Steelhead fishing season in our area closed Tuesday. For steelhead anglers, the season was rather slow in terms of actually catching fish. Some might consider our rainfall totals as too much of a good thing. The local streams ran high and muddy most days.
There is a silver lining around this cloudy winter however. The much-needed rain has filled our reservoirs, recharged the aquifers and scoured the local creeks and streams to create great gravel spawning grounds and deep pool habitat for juvenile steelhead. In the long run, the big waters of 2017 will serve to preserve and ideally increase the population of our native steelhead trout.
As we dry out, the ocean is getting cleaner and more productive. Todd Fraser at Bayside Marine in Santa Cruz reports, “The weather is nice here and perch fishing is getting good. …The harbor mouth is open and it should be a nice weekend. The crab fishing has gotten better.” Chris Arcoleo in Monterey proved that point this week, especially regarding Dungeness crab. Chris’ Fishing Trips in Monterey sent the Check Mate out Friday and Saturday. The anglers aboard returned with full limits of Dungeness crab both days, and counted 400 to 450 sand dabs, respectively.
Now that we’ve had some relief from the incessant storms and big swells of winter, Santa Cruz Small Craft Harbor workers are finally getting ahead of the drifting sand that essentially closed the harbor entrance in January. In their March newsletter, Harbor officials said, “The Port Commission directed staff to enter into a contract with Pacific Tugboat Service to bring in the vessel Sammy G to assist with dredge operations while Dauntless’ engines are replaced. Dauntless’ starboard engine unexpectedly broke down, and Commissioners elected to replace both of its engines.”
While depths are still shallow directly outside the harbor entrance, the inside channel is as deep as 20 feet, according to the latest soundings. Care should still be exercised when transiting the harbor mouth, but it looks like this crisis has been resolved.
Clean water and dramatic sculpting of the long beaches of southern Santa Cruz County and northern Monterey County bodes well for anglers competing in the Sand Crab Classic Perch Derby this weekend. We have received consistent reports of very good fishing for barred surf perch on both high and low tides from the big beaches. On Wednesday, 9-year-old Wyatt Dixon took his grandfather Dennis Smith to one of the beaches below Seacliff. Both Dixon and Smith caught multiple barred perch measuring up to 13 inches, as well as one undersized striped bass that put up a great fight.
Pier anglers are catching perch in Capitola as well. Mike Hicks from Capitola Boat and Bait reports anglers putting shrimp bits on the “two-hook wharf rig,” and using #6 or #8 hooks have caught quite a few black perch this week. Anglers are also catching and releasing quite a few juvenile leopard sharks lately, according to Hicks.