King salmon have started to return to the Santa Cruz Harbor, and anglers are already catching some from the jetties and surrounding waters. This is great news, as the major return of salmon is still one year away, when the catch will be a year older than the two-year-olds we’re seeing today. As the salmon continue to arrive, it is important to fish only from legally designated areas of the harbor while also adhering to fishing regulations.
This year, the Monterey Bay Salmon and Trout Project released 120,000 Chinook, also called king salmon, from the Santa Cruz Harbor. Now, it appears as though several hundred kings have returned from previous years’ releases and are milling around the harbor.
Anglers should prepare themselves by knowing local fishing regulations and where the harbor allows fishing to take place. Fishing must take place a half hour before and after sunrise and sunset. If using bait for salmon, anglers must remember to use a barbless circle hook. If fishing for salmon is done with artificial lures, a barbless hook must be used. The size limit is 20 inches for Chinook.
I enjoy fishing from the west side of the harbor on the jetty rocks while casting in towards the channel water of the harbor. Anglers should not fish from the dock, in the channel of the harbor from a boat, or in areas that are posted “no fishing.”
It is important that we respect this unique opportunity to catch king salmon from shore and not spoil future prospects. The harbor hosts overnight camping and with many residents living on their boats, it is also important to be quiet, clean and courteous.
I like to use a ¾-ounce spoon with chrome and blue finish or size 4 spinners in chrome and green colors. If using bait, I like to thread a cut herring or a whole anchovy on my line and fish it under a small float while using a barbless circle hook. Having an adequate landing net for salmon helps also, because these fish may not want to join us at our barbeque and will fight to the finish! The rocks are so sharp that one touch of the line will cause it to snap.
By releasing Chinook, the Monterey Bay Salmon and Trout Project hopes to enhance the king salmon population here so there will be more fish for area fishermen to catch. Judging by this year’s ocean salmon season and the return of the two-year-old salmon, it looks like it’s been a real success. I can only imagine how many fish may show next year.
There will be a fundraiser for the Monterey Bay Salmon and Trout Project on November 10 in Castroville, when the organization hosts its 35th Annual Albacore Dinner.
- 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 email@example.com.