Great Halibut Fishing on San Francisco Bay

San Francisco Bay - San Francisco, CA

The Sea Wolf at the dock
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Sea Wolf Sportfishing

by Gary Heffley

The Halibut bite is on in San Francisco Bay. On what was a planned family and friends rock fishing charter on the Sea Wolf out of Emeryville Marina, the gratefully amended trip onto San Francisco Bay produced great results.

Last year, on the Friday before Memorial Day we enjoyed relatively calm seas rock fishing around the Farallon Islands, scoring easy limits for all aboard. We also had the added pleasure of viewing many whales nearby. While hoping to duplicate the trip Mother Nature had other plans as unsettled seas made a trip out to the Farallons out of the question and even fishing along the Marin Coast iffy at best. A forecast of  8 to 10 foot swells out of the Northwest,  with a conflicting 2 to 3 foot swell out of the South coupled with shifting 1 to 2 foot wind waves on top promised for a rough outing. Visions of bruised knees, thighs and hips from bouncing off the rail  made the decision to shift the trip to the reportedly good halibut fishing in the calmer waters of the bay a no-brainer.  The heads up phone call the evening before by skipper Joe Hobbs alerting us of the conditions was greatly appreciated and allowed us to make the decision and change tackle plans.

Leaving the dock at about 6 am, Joe made the short run under the San Francisco Bay Bridge toward the flats between the south end of San Francisco and Oakland, allowing  time for deck hand Darin Schmicking to give instructions on use of the 3 way live bait rigs, hooking and handling the live anchovy bait, and having patience in allowing the halibut to take the bait. You do not  set the hook on the first nibble.  Halibut often take the bait slowly, so if you set the hook more often than not you will just pull the bait and hook away from the fish.  Let the halibut take the bait, even feeding a bit of line then slowly reeling down until pressure is felt.  

As Joe set up the drift in the flats, the first hook up and call for the net by my brother Dennis was almost immediate as baits hit the water. The action was constant as both Darin and Joe handled netting keepers and tossing back the many halibut landed that were just under the 22 inch minimum. Those that made the grade were quickly dispatched, tagged with the angler's sign in number and put in the box.  Along with the great halibut action a number of keeper Striped Bass were landed.  Most of the fishing was done in 8 to  12 feet of water within view of Oakland Airport and Candlestick Point. Calm waters all day along with the steady action made for an enjoyable trip for all.

A shout out to both Joe and Darin for a great trip as both were running all around the deck netting fish, making sure that the anglers maintained fresh lively bait on the hooks as well as reminding everyone to check baits every 5 minutes or so. Darin did a yeoman's job cleaning the fish as the 15 anglers on board landed 45 keeper halibut, a full limit along with 14 Striped Bass.  The Sea Wolf along with the entire Emeryville fleet of charters have been enjoying great fishing.  Besides the great halibut fishing, on the days the seas are cooperating good salmon trolling is on tap. On June 1 an increase to 2 each legal size ling cod and adjustments to many rock fish species limits promise to make rock fishing trips exciting. Contact the Sea Wolf and Emeryville Sportfishing online or at 510- 652-3403 to get in on these great fishing opportunities.

Gary Heffley has been a valued contributor to MyOutdoorBuddy for over 10 years serving as manager, sales representative and reporter for much of Northern California. He is an avid outdoorsman and loves to fish and write about his adventures. He has a long history in the Sporting Goods field and uses that extensive experience to impart his wisdom in his writing. 

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