Fish Sniffer On Demand Digital Edition Issue 3615 July 7-21 2017 - Page 35

SALTWATER VOL.36 • ISS. 15 L July 7 - 21, 2017 35 I’VE NEVER HOOKED SO MANY HALIBUT, BUT… ast Thursday, June 15 I had the pleasure of hosting the 12th annual Fish Sniffer/Cal Kellogg School of Fishing Couples Trip aboard the California Dawn. Twenty-six anglers turned out for the trip and with solid halibut fishing in San Francisco Bay the excitement level was running pretty high. The idea of the Couples Challenge was born 12 years ago as a collaborative project between The Fish Sniffer, The Cal Kellogg School Of Fishing and Captain James Smith of California Dawn Sportfishing. Most of the time, charter boats are the domain of men. While you do see some ladies, I’d venture to guess that at least 80 percent of all charter boat patrons are men. The goal for the Couples Challenge was to provide a venue where guys could bring out their wives and girlfriends for a day of live bait potluck fishing on the bay. To make things exciting we came up with a boys versus girls “tournament” structure, with bragging rights between the sexes being the grand prize. Of course, since every Cal Kellogg School of Fishing event is sponsored by Penn, Berkley, Abu Garcia, Fenwick and other notable manufacturers, there is always plenty of fishing gear up for grabs too. We keep the scoring involved in the event pretty simple. Every keeper size gamefish that hits the deck is worth one point. At the end of the day the total number of points racked up by the girls and the guys decide the winner. Now you would think that the men would have a lock on this event because they have the most charter boat fishing experience. The fact is that the women win the event the majority of the time. When there are halibut in the mix the women generally do very well. They don’t seem to do as well when targeting lingcod and stripers. When going after lings and bass, having a good “feel” for the bottom is a distinct advantage and this is where the experience of the men comes into play. Conversely when fishing for halibut, it’s generally best to put your rod in a holder and let the fish do the rest. Women have the edge in this scenario because generally speaking they are more patient and less inclined to pull the rod out of the holder prematurely. “There are halibut all over San Francisco Bay. We could go up north or stay in the central bay, but I’m going to head down south and try out the area near Brisbane,” related Captain James Smith as he guided the California Dawn through a gap in the Berkeley Pier and headed toward the Bay Bridge. I planned to do more filming than fishing during the trip, but I brought along a light Cousin’s baitcasting rod matched with a Abu Garcia Orra Inshore baitcaster spooled with 30 pound braid…You know, just in case… As James lined up the boat for our first drift, I got my friends and first time charter boaters, Jim and Becky King and Amy Humphries dialed in with their gear and then I pinned on a lively chrome bright anchovy on my wife Gena’s rig. Gena is paranoid about putting out too much line and snagging other anglers so I wasn’t surprised when she asked, “Feel my rod and see if I’m on the bottom,” about 30 seconds into the first drift. I grabbed the rod, lifted the tip and lowered it. Not feeling a thump, I knew she wasn’t on the bottom, so I spooled out a few feet of line. The sinker thumped the sand and I immediately felt a fish take the bait. I dropped the tip, gave the fish a few seconds and jabbed the hook home. I yelled “FISH ON” and handed Gena the rod. She cranked the halibut up and Mike, the Cal Dawn’s deckhand and relief skipper deftly scooped the 23 inch keeper into the net. I thought, “A minute or two into the trip and we already have a keeper halibut in the box. This is going to be an epic trip.” And it was, with a few twists and turns. Bites and hookups were plentiful and halibut were caught all around the boat all morning long, but most of the fish were shakers in the 14 to 20 inch range. I’d say that for every keeper we landed our anglers landed five or six shakers. This is an indication that we’ll have great halibut fishing in the years to come, but it can be a little frustrating when you want to box a halibut dinner right now. Prior to the trip, I’d rigged up a Fenwick baitcasting rod teamed with a Abu Garcia low profile reel spooled with 30 pound test braid. I told our a nglers that the angler that caught the first keeper halibut of the day would win that rod. Of course, Gena was excluded from winning it. About 20 minutes after Gena landed her fish another keeper was landed by an angler on the stern and he had himself a new rod and reel. He immediately rigged it up for drifting and proceeded to break in his new toy, catching several more fish throughout the day. Throughout the morning, Captain James made several moves within the South Bay trying to find an area that held more keepers. In the afternoon, we sample the Berkeley’s Flats in the Central Bay, but we never found a concentration of larger fish. Instead we continued catching and releasing undersize halibut, while putting the occasional keeper into the box, along with a few stripers and a big hard fighting leopard shark. With Chef Marc turning out a steady stream of appetizers throughout the trip, folks were spending a lot of time coming and going from the cabin. Roving the deck, I would often see an unattended rod getting hit. I’d grab it and gently fight the fish until I could pass the rod off to its rightful owner. I’ve never hooked so many halibut in my life in a single day, but all of them save for the fish I hooked on Gena’s rod were undersize. When all was said and done at the end of the day, we’d harvested 19 halibut to 12 pounds, 3 striped bass to 8 pounds and a WHAT’S HOT SALT by Cal Kellogg Becky and Jim King teamed up to land this tasty leopard shark, while targeting S.F. Bay halibut aboard the California Dawn during the 2017 Couple’s Challenge. Photo by CAL KELLOGG, Fish Sniffer Staff. beautiful 20 pound leopard shark. And we’d released at least 100 undersize halibut! To say we’d had an action filled day would be a big understatement! The ladies, easily outpaced the men to take the title once again in our annual, battle of the sexes on the bay! Both