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Event Article

Fishing for Stripers and Halibut in the San Francisco Bay


Date: 5/7/14
Location: San Francisco Bay
Event Date: 5/4/14
Reviewer: Zander

I spend most of my fishing trips on the California Delta targeting largemouth, smallmouth and striped bass in the river and just to the west is the highly productive fishery which serves as a backdrop to the entire area for which it is named, the San Francisco Bay. I fish in the San Francisco Bay just a few times a year and never really take advantage of just what this massive estuary has to offer in terms of sportfishing variety.


Captain Allen Chin helms the Tigerfish


Anglers can target everything from sharks and sturgeon to stripers and halibut in the bay, and no matter what time of year there is always a fish that you can catch here. At this time of year the stripers are running in between the delta and the ocean to feed and anglers can intercept them throughout the delta all the way to the Golden Gate and beyond. Some anglers even target these fish from the surf and the beaches that line the San Francisco shoreline, but one of the easiest and most effective ways to get to the fish is to jump on a local party boat.


Morning on the Emeryville side of the Bay Area


We had a number of new saltwater reels and rods we wanted to pit against some bigger fish so we contacted Tigerfish Sportfishing, a 50 foot charter boat that is captained by Allen Chin. The boat fishes out of both Half Moon Bay and Emeryville, which is just on the other side of the newly updated Bay Bridge. In addition to potluck trips in the Bay the Tigerfish also runs coastal and Farrallone Islands trips for rockfish and even the occasional salmon and tuna trip. 


Ahi is a member of the Tigerfish crew


Last Sunday we arrived at the Tigerfish in Emeryville at 5:30AM and were greeted by Captain Al and his crew, which includes Matt Rossi, a very seasoned deckhand, and the resident deck dogs, Ahi and Mochi. Cal was very tired and tried to catch up on a few minutes of sleep but by the time I rigged up the boat engine was already running and we were off to our first spot. No rest for the weary when it comes to this “party.”


Cal catches a few zzzzz's


We started fishing out of the east side of the Bay fishing under the shadow of the new Eastern span of the Bay Bridge. The rigs we were using were simple, a 6-8oz. weight under a three way swivel and fluorocarbon leader with a live rigged anchovy on the other. Rental rods on the boat used heavy mono but those that brought their own reels and rods were all spooled with braided line for extra sensitivity.


Bait for the day? Live Anchovies


Captain Al would position the boat ahead of one of his spots and allow the boat to drift over the spot with all of our lines in tow. Matt was constantly moving around the boat helping anglers rig up their tackle but also making sure that every side of the boat had a bait bucket filled with fresh anchovies. Rigging the anchovy just right is crucial, not only to make sure they stay pinned on but to ensure they deliver just the right presentation.


We start out fishing near the new span of the Bay Bridge


We went through the first drift with no bites but because fish were being graphed Captain Al had us reset and move through the drift one more time. This time it only took a few seconds for the first bite, followed by another. As the anglers started fighting the fish to the surface Matt could tell something was wrong, these fish were not swimming like Stripers or Halibut. Stripers will typically run side to side while Halibut will thump the rod downwards in an effort to stay close to the bottom. These fish were erratic and once they came to the surface we could see they were small sharks, certainly not the “fish” we were looking for.


The first fish caught on the boat is an unwanted shark

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