Batten down the hatches!

Santa Cruz

by Allen Bushnell

Batten down the hatches! An ongoing series of storms is bringing much needed moisture to drought-stricken Northern California. Rain, thunderstorms, big wind waves and some huge groundswells hit our coast this week and are forecast to continue into the next. We even had reports of sea spouts and small tornadoes in Santa Cruz last week! The forecast indicates much of the same gnarly conditions to persist into next week.

These sea conditions generate powerful currents along the coast, scouring sand from some spots and depositing that sand elsewhere. This process bodes well for all the beach break surfers who enjoy remote sandbar waves. For anglers, it’s good news because the resulting troughs, holes and rip currents are perfect feeding grounds for surf perch and striped bass. Surfcasters might have to wait a few days for the water to clear. Right now, most spots resemble a kelp and seagrass stew, not conducive to surfcasting at all.

Santa Cruz Harbor officials have issued a caution for boaters who plan on entering or exiting the harbor. “Boaters are advised to contact the dredge crew on VHF channel 8 for passing instructions.” As of Thursday, the entrance channel was narrow and as shallow as six feet, running east to west between the jaws. The Harbor website provides daily sounding information, detailing the harbor entrance depths. When combined with giant swells, the shallow entrance makes the harbor entrance very unsafe for passage. Look before you leap.

Once things settle down, surfcasting should be very productive, especially on the big broad beaches that ring the Monterey Bay from Aptos down to Marina. Charter boats are concentrating on Crab ‘N Dab combo trips. Prior to the storms, fishing for sanddabs was very good from the 180-220 foot depths. With luck, we will also see the wintertime mackerel schools return to the bay. Always fun to catch, many consider mackerel a delicacy for smoking and canning.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife reminds us to turn in our 2018 steelhead report cards before January 31, 2019. The cards can be mailed to DFW, or submitted electronically on their website.

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