Fish Sniffer On Demand Digital Edition 3813 June 7-21 2019 - Page 30

28 L SALTWATER June 7 - 21, 2019 VOL.38 • ISS. 13 Halibut Frenzy Aboard The Pacific Dream! ive bait season is finally here. For what seemed liked like an eternity, the wait is now over. Bay Area saltwater anglers welcomed the arrival of the anchovy with open arms. Early season halibut and striped bass scores were good, however party boats and private skiffs were limited to trolling dead bait. Thanks to social media, when word got out that bait was finally available, the news spread rapidly. From day one, fish counts immediately skyrocketed. At the epicenter of this hot bite is Happy Hooker Sportfishing. Aboard the Happy Hooker, Captain Jonathon Smith has been experiencing great success drifting live anchovies for halibut and striped bass. Not to be out done, aboard the newest member to the San Francisco fleet, the Pacific Dream, Jonathon’s father, Captain Chris Smith has been making his customers happy with excellent fish scores as well. Not wanting to miss out on the action, I booked a trip with Captain Chris aboard the Pacific Dream for a day of live bait fishing. I have fished with Chris a number of times before, but this was my first time aboard his new boat and I was impressed. The boat is big and wide with plenty of deck space and room to fish. This boat truly fishes like a “Dream”. At 6am on the dot, Captain Chris pulled out of the Berkeley Marina and made a path for the bait receivers at Pier 47. When we arrived, we were in good company as the entire fleet was cued up waiting to get bait. With the bait tanks full, Captain Chris made way for the South Bay where we came to our first stop not far past the eastern span of the Bay Bridge. After a short drift with little action, Captain Chris instructed us to reel up our lines in preparation for a short move to an area closer to the Oakland Airport. This proved to be a wise move, as once the tide got right, it did not take long for the fish to start biting. The anglers on the bow were first to hook up and soon the halibut were coming over the rail at a steady clip. With my rod in the holder, I waited patiently and monitored my tip for a bite. After rebaiting with fresh bait, I FISH SNIFFER COUNTRY by Mark Fong Anglers drifting live bait in various areas of S.F. Bay have been averaging 2 fish per rod to limits while targeting halibut. Photo courtesy of PACIFIC DREAM SPORTFISHING, Berkeley. Celebrating 61 years of “The Unsinkable Legend”!! 2019 Models HAVE ARRIVED! Boston Whaler 160 Super Sport NOW RATED FOR UP TO 90 HP got my first bite of the day. My rod tip loaded up and then it quickly went slack. I reeled up my gear to find the tell tale signs of halibut’s teeth marks on my anchovy, I had been “scratched”. I rigged up with a fresh lively bait and dropped it to the bottom. Before I had time to put my rod in the holder, I felt a halibut grab my bait. I waited until the rod loaded and then I began reeling quickly to set the hook and it was game on. After a short fight I called for the net and soon deckhand Joey had the fish on board. One look at the halibut and I could see that it was on the borderline. “Sorry Mark, it’s just short,” said Joey as he released the fish back This big California halibut grabbed a live anchovy drifted on a into the water.” three-way rig in early May. Little did I know but Photo courtesy of PACIFIC DREAM SPORTFISHING, Berkeley. this was a pattern that would repeat itself for the rest of the day. Close but no cigar. It seems I had been bitten by the “Shaker Bone”. Fortunately for the others on the boat, they were not relegated to the same fate as me. The halibut bit at a frenzied pace. Drift after drift, deck hands Joey and Steve were a blur of action as they netted fish for customers. At the end of the day when Captain Chris fired up the engines for the last time, the final tally was almost two halibut per rod for the 25 anglers plus nearly a dozen striped bass as well. On the trip back to Berkeley, I had sometime to chat with Captain Chris and what he told me was hard to believe. “The halibut fishing this year has been exceptional, especially now since we have live bait,” said Captain Chris. “As good as it is now I expect that it will only get better.” If you would like to book a trip on the Pacific Dream or the Happy Hooker, you can visit their website at http:// S.F. Bay halibut fishing aboard the Pacific Dream has www.happyhookersportfishing. been excellent with big fish like this impressive halibut com and book online or call hitting the deck daily. 510-223-5388. 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