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Topics - LoletaEric

Pages: [1] 2 3 ... 22
1
Wow.  What a long time it's been since I've paddled out for rockfish and lingcod.  Now we have a somewhat normal looking season, but watch out!  It could close early if we hit the Quillback bycatch #...

Forecast got really nice for yesterday, so I opted for the shorter drive and skipped Trinidad and the Cove.  Had the place all to myself - other than the pelicans and porpoise, murries and furries.

Plenty of action for the usual suspects, and keeping a limit was actually a goal, which just hasn't ever been part of my gig.  It's a changing world, and going 8 months without fresh bottom fish was almost as bad as not being able to troll for salmon for a year and  a half now.

Anyway, solo therapy session was incredible and so badly needed.  Now I'm ready to dig in and make GS the best I can make it.

Maybe see you soon~   :smt001

2
Registration is now open for GSXVIII!

At this point, the Office of Administrative Law needs to sign off on the rockfish season, but it's all but done - rockfish and lingcod will be open to boat-based angling in waters up to 20 fathoms in the Mendocino Management Area in May.  If something crazy happens to where it won't be open, I'll refund 100% of entries received.

Putting this tournament on has been a big part of my life for many years, and covid was an interruption that I didn't anticipate.  Now the fishing is changing too.  Last year we had a shortened season that was suddenly closed, making it even shorter.  This year things look promising for a longer rockfishing season, but those in the know are warning that the strict quota on quillback bycatch may lead to another early closure.  From what I've seen, salmon will not open at all this year again.  Part of what is motivating me to bring back GS is the feeling that in the face of these changes, our community needs to reconvene to celebrate our traditions as long as they're available, and that the camaraderie that we've developed must be honored and perpetuated.

With the likelihood of our large group catching salmon as bycatch, I have made a major rule change:  all barbless, all the time, no matter what tackle you're using.  This will be required of all participants on tourney day.

Another aspect of this event that has provided much joy for me over the years is the gear.  As many of you black-t-shirt-wearing diehards know very well, I went through years of changing fonts and colors while always having the "yakker image" on there, evolving along with the event.  Finally, 5 years ago, I commissioned a local artist and good friend of mine, Shawn Griggs (Redeye Laboratories in Ferndale, CA) to create the yakker in his own unique style - but then covid came and I had to cancel the event.  Shawn's work on this year's same level of high quality garments that I've always used will turn out as the nicest pieces in the GS series to date.  I pride myself in always getting the gear orders fulfilled and going the extra mile to assure quality as well as satisfaction.  I highly appreciate the support over the years, regarding the gear and the entire event experience.

Registration materials are attached to this post and include the rule sheets, to be read; and application and registration sheets, to be printed, filled out, signed and sent by mail with checks or money orders.  I'm not doing electronic signup, and I'm not doing Venmo or Paypal.  It's old-school, but it's a big part of the tradition, as I receive physical mail and go through the process of checking everyone in, sending welcome emails, creating score cards, scoreboards and schwag bags with everyone's names...etc.  By the time I complete the process, I basically know everyone's name, and I try to focus on knowing that person when I shake their hand and look them in the eye at the Cove.  Thanks for understanding and supporting how that works for me.

If you have any questions, feel free to post here, or call me up - my number is in my signature lines on every one of my posts.  The campground has new owners, so I don't anticipate a Jack-Style, per person kind of scene.  My advice:  get a room or a house, quick!  Campers, let us know how the new owners are doing on responsiveness, reservations, availability...etc.

To close, I had lots of doubts about going forward with the event.  The short registration period, my own aging bod and changing life details, the state of fisheries and troublesome horizons for our environment - all of this had me wondering if I could ever again go down this road, where I work hard to bring a diverse community together to enjoy common interests as well as each other.  When I went to my family, they were all in.  My kids were young through the early GS's, and now they're adults and will bring their significant others to hang for a long weekend at a house I rented in the Cove.  Once I envisioned that, I was all in too.  No matter how many people sign up, how the weather is, how the fishing is, or any other details of the weekend and the event, I really look forward to just having my family there enjoying themselves and showing their partners a little bit about what they experienced as they grew up.  A whole bunch of us in NCKA can, should and will have that kind of a nostalgic and reflective experience too, because a bunch of us kind of grew up around this event.

I look forward to seeing everyone who can make it.  Let's do this.   :smt001



3
End of season scramble to get on the last decent forecast available yesterday.  John and I took our chances on a 15 to 25 knot NWS forecast with Small Craft Advisory starting by afternoon.  Windy.com had 15 knot winds coming inshore by 10AM.  Stormsurf was more encouraging though, showing winds at 5 knots or less through mid day or so.  I miss Magic Seaweed, which I would always look at, but it was at the other end of the extreme - often indicating very light conditions when all other pages were blown up.  I've been known to advocate for using several different forecast pages and trying to note how each of them generally does over different parts of the year to accurately predict wind and waves.  Becoming adept at recognizing patterns and knowing local climate features is a huge part of achieving fun and success on the ocean.

Anyway, it wasn't a great forecast, but I felt that we'd be able to fish until at least noon.  Coming from Ukiah area though, John requested a later than usual start so he wouldn't have to get up at 3AM.  I can't begrudge him for desiring to make the morning more bearable, and he's been out on enough trips with me to have proven his dedication to getting on it early, many times over.  We'd arrive well after sun up, start a couple hours later than usual, and if we got cut short by afternoon winds, so be it - this is what I knew John was agreeing to by making his request, and any good guide will acquiesce to such an ask from a long time client and good friend like John.  The other side of the coin is that I will always advise a new client that we need to start as early as possible in order to maximize our opportunities for the day.

Turned out it was pretty nice sleeping in a bit on a fishing day.  My commute down 101 with the sun out instead of the dark of night was quite pleasant, and going over the Shelter Cove Road wasn't a hassle, even with construction going on.  I pulled down onto the ramp to see that John had arrived at least half an hour early, as that's where I was on the schedule - his commute had gone well too.  Warm greetings and a quick exchange of home grown produce, and we were to work setting up our kits for the day.  The ocean - especially right at the launch - was exquisite, and there wasn't a breath of wind.  Thick fog on the water came right up to the shoreline, but the sun was out over town and over our heads.  It was Summertime at its best at 8AM down in the Cove, and we were stoked to be starting our adventure.

We'd talked the night before about fishing along shore to try to find a California halibut, which have been very scarce at the Cove this season.  Now the thick fog right offshore was making that choice look very appealing.  One worry for me was that the abundant baitfish and the presence of salmon would lead to us hooking up with the off-limits chromers that have been so prevalent right near the harbor for the past few weeks.  I had a plan though.

Even though I love to document these trips and to use my writing as a well of inspiration and hopefully positive vibes, I don't really share my tackle and bait information in fine detail - it's a guide thing!  My plan though, to avoid hooking a salmon, was that we'd run a couple of really large and flashy lures that were in my Gampa's tackle box, I've had for years and only briefly tried one time.  They're called "Manistee" by Luhr Jensen, and they'd probably be classified as a 'spoon' but are oversized at about the size of a Pringles potato chip.  With one large barbless hook behind it, it would be hard for even a big fish to do more than lip hook itself on it.  We'd run these near the bottom, and hopefully a halibut would find it irresistible.  As I explained this plan to John and got the gear out and ready to clip on to our swivels, I had noted that there wasn't bait popping all over the place in the harbor like there recently has been, and the water was pretty clear and green instead of the brown 'salmon water' that had been present.  I'd mulled the possibility that the bait would move on and that the salmon would follow them, and it appeared, at least close to the moorings, that that was the case. 

We got the big flashy Manistee's down and slow trolled along, enjoying easy conversation and perfect weather, and sure enough, the big bait party was over right in the cove.  Down the coast a mile or more we could see birds working, and this is consistent with how the bait moves at this time of year.  Our target zone was looking good for finding a halibut. 

We spent the next several hours fishing back and forth along our preferred depth lines and GPS tracks.  Those hours feel like minutes on nice water with the sun out and just enough bites and hookups to keep things exciting.  Having landed a couple of smaller rockfish and missed a couple of other bites, it seemed that the fish were sluggish, and later we'd note that all the species seemed to be short-biting.  I hypothesized that all the bait that had been here for the past weeks had these fish well fed.  They were reacting instinctively to our offerings, but they were so non-committal it was pathetic at times!  Like, you're slow trolling, and your rod just starts to bend like you're snagged or on seaweed, and you wait and watch, and it thumps just slightly, and when you pick it up it's got a fish on it, but several seconds after the initial bite - after you've waited and let that potential halibut munch and get the bait in its throat - it STILL spits your hooks!  Getting played by rockfish, lingcod and - we're sure of it by the headshakes - a few halibut was a blast!

By late morning the fog started burning off, and before long we could see the buoys offshore.  I'd offered to John that we could head out to the reef to string up some of the more reliable biters, but he was happy to keep trying for a flat one.  It wasn't long before his choice paid off.  After a few hookups that we thought would be halibut and turned out to be rockfish or lingcod, John got one on that made itself more apparent.  His rod was pumping, and the fish was staying down - this looked like the right kind!  He brought it up gently as I got in position with the net, and - BOOM! - we were on the board!  Such a fun fishery.  I got one an hour later that looked short in the water, so I left the net in the holder and gave it the Vulcan Neck Pinch to briefly put it on the board.  Twenty-one inches and should've named it Sexy Fins of the Day, but the camera wasn't handy.

Right at high tide I got a different kind of bite.  Slow trolling into about 18 feet of water, I felt a hard thump, and then my line was loaded up.  I worried it was a salmon when the fish moved laterally to the surface to my right, and then it jumped out of the water right between John and I.  Thresher!  After a few jumps and some really strong runs I knew it was hooked well, but they usually cut your leader with their teeth, or their giant tail cuts your mainline and takes everything.  Once I could see this fish up close though, I learned that one of my hooks was in its back.  I also noticed that my weight was gone.  This shark had literally eaten my weight, and when I loaded up the rod, my hook buried into its back.

Now I could see that the position of my hook was making it unlikely that the shark would be able to cut my line with its tail.  I tightened my drag and resolved to wear this fish out and see if I could get it to hand for removal of the hook from its flesh. 
Within about five minutes I had ahold of its tail.  I only achieved this due to its size - the fish was maybe 40 pounds and about 8 feet long (they're half body, half tail, roughly).  As I held it by near the end of its leathery tail, the thresher showed it still had a lot of energy, as it wriggled free of my grip and splashed away on another spirited run, swatting my thumb with its tail just slightly as it escaped.  It stung.  I've always looked at thresher sharks with a mind to avoid being in the Danger Zone with regard to where that whip of a tail could go.

After reeling it back in and catching it by the tail a couple more times, getting a few photos, and also rotating its whole body with my wrist when it would wrap in my leader, I was ready to try to remove the hook from its back.  I held the tail tight and got my pliers on the curve of the hook, and when I applied pressure to roll it out of the flesh, the fish didn't like it at all.  I got a little better purchase on the hook, gave it my best twist and pull, and the hook was free.  No blood appeared from the shark's new wound, but it was a deep plunge with no doubt some damage from yanking that barb out.  I held the shark for just a bit longer, having never had to bring its head out of the water, and when I released it, it swam away strong.  Such a fun hookup, and it was only the second thresher I've ever landed and the sixth landed on my trips over the years.

By mid afternoon things had slowed down for us - with another short-bite every twenty to thirty minutes at that point!  We had the one halibut, a few rockfish and one lingcod put away, so we decided to head over to the rocks and try to find a few more for the stringers.  Another hour and a half or so fighting the current and a significantly bumpier ocean out by the point and we were about toast - it now being five o'clock!

After eight hours on the water we were ready to wrap up the mission, get our traditional photo, break down the fish and head our separate ways.  We landed on a sunny ramp with the tide mostly out still, and a group of locals admired our stringers as a couple of overworked and underpaid fish counters went through our catch.  Cold beers were cheersed, and our smiles of contentment and the happiest kind of weariness were affixed in place for the remainder of the day.

With the sun now dropping behind Point Delgada to the west of us, it was still t-shirt weather on the ramp, where I fully employed the Tailgate Fillet Station after jumping in the water to refresh my focus for an hour of cutting.  I cherish that part of the day, where we've completed what was an open-ended assignment to turn hope, desire and planning into whatever level of success we could muster with the boats and our fishing gear.  There's so much more to that moment though - it's not about the catching as much as it's about the experience that was had, and all of the facets of that experience from the weather to the landscape to the water to the animals to yourself and how you use the time to feel and to learn and to enjoy yourself - it's all part of the goal for the day, and it's what life is all about.  The fish are just a bonus and another way to achieve that cherished, weary smile.

Left town well after the dinner hour, and the wind never did blow.

4
Al came back for his third Cove trip with me, and he brought Frank along for his first offshore run.  With just a few days left in this unexpectedly curtailed season, we were fortunate to get a great forecast.  The early morning ramp was more crowded than usual due to the impending shutdown, and it was cool to see friends and past clients heading out for what would be a really nice day on the water. 

My guys had plenty of action, and Frank did great for his first time kayak fishing more than a mile offshore.  Most everyone was getting off the water when we did, around 3PM, and it was all smiles with quality catches being shared and happy tales of smooth, clear water and peaceful whale encounters.  As I set up the traditional Stringer Display Photo, I heard a comment from my gallery of buddies as my clients for the day lifted their catch.  "Check out those stringers!" - it's positivity like that that makes me proud to fish in this community, and I really appreciate the support.

Another thing that makes me proud is to hear how, to a man, the kayak anglers around the Cove yesterday did their best to avoid the salmon that have been so abundant around Point Delgada during this closed season.  The few fish that were encountered were gently released, and strategies to prevent hooking the top nearshore game fish in the north state were executed by design.  In the end, the camaraderie among this tribe is rooted not just in the challenge but very much in the sportsmanship displayed.

Well done, fellas, and thank you.

5
Hookups and Fishing Reports (Viewable by Public) / Lost Coast - 8/13/23
« on: August 14, 2023, 09:39:40 PM »
A few days ago it was announced that the nearshore, boat-based rockfishing season is closing in a week in the Northern Management Area that includes Crescent City, Trinidad, Humboldt Bay and jetties, and the Cape Mendocino area.  This sudden closure is unexpected and a surprise to most, including myself.  With this closure in mind, I figured to get out and fish one of my favorite remote spots as soon as possible.  The forecast wasn't ideal, but it looked good enough to give it a go, so I called up my good friend and most faithful client, David, and we made a plan to get on it. 

Up early to meet David in Loleta where we'd head over the Wildcat together in my truck, I checked the buoy report, and the Cape Mendocino numbers were horrible - 9 feet at 9 seconds!  I clicked on all my forecast pages, and it still looked feasible to fish, but that buoy reading almost had me pulling the plug.  David arrived right on time, we loaded his kayak and gear on my truck, and we were on the road for the Cape.  I took my time over the hills, and when we couldn't see the mouth of Bear River as we descended into Capetown, I figured the fog would also be thick along the coast where we planned to fish.  Sure enough, 10 minutes later we were coming down the Wall into pea soup - the breakers weren't even visible from the road...

No worries - this is what navigation tools are for, and my years of crawling around the rocks, diving the nearshore and kayak fishing offshore along this stretch of coastline have me very confident in my ability to safely guide my guests to and from the fishing grounds.  The key determinations now were about which launch to use and whether a sloppy sea surface might prevent safe boating.  With a Hazardous Seas Warning to the north of the Cape and a Small Craft Advisory to the south, I definitely had thoughts about my assessment of the forecasts and the practicality of fishing on this day.

We would have time to further observe the ocean while unloading, transporting and setting up our boats down by the water, and if things didn't look good, we'd bring it all back up the trail.  With our gear ready and the shoreline still looking fine, we launched onto the foggy ocean around 9AM.  Right away it was apparent that the inshore area was heavily affected by confused chop coming in from the outer waters.  With not much swell at all, the boats were performing fine and not taking water over the bow - always something to watch out for and to avoid.  I confirmed that David was comfortable in the rodeo-like slop, and we pushed out into the fog.  If things were worse out there our day was going to be over, but instead we found that the sea state improved a bit offshore, and there was still no wind.

With the help of electronic navigation tools that are always backed up with redundant compasses, we made our way to the fishing grounds but stayed a bit further inshore than usual.  With our offerings only getting pecked at a couple of times on the way out, the fishing started slow.  Soon though we were both enjoying a steady bite from the black rockfish, and within an hour or so we had several species up.  As was part of the forecast, the ocean mellowed a bit, and the breeze stayed down for us, which is absolutely crucial out there at one of the windiest spots along the coast of California.

For the rest of the morning and into the early afternoon, David and I had a ball catching about an average number of average sized fish.  The trophies that used to regularly come out of the Lost Coast nearshore waters are fewer than they used to be - such is fishing, and any sportsman should hope to 'graduate' from the big fish obsession at some point!  Believe me, wanting a bigger fish is one of the strongest instincts that any man has.  We tried to focus on how happy we were to get on this remote water before the closure kicks in, so how many fish we caught or how big they were weren't our priorities this day.  It feels good to really put effort into appreciating the trip for way more than the fishing, and spending the day with David always provides me with inspiration to look beyond the basics of timing, duration of trip and special targets.  Our big goal of spending more time at this special place before it's deemed off-limits had been accomplished, and the challenges associated with the fog and the less than perfect ocean made the entire day feel successful.  Ironically, the slowish bite added to the overall feeling of challenge, and our deliberately selected harvest had value that goes far beyond the poundage of protein obtained. 

We wrapped up our mission before mid afternoon, and getting back on the beach after being in the thick fog for hours provided its own 'we survived' exhilaration that, along with not getting tossed by a little swell on the beach landing, set the mood at "giddy" for the chores of packing the gear back up the hill and onto the truck.

With the hard work done, we moved down the road to my preferred Tailgate Fillet Station location where the traditional Stringer Display Photo was executed, a bucket of cold seawater was obtained, and for an hour or so I got to enjoy what is always a favorite part of the trip.  Cutting the fish with care and packing away the freshest fillets on ice while enjoying a cold beer is all the better because it's the culmination of a plan that came together on short notice and a day that worked out for us to accomplish what wasn't easy.  The fact that David has obvious and heartfelt recognition of and esteem for the very type of experience that I've described, made him the perfect person to be on this trip with me.

Thank you, my friend, for going on another solid adventure with me.  The day was one of the very best, without a doubt.

**************************************************************

Met DaveTheSynthGuy through NCKA in 2011.

6
This past Sunday I had a great trip with regular clients Greg and Kerry, and they'd enlisted their good friend Steve for this summer's Shelter Cove kayak fishing adventure.  The forecast a week out looked great, but what's been happening lately, for the most part and by my account, is that the wind is persisting beyond the usual and predicted durations.  By the time our day was approaching, the NWS forecast had escalated and was saying 15 to 25 knots with gusts to 35 knots!  I wasn't pleased, but my guests were already booked up in their VRBO situation, and...  it's the Cove.

Driving up Paradise Ridge just before dawn, the fir boughs in the road were numerous, and as I crested the peak and started down into Bear Creek the fog was moving across the landscape like heavy cross-traffic, as the wind made its presence known.  The trees were still moving almost all the way down to the General Store, but as I passed the Fire Department and descended to the launch the more typical mild breezes of first light welcomed me.  There was no swell to speak of, but a corduroy surface offshore confirmed that there'd be some slop to deal with if we wanted to fish out at the red can.

I parked in my usual spot up against the breakwater and started in on unloading and assembling the kayaks and all the gear for the four of us as the light of dawn was beginning to illuminate the shoreline around me.  Having the launch to myself in the dark as I put together the tools and toys that enable the day's adventure is a special time and a big part of my tradition.  As I unstrap and set the boats in the sand and proceed to retrieve seats, paddles, burlap sacks, fishfinders and batteries, rods and nets from the cab, each corresponding to kayaks that I've customized for the individual needs of my guests, I have a parallel line of thought running along with the rote inventorying of the gathering and assembly going on.  My mind is on the weather too, of course, but the stronger stream of consciousness that is present along with the motions of outfitting the gear has more to do with my spirit than anything else.  I am thankful for my time alone at the launch in the twilight, and I have a deliberate focus on more than just making the physical pieces work efficiently in order to get my people on the water and catching fish safely and successfully for the day.  I have duties as a guide to do my best to achieve the basic goals of the trip, but overlaid on all of it is an obligation as a human being, to dedicate myself to engagement on a level that will, if successful, transport my clients and I from the waters off of Shelter Cove on a breezy, choppy morning when the bite's been tough, to another place where, feeding on one another's good nature and soulfulness, the ultimate results of our angling will not determine the outcome of our enterprise for the day.  It's a long-winded way of saying I get psyched up, and the importance of that process, that runs simultaneously with my gear assembly for about 30 minutes as dawn lights the scene around me, is deserving of the extra words.

My guests arrive right on time at six A.M. sharp.  Greetings with my regulars and introductions to Steve and his wife Christine are as warm as they are brief, and soon I've assigned kayaks, distributed immersion gear, filled out my guide sheet and confirmed our overall readiness.  Time to down a bowl of Cheerios with 100 freshly picked wild blackberries on top, make a quick visit to my office up the hill, park the truck and embark on our mission.

Since the hot but very much unwanted late July salmon bite was no doubt still occurring, my fishing focus was on avoiding what are at any other time the ultimate target of my guide service.  What an alien feeling of disappointment it is to have to evade and shun the thrill of pursuing my spirit fish, but, clearly, the guide obligations I mentioned earlier include nothing as critical as trying to prevent harm to the salmon that we could and probably would encounter during our day on the water.  I employed strategies with the tackle as well directing where and how we presented our offerings, and we were able to stay away from the silver fish, for the most part...  We did briefly hook one coho and one 10 to 12 pound king, and the rockfish were pretty cooperative, considering how slow the bite's been.  We were able to land about 15 rockfish, a few undersized lingcod, and the new guy, Steve, came through with excellent beginner mojo and landed his limit of nice eater sized lings.  The breeze was present but not harsh, and we never ventured out further than the lighthouse point, so we were able to elude the nasty slop and chop that was coming in from the 20 to 30 knot winds a few miles offshore.

By early afternoon we were coming due to wrap it up, as most of the powerboats already had, and the brown "salmon water" with bait popping the surface seemed to have shrunken down to only a small area right at the launch.  I had the group make one pass inshore, looking for a halibut, and very soon the only fish we'd hook on that final pass was a beautiful Chinook.  It was on my line, and I horsed it, hoping it would pop free from my hooks or I could get it to leader quickly and apply the pliers to a hook in its lip.  I wouldn't be so fortunate.  One of my hooks was in its throat, and after trying my best to dislodge it, I made the call to cut the line.  The fish wasn't bleeding, but it must be tough to swallow anchovies with a hook in the way.  This episode marked the end of our fishing day, as I announced that we really should just pull the gear and head in.  It was clear that our best chances of hooking up were the forbidden trophies in the water around us.  At this moment, I thought of my dad and all that he taught me about the salmon.  He also taught me about how living with priorities for doing what's right is the ultimate goal for a person, and that that gift of moral clarity isn't just something that people achieve without trying. 

In that moment, where my choices and the very guidance that I was providing would terminate our fishing activities for the day, my most important commitment was to myself.  Hours earlier, in the dark, hustling gear onto the wet sand of the ramp, with my mind focused on the next pieces that my hands would manipulate as I convened the inventory of the kayaking and fishing apparatus that my group would employ, that parallel train of thought was about who I want to be.

I spend lots of time with the salmon - as much as I can, basically.  I believe that these iconic fish represent a hope and a way for our own species to emulate a life of balance and purpose.  I am interested in finding a way for human beings to reconnect to our animal nature and to find our place again, among the others. 

I would like to encourage all of the anglers to do whatever you have to to avoid the salmon this year, and I would also hearten all of you to do whatever you have to to seek out the salmon in your life.  While you're assembling your kit in the dark of the launch ramp, let the background of your mind play a trailer for the movie of your personal story of purpose and honor.  In the end, no matter what is caught, harvested, eaten or exhibited, the voice of your heart should be the guide for your soul.

7
After my Thursday Cove trip I had to get home, unload and rinse the gear, and then it was 3 hours of loading up 8 boats, 9 seats, 9 paddles, 9 PFD's, 9 wetsuits, 9 sets of booties, 9 jackets, 9 crab rings, big pot, cooker, propane and a bucket - one kayak was a tandem, if you're doing the math!  My group was an extended family - all adults - from Nevada, Utah, Arizona and Boston.  They came out to Eureka, and our crabbing trip was their big event for the weekend.  What a great group of people.  They had a ball, and so did I. 

It was really fun to pull off the outfitting on this trip, and now I know that I can fit all the gear for 9 people on my truck at once!  Taking people from out of town on adventures on the salt is such a blast - I'd better start working harder on marketing.   :smt001

Big thanks to Holly, Michele, Hebert, Megan, Melynn, Nik, Mitch and Tawny.  Next year hopefully I can get them fishing offshore.

8
Last week I got down to the Cove for the first time since last Fall.  It's a bummer not having a salmon season, and it was even more of a bummer that they were everywhere...  We had to bail out of the nearshore zone where we were hoping to find a halibut, but all there were were salmon.  MarkL and his son Jacob were fine with me adding in Al S., and the four us hit it hard in sloppy seas offshore.  The abundance of salmon around had the rockfish and lingcod hiding in their holes, but once we got out to 80 feet or so we found some blacks.  Al brought up our only legal ling at 18 pounds/37 inches, so that was cool.  For a shitty forecast, we did well and got in a 7 hour session on the water.  Fillet time at the tailgate felt great, and the Cove was pretty active with locals playing on the beach in the sun.  In general though, things are slow there, with no salmon, the rockfish just opened a couple weeks ago, and no Californians showing up - charter has caught one, and Jake mentioned that the salmon are hitting everything, everywhere.  He's heard of Mendo coast charters releasing 40 salmon a day...

Big thanks to Mark for doing another trip, and congratulations are in order too, as he bagged that nice Pacific the day after our trip.  Great to fish with Jacob again, and Al was stoked to catch his biggest fish from the yak with that 18 pound ling.

Tough guide season for me with no salmon, but I've still got lots of cards to play.  Not going to be guiding forever though - I'm getting old!   :smt001

9
My Seasonal Rounds are kicking in close to home.  The wild blackberries are finally starting to show, and I got out on the bay and found a nice halibut to take home.  Appreciating it for sure.   :smt001

10
Hookups and Fishing Reports (Viewable by Public) / Trinidad - 6/19/23
« on: June 21, 2023, 10:01:08 AM »
Kerry and Greg have gone out with me several times over the past four years.  Yesterday was our first time out of Trinidad together.  The forecast was looking great compared to recent conditions, but that's not saying much since we've been having regular gale force winds and heavy seas.  Still though, with a call of 5 feet at 9 seconds and 5 knot winds, I was confident that we'd get outside for some rockfish action and hopefully a few lingcod.

Our day arrived and the weather looked great - no fog or wind, and the swell was mild.  We got geared up and headed out by just before 7AM, and we were soon fishing outside of Trinidad Head.  Greg was the first to pull up a nice black rockfish, and then I had one up.  Not to be outdone, Kerry then brought up the fish of the day, at around 5 to 6 pounds.  We were all celebrating the fast action, and over the next couple of hours we realized how fortunate we were to have a strong bite to start, as things kind of died out as the tide came in.  We ended up with plenty of black rockfish and everyone got good action, but we couldn't find a lingcod.  No complaints - we'll get 'em next time.

It's always a great time with Kerry and Greg, and Monday was no different.  As we shared stories and laughs at my tailgate, we had a great interaction with a family that had shown up to crab and fish.  As the matriarch had passed by, I thought I'd seen her eyeing the pile of freshly filleted carcasses that I was stacking to one side.  I wanted to offer it up, but I didn't want to be disrespectful.  Within the next hour, as members of that family passed by us between their vehicles and their activities on the beach, we became engaged, and an enquiry was made about the fate of the carcasses.  We were thrilled to offer them up to others who would make use of them - fish head soup, for the win!

I shared a story with our new friends about how people I've met through NCKA have helped me to appreciate the full use of the fish.  I'm still basically a fillet guy, but I do harvest collars (always on salmon) more often, and I just cut the cheeks out of a few larger lingcod recently.

The connections made and the good feelings shared are what the trips are all about.  For sure.   :smt001

11
Tom and David are on my special trip list - I met them both through NCKA, years ago now.  My call went out early in the week, and these two were in.  With the forecast pages pretty consistent in their prediction of mild seas and winds for Thursday, a south wind and long period swell call had me crossing my fingers.  My hopes were realized when we descended the Wall in drizzly fog to see a smooth ocean below the marine layer.  I was prepared for a breeze and surface chop with low visibility due to fog - not to mention strong currents due to the big tide swings currently.  None of those things materialized, and that had our trio smiling ear to ear to start the day.

We took a few minutes to assess my different launch options, all of which I know well and each having benefits tied to certain conditions including tide, swell direction, winds...etc.  Soon we were dialed in and starting to load gear from the trucks to the beach.  Hopping down the boulder wall with armloads of tackle, bait, safety gear, water and the rest of the toolkit, we got a good warmup before collaborating to move our three kayaks down.  With the forecast indicating that the afternoon should be even calmer than the morning, we proceeded as if we had the entire day to work with, and what a feeling of freedom and joy that was!

With our boats all loaded up, full immersion gear donned, VHF radios tuned to the local channel and ample sunscreen applied, we  were off.  It wasn't long before David pulled up a nice black that shook itself from his hooks, evading capture.  He'd watch a couple more respectable keepers escape like that before employing the net to start building his stringer for the day - it was an all smiles affair.  I was next to have a flurry of catches - 3 vermillion rockfish in a row found my offerings, and just like that I was 75% done with a sub-limit of these wonderful fish.  Tom then got in on the fast action, boating two lingcod to 35". 

The hours go by like minutes out there - especially when the weather is near perfect and the fish are biting.  The Cape treated us so well, and by mid afternoon we knew that we'd better wrap it up and get the rest of the day's jobs done.  An easy landing on the high tide beach had us dodging some foam as we dragged the loaded-down yaks up to the base of the boulder wall, and by the time we had all the gear back up on the trucks a cold beer was in order for sure.

We loaded up, headed down the road to my preferred fillet station location, got our group photos done, and the guide was about to earn his pay!  I got Tom's fish knocked out first - he'd been up since 3AM to get here from Mendocino County, and after celebrating and settling up our business deal, he was on the road for home.  David and I stayed, and the Professor was a busy bag man as we put up the rest of what likely totaled out to over 50 pounds of boneless fillets for the day.

By the time we rolled up the hill toward home the hour had gotten pretty late for a fishing day.  I apologized to David for the trip running so long, but he wasn't having it!  Sometimes in life opportunities come along that will move you out of your comfort zone and demand more from you than 99% of regular activities will.  Being prepared with the right equipment and knowledge are key factors in every one of my guide trips, but the energy and positive attitude that really fuel marathon days like yesterday are fully contingent on the will and determination of the individuals involved. 

That's why my guys are on the Special Trip List.

Big thanks, brothers.  I look forward to the next round.

12
It's been some years since I've shared my spawner surveys on here.  I always appreciated the responses and stoke that were generated here as I showed some highlights of what I've devoted much of my holiday season to for many years.  In 1997 I started seeking out spawners on the Eel.  I wanted to know what the status of the fisheries was since threatened/endangered status was conferred on coho, steelhead and Chinook at the time.  I was 28 years old and didn't even have a kayak yet or kids (adults now!) - it doesn't seem so long ago.

For over 6 years now I've had access (permit and key) to vast timberlands with a couple dozen productive spawning creeks.  Since pot was legalized, the number of 'trespass grows' on private land is way down, so the creeks on the timberland do way better in terms of flow than those that are on private or public land where diversion is still a thing (there are still lots of trespass grows on public land).  So the timberland streams, for the most part, have been running perennially through the drought years, and that makes a huge difference for coho and steelhead especially, since those two species of anadromous fish want to spend a year or more in-stream.

Another big commitment that I've made for years has been tracking the arriving Chinook in the lower Eel, near my home.  This year we were tracking 5 to 7 thousand kings in one little spot that was only 4 to 5 feet deep at best.  Once the rains came I was present as they migrated out of the lower river, dispersing along the main river channel.  More rain didn't come allowing them to get to spawning creeks, so many of the fish started to spawn in the main stems, and even more recently when rain came the fish could just get to mid sized spawning creeks.  Now the atmospheric river has arrived, and the fish will be able to get up into the smallest spawning tribs where they'll have the best chances for success due to lower risk of bedload movement, siltation or catastrophic changes in the streams such as slides or numerous trees down.

In the past few weeks my survey partners and I (at least one who I met through NCKA, years ago) got on some pretty good spawning density for Chinook, and just the other day, on Christmas, I documented the first coho of the year on the creeks that I survey.  Both CDFW and the timber company benefit from the data that I and my partners gather, and over the years I've been able to discover some novelties in the run as well.  It's very gratifying volunteer work, and my overall goal and message is about how important these fish are to our future.

I will now flood this post with photos showing some of the work.  Be sure to check the "captions" in the small print below the pix.

Thanks, NCKA, for being a consistent source of inspiration for me for 18 years now.  Today happens to be my anniversary of joining this club in 2004.  Holy crap!...

 :smt001

13
Stayed up ridiculously late to fulfill a tradition with a great friend.  Things started out slow, with the first couple rounds of pulling my six rings only producing several dozen palm sized bugs.  Domenic got us on the board with a jumbo about 45 minutes in, and soon I got my own keepers with two in a pull on the north end of my string.  Dom pulled a couple more, but there just weren't many bigger crabs - a rock crab was even looking appealing.  We took a beer break around 130AM, and Dom got his fourth as we picked up our gear for the night.  On my very last pull I got a double again, and it was pretty gratifying to take home 4 each on a scratch bite.

Even if we'd skunked or just taken home a few rock crabs, just being out there in the dark, prepared for the weather and easily handling the nighttime seas, hanging with my buddy doing things we've done together for many years - it was outstanding.

Grabbing a thrill and living right - crabbing the bay in the middle of the night.

14
Friday afternoon - Launched right at high tide.  Two hours in the fog.  Got bit 30 minutes in.  Hooks popped out in the net - barbed, even.  I was fortunate.  32"

Sunday Guide Trip with Mario - Great late season forecast held up, and the fish bit well enough to fill the stringers. 

Weather's starting to change up here, but there should still be some good days on the water before the end of the season.

15
Hookups and Fishing Reports (Viewable by Public) / Humboldt Bay - 10/3/22
« on: October 03, 2022, 09:39:17 PM »
Epic forecast today had me hoping to guide on the Lost Coast, but it wasn't in the cards for my crew.  I decided to hit the bay since I've heard of some nice halibut coming out lately.  Matthew was able to join me, and we scratched out two apiece over several hours and several miles.  It was nice to get out local, save some gas money, find a few fish and enjoy the company of a great friend.   :smt001

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