California King Salmon Comeback
Reports of wide-open king salmon fishing north of San Francisco, California, were all I needed to hop on a flight and get in on the action this week. I was not disappointed. I joined two outstanding skippers — Victor Gonella and Brent Doyle — along with Ken Elie, owner of Outdoor Pro Shop in Cotati, California, and John Bretza and Woody Wood, both with Okuma Fishing Tackle, for two days of excellent salmon fishing out Bodega Bay, about 50 miles above the Golden Gate.
The seas and wind calmed just in time for our trip, and with huge schools of**** krill close to shore, the king salmon jumped into gorge mode. “Krill are like Red Bull to salmon,” said Gonella, who is president of Golden Gate Salmon Association, a group dedicated to re-building California salmon stocks in the wake of poor runs in years past. The group’s efforts have paid off, as the ocean salmon fishing this year is as good as many can remember.
We trolled about 2.5 knots at depths ranging from 30 to 60 feet with both “drop balls” and downriggers, using big dodgers and frozen anchovies on Rotary Killer heads with 7/0 barbless Siwash hooks. Drop balls consist of 2-pound lead balls attached to an inline release clip. When a salmon strikes, the sinker is released, allowing you to fight the fish unfettered by the heavy weight.
Bretza and Wood brought Okuma’s new Cold Water linecounter reels, which proved very effective, particularly when fishing the drop balls, allowing us to precisely determine the depth at which to fish these rigs. Combined with Okuma Cedros salmon rods, the reels also made it easy to retrieve the 2-pound balls to re-bait or reset the depths.
We keyed in on the life zones, indicated by flocks of murres floating on the water, as well as whales feeding in the area. With the surface sea temperatures around 51 degrees F, there were plenty of both this week above Bodega Bay. Hundreds of murres (known locally a salmon ducks) and scores of blue whales, humpbacks and minke whales fed heavily along with salmon. We also marked schools of krill on the fish finder, trolling over acres of the planktonic shrimp-like creatures.
The boats skippered by Doyle and Gonella were richly rewarded with salmon to 25 pounds in weight. On our second day, both caughts limits (two king salmon per angler) by late morning.
I am happy to report that salmon fishing along the northern California coast is as good as it gets this summer, and if the Golden Gate Salmon Association continues its successful advocacy efforts on behalf of fishermen thoughtout the state, that is the way it will stay for years to come.