Salmon fishing season opened with a pop, not a bang, on Saturday, April 4 from Pigeon Point to the Mexican Border, and Santa Barbara Channel anglers made a valiant effort. Fishing was generally slow, but may pick up as the season progresses. That statement is true for us on most years.
We are on the southern end of the forage range of Chinook (King) salmon, and some years they show up in force. Most years, there are scattered catches in our local waters but no major bite. Chinook are such magnificent fish that a day of fishing is worth it if even one salmon is caught for the family.
We do have good years and here is a story from one of the best years we’ve enjoyed. It was April in the early ’90s. I had been out of town a few days, returned home late in the evening, caught a few hours of sleep, then dashed down to my charter boat because I had two half-day charters scheduled.
Most everything got done quickly, tackle rigged up, drag settings adjusted, knives sharpened, net inspected, bait stowed, safety equipment checked. I studied my watch and saw I had an hour and a half before my first charter group was to show up.
Thinking things over, I knew where the baitballs of anchovies had been before I left for my trip. It sure would be nice to know where they were now because I’d find the salmon around the baitballs. I had enough time, so I fired up the twin outboards, and ran down the coast on a search.
The anchovies were right where I had left them days before, just east of Platform Hilda, which was later removed along with neighboring Platform Hazel. This was great because I was also painting bogeys on my fishfinder and I knew those marks were salmon.
Glancing at my watch again, I figured I had just enough time to quickly put down a line. I lowered one trolling rig with the boat moving, and as I lowered the second rig the first one went off with a zip of the drag. I reeled in the first one, and just as I hauled a fat salmon over the gunn’l, the second rig went off.
The second salmon came quickly over the rail, and I had twin 18-pounders gutted, gilled and in the fish box. I hightailed it back to harbor and just finished rinsing the boat when the first charter group showed up. I happily showed them what we were fishing for today and they were excited.
Much as I wanted a fresh salmon dinner, I figured lI would be giving away those two salmon to passengers who had no luck. It turned out the salmon were so thick and so hungry that both of my charter groups caught full limits (two apiece) of salmon that day.
So, much to my delight, I got to take home my two salmon and my family was very happy with me. I sure wish we’d have another season like that one.
— Capt. David Bacon operates WaveWalker Charters and is president of SOFTIN Inc., a nonprofit organization providing seafaring opportunities for those in need. Visit softininc.blogspot.com to learn more about the organization and how you can help. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.