|By: Mark Wilson
Get the sturgeon rods ready! Exciting summer sturgeon fishing
should continue again this coming summer. June and July are hot
summer fishing months for sturgeon in Suisun and San Pablo Bays,
including the Napa River. While other fishermen start chasing salmon
in the ocean and halibut in San Francisco Bay, I spend time fishing
for sturgeon in Suisun and San Pablo Bays on the larger tides.
Believe it or
not! There is hardly any fishing pressure on the bays during June
and July. But, the Napa River had quite a few sturgeon anglers last
year because of the exceptional sturgeon bite that occurred there.
And guess what? The STURGEON BITE has already started in Suisun and
San Pablo Bays.
There is an enormous population of fish concentrated in the bays.
The spring run is over and the spawners have returned to the bays
with the rest of the local populations of sturgeon. During June and
July the winds can be a factor, but with good planning, you can fish
most or all of the morning hours, and some of the early afternoon
hours, before getting blown off.
Here are a few of my personal tips:
Bait…Try the various sturgeon baits (grass shrimp, ghost
shrimp, mud shrimp, pile worms, herring, roe, etc.) until a pattern
can be developed. Two years ago the sturgeon wanted ghost shrimp.
Last year, it was grass shrimp. Take along an assorted menu of
sturgeon baits on the first few trips. Run a double hook and put
different baits on each hook. After a day or two of fishing you will
be able to tell which bait the sturgeon prefer (grass and ghost
shrimps are the old standbys and dead ghost shrimp does catch fish).
Or, you can take all the bait you think you might need. I personally
like to use grass shrimp in Suisun Bay and ghost shrimp in San Pablo
Bay. I do mix other baits occasionally.
Bait Shops…I reserve my bait at least a couple of days before
my trip. I start locally in Sacramento, and then I contact Freeport,
West Sacramento, Isleton, Lodi, Rio Vista, Antioch, Vallejo and any
other bait shop that might meet my bait needs. Sturgeon bait can be
scarce in the summertime. Sometimes I pick up my bait the night
before, if it is local.
Rods…I prefer a rod in the 6-1/2' to 7-1/2' range, capable of
handling 25# - 40# test (I use 30# test line for sturgeon). You are
fishing for large fish, and in some cases, you will have to use
heavier sinkers and fish in stronger currents.
Reels… I prefer a reel that has a smooth drag and can handle
around 200 - 300 yards of 30# test line. Bait casting or
conventional type reels, in my opinion, are smoother and easier to
operate that a spinning reel. The drag should work well and the reel
should be equipped with a "line out" alarm (clicker). A
line guide on the reel is optional, pending personal preference.
Line…The line should be of good quality, fairly new and should
test out between 25# to 40#.
Sinkers…I use between 3 oz. - 16 oz. depending upon the current
and water depth I'm fishing in.
Leader…My personal preference is a 50# test, good quality,
monofilament line or leader. I run the leader length at
approximately 18" to 20" to hold the bait closer to bottom
without moving and swishing around.
Hooks… I use three different styles of hooks. I use a 5/0 to
7/0 octopus style hook for ghost shrimp, mud shrimp, pile worms and
herring. I use a 5/0 to 7/0 kahle or big bend styles hook for grass
shrimp. And, I use a treble hook for roe. When I am first exploring
which bait to use, I start with a double sturgeon hook setup, where
the hooks are on a loop, back to back, with a bead between them. The
bead keeps the baited hooks separate of each other. Keep the hooks
SHARP! I do not use thread, but thread is optional depending upon
Note: Cover the hooks well with the bait.
Boat…The boat should be large and safe enough to handle any bay
winds that might come up. Both Suisun and San Pablo Bays can get
rough with 15-25 mph winds against the current. Don't gamble on the
weather and winds if you are not used to open bay fishing.
and fish the big tides around a full moon and new moon. Look for the
dirtiest water if you are fishing shallow. I mean, really dirty,
muddy, silty and etc. Fish deeper (25' to 45') on the slower part of
the big tides. When the tide is running full, move to shallower
water (3' to 15'). Lessor tides on the 1st and 3rd quarter
moons will give you less of a chance of catching a sturgeon. I like
tides that have at least 4' of movement at the Golden Gate. The
sturgeon usually bites the best at the beginning and ending of big
tides, whether it is on the top or the bottom of the tides.
Exception…The sturgeon can bite throughout the big tides in the
shallower parts or mudflats in the bays.
Starting in the early morning, try and fish the last of a big
outgo and the first of a big income. The winds (prevailing south to
southwesterly) are less early in the morning. When the winds start
picking up, the tide has changed to income; the wind should now be
at your back. This planning makes the bays a little flatter when the
wind is going with the current and will give you a little more
Locations…Suisun Bay - Fish the current breaks created by
islands and sandbars. Also fish the slopes into deeper water from a
sandbar. Try and target 20' to 25' around the sandbars in Suisun
Bay. Around the Mothball Fleet in Suisun Bay, you can fish deeper
water to 40' or more with success.
San Pablo Bay - I like the edge of the shipping channels on the
slower parts of the big tides. Then, I move into shallow water, from
3'- 15' on the harder part of the big tides. I'm looking for real
murky, roily water. Keep away from the cleaner looking water. You
will be bothered by junk fish like croakers, brown sharks,
bullheads, and small stripers. Buoys 5 - 7 south of the "pumphouse"
is a good place to fish on the softer part of the tides. Up by the
rock wall across from Rodeo is good. The 25' to 30' water right
outside Rodeo can be good also. My personal preference is fishing in
the dirtiest water of the north side flats between Sonoma Creek and
the Petaluma River.
Use a depth/fish finder to find your depths. They will show fish
Techniques…I fish a "balanced" rod most of the time.
Sometimes, though, I place the rod in a rod holder, the reel is in
free spool, with the "clicker" on. I cast a long distance
from the boat because sturgeon can be spooky. Watch the rod for any
twitching, pumping, or just plain start to leave the boat. In any
case, be ready to set the hook hard. Remember, the slower the bite,
the bigger the fish. Junk bites will give you a fast rattle and or
banging of the rod tip. This bite is not what you are looking for.
If the junk fish are eating you up, move to another location.
Boat Ramps…I use only two boat ramps to launch my boat for San
Pablo Bay. One is the Vallejo City Public Launch Site across from
Mare Island on the Napa River. The other is Loch Lomond in San
Rafael. There are other launch sites close to San Pablo Bay located
on the Petaluma River under Highway 37, at China Camp off of Highway
101, and at Richmond City Launching facility.
For Suisun Bay, I launch at McEvoys or Harris Marine in West
Pittsburg. Or, I launch at the Martinez boat ramp. There are other
boat ramps located in Suisun City and Benecia that are close to
Suisun Bay also.
Again, the sturgeon bite in the bays has started. Be careful,
practice safe boating techniques and go catch a summer sturgeon.
As my sturgeon trips progress, I will report the action in the
FishinReport.com's Sacramento Valley section.