Thanks to long term planning by both state and federal fish and game agencies in concert with concerned California sportsmen who buy annual Striped Bass stamps this legendary species now provides excellent angling opportunities! This column rapidly heading toward it's 8th year is usually focused on my fresh water adventures, California Striped Bass are pursued by a variety of methods including many feathered lures that resemble sardines and other bait fish. This annual surf action becomes frantic around the middle of June continuing into the early Fall. Seasoned surf casters watch for sea birds converging and attacking giant bait schools of sardines, krill. This salty banquet occurs as the 10/40 pound and larger Stripers begin their late Summer run down the California coast. More then the coming of labor day this wild Striper action signals San Francisco surf casters Summer has almost run its course.
In past years going back to the 1940s and 50s, this annual Striper run was spotty at best! In the last 15 years or so the fishery has made a splendid come back although many are concerned these great days may be numbered because of global warming and all the variables that impact all Pacific Ocean species. Those who watch the news are aware drastic changes are in the works under this nations oceans, krill numbers at both north and south polls have plummeted, polar bears and many creatures are now in jeopardy. Ice fields are melting and currents are changing direction and velocity quickly. Though I do not write as a rule about salt water angling and prefer fresh water fly action, this special San Francisco Striper mania is part of my early education as my family often tied feathered lures hoping to fool the few Stripers moving up and down the coast. In lieu of the rapidly changing Pacific Ocean and the success of the California Striped Bass stocks, this month's column is dedicated to these noble, strong, pretty fighters that move like striped torpedoes in huge gangs less then 200 yards from my breakfast table.
Surf Casting Techniques
I was lucky to be taught surf casting by many of the sportsmen in my family in the early 1950s. I was taught the pendulum method of surf casting where four or five feet of line with feathered lure is let out and swung back and forth until it gains momentum and then thrown in access of 75 yards after first wading out in the surf at least waist level! The lure is allowed to sink by a count of ten and then jerked like a fresh water wolly bugger or matuka fly. This is repeated only where sea birds and obvious bait action is happening. When I watch modern surf casters ply their trade I'm always disappointed to see them failing to either use the pendulum method to gain max yardage or they do not wade far enough out to really get near the feeding stripers. As one can see in these photos contemporary surf casters also bunch up elbow to elbow like sheep? It amuses me to watch their timid shyness in wading out far enough to find the big boys... Of course San Francisco surf is famous for its savage under tow, yet come on boys are you surf casters or girly men? I spend much time watching these well meaning surf casters waste their time, then every so often a man with experience shows up and in these photos one can see the results of educated surf working techniques.
Surf Casting Equipment
Surf rods in the 10/12 foot range armed with high quality spinning reels and 10/15 pound test monofilament line is usual set up these days.. Metal lures shiny and silver are most often used by the herds of sheep who stand right next to each other as if they are at a Sunday social? Those surf anglers who either use home made feathered creations or live bait do very well as do those accomplished enough to throw their outfits at least out past the breakers where these hungry beasts work their survival trade! In the days when this type of angling interested me I would first wait and find the sea bird/baitfish action and then look for exposed boulders to throw near and simulate real live bait, or simply throw 70 yard plus out beyond the breakers. This formula along with wading out as far as possible before throwing never failed. In the 1950s we used Bamboo surf rods and feathered jigs, today plastic mass made rods and mass made silver lures are the preferred equipment.
In the years I actively pursed game fish along the California coast all the way down into Mexico ending in several splendid trips to Cabo San Lucas, excellent moments live in my memory hard drive. As a 9 year old wrestling 15 pound Tiger Sharks off San Francisco piers was a real adventure. Spending time late nights with girlfriends and pals using pieces of fresh crab and bobbers under or near pier pilings to catch buckets of silver perch were wonderful times. A week working the surf in Cabo catching and barbecuing on the beach exotic fishes was sublime. Most of my youth was spent learning the trade of sportsmen at the hand of accomplished elders on beaches up and down the California coast at places named Half Moon Bay, Montara, Pacifica, still resonate.
West is The Best
Millions of international visitors descend upon San Francisco's beloved hills every year, few are aware it's beaches can be out standing places to test your skills, party boats with names like Whacky Jacky take sportsmen on salmon trips, rock fish excursions and fog riddled mornings anchored over gangs of Striped Bass. In my youth the piers and beaches drew sportsmen in droves, today this is not the case! I rarely see kids working the piers for perch and shark adventures, today's brats live isolated lives here afraid to go outside or rather forbidden by anxious over protective politically ignorant conservative parents. The days of free range kids living lives like Huck Finn in this city are long, long gone. Of course these are the observations of a dinosaur who was lucky to spend his youth very much like Mark Twain's Mr. Finn.
If your having trouble convincing the ball and chain to wear a flower in her hair and come to San Francisco, throw in the excellent surf fishing and off shore angling , see if that closes the deal their Pilgrim? Remember sports fan's those who dare to wade beyond the surf breakers never have to have their testicular circumference verified my politically correct brother's.
Editors Note: Striped bass are a non-native fish introduced from the East Coast more than a century ago. The population exploded shortly after the introduction and major commercial and recreational fisheries developed. Due to public perception about impacts on the valuable recreational fishery, commercial fishing for striped bass was outlawed by the legislature in 1935.
Striped bass have two major spawning areas: the Sacramento River between Sacramento and Colusa and the western Delta in the San Joaquin River between Antioch and Venice Island. Most spawning in the Delta occurs from April through May. Striped bass spawn in essentially fresh water; therefore, the salinity regime in the western Delta is important. Salinities on the San Joaquin side of the Delta are lowest in the vicinity of the mouth of the Mokelumne River where fresh water from the Mokelumne and Sacramento systems dilutes water flowing from the upper San Joaquin River which has accumulated salts from agriculture drains in the San Joaquin Valley. Farther west, the river becomes more saline due to the intrusion of ocean water.
A sport fishing license and a striped bass stamp are required of any person over 16 years of age for taking striped bass in California waters, except persons fishing from a public pier in ocean and bay waters. And, be sure to consult the current Sport Fishing Regulations for exceptions, changes, and regulations in other areas of California.
Dan Fallon is a fifth generation San Franciscan Irishman who has spent almost every waking moment of his life involved in outdoor adventures. He was raised in a family that regularly hunted and fished all over California. By age seven, thanks to his father and uncles, fishing and hunting became second nature. As a young adult, Dan regularly fished fresh and salt water, usually alone, all over the outer San Francisco area. While serving in the Marines, he spent a year in Vietnam. On many occasions with co-conspirators, he fished the beaches and rivers near Danang Air Base. After being discharged, he spent time hunting and fishing up-state New York and Canada. His published works include plays, poetry, history, art, character studies, outdoor and military experiences. His feature articles have been published in all of the last three decades. He has published works in newspapers, anthologies, magazines and the World Wide Web. This column, now entering its fifth year on the web, has been among the most read within this genre. Dan usually takes most of his own photos and has been actively in pursuit of breaking as many fresh water tippet records as possible using Bamboo Rods. Dan has fly fished around the world either with friends, celebrities, or alone and writing about those exploits has dominated his last decade.
Cover Photo: Steve Bechard
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