Wednesday, June 22, 2011

That's Why They Call It Fishing

Monday is Fishing Day on my calendar.

This week SturgeUrge and I wanted to try a new Boat Ramp that was closer to the highly-touted Large Sturgeon Pile-Up in San Pablo Bay. I listened to KFBK's Outdoor Radio Show Saturday, and the bite was still on. Monday was the last day of Spring and the last day of a nine day run of Minus Tides. The Spring Tides are usually considered to be the last hurrah for Sturgeon Season, though for the truly impassioned sturgeon hunters, Sturgeon Season lasts twelve months a year.

Launching near the bottom of a minus tide can be anywhere from easy/peasy to impossible depending on the design of the ramp, and whether the ramp needs dredging or not. The state of California is broke now, and the Dept. of Boating and Waterways seems to be slacking on maintenance and dredging, so we've learned the hard way to do our homework before trying a new launch ramp at low tide.

I posted a question about the Petaluma River Boat Ramp on my online fishing club's forum, and got plenty of advice in no time. Coastside Fishing Club flat-out rocks!  Coastsider CaptainRon suggested I phone Joel, the owner of Leonard's Bait at Port Sonoma Marina across the river from the ramp.

Joel was very personable on the phone, advised that we'd be fine with the FV SturgeUrge launching in the morning. Joel said: "Go to the Pumphouse and go a mile...mile and a half east, that's where they've been gettin' 'em" Joel even volunteered that he didn't have any sturgeon bait worth selling and gave me the name and number of an Oakland Bait Shop where we could get the preferred baits. Rather than tow the boat to Oakland during morning rush hour, we opted to just go with frozen bait from SturgeUrge's freezer.

Monday morning we pulled out of the SturgeUrge Compound at straight-up 0800. It was already warm, on it's way to hot. We ran into some rush hour traffic on Hwy 37 outside of Vallejo where the freeway ends and the road turns into single lane divided highway, but we were in the water and pulling into the Petaluma River Channel by 9:30A. The day was getting hotter.

The ramp is right underneath the Hwy 37 bridge
Following Joel's recommendation, we motored down the channel to the Pumphouse, turned east and dropped anchor a mile or so east of the pumphouse in 8ft of water. Our first bait was in the water at 10:30, about 90 minutes before the bottom of the tide. It was already nearly 80°F and there was barely a puff of wind to be found.

They say if fishing were easy and results assured it would be called catching not fishing, we were proving the old spades.

We slathered on the SPF30, but we felt like Thanksgiving turkeys in the oven. The wind was so light that we sat up on the gunnels instead of the seats, trying to catch a little breeze. We likened the water to the Sea of a word: greasy. Barely a wind ripple and the temp was quickly getting into Tropical territory.

At the turn, a tiny bit of wind began to waft through...just enough to keep us from swinging on anchor while the tidal current slowed, stopped, and began to turn around to come back in. We stuck with it for another half an hour before we decided to move. There were just a couple other skiffs in the general vicinity, and we didn't see any nets flying.

We moved more for the air conditioning value than anything else. We motored back past the Pumphpouse, and south a mile or so to the Shellbank. Baits in the water and we waited for the fish, and the wind. It was so flat that sound carried a long ways. We could hear the splash sounds of fish jumping, but we couldn't see the splashes.  We eavesdropped on other boats 200 yards away. A family out on their Boston Whaler was drifting by grousing about how expensive bait was at Loch Lomand's Bait Shop.

SturgeUrge's rod tip started dancing, and he jumped up, grabbed his rod and set the hook. There wasn't much turned out to be a big bullhead. It would be a great bait for big striped bass, but it was unharmed so it went back into the water.

The tide was starting to pick up some speed, but the wind was still MIA. Urge's rod went off again. This time it was a keeper striper. SturgeUrge made quick work of the fight and asked if I wanted the fish. "Nope" I replied, and we snapped a photo and released the lip-hooked fish.

That's certifiably greasy water behind SturgeUrge!
That was it for the day. We stayed out through several applications of Sun Block. We even saw a sailboat anchored up near the Pumphouse fishing. We agreed it was a good way to spend the time waiting for a sailor's wind. We pulled the plug just before 5PM. The wind finally came all the way up to 4-5 knots. It was 94°F back at the ramp.

Tuesday, it's forecast to reach 100°F in Sacramento, and the high 90's here in the Inland Valley. While looking around the internet this morning I noticed that while SturgeUrge and I were out on San Pablo Bay baking like Thanksgiving turkeys, it was snowing on the Colorado Rocky Mountains.

Doesn't that say it all for this cold, wet, LaNiña Spring?

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