Expect the unexpected this time of season | Fish Rap – Santa Cruz Sentinel

Recreational charter operations are allowed to crab using only hoop nets for the time being. Skipper JT Thomas made the most of it, usually finding full limits of Dungeness for his clients aboard the beautiful Miss Beth from Go Fish Santa Cruz this week. (Contributed)

Late fall fishing on Monterey Bay can be immensely fulfilling and extraordinarily frustrating. Sometimes both extremes occur on the same day. We are almost guaranteed to experience both within the same week during this time of year.

Much of this unpredictability can be ascribed to the normal movement of local species, like halibut heading for the deepwater wintertime feeding grounds, or lingcod moving in towards the shallows for winter spawning. Governmental regulations can often be counted on to limit fishing opportunities during this transitional season as well, evidenced with the recent closing of nearshore rockfishing two months early for protection of “overfished” quillbacks, and prohibiting the use of crab traps until the danger of whale entanglement abates. (On a personal note, I have never seen a quillback rockfish caught in Monterey Bay. On numerous fishing trips to Alaska, the quillbacks are an overwhelming majority of the shallow water rockfish species I have caught and released.)

Mostly though, it’s the weather.  As we move in towards winter we might enjoy a few balmy days in a row with light winds on the water, perfect for fishing. Then, a sneaky low pressure system rears up by the Aleutian Islands and sends pulses of giant waves and gale force winds our way. Or, we start the day with glassy waters and a clear sunrise, but by noon it looks like Victory At Sea, while a pea soup fog has erased all landmarks for navigation.

The message here is, this time of year expect the unexpected. Don’t get so far away from the harbor that your craft can’t make it back when conditions get dicey. Learn to read the little signs that show the weather change is coming. Whether it’s that fat fog bank out on the horizon, or the line of whitecaps to the North. If you see five or 10 fishing boats roaring past you at top speed, heading for the harbor, you might want to make a couple queries and maybe start moving in that direction yourself.

Checking the weather forecasts is a must before any go-out, and re-checking for changes in that forecast while fishing isn’t a bad idea either. Forecasts will always change. We would consider it negligence of the highest order to foray out on the Monterey Bay or open ocean without proper safety gear including VHF radio(s), GPS and chart plotter and a reliable and accurate sonar unit for depth readings. Other safety items include personal flotation devices, professional flare guns and a couple reliably charged fire extinguishers.

Allen Bushnell also operates Santa Cruz Kayak Fishing and Surfcasting Guide Service. Please send your reports, pictures or questions to scruzfishing@yahoo.com 

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