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Batray and Everything About them

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Batrays and Everything About them

Fishing for Batrays

Fishing for batrays is an overlooked sport fishing challenge that will put even the toughest saltwater fishing tackle to the test. Batray is big and strong. It’s not unusual to hook into 60 to 100 pound fish. And their powerful wings, actually fins, give them an inordinate amount of pull or leverage.

Batray is often found in the open oceans at depths to 150 feet, but most anglers prefer to pursue them in shallower waters like San Fransisco Bay, Humboldt Bay and Elkhorn Slough near Moss Landing. In bays and sloughs they feed heavily on clams, oysters, shrimp and crabs.

Batrays are not considered good eating, which in some respects is probably an advantage. Why bring these flapping, angry guys into the boat if you don’t have to? If your skilled and lucky enough to win the fight with a big ray, just release it at the side of the boat.

The largest recorded catch in California weighed in at a whopping 181 pounds and measured 4 feet 9 inches across.

Fishing Techniques to Catch Batrays 

During most of the year, batray are scattered. But in early summer, often in May, they congregate to spawn. then larger numbers congregate, usually at high tide along shorelines. Boat boat and shore anglers have a shot at them. Bait fished right on the shallow bottom is the method of choice.

Fish the incoming water up to high tide. Since Batray are nocturnal feeders, tides corresponding with dusk or dawn, or even dark if local regulations permit, are probably the best.

Hooking rays in water 2 to 4 feet deep is common. Cast your baited rig out as far as from the boat or shore as possible, then set a taut line with a loose or free drag and with the reel clicker on. A screaming clicker means it’s time to set the hook on the ray as it flees towards deeper water. Often this run will strip a reel bare and smoke the drag.

Tackle, Bait and Rigging

Medium to heavy saltwater tackle is in order. Equipment used for open ocean rockfishing or cannonball-type salmon trolling will work just fine. See the Rockfish and Salmon post for specifics. You’ll need at least 20 pound monofilament and 5/0 hooks. Flatten the barb on the hook to make releasing the batray easier. By the way, if you can’t easily remove the hook, just cut the leader to let these bug rascals go. The hooks will dissolve.

Slide the sinker up the line and then tie on a snap swivel to which you can attack a snelled hook. A very effective bait is frozen whole squid. Boxes are sold at most grocery stores. Some anglers use more exotic bait like chicken parts.

When and Where to Fish

In San Fransisco Bay, the far south end is probably the best bet. Elkhorn Slough, a Monterey Bay estuary at Moss Landing, is a big batray hangout. A popular ray and shark tournament is held there each year. Humboldt Bay also has an abundance of Batrays.

Peak fishing occurs in early summer during spawning on tidal flats. To reiterate: do release these cow-eyed giants so they can continue to cruise the bottoms and provide fishing pleasure to future anglers.

SmallMouth Bass Lures and Everything to Catch Bass

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(Last Updated: April 13, 2015)
What You Will Learn In This Article:
  • SmallMouth Bass Lures and Baits
  • Fishing Techniques
  • River Fishing
  • Habitat
  • When and Where to Fish
  • Cleaning and Cooking

Smallmouth bass are plentiful in many Northern California reservoirs and rivers. According to the best historical information, they were planted in the Napa River and Alameda Creek in 1874. Following this introduction to California waters, smallmouths were soon released in many North California streams and rivers.

They flourished. The addition of dams on these free-flowing waterways restricted the movement of smallmouths, but did not inhibit their successful adaptation. In fact, as canyon-type North California aged, they favored the smallmouth over the largemouth.

Smallmouths prefer open, rocky shoreline areas and clear water, which is just what’s left after the brush, trees and other organic matter decomposed in a newly flooded reservoir.

The California record smallmouth was caught in 1979 at Trinity Lake. It weighed 9 lb 1 oz. This is monster size for a smallmouth. Anything over 4 pounds is bragging size. Many smallmouth anglers insist that they’re better fighters, pound for pound, than largemouths.

And for those who prefer stream fishing for trout, smallmouths provide another flowing-water fishing alternative. The smallmouth, or “bronzeback,” is easily identified by its brownish, almost bronze cast, with vertical dark bars. And in contrast with the largemouth, the upper jaw does not extend beyond the eye, and the dorsal fin has a very shallow notch.

SmallMouth Bass Lures and Baits

Baits are proportionally more productive for smallmouth than for largemouth. Department of Fish and Game creel census shows that minnows are the best overall bait for smallmouths. Anglers often fish them with a small split shot about a foot above the bait hook, using a bobber.

Other productive baits include crawdads, nightcrawlers, hellgrammites and crickets. One caution: Crickets are not allowed in some lakes. But the whole array of artificials also produce smallmouths. Cast surface smallmouth bass lures early and late in the day.

Work plastic worms and jigs along the bottom and use crankbaits, spinners and spinnerbaits at different speeds and depth next to cover. Shad and minnow imitations are good crankbaits. The Git Zit, a small plastic tube bait on a lead-head jig, is a very effective smallmouth bass lure.

Fishing Techniques

The approaches used for smallmouth fishing have much in common with largemouth angling, but there are critically important differences. It’s these differences that this section highlights.

Tackle: Most smallmouth bass anglers scale down their line and smallmouth bass lures to match the smaller size of the bronzeback. 6 and 8 pound test monofilament is typical, but largemouth rods and reels are used with several exceptions. For example, fly rodding for smallmouth in rivers and streams with popping bugs and streamers is great sport. And some anglers use ultralight spinning equipment.

River Fishing

The overriding rule is to fish for smallmouth in the same way you would for stream trout. Stream bass prefer undercut banks, tangles and large boulders in midstream. Walk in an upstream direction to fish smaller streams. But you can float larger rivers like the Lower Feather.

Cast your offering above the target and allow it to flow to the target area. Try to match the local food supply, be it hellgrammite, crawdads, or even lamprey eels. Small minnow imitations plugs like Rapalas and Rebels that float at rest and shallow-dive on retrieve are good producers, as are streamers and poppers.

Habitat

Lake smallmouth are most often found over rocky points, over submerged gravel bars and near shade drop-offs. Coves and waters with stumps showing just above the water can also produce in lakes like Trinity.

Smallmouths prefer water that is somewhat cooler (mid 60’s) than largemouths, so they spawn deeper (8 to 15 feet) and sooner than largemouths in the same waters.

When and Where to Fish

Shasta and Trinity Lakes are probably the premier smallmouth fisheries in the state. These lakes are at their peak for larger fish in February and March. A little farther south, some of the best smallmouth waters are Almanor, Black Butte, Collins, Folsom, Oroville and Pardee.

In the Bay Area, Putah Creek, the Russian River and Lake Berryessa are good. Pine Flat, New Melones, Don Pedro and Lake Nicimiento have their spring peak in March and April.

The Lower Feather River, from the Thermolito Afterbay to its mouth in Veronica, is probably the top-producing bronzeback river in California. A boat, either a canoe aluminum boat, or drift boat, is necessary to fish here because of the size of the stream and the difficulty of access to the prime bass spots.

Cast offerings parallel to the shore and retrieve them slowly. April and May are particularly good months, especially when flows are low (2500-4000 CFS).

As mentioned above, another good smallmouth stream is the Russian River. Bass are found throughout the drainage, but best results are often between Brown’s Pool and Mirabel.

Cleaning and Cooking

For information on the cleaning and cooking of smallmouth, see the Largemouth Bass post.

Largemouth Bass Fishing Tips

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(Last Updated: April 13, 2015)
What You Will Learn In This Article:
  • Largemouth Bass Fishing Tips
  • Largemouth Bass Lures / Crankbaits
  • Largemouth Bass Bait / Surface Plugs (and Stickbaits)
  • Spinnerbaits
  • Spoons
  • Jigs
  • Plastic Worms
  • How to Catch largemouth Bass Using Live Bait
  • Casting and Flipping
  • Tackle and Equipment
  • Ultralight Bass Angling
  • Cleaning and Cooking Largemouth Bass

Many an otherwise sane person is driven absolutely crazy by the immense selection of bass plugs, jigs, spoons, spinnerbaits, plastic worms etc. And professional bass tournament fishermen seem to own at least one of everything, based on the size of the tackle boxes in their boats.

Largemouth Bass Fishing Tips

Don’t despair. You don’t need one of everything to take bass. Largemouth bass offerings fall into seven categories:

  • Crankbaits
  • Surface Plugs
  • Spinnerbaits
  • Spoon Jigs
  • Jigs
  • Plastic Worms
  • Live Bait

It’s probably a good idea for a serious bass angler to have a sampling of the basic offerings in each category, but that isn’t even necessary. For example, some bass fishing experts say that one or two types of account for more bass than all the others combined. These two are plastic worms and spinnerbaits.

Largemouth Bass Lures / Crankbaits

Crankbaits are a broad category of bass lures, mostly plugs that get their name because the reeling speed determines how much the lure dives, vibrates and wobbles. Most of these lures have plastic, fish-shaped bodies. They also have a plastic lip, the size, shape and angle of which imparts action to the reeled lure.

Many have two sets of treble hooks which provide a good chance to hook a striking bass. But this also increases the chance of snags, so crankbaits are best used in open water. Crankbaits work, to one degree or another, almost all year long at sloping points, along shorelines, in shallow flats, etc.

Crankbaits either float at rest, sink slowly or sink rapidly. The most common way to fish this lure is to first jig it for a moment before beginning the return. Then reel fast to get the lure to the bottom. Now slow down enough to either drag the lure along the sloping bottom or bump it along, or return steadily right over the bottom.

Crankbaits are designed to be fished parallel to the shoreline so you can keep the lure near the bass, and at the prescribed depth for the longest time.

Popular bass crankbaits include Bomber Model A’s, Rapala Fat Rap and Storm Wiggle Wart. Shad and crawdad styles are popular.

Largemouth Bass Bait / Surface Plugs (and Stickbaits)

Surface plugs are top-water lures that simulate a sick or injure bait fish, frog or other creature. They float both when still and when retrieved. Most surface plugs have an action designed into them using blunt ends, propellers, dish-faced, etc.

The proper retrieve for most of these is slow, erratic and stop-and-go. But before retrieving many anglers will just let it sit in the target area for up to a minute or two, just twitching it, to send out vibrations and small ripples around it. Popular surface plugs include Rip-N-Minnow, Chug Bug and Devil’s Horses.

There is another class of surface plugs called stickbaits that are unique because they don’t have any action built into them. Probably the most famous of these is the Zara Spook. The action needed to make a stickbait work must come from the skill of the angler.

This takes several hours of practice to develop. articles and bass books can be found at your local library to show you how to do it. the reading and the practice may be worth it because stickbaits have one profound advantage over other surface plugs.

They can be kept in the target area longer because very little forward motion is required to give them the action needed. A stickbait in skilled hands may catch more fish than other surface plugs. The prime season for surface plugs is in the springtime spawning season when bass are in shallow water, especially in the early mornings and late evenings. They are also good in summertime in shallow water after dark.

Spinnerbaits

Spinnerbaits are one of the most productive of all bass catching lures and are simple to cast and retrieve. They are good all year, especially in water up to 10 feet deep. use them along brushy structures, in flooded trees or fallen trees. Most spinnerbait designs are semi-weedless so hang-ups are not a constant concern. Veteran anglers vary the return to change depth and action, but in most cases, the slower the retrieve the better.

Here are some tips. The best all around colors are probably white or chartreuse (yellowish). Spinnerbaits can be hopped along the bottom like a jig. In this style of fishing, blades that flutter freely on the downfall bring strikes. the size of spinnerbaits should approximate the length of the bait fish in the area. Skirts can be trimmed to accomplish this.

The best tip of all: Add a plastic worm or pork rind on the hook of the spinnerbait. It produces more strikes from bigger bass. Probably because it keeps the lure up in water, even with a slower retrieve.

Spoons

Jigging a spoon is a little-practiced largemouth technique that is easy and effective. It’s a great method to take bass from late autumn through early spring. That’s when largemouths seek warm water down deep in Northern California reservoirs. It can also work in midsummer when bass go deep to find water cooler than surface temperatures.

A wobbling spoon is dropped down over the side of the boat and then raised up and fluttered down at whatever depth the bass are at. The more flutter the better on the down drift. Work the jig in about a 3-5 foot, up and down range. Hopkins 75 and Haddock Structure Spoons in about the 1/2-3/4 ounce range are about right. Fish can be taken in depths between 30-60 feet with this approach.

Jigs

Jigging, typically with a skirted lead-head jig, is somewhat more complicated than spoon jigging. but it is a very productive technique. The jig is cast out or flipped out (more on this later) and then allowed to drop to the bottom. The most common retrieve is to skip the jig along the bottom in short, sharp jerks.

Imagine you’re dragging the jig along the bottom from a drifting or steadily trolled boat. That’s about how you want your jig to act. most strikes occur on the initial drop or on the ensuing flutter downs. Garlands Spider Jigs and Haddock Kreepy Crawlers are popular.

The most famous jig rig in Northern California bass waters is in the “Pig ‘n Jig.” It’s a 3/8 to 1/2 ounce skirted jig (usually dark colored, like brown) with a weedless hook. A pork rind (or plastic trailer) is put on the hook. The rind makes it look more like a crawdad and also slows the rig’s descent. When you move the Pig ‘n Jig off the bottom, don’t just let it drop, let it down and be alert for a take. Keep slack out of your line to feel the strike and watch your line for unnatural movement.

Plastic Worms

Some people claim that each year more largemouth bass are taken on plastic worms than on all other artificial lures combined. This could well be true. Plastic worms do have several special advantages over other lures:

  • They can’t be fished at all depths of water.
  • They have outstanding action at different retrieve speeds.
  • Weedless rigging is a snap.
  • They’re inexpensive so anglers don’t mind risking them in heavy cover.
  • They can be rigged in different ways for different situations. For example, in shallow spring spawning waters they can be fished weightless.

Plastic worms (from 4-6 inches long) are worked along the bottom much the same as in jigging. Work them slowly and erratically , like a nightcrawler twisting and drifting in the current. Dark colors like purple and brown are most productive. Plastic worms can also be used for vertical jigging, like spooning.

How to Catch largemouth Bass Using Live Bait

Live bait bass fishing isn’t all that common anymore. That’s strange, in a way, because live bait was the only way bass were caught along before plugs, spinnerbaits and all the other artificials came along.

For instance, you can use several live frog harnesses in your collectibles. It holds the little guy in a swimming posture and would be great for casting and retrieving a frog without putting a hook through it.

But other live bait are a different matter, especially live crawdads. These critters are the way to go if you want to catch a really big bass.

Some anglers prefer to just put some split shot up the line about a foot or two from the hook. Others use no sinker at all. Use a #6, 8 or 10 bait hook, depending on the size of the crawdad. When you see a twitch, that is the largemouth picking up the crawdad. As the fish moves off with the bait, the belly will come out of your line.

Let the bass run a few feet and then set the hook hard. Don’t allow any slack in your line when playing the bass. Fish rocky points, drop-offs and ledges. Spring is the best time to catch the lurkers on live crawdads.

Casting and Flipping

Accuracy is the measure of a good cast. Consistently accurate bass casters will hook more fish. Besides the traditional overhand cast, often a sidearm or even an underhand cast is called for to reach the target (when casting an overhanging branch, for example) and to gently put the offering on the water. The three keys to accurate casting are practice, practice and practice.

Flipping (or Flippin’) is a specialized casting technique. It’s used to delicately put a jig or plastic worm on the water, especially near or in heavy cover. Springtime shallow water bassing is the prime flipping time. In elementary terms, the standing angler strips line off the reel, much like a fly angler, as the offering swings from the rod tip like a pendulum.

On a forward swing the jig is flipped out and gently “put” on the water. Accuracy is critical as is an almost ripple-free landing. Weedless offerings are a rule. And in order to fight the bass in close and keep it out of cover, heavy equipment is used. A specialized flipping rod (about 7 1/2 feet) is matched with 15-25 pound test line.

Tackle and Equipment

Today, many bass anglers use what is known in the trade as a bass boat. These boats were popularized in Bass Derbies. They are about 16-20 feet long, with pedestal seats, large outboard motors, an electric trolling motor (used for maneuvering, not trolling), several depth finders, a fish box, a flashy sparkling finish, and on and on.

Bass boats are fun and functional, but the good news is that you don’t need one to catch your share of bass. The bad news is that successful bass fishing probably does require some kind of boat that can be maneuvered along an irregular shoreline.

Many kinds of boats will do: an inflatable, a canoe, a dingy, a row boat, an aluminum boat, or a small stern-drive cruiser. Shore fishing for bass is also possible. And some lakes like San Pablo have good shore bass angling. But at most lakes, covering a number of promising structures on foot is difficult.

To find promising bass territory during all seasons, you’d best be equipped with maps of the lake, a thermometer that works well under water and an electronic fish finder. A flasher type will do, but a graph recorder, a liquid crystal, or video style is preferred.

Now for the tackle itself. Here, there is a great deal of latitude. The possibilities include the following:

  • Spinning equipment – 6 to 7, light to medium action spinning rod, open-faced reel with 8 to 12 pound monofilament line.
  • Spin casting equipment – 5 to 6 foot pistol-grip, light to medium rod, closed-faced spinning reel with 8 to 12 pound monofilament line.
  • Bait casting equipment – 5 to 6 foot pistol-grip, light to medium rod (can be used with spin casting reel), bait casting reel (some have magnetic anti-backlash mechanisms) with level-wind feature, star drag and 8 to 12 pound monofilament line.

What lures, to use with these rods and reels? Beginners and once-in-awhile anglers should probably have a good selection of spinnerbaits, crankbaits and a surface plug or two. These are the easiest to retrieve with good action, and they catch a lot of fish. A few wobbly spoons for spoon jigging in deep water are also handy. More experienced anglers wouldn’t be without a good selection of plastic worms and lead-head jigs.

Professional bass anglers often put scent formulas on all their lures. It adds attracting odors and covers up human odors. Next to vibration, bass probably respond most to odor. This is an inexpensive way to improve your chances. Tests indicate that the color of one’s lure is also important in producing strikes, depending upon water clarity. There’s an electronic instrument called a Color-C-Lector on the market that tells anglers which color offerings to use at a given depth in a particular water clarity. Results have been promising. It’s worth looking into.

Ultralight Bass Angling

Want to put more hook-ups and more excitement into your bass fishing? Here’s the way: Use ultralight spinning tackle, 2-4 pound monofilament and “forage-sized” lures. with this setup, you’re sure to get more strikes because the bass can’t see the line, and your offerings duplicate the size of bucketmouths’ regular food – threadfin shad and crawdads. and the sheer joy of fighting bass on this light tackle can’t be beat.

You’ll want a rod in the 5’6″ to 5’9″ range with a fast taper (i.e. a rod that bends under a load only in the upper third of its length.) The solid backbone provides good hook setting in the hard mouth structure of the black bass. Match this with an ultralight spinning reel. Note that front drag systems, though less convenient than rear drag models, offer more drag surface over which to dissipate heat and distribute pressure. Use high quality line.

A wide variety of baits are available. There are ultralight crankbaits from companies like Cordell, Rebel and Heddon. Small spoons (about 1/8 ounce) like Kastmaster and Krocodile are good. Another good bet is soft plastics. Small plastic worms, 2-inch feather-like reapers, tube baits like Fat Git Zit and little curl-tail grubs are all excellent bass takers.

Some rigs are best on a 1/16-1/8 ounce p-head jig hook, while others are best on a Texas-style rig. Replace the sliding sinker with a small split shot about 18 inches up the line. Even tournament bass anglers are finding that ultralight bassing can give them that competitive edge.

Cleaning and Cooking Largemouth Bass

Bass can be scaled, gutted and beheaded, but many prefer to fillet them. This is the easiest way to remove the scales and skin. Any muddy flavor is in the skin. Bass is mild and flaky. It can be cooked in a variety of ways including sauteing, broiling, poaching, baking and frying. But in any method of preparation, remove the skin before cooking.

Of course, tournament bass anglers release all caught fish by utilizing a live-well in their boats. More recreational bass anglers should probably follow the catch and release ethic. And nobody should keep more bass than they can properly use.

Tuna Fishing Season and How to Catch Them

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Tuna Fishing Season
(Post last updated: December 13, 2014)
What You Will Learn In This Article:
  • When and Where: Tuna Fishing Season
  • How to Catch Tuna – Fishing Techniques
  • Tackle and Equipment
  • Tuna Lure and Bait
  • Cleaning and Cooking

Albacore, or long finned tuna, often take commercial fishing boats a couple of hundred miles from shore. Commercial boats stay out until their freezers are full.

Fortunately, there is a time of year when tuna come close enough to shore (usually 25-50 miles) so that sport fishermen can get in on the fun.

These fish migrate up the coast of California, typically hitting the waters of Monterey and San Fransisco about late August.

Following their arrival, good fishing may last for as little as a week or two, or may extend for several months.

Tuna Fishing Season

There are years when tuna fishing gets hot as close as ten miles from shore. These are the only times most sport fishermen consider tuna fishing in their own boats. At other times it’s probably best to venture out on a well-equipped, fast, large party boat especially rigged for tuna.

Typically the boats leave in the wee hours of the morning (about 3 a.m.) and are back in port by 7 p.m. Cost ranges from $50 to $75. There are also overnight-one day ($125) and two-day ($250) trips available.

When and Where: Tuna Fishing Season

It varies. Two of the better tuna grounds are Soap Run and Pioneer Sea Mount. These are both 35-55 miles out off the coast of Davenport. Tuna season from year to year is unpredictable.

In some years there may not even be a sport season because the fish are too far offshore. Check often with party boat operators, tackle shops and fishing publications, starting every August.

How to Catch Tuna – Fishing Techniques

Trolling is the most popular technique for taking tuna. But before going into trolling specifics, a word about where to troll. After all, it’s a big ocean. Most experts look for water in the 63-65F range with 60F being the minimum. The second good fish finder is bird activity.

Birds actively pursuing bait fish means that tuna may be doing the same thing from down below the forage fish swarm. When birds are spotted, run the boat through the edge of the activity, not through the center. No need to chance scattering the bait fish and feeding tuna.

Tuna or Albacore trolling is characterized by the following:

  1. Trolling close to the boat. The theory goes that to the tuna, the wake looks like a bait fish feeding frenzy.) Put the lure right in the white water wake of the boat about 50 to 70 feet behind the stern.
  2. Fairly rapid boat speed (perhaps 7-10 knots) to move along the feathered or rubber-skirted jig at a good pace.
  3. Party boat captains usually troll in square grids of about 20 minutes per leg until fish are located. A zigzag pattern is also a good approach.

The other method of tuna fishing is used on party boats and some private boats after a school of fish is located by trolling. The boat is stopped and scoops of bait fish (usually anchovies) are tossed into the water to raise the tuna up to the surface. This technique is called chumming. Fishermen drift live bait near the surface.

Since tuna move in schools, it’s always a good idea for even private boats to try drift fishing after a trolling hookup is landed. Frozen anchovies often work even without chumming. Drift, facing the wind, so that the rig is not under the boat. Casting out a Salas or similar jig can also work.

Tackle and Equipment

Tuna are big, fast, open-ocean sport fish. They are one of the most sought after game fish in California ocean waters. A good fish averages 15-30 pounds with some ranging up to 40 pounds or more. Essential equipment includes the following:

  1. Large, iced, fish storage box (or cooler, or plastic trash container) and a good-sized gaff.
  2. A 6-6 1/2 foot medium to heavy trolling rod with roller tip and a 4/0 to 6/0 sized reel filled with at least 300 yards of 50-80 pound mono-filament line. This heavy equipment is needed to quickly land the first fish so that chumming and drift fishing can begin before the school disappears.
  3. For drift fishing, a light to medium action, fast tapered, 7 foot rod mated to a conventional reel capable of holding 300 yards of 25-30 pound test line is suggested.

Tuna Lure and Bait

The most productive tuna jigs:

Description: Chrome-plated or abalone-pearl head and a natural feather or vinyl skirt.

Colors: Dark colors (like black, purple, green and yellow) during darker periods. Light colors (like red and white, red and yellow) in bright periods.

Size – 4-10 ounces.

The preferred bait is live anchovies. The best are 3-4 inches long, green backed (they seem friskier), with no scale loss or other signs of deterioration. For surface fishing, hook the anchovy through a gill cover. For deeper action, nose hook the anchovies and use a 1 or 2 ounce rubber-core sinker about 30 inches up the line. Use the sharpest hooks money can buy. Nickel-plated Gamakatsu hook in #4 and #6 are a good choice.

Cleaning and Cooking 

Tuna is most often steaked. Make sure the the dark flesh is removed from each piece. Like salmon, tuna has a relatively high fat content. Also like salmon, the most popular way to prepare it is barbecuing. The smoke seems to add to the flavor.

Poached albacore tastes like canned tuna, but even better. Poached albacore may be stored in the refrigerator for several days or frozen for a short time. Sauteing albacore is also popular. These strong tasting fish work well in recipes with spicy or tomato-based sauces.

What is Abalone and Everything about it

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What is abalone
(Post last updated: December 23, 2014)
What You Will Learn In This Article:
  • What is Abalone
  • How to Catch Abalone
  • Where to Fish Abalone
  • Tackle and Equipment
  • Cleaning And Cooking

What is Abalone

What is Abalone

An abalone is a rock clinging, single-shelled creature that inhabits shoreline waters (especially where there are concentrations of rocks and kelp) all along the Northern California Coast. It has a large, fleshy foot and sensory projections on its underside. More from Wikipedia.

Most all seaside gift shop browsers have seen an eye-catching display of abalone shells. and those who have ordered it on restaurant menus know how delicious it is. But it’s possible for anyone with some insight and a little luck to enjoy catching, preparing and eating abalone.

How to Catch Abalone

There are three basic techniques for taking abalone:

  1. Rock Picking – searching the rocky shore on foot.
  2. Free Diving – diving near shore with a snorkel only (no aqualung).
  3. Scuba Diving – diving with an aqualung.

North of Yankee Point (at Monterey) only rock picking and free diving are allowed. Scuba divers are not permitted to take abalone anywhere along the Northern California coast from Monterey to Bodega Bay to Fort Bragg to Crescent City, near the Oregon border.

Rock pickers operate at low tides – preferably a minus low tide and a calm sea. They start about an hour before the low tide and quit before the incoming tide threatens a soaking or being stranded away from shore.

The basic technique is to comb an area looking for abalone attacked to rocks. Often it is best to feel under water in crevices and cracks that other rock pickers have missed.

Free divers operate in the water. The wise ones in pairs take turns diving down to rocky bottoms in 5-30 feet of water. Abalone are pried off the rocks with a metal bar. Since this can fatally injure an abalone, it is best to be sure the abalone is of legal size before prying it off. Rock pickers must also make this judgement. to pry the abalone off the rock and avoid injuring it, slip the bar under the abalone. Then lift the handle end up, pushing the tip of the bar against the rock. This prevents injury to the abalone’s foot. If it is undersized, hold the abalone back on the spot where it was taken until it grabs hold itself.

Free diving lessons are available at selected locations along the coast. No one should attempt to free dive without proper instructions. Some tips: Dive only on an outgoing tide. Incoming tides create rips that can carry you out to sea. Make sure you are familiar with the weight belt release and the dive area. And dive with an experienced partner.

Where to Fish Abalone

Abalone can be found all along the Northern California coast from Monterey to the Oregon border. Good areas are scattered all along between Santa Cruz and Fort Bragg. North from Fort Bragg to Westport are the best bets. Check with dive shops and experienced abalone rock pickers and divers for more information.

Tackle and Equipment

The equipment needed for rock picking and free diving are an abalone iron (of legal dimension), a fixed caliper measuring gauge, a state fishing license, a catch bag (or at least a gunny sack), neoprene boots, neoprene gloves and an inflatable buoyancy vest. In addition, for free diving, you’ll need a wet suit, hood, snorkel, mask, fins, knife (for escaping from kelp) and a weight belt.

Cleaning And Cooking

Cleaning abalone is different from most other seafood, but it is not actually difficult. Insert the abalone iron between the meat and the shell at the pointed end of the abalone. Now pop out the meat. Next, trim away the flanged edges and all the intestines. A pot scrubber can then be used to rub off the black skin. Scrape off the suction cups with a knife. Now it’s time to tenderize the meat. Before slicing pound it with a big mallet. Then slice it 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick. Use the mallet again for a final tenderizing. The end of a bottle may also be used. Some anglers suggest leaving the cleaned abalone in the refrigerator for a day or two before slicing and pounding to allow the muscle to relax, making it more tender and easier to handle.

Most people feel that the only way to prepare abalone is quick fan frying. Tenderized steaks are usually floured, or dipped in egg and sautéed over high heat for less than one minute on a side. Fry only enough to heat clear through and slightly brown.