San Francisco Report: Dungeness opener was good for brave skippers

IN THE BOX – Stacked opening day Dungies and halibut aboard the California Dawn out of Berkeley Marina.


SAN FRANCISCO BAY and SAN PABLO BAY – Some boats of the intrepid fleet from San Francisco Bay made morning trips on Saturday for the opener. Most boats came back inside the Bay early to finish up drifting for halibut after scoring limits of Dungeness crabs.

Capt. Jonathon Smith on Happy Hooker said, “We got out Saturday and got our limits of crab early. Then we came back inside the Bay to try for halibut or striped bass. We scrubbed Sunday’s trip, but the week ahead looks good.”

California Dawn was another boat that made it out. Capt. James Smith said, “We know that the commercial opener has been delayed to December 1st at the earliest. On Saturday’s trip we had 19 limits of commercial grade crab and my other boat, New El Dorado III had 23 limits. I came back in the Bay due to bumpy conditions and got a couple of halibut.” Nazsir Jalil from El Sobrante was lucky enough to catch a 25-pound halibut at Angel Island.


Scott Sutherland at Berkeley Charter Boats reported that El Dorado ran two crab-only trips and pulled limits. Big numbers of crab were not hard to find, just hard to get to while keeping passengers comfortable. Fish Emeryville sent out Pacific Pearl, Tigerfish, C-Gull II, New Huck Finn and Sea Wolf with a crabby assignment and they made it pay with full limits of big, full Dungeness crab. Two of the boats toughed it out for combo trips, bagging up some rockfish before ducking back inside the Bay where the water was nicer.

While Bay area crabbers had a tough weekend, San Pablo Bay fishers did exceptionally well. Francisca at Norm’s Bait & Tackle in Vallejo said her customers used anchovies to catch numerous stripers along Meadows Street in Vallejo. She said some salmon were caught and released by the ferry at the Waterfront. When serious seasonal rains begin, salmon will be heading upstream in big numbers and sturgeon should begin feeding aggressively.

At Loch Lomond Bait Shop in San Rafael, Keith Fraser said, “We have never, ever, ever had good halibut fishing in November, but now we do. Halibut limits were possible in October and it is still good. Hotspots are Paradise, the Marin Rod & Gun Club Pier, Loch Lomond Marina and Southhampton Shoals.” Besides the halibut, there were major catches of striped bass, mostly in the 16- to 24-inch range. Shore anglers got them. Boat anglers drifted the moving tides and trolled during slack tides. Best baits tended to be live smelt and anchovies from Loch Lomond Bait Shop. Fraser added, “We have marvelous, excellent sturgeon tides ahead. I wish we had more than just inconsequential rains to get the fish excited.”

BONUS HALIBUT – Nazsir Jalil of El Sobrante holds up a nice, 25-pound halibut taken from the California Dawn Saturday near Angel Island. The boat pulled crab limits outside the bay, then came inside to find calmer waters.