The morning fog still veiled the coast as boaters steamed in with limits of huge Chinook salmon, the filet tables were abuzz with stories of big salmon caught and bigger ones that got away! The setting may sound like it took place in Alaska; it was actually here in Santa Cruz.
The large Chinooks were caught along the central coast off Avila a few weeks back. The big bruisers showed up off Monterey last week and now they are positioned near Santa Cruz right outside the Harbor in 120 feet of water. The majority of these large, late-season salmon appear to be headed for the Sacramento River and its tributaries to spawn in the next couple months. Salmon are also branching off this school and returning to the Santa Cruz Harbor where pen-raised fish from the Monterey Bay Salmon and Trout Project released them three years ago. At this point there are not many salmon in the Harbor but a few have been seen jumping in the middle of the channel. The Santa Cruz Harbor has designated boundaries to fish. It will be helpful if fisher people adhere to the harbors request to insure future opportunities to host the net pen raised juvenile Chinooks.
The ocean waters continue to be the best bet for salmon. At this time, large 3- and 4-year-old salmon are heading to the inshore waters to begin staging for their fresh water migration that is soon to come. Salmon have been caught along the coast from Monterey to Bodega Bay. If you find bait fish you may find big Chinooks. Some fish are starting to show signs of maturity as their jaws start to hook and the colors get dusky. Many salmon have been caught from 15 to 25 pounds with an occasional 40-pounder mixed in. They are fighting hard and many fish are lost, both sport and commercial fishermen are signing the blues with the “big on that got away!” The chances for salmon out of Santa Cruz should continue, but it is a good idea to get out when they are here.
- Mike Baxter has fished in the Monterey Bay Area since he was a boy and has been a licensed charter boat captain for more than 20 years. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He also hosts a fishing show on radio station KSCO (1080) from 8:06 to 9 p.m. Thursdays April through the end of August.