Oct 20

Reunited and it feels so good

Lockdown and COVID are tough. One thing that it has really impacted for me is how often I see my daughter. She’s down an hour south with her mom and she’s not in our “pod.” Add that she’s 13 and hanging out with dad is generally low on the list of ideal 13-year-old activities and, yeah… I haven’t seen her much and when I do it has mostly been me driving down there to hang out for an hour or two. It feels like I sent her off to college.

Fast forward to last weekend and the girl needed some dad time and I figured we’d go fishing. She was game. The spot we were going to head to was actually closed, so I went to Plan B, which was to bring her back to Alameda. She hadn’t been to Alameda since February. Great having her back on the Island.

We went fishing right by the house. Odd it took us so long (~5 years) to figure out we could fish the 2 minute walk to San Leandro Bay.

What I’ve discovered is the bay is a nursery for Leopard Sharks. There are a lot of them. They aren’t big and they aren’t there all the time, but when when you find one, there can be a LOT there.

It was just a joy to have my girl and my boy fishing together. They both had a great time and we got a little bonding time all together. There just hasn’t been a lot of that over the last few years and I cherish it. They won’t have other siblings. She has 1 cousin, he has 0. There are no other kids. This is it. They are half-siblings, but I tell them to round up.

The girl was always a lover of sharks and the boy’s interest has shot up 100x since we started regularly catching them (looking at them and then letting them go). There’s a 7 year spread here, but they both love sharks and a little mutual interest is great.

This is bait fishing and I’m grateful for ditching the “only fly fishing” mentality I had at one point as I would have missed a lot of great time on the water had I stuck to that mindset.

Thank you Bay. You’ve been great.

Feb 20

The raft in the Bay

I’ve been thinking about this for a while and today was the day. I put the raft into SF Bay and went fishing.

The tide was falling, and a bit faster than I would have liked. We had some trouble settling/finding a place to launch, but new friend Josh and I made it happen. Josh is getting into raft fishing himself and MacGyvered a trailer for himself, which we used to launch my raft.

Worked well. I want one.

The wind was up, about 17-20, and cutting cold, but we fished with the wind to our back. I was worried the wind would make it impossible to row, but it didn’t and it wasn’t.

When we finally got on the water we noticed fish… rising? Certainly a lot of fish were breaching in one form or another and it wasn’t long before Josh was onto a fish. It got off just before he landed it, but I thought I knew what it was. It wasn’t a striper and it wasn’t a halibut. It was the third and lesser of the fly-eaters in the Bay. It was a Jack Smelt. There were thousands of them.

So, we wailed on the Jack Smelt for a while and it was entirely entertaining. I don’t know how many we caught, but it was more than Skunked and less than Too Many. It was just a good time. – Side Note: I caught all of mine on a bonefishing fly.

Getting the raft back OUT of the Bay was more challenging as the muck and mud were where the water had been when we launched. We made it. We were mud caked and tired, but no one threw their back out. At this age, that’s certainly what victory looks like.

A fun foray with the raft (I’m still working on a name for her). We will do it again.

Feb 18

Fishing Rules

I was told you fish for these fish at high tide. No point in heading out at low tide and low tide here can be very, very low. The channel, at low tide, is constricted down to something you could skip a rock across. Hard to know just how deep the channel is when it is low like this. I’ve never seen a boat use the channel at this tide, but I suppose that is its purpose.

I wanted to fish at least once a month and this was, by all accounting, the last day of the month. I ducked out of work just a little bit early and raced home. There, I got some meat out to thaw and grabbed by gear and then off to the water.

The tide was as far out as it gets. The water was a long way down. But… the 28th… last chance.

I figured I’d fast about for 30 minutes or so and then I’d head back in time to make dinner.

Funny what you see out there at such low tide. In the water were sponge like plants, bright red. I’ve never seen those before.

low low low tide

I set about the job of blind casting for California stripers. Cast, retrieve, cast, retrieve.

Then, a most unexpected thing happened. There was a grab. I missed it. I cast again and there was another grab and I was tight to a fish. Was it a halibut waiting for more water to get back up on the mud flat? Was it one of the jack smelt I sometimes catch?


It was a striper.

low tide striper

I wasn’t supposed to be able to catch stripers at low tide. I probably wasn’t supposed to catch stripers in February, or on the cusp of a cold front. But… I did.

The thing I knew just before that fish was that low tide was not the right tide (and that February was not the right month). Funny… now I know something else, which is probably also wrong in one or more of a hundred ways.

That’s what I love about fishing. Being wrong and finding out that I was wrong by catching a fish.

Trial and error.

Error and fish.


Nov 17

Two hours in the Bay

Every once in a while I’ll catch a window. Last weekend I had one, bookended by dad duties, and I snatched it.

I drove the 5 minutes to my new home water and realized I picked up the wrong boots, but crammed my feet into then anyway, and I set about the methodical duty of searching for unseen fish with a fly.

The wind had laid down, something it seems to do rarely in the SF Bay, and the casting was easy, rhythmic.

There was some sort of seal party going on as I saw one pop up 40 feet in front of me, give me a quick glance and then slide below the surface again. Then I saw another seal heading in, back to San Leandro Bay. Then I saw another, and another, just heads poking above the water, wakes in their path. There was a commotion further down with loud splashing and snorting, but I was too far away to see what was happening there, and besides, I found some fish.

Cast, sink, strip, strip, strip and then the pull. Such a great feeling. I managed three stripers before I had to retreat back to adulthood, but it was really nice to get some time on/in the water, getting some stealthy nature in hand amidst the million dollar homes and bumper-to-bumper traffic. Always worth it to get on the water.

May 17

Home Waters – Bay Area Style

It wasn’t too long ago I was lamenting the fact there were no fish in the SF Bay Area to throw a fly at. That “fact” turned out to be pretty much wrong. See… there ARE fish to cast a fly at in the Bay (as some of you rightly pointed out).

Stripers are my new trout. The SF Bay is becoming my new Upper Sacramento River. This is my new home water.

I looked on the tide chart and then I came up with a bit of brilliance. I PUT IT ON THE CALENDAR. You know… the Google Calendar that runs my (and maybe your?) life.

At the appointed time I found myself free to leave the house, with my fishing gear, and headed out to fish.

I’m going to have to do that again.

This Bay striper fishing is not full of crashing bait and running down.. well… stripers. You go out and you put in your casts, at the appropriate tide, and you see what happens. It is a little like swinging for steelhead (in this case, most like swinging for half-pounders).

I’m loving having a bit of water that I’m getting to know… a bit of home water. It isn’t full of bonefish and tarpon, but it’s not empty either.

Thanks stripers.

Thanks for playing.

Oct 16

Striper Real Estate

There are times you are out there, going through the motions and you just can tell it isn’t happening. There is no encouragement. There are no signs things are going to pick up. It feels a little like maybe an academic exercise, but, ya know… you stay out there. Maybe an hour passes. Maybe more, and nothing is going on.

So, you focus on your casting, on the mechanics of it all. When do you put the haul in? Where are your hands? What is the angle of the rod? Maybe let’s vary the strip a bit and see if we are picking up weeds.

And then… then something pulls back. It stays on. It shakes its head and bends your rod and your perspective and all of a sudden… you start to think… “Maybe there are some more out here.”

All of a sudden, the possibilities are endless and the water is probably full of fish.

We are a funny lot. Both half full and half empty.



Aug 16

Gut Feeling

I went out for stripers again on Sunday, fishing pretty much the same tide as I did on Saturday. This is a game I am still trying to figure out. I have a hunch about ideal tides and a notion about what role the wind might play, but these are guessed at things.

july 31 striper

The fishing was slower. I caught less than half as many fish, not including a snagged ray that I thought was a monster striper for a few minutes. I don’t know why it was slower, although I do have half a guess.

At one point, I had a gut feeling that the fishing was done and that there would be no more fish caught. I knew it, but had no reason for knowing. The water here is opaque. You can’t see the fish and they don’t give themselves away. It isn’t like bonefishing where you can damn well see the fish are gone and it isn’t like what I imagine striper fishing to be on the East Coast when you might actually see feeding fish. This SF Bay striper fishing for me at this point is just all gut feelings, limited personal history and vague ideas.

I kept fishing though. I wanted to see if my gut feeling would be proven true. I wanted to test it a bit. I put another 100 casts in and had not one fish, not one grab. I fished it the same way I had fished it for the previous hour and a half with opposite results.

Sometimes, you just know.

I remember other days like that on other bits of water. I had one day on the Upper Sacramento when I had all day to fish, but 30 minutes on the water and I knew I wouldn’t catch a fish that day and I didn’t. This is water I normally do very, very well on, but there was a gut feeling I had that the fish weren’t going to eat.

I don’t know how that sort of information gets transmitted or by what, but it does get received and understood by the angler.

Sometimes the water talks to us and sometimes we understand.

Jul 16

The sweet, sweet sensation of the tug

Until Saturday I had not caught a striper on a fly in 2016. I had caught a few with hardware, even one on a plug, but they just hadn’t turned on for the fly for me.

Now, I’ve reestablished the striper connection and it felt fantastic.

The water is a bit murky, so this is blind casting. There are no boils, no bait to follow, no birds crashing bait balls. This is just walking out there with a plan and a bit of faith and flinging a fly out there to see what happens.

It would be just as easy to do this without a fly on and you could have the same results if the fish aren’t in, which is to say nothing.

Saturday though… Saturday it worked. Casting out the clear int. sink with a lead eye synthetic clouser and just stripping it in when there was a big pull and a schoolie striper came to hand. That is just fun.

A little schoolie striper..

A little schoolie striper..

It reminds me of fishing for steelhead half-pounders. There certainly are bigger fish out there, but a half-pounder pulls hard and there are more of them around than the big fish. That’s how this striper fishing is too. The fish aren’t huge, but the are fun and the pull harder than their size would dictate.

I fished for about 2.5 hours and managed just over a dozen schoolie stripers. This is about a 5 minute drive from my house.


Feeling very fortunate.

Apr 16

California Launches First Bonefish Hatchery in SF Bay

1 April 2016

Bonefish Hatchery Operation to be Established in San Francisco Bay Area

ALAMEDA, Many books about bonefish agree that the northernmost range of the bonefish extends up to San Francisco Bay. The last known catch of a bonefish happened back in the 1910’s, but with the arrival of global warming, the time seems ripe to bring bonefish back to the San Francisco Bay.

Building on the extremely successful Steelhead and Salmon hatchery programs, the State of California will bring industrial hatchery operations to the former naval ship yard on Alameda. The hatchery will aim to release 300,000 juvenile bonefish into the Bay every year near the mud flats of Alameda and Sausalito.

“We think the time is ripe to bring bonefish back to the Bay.” Said Jim McBoatface, Director of Inshore Hatchery Operations for the State of California. “We are tired of seeing the Bahamas, Cuba and Belize rolling around in all that bonefishing money and we thought the Bay Area should diversify our tech-heavy economy with some recreational fishing.”

McBoatface added that the State expects 5 or 6 jobs to be created by this effort, which has an estimated price-tag of $300M.

“We’ve been running a pilot program for the past few years, seeing how bonefish would survive in the Bay. To date, all the fish have died, but with temperatures rising every year, we have faith next year will be the year one or two of these fish survive.”

Local anglers are excited. Bjorn Stromsness lives in Alameda and also writes a blog about bonefishing. “I love bonefish, but they live so far away. As a Californian, I believe it is my right to go out and catch a bonefish when I get home from work. I’m glad the State is finally solving this problem and I totally agree that other issues like crumbling infrastructure can wait a little bit longer. I mean, what could be more important than this?”

Governor Brown, upon signing the bill authorizing the ambitious hatchery program, said “Look out Islamorada and Andros. California is coming for you. In two to three years time, I’m confident the San Francisco Bay Area will be crowned the Bonefishing Capital of the World.”


Mar 16

The Kayak, the Girl and the Bay

So, Grandpa went a bit over the top at Christmas and got my daughter a kayak for the Bay. This is nicer than my own kayak with a nicer paddle.

This week, Spring Break for the girl, we finally got out on the water. Here are some things I’ve learned.

  • Don’t head out on the last hour of the falling tide. Kind of tough to get back in the 5 or 6 inches of water. Yeah… that was tough.
  • The girl is not so into paddling. She enjoys being out there, but not so much in, ya know, helping.
  • The fish are not in. They aren’t supposed to be. But, ya know, I had to check.
  • Kind of cool to be out there, on the water, getting to know the feel of this fishery/environment.
  • That kayak is about, and this is an estimate, a million pounds. There is now a kayak trolley. We’ll see if that helps.

I’m looking forward to seeing how this goes (and of getting a fish in that thing).