It takes a real deep-seated desire for a fishing trip to awaken at 1 am after only a couple hours of sleep—and that’s exactly what we have been doing over the past couple of weeks. For fishermen, traveling several hours before daybreak is a small price to pay for a chance to land the king of all salmon, the mighty Chinook. Most of us who choose fisheries management and research as a career do so because of a love of the sport, and have spent our youth honing our angling skills.
Recreational salmon fishermen are used to the ebb and flow of fishing opportunities—so when fishing is good, they come out in droves. Recently, one of the best places to catch salmon off the California coast has been out of Bodega Bay. On our first voyage out earlier this summer, we arrived to find a line of vessels near the boat launch reminiscent of L.A. gridlock. But as though choreographed, trailers quickly dipped into the salty water one after another, and boats were swiftly on their way.
Unlike fishing trips to seek solitude along an unspoiled section of river (see Gone fishin’), ocean salmon fishing can turn into a sort of combat fishing, requiring skilled navigation through a throng of vessels trolling in the surf. Recently, hundreds of boats have been taking to the water for anglers to catch their daily limit of 2 salmon, many over 30 lbs. According to the Pacific Fishery Management Council’s Pre-season Report, recreational fishermen will catch 96,600 Central Valley Chinook in marine waters this summer—and we don’t mind doing our share to reach that prediction.