Large salmon returning to the Santa Cruz Harbor have created quite a stir! The scene has created a frenzy at times, as anglers try their luck at catching salmon swimming along the banks of the harbor. The north end of the harbor has drawn most of the attention. Some unsporting behavior has resulted in increased rules to keep the situation a positive one.
These fish are a result of hard work and a huge expense absorbed by the local nonprofit organization Monterey Bay Salmon and Trout Project. The salmon are brought from the Sacramento Valley to the net pens in the harbor each spring. They are acclimated for five days then released. This process is very effective. It increases the survival rate for outbound juvenile Chinook salmon as they do not have to traverse the Sacramento River and delta through San Francisco Bay. They are transitioned from fresh to salt water right here in the Santa Cruz Harbor, then feed and released. The efforts require thousands of volunteer hours and tens of thousand of dollars. The cooperation of the harbor to allow the net pen operation to be held in the harbor every spring is also they only way this program is possible.
This is considered a terminal fishery; these fish are brought here by fishermen and meant to be caught by fishermen. The salmon that show up in the harbor are fish that had not been caught out at sea by sport and commercial fishermen. These fish are highly valuable for fun, food, and the local economy. Fishing for salmon is a part of our culture and one of the reasons early settlers came to the Monterey Bay. These fish play a large role in the harbor also.
In an effort to keep the situation a positive one, the harbor has designated every other day —even days of each month —for kids fishing. The fishing area is a small, designated boundary at the north end of the harbor near J dock. People fishing need to remember to be courteous guest at the harbor. We want MBSTP to continue to be allowed to host the Chinook program here.
When these kids hook up to a monster king salmon, they are so excited and if they land it, the smiles are contagious. The new Kid Fishing program is a hit. Some mornings you will find volunteers from MBSTP there to help set the kids up, weigh the fish and provide information. To become a member of MBSTP or find out more go to www.MBSTP.org
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. He also hosts a fishing show on radio station KSCO (1080) from 8:06 to 9 p.m. Thursdays April through the end of August.