Let’s go fishin’: Baitfish flood the Bay
by Mike Baxter
Nov 14, 2013 | 1729 views | 0 0 comments | 36 36 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Carl "Bocci Boy" Azavedo stands by his live bait tanks hoping his catch remains alive to sell as bait in the Santa Cruz Harbor. Courtesy photo
Carl "Bocci Boy" Azavedo stands by his live bait tanks hoping his catch remains alive to sell as bait in the Santa Cruz Harbor. Courtesy photo
Cycles in nature prevail while anchovies make a come back. Every time I think I have figured out a pattern in nature I get served a does of reality.

For the past five years, small shrimp called krill have become the predominant feed source for many fish in Monterey Bay. As a result of tremendous bio-masses of krill, and productive up-welled plankton, small bait fish have seemed to make a comeback.

It had been many years since we have seen a population of anchovies in the bay. But this summer, stocks of baitfish started to show early and seemed to vanish mid-summer.

That has changed and at this point, there are acres of anchovies out there!

From shallow inshore spots and along the canyon edges you can find massive schools of anchovies, and humpback whales will be seen feeding on them.

The humpback whales enjoy small baitfish and krill while blue whales target krill as their primary diet. Blue whales are not as common in the bay at this point due to baitfish as a primary feed source, but the humpbacks are feeding throughout the bay and put on quite a show.

Along with anchovies, tom cod seem to have made a massive rebound. These small red fish are juvenile Boccaccio rockfish, and short belly rockfish. They are normally found near rocks and reefs although the past two years I have encountered clouds of the small rockfish all through the bay.

The Santa Cruz Harbor had a die-off of anchovies several weeks ago as these fish got pushed into the harbor by predators.

When the mass of anchovies becomes too great, they start to deplete the water of oxygen, so the harbor turns on aerators to replenish oxygen.

In late October, the harbor experienced a die off, but it was nothing like some they have had in the past. In the mid-1980s the Harbor had a horrendous die off. The aerators have helped prevent this from reoccurring.

At this time, anglers are catching rockfish, ling cod and crabs. The crab season is off to a steady start but some pots have come up empty. Commercial crabs should be hitting the docks and in markets at this time.

I am happy to see giant schools of anchovies in the bay and crabs in my steamer.

- Mike Baxter has fished in the Monterey Bay Area since he was a boy and has been a licensed charter boat captain for more than 20 years. Contact him at captmikebaxter@yahoo.com.

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