The addition of salmon back into our local catches has created a variety of fish in the Bay.
As salmon had started to seem like a mythical fish in Santa Cruz, I removed the salmon gear from my boat and took it home to store until possibly next season.
Well that old trick worked.
As soon as all the gear was washed and stored, the first report came in hot – fish in Santa Cruz right off West Cliff. That lasted a few days, then the salmon disappeared.
Warm water and mackerel moved in overnight and the salmon made a move.
A few days later, they showed up right in front of Moss Landing, feeding on massive schools of anchovies and avoiding the chance of getting swallowed up by feeding humpback whales.
On a recent trip, we steamed out at dark, and the calm, silent pre-dawn air was often disrupted by the sound of a whale's blow.
The scene in front of Moss Landing is spectacular, as salmon chase schools of anchovies and humpbacks are busy doing the same.
While fishing here, within a mile of the Harbor entrance, I had to remind myself we are salmon-fishing not whale-watching – although the latter was equally enjoyable.
It was also nice to be amongst a fishing fleet and whale-watching boats as the echo from the boats' loudspeakers offered a narrative about the whales.
The opportunity to be amongst the feeding whales makes a salmon catch a bonus.
Fishing for salmon at the entrance of Moss Landing is unique due to the sea floor structure.
The gut of the harbor is the entrance to the Elkhorn Slough. The undersea canyon runs deep there and funnels right up the harbor entrance, the walls are steep and tide changes create strong currents.
Entering and exiting the Moss Landing Harbor during a dropping tide creates standing waves outside the entrance due to all the water exiting the slough.
As high tide floods the bay and pushes up the canyon walls, it moves the bait fish from the deeper edges of the canyon up onto the flats.
The salmon here seem to bite best on an incoming tide. The water has started to warm up in the bay and these salmon may keep moving in search of cool water and bait fish to feed on.
If you get a chance to fish salmon locally, enjoy it and keep an eye out for a humpback whale.
- 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