Thursday, September 24, 2009

SHOGUN Trip Highlights

San Rafael store Bluewater/Saltwater expert Richard Birnbaum just set his feet back on the dock and couldn't wait to give us a holler on what a great outing the 2009 Western Sport Shop Shogun Sportfishing trip was! Richard hosted the 5 day trip out of San Diego and from the images we've seen, it looks like the only problem was keeping track of who caught more or bigger fish!

Enjoy these images and look for a more detailed report soon!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Free Fly Fishing Intro for Kids - Sunday!

For the past few years, WSS Staff Member and Fishing Guide Larry Lack has spearheaded the drive to develop more young anglers. As many kids as we see come through the shop, we also realized immediately that Larry was really onto something - too often these days, young people are not getting the opportunity to go fishing. This Sunday, September 20, is an opportunity to introduce your son, daughter or the kids down the block to fly fishing for no charge.

So, even if it's just to go down and look we strongly encourage you to attend this event:

North Bay Trout Unlimited Invites You and Your Family to the Annual


This Sunday, September 20, 9:00 - 2 PM - *Scottsdale Pond, Novato


8 - 18 Year Olds - Come out and learn how to cast (fly & lure), tie knots, rig your gear, tie fishing flies

5 - 7 Year Olds
There will be arts & crafts, fishing games and fishing for catfish

Learn to fly fish in a flyfishing 101 crash course!

Please signup by calling Larry Lack at (415) 883-7447 or

*Take the Rowland exit off 101, go west over freeway, left at the 2nd light to cupola

For an event flyer - click here.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Rig Right for Maximum Success!

Anyone up for a September to remember? I love years like these when there are more than enough surprises around every corner to compensate for any changes in our local fisheries. I talked to Chris "Flipper" Franks at the bait receiver this week about the halibut and striper bites, and he says "halibut is still strong in the main bay and up the coast", and that "the striper bite has picked up in the south bay and main bay."

The key is the bait. The same warm ocean waters that have brought us a great tuna season (and it looks like it will continue to produce through the rest of the month as well) has also brought big bait and lots of it. Anchovies have been hard to come by, but sardines in the 6-10" range are everywhere along with green mackrel and jack smelt.

I spoke with Captain Todd of the Blue Runner and he says he has never seen so much big bait around the San Francisco harbor. The key successfully fishing the halibut bite, is to modify your rigging to acommodate the big sardines. You will be fine if you are using a pre-tied halibut leader with treble and sliding bait hook. But, if you are using a single live bait hook, you will need to add a stinger hook trailing off the end. The stinger can either single or treble but needs to be big enough to acommodate these bigger baits. If you don't rig this way, all you'll see is scratched baits and short strikes. (Same goes for the stripers, so set your rigs appropriately.)

Our wild story of the week (month, or possibly the season...) comes from a halibut trip. Western Sport Shop long-time customer Ed Janowitz took his boat out on Labor Day with friend Bill Wells to target halibut. They were working through 17' of water on the Berkley Flats and had boated a pair of keeper halibut. Then, something slammed Bill's 8" sardine and took out 200 yrds of line before turning and running another 200 yrds in the opposite direction. With Bill on the fish and Ed at the helm they turned the boat and started to chase - just as Bill was almost out of line. Thinking it was a huge ray they were floored when it slashed across the surface and revealed it self to be the "holy grail" -- a 50" 44lb white sea bass! (Look for photos soon!)
The fish was so big Ed had trouble landing it in a huge teardrop Bodega style salmon net.

Several white sea bass have been reported in the area over the last two weeks but Ed and Bill's was by far the biggest landed. Several have been reported at the Alameda rock wall and Bonita Cove but no pictures were produced. All of them were reported to have been caught drifting jumbo size live sardines.
Striped Bass have been continuing in strong numbers. Anglers on the beaches are still catching stripers using Pencil Poppers (or the wooden Chesapeake poppers we've found!), Jigs, Kastmasters and Swimbaits at Stinson Beach and Ocean Beach both at dawn and dusk.

As for stripers in the bay, reports of fish caught on cut bait and bull heads at China Camp and Highway 37 are steady. Most report that they are catching fewer but bigger bass than they would normally expect this time of year. The ranger at Paradise Pier reports catches of both striper and halibut daily on swimbaits and jigs - it's best at dawn and dusk with slower fishing during the day. Western Sport Shop GM Tom Nelson reports steadily improving striper fishing on the Petaluma river with all of his fish coming on 4" Storm Swimbaits in blue shad, chartreuse shiner, pearl, and natural shad.

I had a chance to talk our fly department staff saltwater experts, John Quigley and Lauren Elliot who spent almost 12 hours chasing stripers on the fly in San Pablo bay (for only one hook up, a 10-12 lber lost at the boat.... Ah well, it is fishing, not necessarily catching.) Quigley tells me that he believes that the bay is holding a higher quality striper fishery this year but that the overall numbers especially juveniles are way down and that the bigger fish appear to be avoiding the shallow shoreline areas. It will be interesting to see how the fall striper run plays out.

As far as I can see, the hot bites not to miss are the tuna, and the elusive white sea bass. The tuna are good to go any time the swells and wind will allow it. Best bets being to listen to the weather radio to time your run, then troll plain cedar plugs and 4" zucchini tuna clones or feathers and then back it up with live sardines and swimbaits. Unlike the "in the Bay" baits, the shorter trolling lures seem to be the ticket right now on the tuna. Anglers have done will with the shorter plugs and feathers.

Best bet for the white seabass is to drift big 10" sardines on a 3-way swivel rig and a 9/0 circle hook. Don't get me wrong when I say the whites are hot - you will be fishing for one fish but that one fish may be your only shot at these awesome creatures inside the San Francisco Bay for several years.

As a final note - I strongly encourage catch and release on these things - especially the big females. I know they are unbelievable on the table but those are the fish for the next generation. Good Luck!

Joe @ WSS