Denis Peirce: Heat wave should send you to the Bay |

Denis Peirce: Heat wave should send you to the Bay

This week marks the second heat wave of the year. The geography of California dictates a couple of phenomenon when the Central Valley heats up to triple digit levels. First you can count on thunder showers at the highest elevations of the Sierra. The second effect is the rising of this hot air causing the delta breeze. As the air rises and moves up the valley toward Redding cool moist air is drawn off the Pacific, through the Bay.

Yesterday at the Emeryville Marina, jackets and sweatshirts were the clothing of choice, a far cry from the 100 degree heat an hour away in Sacramento. If you are seeking a cool weather fishing trip your best bet could be heading downhill to the Bay rather than going uphill to the high country.

The salt water fishing this year has been surprisingly good. Expectations for the fishing year seemed bleak when the salmon fishing was closed down. Salmon is the glamour species for north state harbors and many landings depend on it. For the San Francisco Bay fleet, the halibut cycle took an upswing at the most opportune time.

The California halibut range is from northern Baja up through central California. Unusual ocean currents can move these fish farther north some years. Halibut migrate into the San Francisco Bay in the spring and return to the ocean any time from late July to November. This year’s numbers have not been seen in the bay since the early ’90s. The current high catch rate has triggered a DF&G monitoring program to insure that the current regulation requiring a 22-inch minimum size and a two-fish limit is sufficient to protect this fishery.

“This successful harvest is likely due to a strong class of halibut that were born in 2004 and such reproduction is historically infrequent,” said DF&G Director Donald Koch. “Although there is no indication that the halibut fishery is not sustainable, additional scientific data will allow us to better assess how the species should be managed, particularly in booming population years.”

Craig Stone from the Emeryville Sport Fishing Center noted that “Halibut seem to prefer high salinity conditions. There is a direct correlation with drought years, high salinity in the bay and good numbers of halibut migrating in from the ocean.”

The other species featured by the bay fleet are stripers and rock fish. The stripers are in the bay in good numbers. Typical results for a potluck live bait trip on the bay have been one halibut and a limit of two stripers per rod.

The rock fishing has been limited primarily by the ocean conditions. There has been almost continuous northwest winds since March. The resulting rough seas have precluded the sport fleet from getting outside the bay. During the month of June there were only seven fishing days beyond the Golden Gate. As we move into summer and early fall this will be the best time of the year for calm seas and trips out to the Farralon Islands for rock fish and lingcod. There has been an interesting consequence of the heavy and sustained north west winds. It has caused an upwelling along the coastal shelf that has brought up krill in large quantities. Krill is a small shrimp-like marine invertebrate animal that is a primary food source for young salmon. This is a nice coincident with the release of this year’s salmon smolts. Hopefully, this will contribute to a rebound of our salmon fishery.

I spoke with Stone of the Emeryville Sport Fishing Center for this article. I asked about costs of trips for this year. Emeryville has only raised prices this year by $5.00 per angler. What they have done to stay abreast of fuel pricing is to raise the minimum number of anglers per trip. For instance, last year there was a 12-angler minimum for a rock cod trip to the Farralon Islands. This year the minimum has been raised to 16. For more info call (510) 654-6040.

Red Bluff Diversion Dam salmon count for the last three days =

July 6, 2008 = 19

July 5, 2008 = 15

July 4, 2008 = 27

Year to date 2008 = 1203 salmon

Year to date 2007 = 1904 salmon

* We are printing the salmon counts at Red Bluff as a indicator of the valley salmon run in general. Salmon fishing on the Sacramento River is closed until November.

Denis Peirce writes a weekly fishing column for The Union and is host of “The KNCO FIshing & Outdoor Report,” which airs 6-7 p.m. Fridays and 5-6 a.m. Saturday on 830-AM radio. He may be reached via e-mail at

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