Calaveras Enterprise

I finally caught a king

William’s thrilled with his 22-inch, first-ever king salmon catch.

William’s thrilled with his 22-inch, first-ever king salmon catch.

At first light of morning we motored from the Berkley Marina out of San Francisco Bay in Richard Ohta’s 22-foot Striper Seaswirl boat. Our destination was Pacifica, which is about a 20-mile boat ride from the marina. The target fish on this adventure was king salmon. I, personally, have never had the pleasure of catching a king salmon (not even in the San Joaquin River Delta), so this was my chance for a wild and fresh salmon from the sea. Yes, I was excited!

Richard has been kind enough to invite me ocean fishing in the past and because of him, I got my first chance at salt-water fishing. On this trip the boat was full as Richard had his granddaughters Jennifer and Elli aboard. I have to say the girls did remarkably well enduring the waves as they tossed the boat around while I hung on with both hands to keep my balance. The teenagers wore life jackets and were texting on their phones, giggling and sleeping as if the sea had little effect on them.

Heading down the coast, the sea wasn’t too rough, but had rolling waves about 3-feet tall and sometimes higher. The up and down swells are what gets to me and these can knock you off balance if you’re caught unaware, so I stood the whole trip.

The Golden Gate Bridge juts into the fog as anglers wait for salmon to bite.

The Golden Gate Bridge juts into the fog as anglers wait for salmon to bite.

We averaged about 20 mph in Richard’s boat and arrived at Pacifica State Beach in about an hour. “Game on!” was my first thought as I saw at least 30 boats from about 50-feet long and shorter competing for the ocean salmon below. From a single angler on a small boat to a boatload of anglers on a huge charter vessel, they were all there and we all sought the same quarry.

Richard provided the poles, two with 8-pound (drop-off) weights with leaders to anchovies, one with a large Apex lure, and one for rolling anchovies. Two of the rods were in holders off the stern and the other two had their lines dropped on downriggers. The average bottom depth off the coastline near Pacifica is around 40 feet, and Richard’s sonar read a huge mass of baitfish in the area. No more than 10 minutes passed while trolling at 2 to 3 mph when the first rod got hammered.

Lots of charter boats seek king salmon from San Francisco Bay and beyond.Photo by William Heinselman

Lots of charter boats seek king salmon from San Francisco Bay and beyond.Photo by William Heinselman

“Fish on!” Richard yelled and Elli grabbed the rod. She was right there and reeled the best she could. Soon the salmon was in sight and Richard could see it was a nice one.

“This is at least a 15-pounder!” he exclaimed.

Elli continued to reel, but as the beautiful creature neared netting range, it broke the surface and in a thrash of splashes it threw the hook.

We continued our troll without any strikes for the next two hours. By this time we were farther south at the Pedro Point area. I took some photos of San Pedro Rock as we trolled by it. All of a sudden, we were over a school and began to get some action. In 10 minutes three rods got struck and I got the first try. After a thrilling fight, I am proud to say I caught my first king salmon.

The next two strikes went to the girls, but both fish were unfortunately lost again. Richard was next in line but he never got a chance as the bite all but died. Soon several boats began to leave and we followed suit.



Tip of the week – Rinsing the saltwater off of your boat and flushing your engines with fresh water is a must at the end of a day of ocean fishing. The Berkeley launch area has faucets (bring a hose) and a cleaning area for boats and fish.

On the water:

Don Pedro – There is a good trout bite for those who troll Speedy Shiners, needlefish or single night crawlers behind flashers. The river arms have been good in all of our Gold Country trout lakes. Roll shad or anchovies deep for king salmon here. The bass action has been steady.

New Melones – Trollers and bait anglers find a good trout bite up the Stanislaus River east of the Stevenot Bridge. The kokanee bite is slow, but if you can catch one it may weigh 2 pounds. Try from the spillway to the dam with Hoochies or Apex lures tipped with white corn. The bass bite is good if you top-water fish early and deploy plastics and drop-shots around midday.

New Hogan – There’s a slow striper bite for those who troll or fish from the shore. Frozen anchovies are always a good bait for striper. A few striper boils have been reported early and late in the day.

Pardee – Bait-fish for trout at Woodpile Cove. Trollers catch trout up the narrows of the Mokelumne River down to 30-feet deep. The kokanee are few and the bite is slow, if you get any.

Camanche – The entire lake boasts fair-to-good bass fishing now. Top-water tactics and plastics are doing the job on largemouth and spotted bass that can weigh 8 pounds. The trout bite is best near the dam to Big and Little hat islands. A few crappie have been reported each week, too.

Amador – It’s best for bass, bluegill and catfish right now. Night fishing is allowed.

High Sierra – The rivers and streams are primed right now for wild and native trout fishing. The lakes are full and receiving trout plants.

Contact William Heinselman at

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