Captain Tom Joseph 408 348-4866

New Captain Pete Sportfishing

(650) 726-6224

November 21, 2016    Headlines

  Spotty Crabbing
 Easy Rockfish

 Half Moon Bay

Huli Cat Captain Tom Mattusch reported, "Rock fishing along the coast continues to be slow. While the Dungeness crab catch is not as big as some years, the Huli Cat is still seeing limits most every day this past week."  The Huli Cat skipper also says this is a more typical winter with wind and rough seas interspersed with rain becoming more common lately.
Out of Pacifica on Sunday 11-20, Sheryl Jimno of the Rusty Hook Bait and Tackle said, “The ocean is still rough, and it hasn’t settled down since the opener. The winds are down, but the swell is big on the pier.” Crabbers are still out there throwing their snares but the catches are low, and the Rusty Hook has been selling the custom snares like hotcakes. A few fishermen are trying for striped bass or perch with blood worms or pile worms with limited success. Catches on both fronts will improve as the seas calm.

The crab opener was a bit tougher than anticipated out of Half Moon Bay during the first week of the season with a number of boats returning with less than full pots.  Captain Tom Mattusch of the Huli Cat has been running crab/rockfish combination trips since the opener, and he said, “There have been a lot of empty pots out of Half Moon Bay. Although we were able to pull 18 limits of crab on Wednesday, November 9th, our pots are far less than last year at this time. We experienced every pot 3/4th filled with legal crab last year, but I am still working to get located this during the first week.  The area out by the Separation Zone has seemed to be one of the more productive areas, but some of the traditional good crabbing spots off Martin’s Beach held nothing but rock crab.”
A moderate to double digit swell persisted off of the San Mateo coastline, and this may have been a cause for the slower crab action. The swell has affected the rockfish and ling cod counts along with a red tide that has engulfed the region. Although the weather has been less than ideal, Simon Chan landed a 9-pound ling on a diamond jig while Howard Young of San Jose picked up an 8-pound cabezon on a shrimp fly while out on the Huli Cat.
The Huli Cat is the only large party boat running crab/rockfish combination trips out of Pillar Point, and he is already filled on all weekend trips through the month of November.
The recreational rock crab season has been opened once again north of Pigeon Point.

The crab opener was very slow with counts of 0 to 2 crabs per pot off Half Moon Bay. The rockfishing is solid and we expect at least some sport boats to move some gear north off the Golden Gate where counts are far higher.
On Sunday 11-6 Captain Tom Mattusch of the Huli Cat sent in the following report on the crab situation out of Half Moon Bay over the weekend, stating, “
There were a lot of empty pots out of Half Moon Bay. Some people thought the traditional areas that held crab did not have Dungeness due to the large swell that was running. The area out by the Separation Zone seemed to be one of the more productive areas. Some of the traditional good crabbing spots off Martin’s Beach held nothing but rock crab. If rock crab was open above Pigeon Point, lots would have become dinner.
Second Captain Michael Cabanas of the Huli Cat went out on a rockfish/crab combo on Saturday, and he said, “It was a very long day with little sleep for the crew after a midnight pot drop. The crab opener was not as not as great as we expected, but we had a lot of happy customers who loved being out on the water. Ocean conditions consisted of a big 15 second interval swell and some breeze throughout the day.  Shrimp flies were the ticket for the rockfish.”

The Dungeness crab recreational season starts this Saturday.
Party and sport boats are in a dilemma as to how to observe the rule that will be enforced this year with the crab pots not being able to be set until 12:01 a.m. on Saturday morning. A few boats will be heading out in the middle of the night to dump their pots, but this creates a dangerous option in addition to captains being limited to 12 hours at the wheel. The most consistent option seems to be taking out both crab pots and passengers in the morning of the opener to drop the pots before fishing for a few hours before returning to the pots. If there is a long enough period and enough crab in the area, 10-crab limits should be possible during the short soak. Bringing out passengers and a load of pots is also a concern with the amount of weight on the boat – hopefully the weather will make for more safe conditions.
Some party boats are planning on dropping the pots before Saturday, and these guys are on their own as far as being vulnerable to a big fine. There is a better solution to this dilemma. The commercial fleet, in the interest of crew safety can set gear 24 hours before the commercial opener off the Bay Area Coast and up to 72 hours prior of the opener on the North Coast. These rules were put in place to keep crews safe and avoid a "race" for crabs. The commercial pressure or rather the sheer number of pots makes for a very short commercial fishery. In most years over 50-60% of all commercial crabs are harvested in the first 10 days. The 24 and 72 hour pre-set gear options were put in place to keep crews safe and not overloaded their boats with gear and then venture out in marginal weather conditions.
We need the same option for sport anglers. With a 24 or 72 hour pre-set period, sport anglers could get out legally and set gear when the conditions are safe. I have spent many seasons camping at Doran with family and friends and have yet to see any sport angler come in with crabs ahead of the opener. I have however seen and know of many who pre-set gear under the "wink wink" guise of rock crabbing. In a nutshell sport anglers still take less than 2% of a resource that belongs to all California residents. Studies show that over 95% of all available commercial size (6 1/4") male crabs are harvested each year. Allowing sport anglers the same rules that commercial anglers have will save lives and have NO IMPACT on the numbers of harvested crabs by season's end. If Cal F & W is so concerned about the crab fishery they should concentrate on the huge problem of crab robbing and pot theft not on gear that will not be pulled or crabs harvested until opening day.

New Recreational Dungeness Crab Regulations Aim to Reduce “Ghost Fishing” and More
Measure Dungeness crab through the body shell from edge to edge directly in front of and excluding the points (lateral spines). Dungeness crab must measure at least 5 inches across
This year, the recreational Dungeness crab season opens statewide on Saturday, November 5, 2016. The daily bag and possession limit for Dungeness crab remains ten crabs per day that are at least 5 inches across, measured by the shortest distance through the body shell from edge to edge directly in front of and excluding the points (lateral spines). Dungeness crab can be taken in all ocean waters of the state whe
re they occur, excluding San Francisco and San Pablo bays. They can be taken using hoop nets, crab traps, or crab loop traps (also known as crab snares), or skin and scuba divers may take them by hand. Dungeness crab can be taken in freshwater areas of the state between Del Norte and Sonoma counties only by hand or hoop net during the open season; the same daily bag and size limits apply in freshwater areas.
Prior to the upcoming season opener, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) would like to remind crabbers of the new regulations and procedures for crab traps that became effective on August 1, 2016:

Crab traps must contain at least one destruct device made from a single strand of untreated cotton twine, size No. 120 or less, that creates an unobstructed opening anywhere in the top or upper half of the trap that is at least 5 inches in diameter when this material corrodes or fails.

Destruct devices prevent the continuous trapping of organisms in lost or abandoned trap gear, in a process known as “ghost fishing.” It is important that the cotton twine be a single strand and untreated in order for the material to corrode relatively quickly on lost or abandoned gear, and to keep the twine from snagging on itself once it comes apart. The smaller the size of twine used, the faster the material will corrode in lost or abandoned trap gear. The opening must be located in the top or upper half of the trap in case the trap becomes silted in over time. A common method to meet this requirement is the use of untreated cotton twine attached between the metal or plastic hook and the rubber strap that keeps the top of the trap lid (or trap side) closed. The cotton twine should be attached with a single loop in such a manner as to aid the destruct process.

Crab trap buoys must display the “GO ID” number of the operator of the trap.

The GO ID number is the unique, 10-digit identifier assigned by the Automated License Data System to your profile. This number will appear on all documents purchased through CDFW (for example, your fishing license).

Crab traps not operated under the authority of a commercial passenger fishing vessel (also known as charter or party boat) must possess a buoy, and each buoy must be legibly marked with the operator of the trap’s GO ID number as stated on his or her sport fishing license. This regulation will help to ensure that crab traps are being used by the designated operator of the trap in order to prevent others from unlawfully disturbing or removing crab from crab traps. If you are using another person’s trap, written permission from the owner of the trap must be in your possession in order to operate the trap. This regulation is not applicable to hoop nets.

Crab traps must not be deployed or fished seven days prior to the opening of the Dungeness crab season.

For this upcoming season, crab traps used to take either Dungeness crab or rock crab can’t be used or deployed in state waters from October 29, 2016 until the Dungeness crab fishery opens at 12:01 a.m. on November 5, 2016, and any crab traps found in ocean waters prior to this seven-day period should be removed from the water by October 28, 2016. This is to prevent the unlawful take of Dungeness crab before the season starts. Take is defined as hunting, catching, capturing or killing of fish, amphibians, reptiles, mollusks, crustaceans, or invertebrates, or attempting to do so.

Other regulations that remain in place for crab traps include that every crab trap be outfitted with two rigid circular escape openings that are a minimum of 4 inches in diameter and located so that the lowest portion is at the most 5 inches from the top of the trap. This is to allow small crabs to easily escape from the trap. Crab traps can only be used in state waters north of Point Arguello, Santa Barbara County. There is no limit to the number of crab traps that can be used by recreational crabbers, except the limit is 60 when operating under authority of a commercial passenger fishing vessel license.

Round trap (or “pot”) using rubber strap, single strand No. 120 untreated cotton twine, and hook to secure lid of the trap. When No. 120 untreated cotton twine deteriorates, the lid of the trap opens and meets the minimum 5-inch diameter destruct device requirement. CDFW photo by J. Langell and J. Hendricks

CDFW would also like to inform recreational crabbers of the best practices with regards to deploying crab trap gear to reduce surface lines as much as possible in an effort to reduce entanglements with animals, especially marine mammals and sea turtles, as well as other vessels. More information can be found by accessing the Best Practices Guide released by the California Dungeness Crab Fishing Gear Working Group. Although there is no time limit for checking crab trap gear (as there is for hoop nets), frequent visits will ensure that traps are in good working condition and that crab captured in the trap are not held for too long.

For the latest information about California crab, visit the CDFW Crabs website.


Captain Tom Joseph was out after bluefin on Thursday 10-20. Fishing off Santa Cruz from 12 to 18 miles out he was marking scattered bluefin in singles and pairs outside the outer Canyon edges. Working his usual setup of two down riggers with stacked leaders at 50 to 150 feet with slow trolled mackerel or sardines on long leaders. Tom said the water looked great with scattered surface bait and single and small groups of bluefin marking on the meter over a wide area. They had one hookup and Marvin Chow from Prunedale landed a first on Tom's boat a 75 pound Opah. Tom said the bite was fast and hard like a bluefin but after he saw color knew they were into something special. The forecast calls for good weather on Sunday and Tom will be running again for BF. He needs another couple of anglers to join the one on the books to be able to make the trip out of Santa Cruz

Captain Dennis Baxter of the New Captain Pete was going to spend a little time trolling between the buoys with his son, Braden, on Thursday afternoon. He said, “The salmon action both in the harbor and outside of the harbor has been slow, but this can change any day. The interest inside the harbor has waned within the past week. The best area for big salmon has been up north at Mussel Rock.” Baxter is running rockfish trips until the commercial Dungeness crab opener, leaving Captain Tom Mattusch on the Huli Cat as the only large boat running crab/rockfish combination trips starting November 5th

Rockfish remain the top story out of Pillar Point in advance of the upcoming Dungeness crab season opening on November 5th. The recreational crab opener out of Half Moon Bay has become one of the highlights of the entire year with private boaters arriving from throughout northern California to camp, congregate, and prepare for some massive crab boils.
The salmon bite outside of the harbor has slowed considerably over the past two weeks with few boats trolling between the buoys, but the harbor is loaded with shore fishermen tossing Mad River pink worms on a floatie or tossing heavy spinners.
Second captain Michael Cabanas of the Huli Cat has been conducting rockfish/ling cod trips south of the harbor, and in addition to consistent limits of rockfish and a healthy ling cod count, a surprise bonus halibut makes a showing on occasion. During the past week on the Huli Cat, John Yang of San Mateo dropped down a swimbait on the first stop of the day, and he was rewarded with a 22-pound halibut. The Huli Cat is taking Dungeness crab/rockfish combination trips starting with the crab opener on November 5th. They are filled for the opening weekend, but there is room during the weekdays and on subsequent weekends.
A few boats are still optimistically making the long run in search of albacore, but so far, the longfins have yet to make a showing. One private boat ran out to the Guide Seamount and trolled southwest of the seamount for a good bird show from a flock working the surface, but there were no albacore hooked despite seeing at least one jumper. High winds hit the coast on Friday 10-14 and the outlook calls for wet and windy weather through the weekend.
The recreational rock crab season is currently closed north of Pigeon Point in San Mateo County due to high levels of domoic acid.

Editorial to Following Story
The California Department Fish and Wildlife hatchery on the Feather river is planning on releasing their final stock of 1 million into the Feather river instead of trucking them around the river and Delta pumps to the Suisun Bay.
The Federal hatchery on Battle creek released 4 plus million salmon fry this past week and will dumping an additional 1.9 million fall run fish into Battle Creek this coming Friday.
The Golden Gate Salmon Association is opposed to these releases due to the current lower flows and clear water. With high numbers of spawning stripers and low / clear flows most of these fish will never make it as far as Sacramento. Past studies have shown that 94% of hatchery salmon released on the upper Sac never make it to San Pablo bay in these conditions.
GGSA is asking both the Feds and the State to either truck the salmon from the Feather river and release a "pulse" flow for 3 to 5 days to speed the Battle Creek salmon down river and to color the flows. This would allow out migrating baby salmon to quickly travel down river and predation losses would be much lower in the turbid flows.
Under similar circumstances in 1985 USFW and Coleman worked with water contractors to add pulse flows to Sac river while curtailing water diversions for a few days as the salmon swan past. The result was that in 1988 we saw one of the best sport and commercial seasons on record and huge returns of spawning salmon to the Central Valley rivers. Its amazing what can happen when both fishery managers and water contractors work together.
Somehow this lesson has not been passed on to current fishery and water (mis) managers.
The following is GGSA's press release from today opposing in-river releases until more natural spring like conditions are met and to have the Feather river fish trucked around the predators and Delta water diversions.
Mike Aughney

State Decision to Dump Salmon Opposed by Salmon Fishermen
Reversal of highly successful trucking program means fewer salmon will survive

San Francisco -- The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is abandoning a highly successful program that greatly increases salmon survival and is instead dumping valuable Feather River hatchery baby fall run salmon into a predator laden waterway starting Monday, April 25.  Most will die. The Golden Gate Salmon Association opposes the move and calls on CDFW to instead restore transport of these baby salmon via tanker trucks to safe release sites downstream of the danger zone.  Releasing baby salmon at safe sites in the western Delta and Bay greatly increases their survival and has kept the ocean fishery for both sport and commercial fishermen alive.  This practice has proven especially critical during the drought.  Without it, there almost certainly would not have been enough salmon to continue fishing.
In 2015, Feather River hatchery fish made up 76 percent of the hatchery fish taken by commercial salmon fishermen and 63 percent of those taken by sport fishermen.  

“Just last month at a salmon information meeting CDFW presented evidence that trucked Feather River fish were the major contributor to salmon caught by sport and commercial fishermen in the 2015 ocean fishing season,” said GGSA chairman Roger Thomas.  Thomas is also president of the Golden Gate Fishermen’s Association which represents charter boat owners and he holds a seat on the Salmon Stamp Committee.  “We can’t understand why they now want to take these fish away from us when we need them badly to stay in business.” 
“The Feather River provides the greatest single contribution of hatchery fish to ocean fisheries even though it is not the largest hatchery operation. The reason is that these fish are trucked past man-made hazards that decimate fish released upstream. Abandoning trucking, even in part, will hurt fishermen, related businesses, and consumers,” said GGSA board member Marc Gorelnik.  Gorelnik is also chairman of the Coastside Fishing Club.  
“If the state insists on dumping these fish into very dangerous waters where they’ll be lost,  then the state should also release water from Lake Oroville to speed these baby salmon down the Feather River past the danger zone so at least some survive,” said GGSA board member Mike Aughney.  Aughney is also the owner of USAfishing.com website. “Before the dams were built, high snow melt runoff would keep the rivers turbid and rapid in the spring. These are conditions baby salmon need to safely move from the Central Valley to the Bay and ocean.  Now with the dams, the rivers have less natural flow and sediment mixing and predation of baby salmon is much higher. There is plenty of water and snow now to allow for three or four days of water releases needed to help these baby salmon survive.”
In recent weeks fishing guides have documented high concentrations of predatory fish in the Feather and Sacramento rivers.  CDFW is reversing its proactive trucking practice because of theoretical concerns related to hatchery born salmon degrading the genetic purity of Central Valley fall run salmon and concern that trucked fish will lack the knowledge to keep them from straying into neighboring streams when they return from the ocean in two years.
Salmon fishermen puzzle over the stated attempt to establish a genetic distinction between Central Valley fall run salmon bred in hatcheries and other Central Valley fall run salmon that largely share identical genetics.  Hatcheries have functioned in the Central Valley for over 100 years and in that time hatchery born salmon have returned as adults and recolonized virtually every Central Valley stream and river that will still support salmon. 
“Study after study demonstrates there’s no such thing as a master race of Central Valley fall run salmon.  All Central Valley fall run salmon show interbreeding with hatchery stocks going back over 100 years,” said GGSA board member Dick Pool.
Once one of California’s greatest salmon producing rivers, the Feather was largely destroyed by construction of the Oroville dam.   State engineers refused to put a fish ladder on the dam when it was built, thus denying the salmon access to hundreds of miles of their historic spawning habitat now lost above the dam.  Adding insult to injury, they diverted most of the Feather River downstream of the dam into a man-made, shallow pond called the Thermalito Afterbay.  Here the water warms to temperatures lethal to salmon spawning and then flows back into the river.  This largely destroys another 15 to 20 miles of otherwise good salmon habitat downstream and forces returning adult salmon to veer into the colder Yuba River to spawn. 
The state should first fix the thermal pollution destroying the Feather River caused by the Thermalito Afterbay.  Then maybe we can talk about how to address the straying of Feather River fish into colder nearby rivers,” said GGSA executive director John McManus.
“We call on CDFW to truck the rest of this year’s Feather River fall run and resume a dialogue with key stakeholders on the future of trucking and hatchery management actions,” said GGSA founder Victor Gonella.  “Our future is being decided by theorists who are out of touch with the families that rely on these salmon to make a living.”
Earlier this year fishermen watched as state officials dumped federally protected hatchery spring run salmon into the Feather River upstream of a known predator hot spot rather than truck them a few miles further downstream to a point below the predator concentration. Most were probably lost.
“There’s disagreement over whose fish these are,” said GGSA board member Tim Sloane.  Sloane is also executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, a group representing commercial fishermen.  “The state is simply a custodian for these salmon, which belong to all Californians, but whose numbers are dwindling because dams and other development are blocking their historic habitat.  If the state chooses to act in a way that reduces the salmon we need to make a living, we think it only fair to be invited to partake in this decision that is so fundamental to our economic survival.”
The Golden Gate Salmon Association (www.goldengatesalmon.org ) is a coalition of salmon advocates that includes commercial and recreational salmon fisherman, businesses, restaurants, a native tribe, environmentalists, families and communities that rely on salmon. GGSA’s mission is to protect and restore California’s largest salmon producing habitat comprised of the Central Valley river’s that feed the Bay-Delta ecosystem and the communities that rely on salmon as a long-term, sustainable, commercial, recreational and cultural resource.

In a normal year, California’s salmon industry produces about $1.4 billion in economic activity and about half that much in economic activity and jobs again in Oregon. The industry employs tens of thousands of people from Santa Barbara to northern Oregon. This is a huge economic bloc made up of commercial fishermen, recreational fishermen (fresh and salt water), fish processors, marinas, coastal communities, equipment manufacturers, the hotel and food industry, tribes, and the salmon fishing industry at large.


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