Report from Chris Lauritzen of Lauritzen Yacht Harbor - January 4, 2018

So when was the peak of fall striper fishing in the West Delta would you guess? 

Based on the amount of boats we launched in the month of November I would have to say around November 15th was the start of the peak of striper fishing which lasted until about the first week of December based on the guys I spoke with that were willing to talk at the time. 

If you look back to the past three months in the West Delta we have had fabulous weather even when fishing was not that good based on slow current flows during the dark part of the moon. 

Probably one of the most interesting things about fishing the West Delta is the amount of fishermen who will not talk about where they are really fishing meaning Honker Bay and to some extent Grizzly Bay for stripers in the fall. 

It’s about twelve nautical miles from the harbor to Freeman Island located in Honker Bay. On a flat calm day like we have had most of the fall traveling twelve miles is  less then an hour in running time for most boats. 

 

The rewards can be huge if fishing is good to great. 

One could argue that fishing right outside our harbor on the sand bar is better. While that is true based on fuel costs I would also argue that you might get a better quality/grade of striper in Honker Bay when the fall run is hot and heavy. 

Honker Bay has been the go-to place for guys fishing for stripers if they have not been able to find stripers in Broad Slough, Sherman Lake, Big Break, Dutch Slough, Eddo’s, Three Mile Slough, False River, San Andreas Shoals or Santa Clara Shoals to name a few of the best stops in the West Delta. 

As water temperatures have been dropping the past few weeks guys like Bobby Barrack have had to change up their plan as it relates to fishing in Honker Bay. 

Bobby has been fishing in water as shallow as 3 – ft to get on to fish. The trick he was willing to pass on to me one day last week was. He prefers fishing muddy water compared to clear water.  

Bobby seems to feel that if he gets on a spot in shallow water where he can see the stripers the stripers can see him as well so he prefers the muddy water. If the stripers see you they will spook pretty easily. 

There have been a number of times this fall when George Wight has caught blue gill for bait then headed off to Honker Bay catching a better grade of stripers in the 12 – 18 – lb range. 

The problem with George is if he is not fishing in the West Delta he is out on the ocean fishing on the California Dawn for ling cod which he is very successful at. 

On Saturday December 16th the North West wind was howling here at the harbor. The wind was gusting at 25 – 45 – mph by 11:00 am. I put the tractor across the front of the launching ramp so that folks got the message that our launching ramp was closed due to unsafe sea conditions. 

A side note to the wind conditions at the time our local marine patrol unit was headed out to a stranded duck hunter near Brown’s Island who was not comfortable trying to make it back in a 12 – ft duck boat to the Pittsburg Marina it was that windy. Wind chop appeared to be in the 4 – 6 – ft range with an incoming current. 

Yes we still monitor channel 16 on the VHF radio. There was a report put out by Coast Guard Station Rio Vista of three duck hunters who had swamped their boat as they were attempting to get into their duck blind at the north east corner of Franks Tract. 

According to the conversation I overheard on VHF radio channel 16 between the Contra Costa County Sheriff and Coast Guard Station Rio Vista. Station Rio Vista was not sending a boat to rescue the stranded duck hunters as it was too windy for the Coast Guard.  

The Contra Costa County Marine Patrol Unit first helped the duck hunter at Browns’ Island then they responded to the call for service for the three duck hunters in Franks Tract. That was more then an hour after the original call for help. 

There is where I get on my soap box. Cell phones have their place but they are not the end all for being rescued in a boating environment. 

If you have an emergency on the water like the duck hunters in Franks Tract two weekends ago having a VHF radio and getting on channel 16 and putting out a May Day is a much better way of getting attention and eventually rescued then using the cell phone.  

The most important thing about the VHF radio is everyone including the Coast Guard hears that you are in distress but more importantly if there is a boater close to your location and hears your distress they may be able to assist you in your distress much sooner then any of the public agencies 

If you use a cell phone and dial 911 your call goes to Vallejo CHP and I guarantee that call taker at CHP does not know where Franks Tract is. They simply transfer you to the nearest Coast Guard Station and you hope the Coast Guard will understand where your location is. 

Today you can purchase a handheld VHF radio that floats in the water, has GPS capabilities as well as water activated SOS strobe light when the radio hits the water whether the radio is turned on or not for about $200.00. It only needs to help rescue you once and it has paid for itself. 

The handheld VHF radio was built for the marine environment your cell phone no matter what brand it is was not made for the marine environment.  

On Friday December 22 there were a total of four boats that launched. The winter bite for stripers has turned on or off depending on your sense of humor. It’s a very slow bite I’m guessing from the lack of reports and the fact that no one has been at the fish cleaning station for over a week. 

There is very little wind and the water is pretty mirror glass for the most part it is just cool. 

Water temperatures are cooling down just in time for the frozen bun run on January 1st at Bethel Island. As of Saturday December 30th the water temperature at the Old Antioch Boat Ramp on the San Joaquin River is in the 48.6 – 49.21 – degree range. 

At the Rio Vista Bridge on the Sacramento River the temperature range is 48.02 – 48.74 – degrees. That temperature range has not change much in a week. The San Joaquin River seems to be getting a little cooler. Based on fishing reports the warmer water seems to be in Broad Slough and points to the West. 

Crabbing at Bodega Bay is terrible for me in fact on Sunday December 31st I will be pulling my pots. 

I’ve lost six this season. The last two pots that I can not find I believe have been stolen. There were six pots in a row and two in the middle are missing don’t know what else to think. 

When I rebaited the pots on Thursday of this week I had a total of thirty one crab for eighteen pots. I much prefer the 10 – 15 crab per pot during the first weekend of the season. 

As I close out the last fishing column of the 2017 season I just want to go on record as stating that I will do a much better job getting a column out. It may not be every week but I will stay on top of it. 

It usually takes me an entire day with all of the disruptions here at the harbor office to get a column written. I’m trying to make the report as real time as I can because sometimes there are great days of fishing and other days/weeks not so much. 

As an example there were four different boats that stopped by our fishing cleaning station on (Tuesday) December 26th. There was at least one sturgeon cleaned and several larger stripers cleaned. One of the stripers was pretty good size. 

My and promise to you the reader is to be as accurate and factual as I can possibly be. 

I appreciate every person who reads my column and those folks like Pat Jones, Paul Wong and Steve Nicholas who send pictures and notes so that I can pass the word on to you the readers. 

Thank you for fishing, living and exploring the Delta it is truly a fabulous place to work and play. For me it’s been a life style for sixty six years. I’m just getting started. 

Without you the consumer the Delta would just dry up. 

Let’s hope for a good year for all of us next year. 

See you on the water Delta Chris 

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