I keep hearing about this year’s marvelous salmon season, so I called up a couple of Sonoma Coast boat charter companies in Bodega Bay to find out what’s going on along those (fishing) lines. I also wanted to learn more about ocean-going day trips available to people with no interest in fishing.
I first talked to Bodega Bay’s Gary Singh, who comes from a fishing family and owns Miss Anita Fishing Charters. Miss Anita, the boat, is a customized 34-foot catamaran with a spacious cockpit and a total 630 horsepower (she’s fast).
She’s captained by Vince Orsini, who has worked the local waters since 1989. Charters on the Miss Anita come with an all-inclusive price that includes fishing equipment, bait, fish cleaning, filleting, and packaging.
Singh enthused about the current salmon fishing conditions in local waters. “It’s been great,” he said. “Every day it’s the biggest fishery on the coast.”
Salmon anglers seem to know it, too, because these days Singh is happily sending out fully-booked charters. Besides salmon, the boat — depending on the time of year — goes after rockfish, lingcod, Dungeness crab, halibut, albacore, and Humboldt (giant) squid.
Miss Anita also runs a variety of nature and exploratory charters.
“Everything is kind of time-related,” Singh said. “The whales come around in springtime, and those trips are always popular. But we also do harbor cruises, bird-watching trips, ash scatterings. We regularly take out an author who writes about birds — he did four trips last year. On the eco-adventure cruise we focus on local culture and fisheries; we talk about what’s involved in fishing.
“It’s such a beautiful coast, and thank God it’s not developed like Santa Cruz,” Singh added. “It’s sheer beauty here, it’s nature untouched. Leave the harbor and go south or go north — you’re alone with all that beauty. It’s great that Sonoma County protects its coast, keeping it natural. It’s gorgeous.”
Singh recently opened family-owned Fisherman’s Cove in Bodega Bay. It’s a fishing supply shop that’s also home to a small cafe dishing up the freshest local seafood: oysters (raised in nearby Tomales Bay), crab sandwiches, Portuguese-style fish soup, salmon bisque and more.
My next call was to one of the region’s sport-fishing legends: Captain Rick Powers, owner of Bodega Bay Sport Fishing Center. The center has two boats: the 65-foot New Sea Angler and the 56-foot Surf Scooter.
For more than 30 years Powers has helped guide the direction of Northern California’s saltwater fishing and been responsible for innovations such as crab/rockfish and rockfish/lingcod/salmon combo fishing, as well as hook-and-line giant squid fishing.
“I pioneered giant squid fishing from fishing boats,” he said. “Nine years ago nobody else was doing it. Now it’s very popular. In warm water years boats up to Washington are out catching giant squid.”
This year, Powers says, the local waters are showing “the best salmon fishing we’ve seen in the last 20 years, with more and larger fish--I’d say 15-18 pounds on average, and into the high 30s. The last six trips have produced full limits of salmon for everybody on the boat, plus rockfish and ling cod. It’s fantastic fishing, and we’re just getting into the heart of it!”
Bodega Bay Sport Fishing Center runs fishing trips year-round. “There something all the time in Bodega Bay,” he said. “Rock cod, lingcod, halibut, Dungeness crab, sand dab, albacore tuna, giant squid ... As for salmon, what a fishery we have right here on our doorstep! It can’t be beat anywhere in the world. This is truly world class salmon fishing.”
Powers also runs non-fishing charters. “We’ll do whale watch trips, pelagic bird trips, marine mammal trips. We do weddings, memorial ash scatterings at sea. We’re lining up some overnight custom charters for albacore tuna on the Surf Scooter, too.”
Powers, who is 65, mentioned that he was nine years old the first time he worked on a fishing vessel. “At age 19 I became one of the youngest licensed captains in California,” he said.
He paused a moment, thinking back. “I’ve seen a lot of changes over the years,” he said. “It’s been a wonderful business. Still is.”
Written by Sonoma Insider Suzie Rodriguez