves, hurricane-force winds, landslides, flooding and fatal tree falls, it’s not very fun at all. Plus it’s kind of impossible to fish. Our sympathies lie with those who have suffered loss due to these most recent storms, and to the commercial fishermen whose already beleaguered seasons have been stalled by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife as well as severe weather and sea conditions.
Ocean swells and wind waves are forecast to ease from around 20 feet to a more manageable four to six foot range by this weekend. Crabbers dropping pots for local Dungeness should have no problems while targeting the 180 to 220 foot depths, where the crabs are crawling right now. Prudent crab anglers made sure to pull all their traps before this latest weather system hit. When weather like this moves in, traps have a tendency to “walk,” getting dragged across the bottom from the forces of current, swell and wind. Crab anglers carefully track the placement of each pot using GPS to facilitate an efficient run when they return and pull the pots. Marked by buoys, the pots are easy to miss visually if they have moved very far from the spot where dropped. Sometimes the pots can get buried in bottom sand or mud as a result of storm currents. Considering that each crab trap setup represents at least $300 investment for the angler, it pays to keep losses to a minimum.
As usual this time of crab season, we find the biomass of Dungeness moving generally towards the edges of our deep submarine canyons. That includes the central Monterey Bay Canyon as well as the northern offshoots of Pajaro and Soquel Holes. For recreational anglers, it’s a great plan to zip out to those areas, drop the crab pots, then fish the bottom for sand dabs and Petrale sole. Give it a few hours and pull your pots on the way back in. Or, leave the pots to soak overnight and pull them the next morning before hitting the flats for more flatfish. Sand dabs, in particular, are so numerous they can be counted by the bucketful. These fish are very delicate however, and do not take well to freezing for table fare. Same-day eating is really the best for any fish, but especially these little soles. Conscientious anglers will only keep what they can use.
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