Small Salmon Fishing in California So Far

California Salmon Season 2011 has being happening for over 1 month now, and the early word on the salmon that have been caught is small fish.  The legal size that all the salmon need to be is a minimum of 27 inches in California per the Department of Fish and Game regulations.  This new size limit has been making it difficult for fishermen to make it home with something in the fish box.

There have been many fishing reports of boats catching 4-5 fish per rod, however, many times these same boats are returning with just 1 or 2 legal salmon fish.  Although the season is still very early and there is a great chance that this year the salmon might simply need a few more months out in the ocean to feed on sardines and krill and squid to fatten up and turn into a legal size fish, fishermen are still getting frustrated.

Last weekend in Santa Cruz, California, the weather was nice and sunny but quite windy and so the amount of boats who ventured out to fish was definitely less than the opening day fleet.  And when walking around the docks and the launch ramp in the early afternoon, it was fish story after story about small shaker salmon being caught.

There have been several years in recent history when the large 30 pound salmon were not caught off the California coast until well into the summer months, and there is hope that this is going to be the case again this year in 2011.

California Salmon Fishing Report Update April 17th, 2011

The salmon fishing up and down the coast has taking a tiny bit of a lull over the past week compared to earlier in the month.  The sea conditions have been hit or miss, often the ocean waters start acting up as usual in the afternoon, but there were two days last week when they were calm nearly all day long.  As for the salmon fishing, there is about a 75% chance you will catch a fish, so that’s about 3/4 fish per pole.  An even better chance your boat will have some smaller salmon or shakers.

The best places to catch the salmon right now is from out of the Santa Cruz Harbor.  Most of the fishing success is still taking place off the Soquel Hole which is just a few miles out from the harbor.   Anglers are catching fish mostly with trolling gear, however there has been an increasing amount of fishermen taking salmon with mooching gear using anchovies and sardines this week.  The depths continue to be relatively low compared to later in the year fishing.  Most fish are coming from depths of below 100 feet and often as far down as 200 feet.  Be sure to carry some proper gear to ensure you can get your lures and hooks down to those depths otherwise you will be struggling.

Farther down the coast in Monterey, there have also been some reports this week of the salmon fishing picking up, several of the charter boats out of Monterey have had anglers catch their two fish limit, and others of course did a bit worse fishing.  Make sure to check the weather conditions before you head out, there is always a chance that a gale of wind my blow by before you know it.

2011 California Salmon Season Opening Day Fishing Results

santa cruz harbor salmon boats
Salmon Season Opening Day Santa Cruz 201

Saturday’s opening day of the long awaited Salmon Season for everyone in California was a great time no matter how many fish were caught big or small.  Not only was there relatively few problems reported, but the fishing turned out pretty good for most anglers.

As expected, the best salmon fishing and fish numbers that were reported was from Santa Cruz Harbor, where boats had on average just under 1 fish per person.  Considering how many boats were launched at the boat ramp and the number of local boats from the harbor that fished, it was quite incredible!

soquel hole santa cruz salmon
Salmon Fishing the Soquel Hole

The overwhelming majority of salmon were caught at the Soquel Hole, which is just a 25-30 minute run from the mouth of Santa Cruz harbor.  The salmon were caught in depths of between 230 feet and 290 feet of water, and most of the actual fish were picked up between depths of 80-200 feet.  The most common fishing gear used to catch the salmon for opening day was a trolling rig made up of a salmon dodger or flasher, along with a hoochie which looks like a live squid.  Many of the fishermen reported large amounts of un-digested squid in the stomachs and intestines of the salmon they were filleting at the fish tables after wards.  Another common trolling setup that had success was dragging a dead sardine at slow trolling speeds of 2-4 knots.

In other parts of the California coast, the salmon fishing seemed to also be decent.  Many of the San Francisco Bay fleet headed north to Duxbury Reef for mixed results and the Half Moon Bay fleet also had some mixed results with occasional reports of large salmon taken.

The weather was slightly rough at different times of the day.  The wind would pick up at times in the early morning and then die off again and repeat that cycle.  The seas were  by no means calm, and large rollers up to 7 feet were reported.  Towards the end of the afternoon, the seas appeared much more calm compared to much of the early daytime, which is abnormal for this time of year.


Overall, the opening day of the 2011 Salmon Season was a big success with great fishing and few issues.  Sunday’s fishing should bring back some great stories as well.

Only 1 Week Until Salmon Season Starts in California

It’s just 7 days until the official start of the Salmon Fishing Season Once Again in California

Here is some news from the local harbors:

Nearly every harbor that was contacted this week is expecting record amounts of anglers coming to drop their poles in search of the salmon.

  • If you are planning on taking out your private fishing boat, please be prepared for delays in launching your fishing boat.  There is a very good chance that there will be lines many boats long of other fishermen launching in front of you.
  • If you have not gone through and done a safety items check on your fishing boat, do that this weekend
  • Purchase your fishing license early, there is always a chance that the physical licenses will be all sold out, and most people are getting them online. You can go to the California Department of Fish and Game Site to purchase fishing licenses. HERE
  • Make sure you boat is registered for 2011, otherwise you can expect the Coast Guard to board your boat or more likely the local harbor patrol, they usually have a field day on opening days of salmon season checking for current registration and safety equipment
  • Don’t go fishing without life jackets no matter what.
  • Also, nobody ever knows what the weather conditions are going to be like when you are out fishing, if you want to get something that may very well save your boat and your crew, buy some safety flares

Most importantly, check the fishing and weather conditions so you know what to expect the day you go fishing.  Currently, the water conditions are very rough in many parts of the California coast, but the seas and the fishing is expected to be very doable come next weekend.

Be safe, and have fun at California’s Opening Salmon Fishing Day!