2016 update: We anticipate the 2016 salmon season will open Saturday, April 2, more than likely with a two fish limit and a minimum size of 24 inches as we had in 2015. Finalization of the April 2016 salmon regulations will take place at a federal fishery management meeting that ends on March 14. Another meeting takes place in April where the rest of the season's regulations will be determined.
The Half Moon Bay area is traditionally one of the best areas to fish for king salmon off the California coast. Boats from this port have the opportunity to both go north to the Farallon Islands and Golden Gate area, or they can south to as far as Pigeon Point, New Year's Island or Davenport. Historically the San Mateo County coast has been one of the hottest area to fish for salmon in the first few months of the season. The rich waters hold krill, shortbelly rockfish, anchovies, sardines and other forage that the big kings feed on. During a typical season, there are usually more salmon early in the season, averaging 8 to 15 pounds along with an occasional "slug", with fewer but bigger fish available later in the season. Limits of quality salmon, consisting of two fish which must be at least 20 or 24 inches long, are the rule when the bite is going strong (we believe the minimum size for the 2016 season will be 24 inches to start and we anticipate it may be reduced to 20 inches by early summer). The salmon season along the Bay Area coasline typically runs from April into November, as determined by the regulations set each season by the federal and state fishery management agencies.
Upcoming trips and Reservations!
Anglers aboard the Queen of Hearts either troll or mooch (drift) for salmon, depending on what works best. The name of the game is catching fish, so do what works! All our trips are generally scheduled for trolling, but if conditions start looking good for mooching, we may schedule a few mooching trips as well. The last couple of years, however, trolling was the way to go all season. So, again, we will only schedule mooching trips when conditions look right. Private full-boat charters do have their choice of deciding whether they would like to use the trolling or mooching techniques, although we highly recommend getting advice from the crew as to which technique has been working best at least a few days before a scheduled trip.
Trolling: The boat is constantly moving through the water at a very slow speed, with everyone fishing at predetermined spots where rod holders are placed along the rails. We use a saltwater rod and reel with 20 to 25 lb. test; the rod should be about 6 feet, have a decent backbone with a light tip, and must definitely have a conventional saltwater reel, NOT a spinning reel. Make sure to have a full spool of fresh monofiliment line and a good working reel (make sure the drag works properly, i.e., good drag washers and proper grease). If you need to rent a rod, they are available onboard. The "terminal" tackle needed for trolling includes a salmon sinker release (not a trout release), which looks kinda like a large dog whistle, as well as a 2-1/2 lb. round lead sinker...nothing bigger, nothing smaller...and a 6 foot mono leader with a snap or snap/swivel at each end. If you have these items or think you know what they are and would like to purchase them in advance, please do. If not, we sell a basic tackle kit to get you going which includes a release, leader and a sinker or two, and as well as additional tackle if needed. The crew will show you how to get set up and what to do. When a fish is hooked, the rod tip starts rapidly bouncing and shaking up and down. The fishing rod is removed from the rod holder and the fish is walked to the back of the boat where it is landed.
Mooching: Allows for the use of lighter tackle, fishing with as small as baitcasting outfits and line sizes ranging from 12 to 20 pound test, along with as little as an ounce or two of weight, depending upon the depths fished and current sea conditions. Capt. Bob prefers to use a "sliding sinker" rig for mooching: a small slider is placed on the line and a snap swivel tied on the end of the line. He suggests bringing both a 2 and a 6 ounce round sinker, and you'll need a mooching leader (a 6 foot piece of mono with a loop tied on one end and a barbless circle hook on the other). Mooching is considered much more exciting than trolling by most anglers -- typically the engines are turned off and the boat is drifting. The anglers hold their fishing pole while mooching, feeding line in and out trying to entice a bite, feeling the adrenaline rush as the fish hits, and fighting the fish from hook up to net. When mooching with bait with one pound or less of weight, barbless circle hooks must be used. Using circle hooks requires anglers to slightly change their hooking tactics: when you feel a bite, do not, DO NOT, DO NOT set the hook. When you feel the pressure of the fish, slowly start reeling or slowly raise the rod into the fighting position. You more or less need to let the fish bite until it hooks itself. Trying to set the hook will more times than not end up sliding the hook right out of the fish's mouth. The purpose behind using the circle hooks is that they tend to end up right in the corner of the mouth of the fish, hopefully allowing easier release with less damage to the undersize fish.
Upcoming trips and Reservations!
Salmon trips on the Queen of Hearts leave at 6:15 a.m. and are scheduled to return around 3:00 p.m., depending on how well the fish cooperate. The 2015 fare was $98.00; we don't anticipate any significant increase for 2016. As always, additional fuel surcharges are possible if the price of diesel increases. Private full-boat charters are also available (call for current pricing), and all salmon trips include bait and fish cleaning. Whether you're an expert or a novice, our well trained, professional crew is there to assist you. Reservations are always highly recommended, ensuring that there is space available for the desired date and type of trip. Bring your own gear if you have it, or you may rent a fishing pole and purchase tackle and licenses the morning of your trip.
Besides being productive salmon fishing water, the San Mateo Coast is also extremely scenic as you travel along the shoreline in the boat. The redwood-forested mountains rise up like sentinels from the coastal farmland. Dramatic rocky cliffs, interspersed with some sandy beaches, characterize the shoreline from Half Moon Bay to Davenport. It is
truly one of the most beautiful areas of the West Coast, and salmon fishing onboard the Queen of Hearts gives you the opportunity to experience the best of both worlds.