Denis Peirce: Salmon off the coast is on! |

Denis Peirce: Salmon off the coast is on!

Denis Peirce

The salmon sport fishing season out of the Golden Gate and Bodega Bay opened on June 17 and the results have been excellent. Many of the boats have been returning with early limits of salmon in the 10 to 20 pound range. We are looking at a very good ocean salmon season in California waters.

The midwinter salmon abundance projections were modest. The season opener which has been as early as April in past years was postponed until mid June for the zone which includes San Francisco up through Fort Bragg. This was not too much of a sacrifice because the rough ocean conditions in the spring can keep anglers off the water in these months.

The salmon abundance projections are far from exact science. They are the best guess made from data that is spotty at best. So far this year they seem to be way too low.

The 2017 season was a total surprise. There were salmon off the coast from the Monterey Bay up through San Francisco in great quantity. The sport anglers were often times spending more time traveling to and from the fishing spots than actually fishing. For a long stretch last summer the salmon were concentrated an hour and a half south of the Golden Gate and the boats could land their limits in an hour the fishing was so good.

Coastal catches

So far this season there seems to be a concentration of salmon off the Marin coast. Many of the Bay area boats are heading north out the Golden Gate and heading toward Duxbury Reef south of Point Reyes. This is good news for the Bodega Bay fleet.

Historically, Bodega Bay has been “Salmon Central” in July and August. The last couple of seasons the results from Bodega have been very sporadic with rough seas limiting days on the water and the salmon feeding south of the Bay Area.

The recent reports for Bodega Bay have been good. There have been days with limits of two salmon per rod and other days with only a fish per rod.

I prefer fishing out of Bodega Bay because you can avoid much of the commuter traffic in the Bay Area. It is a smaller port in a nicer setting.

For those with a boat fit for salt water there is a good ramp in the bay. The caveat for salt water salmon fishing is the sea conditions off the coast. The wind can make for a tough day on the water.

Farther to the north the salmon season off Eureka and Crescent City opened June 1 based on very good salmon projections for the Klamath River salmon. Early in the month there were salmon and whales feeding off the Eureka coast.

Recently the wind has been keeping most boats off the ocean. Those that have been out in the last week have not found the bait fish or the salmon. But the silver lining has been the run of California halibut that have moved into Humboldt Bay.

In addition to the salmon boats fishing the halibut, small boats are getting in on the action in the protected waters of the bay.

Bay Area bites

This same phenomenon has been occurring in San Francisco Bay. The halibut fishing along with stripers had been the focus for the sport fleet while waiting for the salmon season to open.

Both the striper and halibut fishing in the bay has been good. Not all of the fleet is fishing salmon, there are boats still working inside the bay.

Another sleeper of a halibut fishery is in Tomales Bay adjacent to Bodega Bay. Tomales sits above the San Andreas Fault where it heads out to sea. It has a boat launch ramp for private boaters and this is the season for the annual halibut migration into this bay.

A friend, Adam Koons, caught his first halibut of the season two weeks ago in Tomales Bay fishing from his kayak. He launches from the public ramp, catches his own live bait and then fishes for halibut.

If you are interested in more details on this fishery he will be a guest this evening on my radio show in the 6 p.m. hour.

The salmon season looks so promising that many of the party boats are getting booked well into July. If you want to go you should consider booking a trip now. Waiting until the last minute is not recommended.

Denis Peirce writes a fishing column for The Union’s Outdoors section and is host of “The KNCO Fishing & Outdoor Report,” which airs 6-7 p.m. Fridays and 5-6 a.m. Saturdays on 830-AM radio. Contact him via his website at

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