California Kayak Stripers E-mail
Thursday, 13 September 2012 00:00

Striped bass are not indigenous to the West Coast. They are such an adaptable species that fish brought to California in 1879 quickly established a foothold in the San Francisco Bay and Sacramento River Delta. Dr.Livingston Stone of the U.S. Fish Commission transported fewer than 700 fingerlings from New Jersey by train in milk buckets and wooden barrels. By 1889, the stripers were so numerous that they were being sold at market in San Francisco. Stripers can now be found from Northern Baja California to Barkley Sound in British Columbia. Striper Central for the West Coast, however, remains in San Francisco Bay, the Sacramento River Delta and beaches immediately adjacent to the Golden Gate.  

Steven Scott has been kayak fishing since the late 90's, when he'd travel on breaks from college to Mexico, fishing the warm waters in the northern Sea of Cortez. Embarking on his career in high-tech software in Northern California, Scott settled in Marin County close to the San Pablo Bay, the northern portion of the great San Francisco Bay. He often fishes open ocean locations, but has become known as an expert sturgeon and striped bass angler while plying his home waters.

NewStriper

My favorite places for kayak stripers in the SF bay are the Marin Islands and "The Brickyard" & "Quarry" - both areas are in San Pablo Bay near San Rafael. The Marin islands have a channel between them, as well as several rocky points that hold fish on the moving tides. The east island also has a near perfect gravel bar running north to south between the islands. On the falling tide this bar can be a great location as fish stack up on the deeper channel side.

The Brickyard is a south facing shoreline with the old brick smoke stacks. The quarry is an east facing shoreline just north of the brickyard. Both areas are relatively shallow (maxing out about 10 feet), with the brickyard being the shallower of the two. Due to the shallow nature this is a top-of-the-tide area. The last bit of the rising and falling tide give the best combination of moving water and depth. I tend to think of this as one contiguous area as it fishes essentially the same. There are a number of small rock piles, and rocky points that create little rips that hold fish.

We fish stripers in spring, summer and fall. The spring run typically has larger fish, but is more finicky in that heavy rains can muddy up the waters and so can be a tricky time for plugging (lures). Summer has many resident schoolies and clear water, except when the big tides and/or winds kick up the bottom mud.

Fall usually brings calm winds; warm days and huge schools for stripers- though most are just near keeper size. 20-30 fish mornings are not uncommon in the fall.

For the Marin Islands I will typically cast small swimbaits at the rocky points and the gravel bar that "match the hatch" of either small top smelt (spring) Gabe Pet R or anchovies (summer), On the falling tide, casting a very light swimbait on top of the bar and working it over into the channel can be a deadly technique. Careful with getting too close here as the water is only a foot or less deep on top of the bar, and the fish will often patrol just off the top.

The Brickyard has less obvious structure and so I often start by trolling parallel to the shore, again with a small swimbait. Once the fish are located, I will work the area, casting until the school moves on and then trolling again. Very occasionally, the fish will not take a cast lure, and so trolling back and forth across the spot will entice hook-ups. I wish I knew why this was the case, but there seems to be no rhyme or reason to it.

Two techniques that I rarely share but seem to produce very well in specific situations are:

1) Jigging 1/8oz swim baits: In spring the fish seem to be keyed in on small crabs, etc. on the bottom, and so we will use smaller swimbaits (chartreuse is my favorite color). Cast and retrieve from up current to down in a bump-the-bottom jigging approach, similar to what you might do for large mouth bass in a lake. I suspect that drop-shotting at this time of year would be deadly, but haven't mastered the technique enough to be effective.

2) Spoons. Tiny spoons seem to bring out bite-shy fish late in summer when nothing else works. Cast or slow trolled there is something about a good wobbler that is irresistible to these summer stripers. This technique has worked long enough, and consistently enough that I always make sure I have at least one silver spoon in my bag. The #1 PET spoon with a white feather is my favorite.

I use a 7 ½-foot light-action spinning rod. Something that is rated to 12-15-pounds, with enough backbone to get me out of trouble if a big hen happens my way, and I love my new Hobie Adventure Island.

striper For memorable striper events, I’d have to go back five or six years. My partner Chuck Espiritu and I launched from the back of the cove near the Brickyard. The water outside at the quarry was too muddy, but inside the cove was clear and green. While I was waiting for him to arrive and set-up I could hear fish busting the surface.

Once we launched it was all out pandemonium. We had fish hitting lures right at the boat, fish pushing bait onto the rip-rap along San Pedro Road, surface boils and double hook ups. It was madness. It was my first 30+ fish morning. I lost count after I had released about two dozen, and we only quit because the launch was in danger of turning to a mudfest as the tide fell.

 

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