The adrenaline seemed to sizzle in my brain. It was the kind of excitement that only saltwater anglers can understand. I was living the dream, helping California Dawn deckhand Mike Verrone work the deck during a wide-open bite right underneath the Golden Gate Bridge. It doesn’t get any better than that!
The boat’s decks were splattered with blood, squashed bait and destroyed terminal tackle. Dozens of seagulls circled, dipped and squawked overhead and there were probably 20 fish in the box. The bite was getting more intense with every passing minute.
Boats were everywhere dotting the rough water. By now everyone had heard about the bite and it seemed as if everyone had shown up from guys in tiny two man skiffs to full blown charter boats with their rails lined with anglers.
Captain James Smith deftly brought the boat around, hesitated for a moment picking his spot and then nosed the boat into the drift just in front of a series of big rollers that were at least 7 feet high. Our anglers were ready. Their hooks were baited with lively anchovies and they were awaiting the word from the captain to drop their lines.
“Hang on folks we’re about to take a couple big rollers,” I yelled. A beat later the boat lurched hard to port, then recovered, then lurched again.
The Cal Dawn’s big diesel engines roared in reverse as Captain Smith used them to keep the boat in the proper lane.
“Drop them, drop them now,” the captain’s voice crackled over the boat’s speakers. “There are fish all over the screen. Drop your gear to the bottom and the slowly reel up.”
Yells of “Fish On” and “Hook Up” erupted all around the boat. There were only two kinds of anglers on the rail right then, those that were hooked up and those that were tangled!
Mike was up front working with the gaff, while I worked the back of the boat with a huge long handled net.
From a distance the water looked slate grey and murky, but when you looked down into it you realized that it was light emerald green and actually pretty clear.
When you glimpse a hooked striper in water like that they are absolutely beautiful. Instead of looking silver bright like they do once they hit the deck, the bass have a subtle green hue and you can actually see them changing colors from a more intense electric emerald color to more subtle shades of green and some of them even “light up” in tones of bronze. And all of them small or large look powerful. Saltwater, huge schools of bait and big pulsing currents are like steroids to the bass.
Dana Groome was hooked up with a nice 7 pounder that had wrapped several other lines. I scooped the fish, tossed it out of the net onto the deck and moved on.
Dan Marinelli was hooked up in the back corner with a fish similar to Dana’s. This wasn’t Dan’s first rodeo and it showed. He skillfully swam the bass into my net and then reached up and grabbed his swinging sinker as I lifted the bass aboard.
“Nice fish Dan,” I exclaimed, flipping the bass out of the net and moving up the rail to net another pair of fish.
From the amount of numbered fish tags gone from rack was could tell that we were close to limits and a quick count revealed that we did indeed have full limits of 62 stripers in the box with many of the fish ranging from 6 to 11 pounds. It had only taken Captain Smith 51 minutes to limit the entire boat! By 9 o’clock we were motoring away from the Golden Gate to go hunt for halibut on the flats.
The intense action I just described took place on Friday June 30 and was basically a repeat of the action we’d experienced aboard the boat the previous day with relief skipper Bryan Chan at the wheel.
The trips were milestone events for me. I’ve hosted too many charter boat trips to remember over my time at the Fish Sniffer, but June 29 and 30 represented the first time that I’d ever actually chartered a boat and booked my own trips.
Originally, I was only going to charter the boat for one day, but when the first trip filled up within 6 hours of me advertising it, I quickly booked a second day to accommodate the overflow and there was still a long roster of anglers that didn’t get to fish with us because the trips filled up so fast.
Originally, we’d wanted to get out on the ocean for rockfish and lingcod, but when the trips rolled around, the weather was simply too bad outside the gate for that type of fishing. Luckily for me the red-hot striper bite at the Golden Gate’s South Tower saved the day and nobody was complaining!
The bass bite while wide open the first day, wasn’t as intense as it was on day two. The first day the fish were averaging about 5 to 7 pounds and our top bass went 16. On day two the average size of the fish was much bigger, but the high-end weights were a little smaller.
I think our top bass on the second day went about 11 pounds at the South Tower, although Dan Marinelli landed a much larger bass while drifting for halibut on the second morning that we quickly released after a photo because we already had limits in the box.
The follow up halibut action was productive both days. On day one my anglers put 19 keeper halibut to about 14 pounds into the box and released dozens of shakers. On day two we nailed 12 keeper halibut to about 12 pounds, plus lots of undersize fish.
Since both trips were Cal Kellogg School of Fishing adventures, there were lots of prizes up for grabs including rods from PENN, Fenwick, Daiwa and Shimano and reels from PENN and Abu Garcia. Plus, I had a variety of products from P-Line including fillet knives, braided line and monofilament.
In closing I’d like to thank Captains Bryan Chan and James Smith of the California Dawn along with Mike and Chef Marc for two outstanding trips. Of course, a special thank goes out to my sponsors that supplied the prizes for the trips. And finally, a huge thanks goes out to the readers of the Fish Sniffer that turned out for the trips.
The Fish Sniffer was founded as a family business and we consider our readers and subscribers to be family too. In reality I wasn’t fishing with a bunch of my readers, I was hosting trips with a bunch of my friends!