Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Fish Out Of Water

Let me tell you about our Monday. We'll call it the Magical Misery Tour...

As is our custom, SturgeUrge and I went fishing Monday. We've had more than a little trouble getting our time on the water this I've chronicled in this space.

We started planning mid-week. Gathering the intelligence wasn't easy though...there's been big swells, or big winds, or both all week, limiting the effort and consequently limiting the fishing reports! Throw in the biggest tides of the year, and there wasn't much halibut encouragement to be found at my usual haunts.

The SF Bay/San Pablo Bay/Suisun Bay Marine Forecast didn't help either...all week the same ol' same ol'...SW winds 15 to 25 knots every afternoon. Monday held a big Minus Tide smack dab in the middle of our launch window.

I woke up really early Monday morning...before 0500. I did a lap around the internet looking for some straggling such luck. There was a hiccup in the Marine Forecast, however...SW winds 15 to 25 knots in the afternoon, except 15 to 35 knots around Angel Island...dimly noted...

Out of bed before 0700, I made a pot of French Roast and packed the cooler. Siced grilled pork chops and smoked provolone sandwich fixins, sliced cantaloupe, gardinera and kimchee, plus condiments and India Pale Ale.

I was at the SturgeUrge Compound by 0830, and we hit the road by 0845. Traffic was brutal on Hwy 24, so we took San Pablo Dam Road to Richmond. When I got out to feed the gate a 10 spot, the wind was already 25 knots! We noticed there wasn't a single boat trailer in the lot at the ramp, and decided to take a spin down to the waterfront to get a Big Picture look at conditions. There was a whole flock of whitecaps...even behind the breakwall! Plan B time.

We really wanted to go for halibut...but it wasn't going to happen today. We decided not to fight City Hall...big minus tide, plus big tide swing, equals Sturgeon Fishing!

We still had that near-gale to reckon with, so we decided our best option was Montezuma Slough north of Suisun Bay in Solono County. We crossed the river via the Carquinez Bridge, and took Hwy 780 East so we could eyeball the Carquinez Straights for whitecaps, and stop in Vallejo for some Sturgeon Bait.

The bait shop was gone! Turned into a restaurant! We drove another quarter mile to the Vallejo Boat Ramp and Bait Shop. We'd wondered out loud a couple of times over the past few days..."I wonder if they've dredged the Vallejo Ramp recently?" We pulled up to the ramp and burst into laughter...there was 40-50 feet of mud between the bottom of the ramp and the Mare Island Straights! It was still an hour and a half before the bottom of the -1.8ft Low! Throw in an abandoned tire stuck in the mud, and you've got the picture!

Our little fishing trip had morphed into a long Sunday Drive (with boat trailer)!

But wait! We weren't done with our Great Circle just yet...we still had another half hour to get to the Belden's Landing Boat Ramp on Montezuma Slough!

Rearmed with a quarter pound of frozen Grass Shrimp Bait, and a half dozen digital photos of the buried launch ramp, we headed east to what was left of our day. We arrived at Belden's Landing, and the winds kept following us all the way! Now we were about thirty miles east of the Bay...hella Hot Wind!

We elected to run upstream a mile or so, set anchor in 25 feet of Chocolate Milk colored water, and threw out our was now 11:00AM! The extra miles east had reset the tide clock too...there was another hour or two of outgoing tide before we'd lose an hour or so at the slack.

At slack tide it's impossible to bait fish on the anchor. No tidal current at slack make you vulnerable to the whims of the wind...on anchor, the boat wags around the anchor like a dog's tail at dinnertime.

We picked up the baits and I made lunch. We took the opportunity to look around at our surroundings. The scene was wonderful...the wind dappled water, some glassy water reflecting acres of tules and cattails, the towering golden hills with Wind Turbines on all sides, lit up like Christmas by the blazing afternoon Sun...God's Country, but hot as blazes! There was one big sturgeon jumping clear out of the water to taunt us. We were getting bites...nibbles striped bass, stealing our bait. SturgeUrge caught and released one baby striper. If it was a trout, it would be called Pan-Sized. The little dude was maybe 10 inches long. We wondered why it was even eating the bait- it had a big belly like a black bass before spawning...weird.

That was it...our fishing trip to Purgatory...or next door...I got home and drank four or five pint glasses of ice water...I almost got re-hydrated before bedtime snuck up on me.

Undaunted, we've already planned to go next Monday. We're gonna hit Tomales Bay for Halibut and Dungeness Crab. KirkVallus is coming to town later this week, and mentioned that he wanted to go fishing while he was in town...this should really be fun!

For all the driving we did Monday, we would have been better off going up to Tomales Bay in the first place! Next Monday the tides are tailor-made for halibut hunting, and crab fishing!

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