The Bay Keeps Her Secrets

I continue to be surprised by the SF Bay. Odds are if you live in the Bay Area, you don’t actually fish the Bay. You go other places to fish. You travel, often far, to throw at all manner of things.

Fish live here too.

Fish live here too.

It never occurred to me that anything lived in the Bay when I first moved here. I figured it was a dead-zone, polluted and killed off long ago. And… that would be partly right. The commercial herring and anchovy fisheries collapsed long ago. There were toxic salt ponds in the south and the steady stream of heavy metals from the gold mining days. It just never seemed like much was living here.

The Bay doesn’t really let you get to know it easily. Since I found out there were, indeed, fish swimming in the Bay I’ve been soaking bait for sharks with my daughter. You never see the sharks. The water is generally not clear enough to see much of anything. There aren’t schools of bait-fish blowing up. There aren’t rays flying out of the water.

Sure, there are the seals up around San Francisco, but I’m guessing they are there for the Blue Bottle coffee (although one did just get munched on by a Great White).

This weekend I walked out to walk the flat in Alameda with a spinning rod and a Kastmaster. The water was flat and glassy, which is a bit rare. The Bay is a windy place and the water is usually whipped up. With the glassy water I could actually see schools of bait-fish moving about in two feet of water. There were a couple of smaller swirls, but nothing major.

And then… there was a hit on the spinner and a small halibut was landed… and then a schoolie striper followed by another schoolie striper. These were on a spinner, but if I can find them with any consistency, a fly is going to be deployed in short order.

There are stripers swimming around just a couple hundred feet away.

I am starting to wonder what else I don’t know about the Bay.



  1. Come on man…Northern California is a fisherman’s paradise 365 days a year – period. As for the SF Bay, look at places jusy 15-20 minutes north of Alameda. Also, a little research on the north bay & the delta will really open your eyes.

  2. The delta requires a boat to really be fished, doesn’t it? The Bay itself is not exactly a fly fisherman’s dream, is it? The Bay Area is not a fly fisherman’s dream… not for me. I’m finding fishing, but Putah Creek is not my idea of great water and it is even hard to find a carp pond that has more than 6″ of visibility. My fishing is all a long drive away. There are surf perch on the coast, but I don’t much fancy the near-death experiences I’ve had in Santa Cruz, and that’s still a good 90 minutes away, without traffic. There is the delta, but I’m boatless.

    I’ve lived in fishy places. Dunsmuir and Redding being prime examples, where you could walk out the door, travel fewer than 5 miles and be alone on a piece of water.

    I’m working on the beach though. I’m picking up flounder (or halibut, I am not sure which) and stripers with a spinning rod. Seems plausible to get them on a fly, although I’m coming to the end of that season now, as I understand it (which is not well).

  3. Sorry, didn’t see your reply until today. If you read my original comment, I said NORTHERN CALIFORNIA is a fly fisherman’s paradise. I didn’t say that about SF bay. But, regarding the bay area…There are steelhead rivers on the Peninsula. It’s not Alaska, but the fish are catchable. There are 1,000 options to fish the SF Bay on foot including places you’d likely pass on. If you really want to catch some stripers look east of San Jose. You won’t need a boat, but a float tube wouldnt hurt. From the East Bay you can be fishing several west Sierra trout rivers after a short drive. There’s some unbelievable warm water fishing just south of San Jose (think state parks or if you really want to be crazy, military bases). Frankly, I have to say that I’m not impressed with the fact that all you could come up with was “the ditch” (Putah). I know you’re a computer guy, so how about a search like “striped bass fishing O’Neil forebay”. I never really had the option of Google or Bing, but just did my homework and I had some fishing memories that still make me smile. Good luck & go get ’em

  4. I did once catch a steelhead out of the San Lorenzo, but it felt like the last fish in that whole river and I doubt I’ll go back there. I’d think the steelhead streams on the Peninsula are closed to angling, no? There used to be some creeks even in Berkeley you could fish, but I think those are closed now too.

    I’ve caught some fish south of San Jose, bass and carp, mostly, but I know they are there. They are just a couple hours away now.

    Maybe my problem is really the complexity of life at the moment and less the actual opportunities. There are certainly options I have not discovered yet, but my available fishing time seems to be less and less and only headed in that general direction… but it is temporary. It is having an almost 2 year old and custody of my daughter on weekends and buying a house and whatever else. I’m hopeful as I get more time I’ll find more options and, as you know, that’s starting to happen. Alameda stripers… that’s going to occupy a lot of my brain activity for a while.

  5. Bjorn,
    I think they call the things you mention above “living life” and it sounds like your life is pretty gosh darned great. Maybe just a little light in the fishing department right now. It would be nice if we all lived in “fishy” places like you mentioned about Dunsmuir where you could be alone on the river in 5 minutes. But then again that would become monotonous after awhile too. When i lived in San Mateo & wanted to fish the Sierra – a drive was part of the deal & was accepted as such.
    With the current demands on your life & especially your time, consider it a blessing that you call norcal home in regards to fly fishing. I know I did. What I mean by this is the fact that all I ever hear about is Montana this & Montana that. I absolutely love it there. But what do fishermen who live there do there for the next 5 months? Right now you have the ability to get out there and fish for a dozen different game fish- in fresh & salt – whenever you can sneak some time in. And with a little advanced planning, when you do have a chance at a half or (holy cow) a full day you’ll kick some butt. This is why I consider northern California to be a fly fisherman’s paradise. P.S. I currently winter in south Florida & if you think it a hassle to drive in the bay area…it’s also a fishing paradise here as you know. Next time you’re down this way check out the peacock bass fishing. That’ll make you realize that it’s OK that there aren’t any trout around

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