Fish America: California

After slightly less than five months on the road, this week brought me to the West Coast for the first time. Pictured here is the San Diego skyline at night. Why at night?
Because nighttime is prime lobstering time in San Diego Harbor. To begin the week, along with friend and college roommate Curt Dircks, now a University of San Diego Masters student, I went on a lobster hooping trip with the guys out of H&M Landing in San Diego Harbor. Lobster hooping simply involves baiting a hoop-like net with a small cage of bait, dropping it over the side of the boat with buoys and glowsticks, waiting and hoping rock lobsters crawl in, and retrieving the hoops. It's a blast.
Each passenger aboard the boat, which can accommodate up to 10 people, but for our trip had 6, gets a number when the boat sets sail. Then, in turn, you pull up your hoop when you're called and hope it's heavy.
Lobsters are measured to see if they are of the keeper variety, and the ones that qualify go home for the pot.
After a slow three hours, at 10 p.m., I pulled my lucky hoop, with two keeper-sized rock lobsters inside. Lobstering has an inverse type of excitement when compared to angling. Instead of the surprise of the strike, you've got the build-up and anticipation while wrenching up your hoop. Shouts of "Bugs!" are not uncommon when lobsters are first espied inside a hoop.
All in all, it was a good voyage, and every one of the six passengers took home a dinner-sized lobster. Kristyn shows off her catch that will be brought home for her husband and young boys.
Curt holds up our share of the bounty at the end of the night. H&M Landing just started offering lobster hooping trips, but I'd say if you're in the area, it's worth a shot. It's just good old-fashioned fun.
Of course, it's the kind of fun that lasts until the next day. I was awakened from my slumber on Curt's couch by our catch clawing at the walls of the Styrofoam container. Wetting a towel or burlap sack in saltwater and placing it over your catch in an inexpensive cooler will keep it alive through the night.
The next day we boiled the lobster for lunch. We didn't have the patience or experience to do anything fancy, it was just plain boiled lobster, but still a delicacy for two recent college grads. After a Google search of "how long do you boil a lobster," we got it pretty close to perfect.F
The finished product of a long night of lobstering was…
…Delicious.
From San Diego I'd head north the long way, making a stop at one of California's natural treasures, the Sequoia National Park.
After wandering through the forest, I continued my journey North for some fishing in San Francisco Bay. Here the sun sheds first light on San Pablo Bay, just north of the city.
I was fortunate enough to fish with Perry Kerson of Sea Turtle charters a San Francisco Bay guide whose family owned a storied outdoor outfitter in San Francisco for more than 40 years. When they finally closed their doors, Perry took to the water, guiding clients in a Bay he grew up fishing, for salmon, sturgeon, halibut and stripers.
We fished aboard Perry's diesel-powered, 30-foot Boston Whaler, a rare boat, custom-made for salmon fishing the bay.
Coming around the corner in San Pablo Bay gave me my first glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge in daylight hours.
The fog was just lifting off the city skyline as we hit the water.
Along for the trip was Randy Fry, a long-time San Francisco fisherman and local rod builder.
Perry's good friend and long-time fishing compadre Jack made it an even four.
We fished with rods custom-build by Randy. This one I found particularly interesting, with its unique tennis racket like handle. Randy said it was an experiment in progress, as he didn't know how it would hold up to the test of time, but so far so good.
We started off the afternoon drifting live bait on the bottom, like this sea perch, hoping to hit a halibut on the head. Halibut can be caught on the drift in the bay, and sturgeon can as well. Although Perry said that the sturgeon bite typically picks up once rain creates an influx of fresh water into the Bay.
When the halibut refused to cooperate, we switched to trolling for stripers with bucktails and teasers and plugs like this Yo-Zuri Minnow. Murky water made the fishing difficult, and we ended the day empty-handed.
Randy brought some smoked yellowfin from a recent long-range trip out of San Diego, something he does annually, and we talked about San Francisco's recent World Series victory and the craziness that ensued the night before. With temperatures reaching into the mid 70s and the sun beating down on the bay all day, it was hard to be too distressed about the lack of angling action.
If You Go: San Diego Lobstering: www.hmlanding.com San Francisco Bay: www.seaturtlecharters.com

After slightly less than five months on the road, this week brought me to the West Coast for the first time. Pictured here is the San Diego skyline at night. Why at night?