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Monsters prowling in the Bay

Monster fish, some over 8 feet long, are prowling the waters of San Francisco Bay this week as the freshwater runoff from North Bay streams turned their home waters into their favorite shade of chocolate.

Keith Fraser at Loch Lomond Bait Shop in San Rafael said that sturgeon are biting all over the Bay, from Paradise just south of the Richmond San Rafael Bridge north to the “sturgeon triangle” that is bounded by Buoy 5, the Pump House and China Camp. In addition there are lots of sturgeon in the Napa River and also east of Benicia near the old mothball fleet.

Many of the sturgeon are oversized and must be released. In fact, Keith reports that many of his customers are only catching and releasing, because all of the fish are over the 40-to-60-inch slot limit allowed by the Department of Fish and Wildlife. Anything under or over those lengths must be released.

Keith carries live mud shrimp, which he describes as the “filet mignon of bait” for sturgeon.

If you don’t have a boat and want to fish, head to Marin’s McNears Beach Park. Or, better yet, call Keith at 415-456-0321 and ask him to book a spot for you on Trent Slade’s party boat, Bite Me.

Looking ahead, it is almost time for the halibut to start biting in the bay, and some sightings have already been reported. In the meantime huge sturgeon, plus a few striped bass are keeping anglers occupied.

Northern California and Oregon rivers are returning to their pre-flood levels, but many remain difficult to fish.

A few years ago, my ever-optimistic friend, Steve Kyle, persuaded me and Les Vadasz to accompany him on a mid-winter steelhead adventure on rivers that flow off the snow-covered sides of Mount Hood near Portland, Oregon. Against our better judgment we allowed Steve to infect us with false hopes of catching lots of fish.

Instead, we spent two of the coldest, wettest, most miserable days of our lives fishing in rain-and-snow-swollen rivers, while a wind-blown mixture of sleet, ice and snow turned us into flyfisher-sickles. We didn’t hook a fish.

Les and I decided that we had been “Kyled” one too many times.

And that’s why a couple of weeks ago, we declined to accompany our buddy on a reprise of that mid-winter adventure. Undaunted, Steve went by himself. Here is his report:

“Hard to know where to begin. I’m sure you have a vivid recollection of the fishing trip that you, Les and I made to the Portland to go steelhead fishing a few winters ago. Well, it was like déjà vu all over again with the notable exception of this time, I never put on my waders or strung up one of my spey rods.

“I basically drove 700 miles to Portland crossing swirling muddy rivers that were swollen to the top of their banks and fallen trees and other flotsam float by. The further north I got, the dirty and higher the rivers became. Even the flat farmlands bracketing I-5 had become saturated to such an extent that they had formed huge lakes in the fields. Too much water.

“Arriving in Portland, I called my guides and they shared the blinding flash of the obvious – the rivers were totally blown.

“With little else to do but declare victory, I got a good night’s sleep and in the morning turned my car south for the 10-hour, 700-mile drive home.”

Les and I know the feeling. Kyle had been “Kyled.”