There are three different ways to get out fishing for king salmon: with a professional charter boat, fishing along a salmon river, or having a friend or friend of a friend who has a boat. Recently I was lucky enough to be invited along by the latter. We met at the dark harbor at 5:30 am and waited until the lights flicked on at the charter boats. When they left, we followed. They go out everyday and communicate with each other about where they are catching fish, so they are in the know. But really, outside of San Francisco most of the fishing boats head to Duxbury Reef off Stinson Beach to fish for King salmon.
It's always thrilling to head out under the Golden Gate Bridge, through the jumbled waters of the Potato Patch, into the fog covered open ocean. There's the possibility of wildlife viewing, the adrenaline spike when you hook the fish, and then delicious food for weeks. Of course, this is the ocean, and there’s always the possibility of stormy seas, no fish, and well, worse can always happen. But the boats steaming towards Duxbury Reef were optimistic and salmon focused.
Step 1: Bait
We used anchovies for bait. Court, a fishing buddy, does what he calls the "Norwegian wrap". A long hook goes all the way through the fish, then he wraps wire around it.
Step 2: Add Sinker and Silver Dodger
Look around for flocks of seabirds diving a spot. This means bait fish are in the water, and salmon will be hunting these as well. You can also spy on your neighboring boats and see who's catching fish and go troll by them. (You can tell when they have a fish on, as the boat starts to turn in a circle, and someone goes for the net). When you find the place you want to fish, prepare the gear by attaching the baited hook, a silver dodger and sinker.
Step 3: Release Your Bait
When you first drop your bait, make sure it is spinning in a way that resembles a real anchovy. Keep your flash and weight clear and untangled. We had three people on the boat, so for one pole we measured out 30 counts of line, then 40, and then 50 counts of line. Then put the pole in a placer holder and go eat a sandwich or take a nap if someone is up to drive the boat and keep an eye on the pole. Troll slowly, about 2-4 mph.
Step 4: Catch a Fish!
You'll hear line go racing out of the reel. Grab the pole and slowly, steadily reel in. If the salmon is fighting hard, stop reeling, and let it wear itself out a little. However, once it starts coming up to the boat, keep reeling. Letting tension off could release the fish. Don't take the salmon out of the water. Another person on the boat grabs the net, and dips in to get the salmon.
Step 5: Bleed and Ice the Salmon
Once you've landed your salmon, you want to handle it as carefully as possible. I cut the gills out so it has a quick death and bleeds. Then I gut it-if it's a female, keep the egg sac. Put both the fish and egg sac on ice until you get home and clean them. To see how to eat every part of the salmon, visit this Instructable: How To Break Down a Whole Salmon.