Location: San Francisco
|As I scout new spots to fish or try to "crack the code" of spots that I have frequented, I have started to pay more attention to the depth of water where I drop my line. Structure is still king in my mind, and I've caught the majority of fish from shore in water less than 6ft, but the deeper water can offer opportunities to target different and sometimes bigger fish that might be holed up around structure that you just can't see.
Obviously a boat or kayak makes targeting these fish trivial but for the landlocked angler, exploring points that offer access to ledges and drop-offs can be a time consuming process. I highly recommend taking advantage of the depth charts provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). In addition to depth soundings, NOAA charts will often show submerged rocks and other structure, further helping you decide if an area is worth the hike-in to fish. I've taken sections of these charts from the areas I fished this month and overlayed them with Google satellite imagery in order to help better visualize the terrain.
Only managed a few outings this month but per usual they were all fun, educational, and in most cases resulted in good food for family and friends.
February 3rd: Fort Baker Jetty & Point Cavallo [Marin]
Jetty & Point Cavallo [MAP]
Bandaged up my poison-oakified leg and headed out to Fort Baker once again with Uglystick in tow. Thought about making a hike down to Yellow Bluff but decided against it and made our way to the point and jetty instead. Started dropping our lines around 7:30 and I managed to hook a medium-sized monkey on the second cast; just shy of 21" but pretty well-fed. Whenever I hook up on the first or second cast like that it usually means one thing: it's going to be a slow day. The only other fish landed by me was probably the smallest rockfish I'd ever seen. I did manage to lose a few fish after hooking them throughout the morning-- the coolest of which was a black rockfish that I hooked in a little pool right underneath the lip of the point; I knew what it was because I managed to lift it out of the water a foot or two and get a good look at it before it wriggled free. Looked to be about 11 or 12". Decent fish but I was excited about running into a species I hadn't caught before. Uglystick added another monkey to the pile and I also managed to catch a sizeable rock crab-- well over 6"-- on a snare I had hand-lined off the point, so I was definitely going home with food for at least a breakfast and dinner the following day.
The most interesting thing that day were the conversations I had with other anglers fishing off the point as well, casting swimbaits and plastic grubs deep off with talks about past catches of larger fare. I remembered that when I got home and looked over the NOAA charts and sure enough, there's a pretty sizable drop-off right off the point and again from the jetty. I've never been very good with fishing artificials but I also never put a lot of time into it either. Looking at the depth chart however, it seems like this might be a decent place to practice fishing deeper water from shore.
Looking at depth charts helps give me a better sense of where I should concentrate my efforts if I am looking to target deeper water, or unseen structure where I might be able to post my bait up. I highly recommend looking up maps at http://www.charts.noaa.gov/InteractiveCatalog/nrnc.shtml yourself and see what you can discover!
No matter which side of it I fish, the Golden Gate is always a beautiful sight. Photo courtesy of Uglystick
My lone MFPB and rock crab from that morning
This guy was a beast.
Plenty of meat in that crab for some open-faced breakfast sandwiches
Toasted sourdough, sauteed beet greens & turnip, avocado, steamed crab, fried egg, pass out.
A very "by the numbers" thai coconut yellow curry feat. veggies and MFPB
If you're catching a bunch of monkeys and don't know what to do with that meat, stews and curries offer a chance to use a lot of it at once and have plenty for leftovers.
11ft Uglystick Bigwater / Daiwa BG 6500 / 80lb Braid / 175lb anglers clip -> 100lb leader Hi/Lo with #1 on 3-way crane swivel [top] & 2/0 octopus hook [bottom] -> 4oz & 5oz torpedo weights.
Bait: Squid & Shrimp
February 16th & 17th: Pacific Grove SMCA, Pigeon Point, Martins Beach [Monterey & San Mateo County]
Pacific Grove [MAP]
This was the trip I had been daydreaming about since the beginning of the year. I had Friday off due to Lunar New Year and decided to make a two-day fishing trip out of it. I headed out at 4am and made my way down the 1 towards Monterey, making a necessary breakfast sandwich and coffee pit stop at Coffee Mia in Marina. Fueled up, I set up shop a little ways east of Point Pinos-- well within the Pacific Grove SMCA-- and just started casting out my hi/lo to see what would bite. The weather was gorgeous and, as it turned out, the fish were very hungry. A number of cabs just shy of legal, a number of striped seaperch, and about a dozen rockfish were caught as I made my way down from my starting point towards Lover's Point. In this SMCA you are only allowed to take finfish and it shows in the extremely healthy dungeness population that will swarm your bait if you're not careful in some of the sandier spots. However despite the hungry crabs I managed to catch fish everywhere I set up shop, if not every cast. It was so much fun and I had a great time talking with few parent/child angling duos I came across who also were taking advantage of the LNY holiday.
What was supposed to be a starting point for an epic tear through some spots in Pacific Grove followed by Santa Cruz and then perhaps Davenport ended being all Monterey that morning and afternoon. I was having too much fun out there! I walked away with a nice 12.5" grassy and 4 MFPBs ranging from 19"~24". I left around 3:30 and made a beeline for Pigeon Point since I had reserved a bed there for the evening and wanted daylight on the shore to clean my catch. Traffic had other plans and I made it to PP with about 30minutes of daylight left, rushed to the tide pools and frantically cleaned and skinned the 4 monkeys as well as filleted the rockfish, bagged it up, then stored everything in the community fridge prompting wide-eyed looks from the other hostel guests.
I really would like to find the time for another day-long trip to Pacific Grove and perhaps and bit further south on the other side of the Asilomar SMR, without the worry of making a long drive back on the same day. Beautiful coastline to explore and I encourage anyone curious about it to check it out.
Wedged between the Lovers Point SMR and Asilomar SMR, the Pacific Grove Marine Gardens SMCA offers a beautiful stretch of rocky, kelpy coastline with plenty of parking near most spots.
One of a few just-shy-of-legal cabs I pulled up that morning. Really like the coloring on this one. Most of the cabs I pull up further north are blue.
Lots of striped seaperch caught that day but none were larger than 10" which was kind of surprising.
Are these B&Ys or just different colorations on grassies? I guess I expected B&Ys to have more pronounced "black" in them, but the yellow coloring on these fish was really striking.
Definitely a lot of questions from the other hostel occupants as to the "bag of meat" in the fridge.
Pigeon Point [MAP]
On this second day of fishing my way back to SF I met up with Uglystick and Ryanrs at Pigeon Point to start things off. I had a head start on everybody given that I stayed the night there and started fishing around 6:45. Looking at the depth charts there are a few areas that you can cast out from the rocks around the Point and hit deeper water without having to bomb your casts. I chose and area to the south of the lighthouse and on my third cast felt a hefty tug on my line. A few head shakes and stronger-than-expected fight and I finally pulled up a fine looking 14" grassy. I put it on the stringer hoping for another fish or two that morning but it wasn't to be. Along with Uglystick and Ryanrs, a number of other people started showing up and casting out but everything seemed pretty dead. Things got crowded pretty quick even though everybody was pleasant and polite, so we all just decided to pack up and explore some other spots a little further north.
We failed at making our way to Bolsa Point just north of Pistachio Beach due to the trail turning into a non-trail full of poison oak; I was in shorts again and not going anywhere near that, so a Bolsa Point outing would have to wait for another day. The second failed scouting effort was to be just south of Bean Hollow, a little past the rocky area on its south side. Lots of walking and scrambling around rocks and we didn't manage to really find a spot that seemed worth spending the morning at. A couple lost rigs later we decided to head to Martins Beach earlier than planned as at least that area was a known quantity.
Pigeon Point has some good rocks and ledges that can accommodate a few anglers casting out into deeper water, but when those areas are occupied you really need to think creatively about where to drop a line. In fact, I would say that the best time to check out Pigeon Point is two hours before and an hour after a very low tide (1ft or minus) with moderate swell. At least then you'll have more shoreline to explore which can take the pressure off some of those coveted cast-out spots, as well as open up areas that don't see a ton of pressure.
Looking at depth charts like this can help inform your planning as to whether a spot might be worth the outing or not.
One of the advantages of staying here overnight is that you'll get first crack at the fishing here come morning and you won't have to do any driving!
A fine 14" grass rockfish caught on a frozendog-style 3-way rig.
Martin's Beach [MAP]
The three of us made the walk down to MB from the turnout off Hwy 1 and spread out along the northern end where the beach meets the cove. It was a warm and sunny day and both the beach and cove were filling up fast with visiting couples, families, and anglers. Lots of people out fishing today but nobody was trying to crowd anyone. Since the water level was still too high to access the shelf on the north side we did some surf fishing to kill the time and had lunch. The only bites to be had were on our sandwiches. Saw some anglers in waders brave the swells and make their way onto the shelf but the water was still crashing over. An hour or so later we lugged our stuff out there and joined a half dozen anglers, including a couple fishing with their daughter, all casting out around the shelf for everything from perch, to rockfish, to a few guys soaking herring for sharks. Ryanrs and I casted around a bit but I only managed to hook up a large striped seaperch as well as harvest a few uni. Ryanrs got himself on a grassy and juvenile cab-- his first I believe! Seeing him catch those fish, along with a cheery lady ecstatic at the perch she landed, was definitely the highlight of a slow fishing afternoon. Always enjoy seeing people excited to catch fish.
As for that rocky outcropping, I may be done with fishing the shelf area at Martins Beach until the swells of spring subside and I'm dealing with a generally drier, safer area. It's deadly slippery out there pretty much all the time now.
Made my way home finally with a bag full of monkeys, a couple rockfish, a nice perch, some uni, and great memories.
The only things brought home from that second day of fishing. Beautiful weather and good company more than made up for the slow fishing
And if you're interested in what I used some of those monkeys for....
Smokey Tomato Fish Stew Recipe
11ft Uglystick Bigwater / Daiwa BG 6500 / 80lb Braid / 175lb anglers clip -> 100lb leader Hi/Lo with #1 on 3-way crane swivel [top] & 2/0 or 4/0 octopus hook [bottom] -> 4oz & 5oz torpedo weights.
Bait: Squid & Shrimp
February 28th: Lands End [SF]
Lands End [MAP]
A brief outing this morning was primarily to practice casting out swimbaits at spots that have stonewalled the traditional hi/lo recently. I don't yet have a dedicated setup that can throw lighter swimbaits and lures but also enough backbone to haul fish up to elevated spots that would destroy my current swimbait/lure salmon steelhead rod. So today I decided to tie a 3-way rig with one 6~12" line going to lighter weight to keep the swimmy down near the bottom, and a length of fluorocarbon going to the swimbait. It worked out much better than expected and I was able to get into a good reeling rhythm that imparted the action I wanted. I only got one hit after 50 plus casts but it was violent, jarring, and ripped my poor keitech off it's hook. Never experienced something like that so it was pretty thrilling.
I did bring a bit of bait along and so I ended the morning casting around Point Lobos again and only managed a very pretty 10.5" grassy that was also super chubby. Plenty of fish in the freezer and so this guy went back into the drink after I took its mugshot.
This is a good map to help you better visualize the depth and structure-- especially those unseen rocks-- around Lands End should you decide to explore around here.
Another beautiful, if cold, morning out at Lands End.
I loved the coloring on this 10.5" grassy I pulled out of Point Lobos. It was just a lot more varied and vibrant than many of the grass rockfish I catch around these parts. He lives to be caught another day.
11ft Uglystick Bigwater / Daiwa BG 6500 / 80lb Braid / 175lb anglers clip -> 100lb leader Hi/Lo with #1 hook on the top 3-way crane swivel & 2/0~4/0 octopus hook near the weight -> 5oz & 6oz torpedo weights.
Bait: Squid, Shrimp, Baby Octopus
11ft Uglystick Bigwater / Daiwa BG 6500 / 80lb Braid / 175lb anglers clip -> 18" 100lb leader to 3-way swivel -> 6~12" dropper loop to 2oz weight & 3' 50lb fluoro leader -> Swimbait
Plastics: 4.8" Black Keitech
March is going to be another packed month of family and friend visits but that may simply mean more time in the early weekday mornings practicing my swimbait skills. Hopefully I can manage one day of traveling down to the HMB jetty or further south if conditions are rough.
Catch & cook. No time for selfies.