They’re Back!

This year’s salmon season is in full swing…finally!  It’s making up for the last few years of reduced catches and closures while diminished stocks rebounded.  Every afternoon I have watched enviously as salmon laden anglers disembark from returning party boats docked by my office at Clipper Yacht Harbor.  Tired but smiling, they carry their precious silver fish, tackle and gear back to their cars, headed home to enjoy fresh salmon dinners they caught themselves.

Last week my long time friend and boating accomplice, Chuck Kamanski, and I headed out to test our own luck and admittedly rusty skills.  (Almost four years had passed since I sold my 28′ Boston Whaler at the end of a dismal salmon season when the talk of indefinite closures loomed on the horizon. )  We were fishing this day off Chuck’s 17 foot Scout, an impressively sea-worthy trailer-boat responsible for the demise of many a Tomales Bay halibut and in years gone by, King salmon at Duxbury Reef.

Always mindful of sea conditions, we approached Pt. Bonita with care and felt the first Pacific swells raise and lower us gently, dropping us into the long troughs with that fluid motion all ocean anglers love.  Holding our speed we planed towards Muir Beach, our faces wet by an occasional shot of spray as we crossed the wakes of the accompanying armada of fishing boats.

It’s a short run to Muir so we were idling down and rigging up by 7:45 as the morning overcast lightened.  The spectacular Marin coast line was within view and as I watched cars transit US1, most likely occupied by harried drivers headed to work, I thought of that notable saying, “The worst day fishing is better than the best day working.”  Truer words were never spoken!

We were using my go-to salmon gear:  Seeker Classic 10-25 lb. and 15-40 lb, 7 ft. fiberglass rods matched to 1980’s vintage red side plate Penn Jigmasters I had upgraded with aluminum spools, HT100 drag washers greased with Cal’s drag grease, oversize power handles and spooled with green P-Line XX strong mono.  Deep Six planers, Big Al and Hotspot flashers on 30 lb., 18 inch fluorocarbon leaders with Roscoe ball bearing swivels topped off the rigs.  Next came a Rotary Salmon Killer with a tray fresh anchovy on one rod and a 5.5 inch Apex watermelon lure with a 6 ft., 20 lb. fluorocarbon leader on the other.  Crimped barbs and sharp hooks.  60 pulls later, each rig was thumping along a tide line at an approximate 45 ft. depth, drags set at 6 lbs. and clickers on.

I rotated the companion seat aft, settled in, sipped my Irish coffee and focused on my rod tip. In shock I watched it take several quick dips.  I sprang towards the rod, easing it slowly from the holder, tensing with excitement and pent-up frustration to hopefully land a salmon after such a long dry spell.  Fish on!

Following a short but adrenalin raising fight, Chuck skillfully netted a fat but one inch-under legal size, Chinook salmon.  Carefully released, we watched it slip away into the deep green water.  Laughs, smiles and good-natured jibes at each other were exchanged while I cleaned up, checked the leader and hook, and reset my gear at the same depth.

Moments later a repeat performance of my rod tip found me engaged with a much more powerful, drag worthy Blackmouth, as our Northwest neighbors call the kings in their waters.  Under the discerning (and dare I say, jealous) gaze of nearby anglers on surrounding boats, I soon guided this fish to our boat, stepping back from Chuck and the net, keeping the rod high.  Backing off the drag in case of a last-minute net-evasive run, I politely encouraged Chuck to perform a proper netting and avoid damaging our friendship.  An ex-F14 pilot, cool- under-pressure-guy, Chuck rose to the occasion and cleanly boated this stunning specimen.  Shouts of congratulations from fellow anglers and words of praise from Chuck filled the air.  I raised the fish and scale.  20 lbs. on the nose!

Phone calls and pictures home to our wives reassured them that our intended plan of a salmon barbecue that evening was in fact, now a reality.  Break out the cedar planks and chardonnay.

We fished another four hours with one more fish lost at the net (but not Chuck’s fault as I let slack line develop at that crucial moment) and several more hits but no hookups.  Still elated, we turned home ready to assume the duties of cleaning, filleting, and preparing this fine and long-awaited fish for dinner.

So don’t wait any longer.  Find space on a party or private boat, grab your gear and get your game on.  Fish on!  The boys are back in town.

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