California, bait, San Francisco, San Francisco Bay, sportfishing boats, Monterey, sport boat, southern California, artificial lures, National Marine Fisheries Service, Sunset Line, ocean salmon, monofilament line, bottomfishing, recreational fishing, Monterey Bay, northern California, fishing boats, sport fishing, Calif., Fish Game, Sun Francisco Examiner, fishing for salmon, Hermann Kessler, fish stocks, Susan E. Smith, Edward Vom Hofe, Samuel Melner, white sturgeon, State of California, General Developments California, relative abundance, recreational fisheries, Bodega Bay, fiberglass rods, fiberglass rod, striped bass, monofilament fishing line, game fish, southern California sport, sport boats, spinning reels, bait fishing, Bolinas Bay, sliding sinker rig, Humboldt Bay, recreational anglers, nylon line, braided line, commercial salmon
Changes in Saltwater Angling Methods and Gear in California
SUSAN E. SMITH
Introduction In California. as in most other coastal states, saltwater recreational fishing has increased rapidly over the years, and is likely to continue to increase. Recreational fish stocks, however, only have the capacity to yield a limited sustained catch. To manage a recreational fish stock rationally, its relative abundance must be monitored over a period of time. One method widely used in assessing relative abundance is the collection and analysis of catch per unit of effort data (Le., catch per angler hour, catch per angler day). Researchers recognize, however, that there are other factors to consider when assessing abundance by this technique. One such factor is the change in efficiency of fishing gear
and methods over a period of time. Actual reduction of fish stocks, if measured by catch-per-effort alone, may be masked by increased efficiency in gear and: or methods, so that there would appear to be little, if any, decline in the stock (Gulland. 1968). One of the first steps in approaching and understanding this problem is to document important changes in angling techniques and tackle, and the approximate times these changes have taken place. Descriptions of commercial fishing gear and methods have been documented by Scofield (1929, 1947, 1948, 1951a, 1951b. 1956). Fry Susan E. Smith is with the Tiburon Laboratory, Southwest Fisheries Center, National Marine Fisheries Service
, NOAA, 3150 Paradise Drive, Tiburon. C A 94920.
(I93I ) , Whitehead (193I ) . Croker (l938a), and others. Information on commercial gear and techniques has also been gathered by the State of California since 1916. This type of information is not available f o r California's marine recreational fisheries, except in scattered reports in the scientific literature and in popular art
icles. This report traces developments in saltwater angling equipment from just before the turn of the century to the present. It also presents some examples of California fisheries that have been affected by developments in sportfishing methods and equipment, and documents current methods and tackle used in these fisheries. General Developments California saltwater recreational fishing had its beginnings during the last decades of the 19th century
. In the early days of the sport, it appears that most offshore fishing was conducted with handlines, except for a select group of big game anglers who fished for bluefin tuna off Catalina Island and a few salmon trollers in Monterey Bay (Collins, 1892; Holder. 1914; French. 1916). No doubt some people used flyfishing and freshwater baitcasting tackle for some of the smaller inshore and anadromous species around river mouths and in creeks and bays, but there is little specific information of the type of tackle used in these areas. Hexagonal split bamboo rods had been introduced in the United States around 1870(Marden, 1965),and rods made of plain bamboo (Calcutta type) were also available before the turn of
the century, as were a variety of hardwood rods made of Cuban lancewood, hickory, South American
greenheart, and bethabera. Multiplying baitcasting reels' were in use, but only a few were designed for saltwater fishing. Because these early multipliers did not have a n internal drag or free-spool mechanism, the reel handles would spin wildly when casting or when a fish ran with the line. For this reason they were coined "knucklebusters." Pressure was applied to the outgoing line by a leather thumb brake. Fishing line was usually tarred cotton or twisted linen. The last, called "cuttyhunk," became the most popular for saltwater use and consisted of strands of Irish linen. Each strand or ply of the most common type (25-lea:) had a breaking strength of about 3 pounds per strand dry, and 5 pounds wet; a more specialized line (50-lea) tested at 2 pounds per strand when dry and 3 pounds when wet (A. W. Agnew, Sunset Line and Twine, Petaluma, Calif., pers. commun.). Cuttyhunk became the standard in ocean angling until supplanted by nylon and Dacron3 after the second World War. Linen line wascombined with a variety of leader materials, usually gut or wire. ___ 1 Multiplying reely. as oppored to single-action types, are geared to give increased retrieving speed. the \pool revolbing several times with each turn of the handle ? A unit of measurement (300yards per p o u n d ) indicating the degree of fineness of the yarn from which the threads o f the line were made. `Referenceto trade names or commercialfirms does not imply endorsement bv the National Marine Fisheries Service, NOAA.
Marine Fisheries Review,
During the mid-I890's, gasoline boat engines were developed (Scofield, 1956), which would have a profound effect on the expansion of ocean sport fishing on the West Coast
. After the turn of the century a steadily increasing number of boats began to shift from sail and oar power to gasoline engine power. One of the most important developments in ocean fishing tackle was the invention of the star-drag reel. The first reel (Fig. 1) of this type with slipping clutch (internal drag) and irreversible handle was patented by Edward Vom Hofe and Co. in 1902 for big game fishing off Catalina (Major, 1948; Melner and Kessler, 1972). After about 1913, the Vom Hofe star drag and other similar reels began to replace the busters (Major. 1948; Reiger, 1973), but apparently they were mostly used by big game fish anglers and still quite expensive. In a 1919 catalogue, prices for the Universal Star (Vom Hofe) in sizes 2 / 0 to 9jO ranged from $57.50 to $75.50 each (Melner and Kessler, 1972). The 1920's marked a turning point in ocean fishing with the introduction of public sportFishing Boat
s a n d fishing barges in southern California
(Major, 1948; Van Deventer, 1926; Sadler, 1928). In general, a sportfishing boat or party boat4 provides fishing space to the public for a fee and operates on a scheduled basis as opposed to charters and rentals where the boat itself is hired for the exclusive use of one or more anglers. Barges are essentially immobile sportfishing boats reached by shuttle launches from shore. With these new facilities, open ocean fishing became available to the general public. In the 1930's, live-bait fishing and public sportfishing (Fig. 2) became . established in southern California, while ocean pleasure fishing was just beginning or already underway in
Figure I.-Vom Hofe & Company's "Universal Star," forerunner of today's star-drag reel design, as it appeared in a 1919 catalog (E=removable leather thulllb pad. F=frce-\pool 1c\er. G =star drag). Taken fro111 GVCtIt Fi.T//itl,qTN(k/r Curulogs edited by Samuel Melner a n d H e r m a n n Kessler. C o m m e n t a r y by Sparse Grey Hackle. a1972 by Samuel Melner a n d Hermann Kessler. Introduction and commentary 01972 by Alfred W. Miller. Used by permission of C r o w n Publishers. Inc.
- 41n this report the term "sport fishing boat" has been substituted for, and i s synonymous with, "partyboat." Use of the latter term has been discouraged by members of t h e recreational fishing industry.
northern California (Croker, 193%; An important new product, mono-
Davis, 1949). Starting in 1935, Cali- filament nylon line, was introduced in
fornia boat operators who carried 1946. Although the first monofilament
anglers for hire were required by law to line was waterproof (did not rot) and
keep daily records of their catch.
was lighter than braided nylon or linen
During the mid- 1930's, American line, it was stiff and difficult to use as a
reel manufacturers introduced moder- main line. It also stretched badly and
ately priced, mass-produced. high played havoc with plastic spool reels,
quality, revolving spool reels (stardrag bursting them under pressure. Later,
type) to middle and low income people, many improvements were made that
and these reels soon came into wide- cut down on the stretch, and casting
spread use ( H . Henze. Penn Reels, lines were made softer and limper. SoftPhiladelphia, PA
.. pers. comun.). Al- monofilament was finally introduced
though the first spinning (fixed spool) to the west coast in the early 1950's,but
reel was introduced from France in it did not begin to outsell braided
1935. by the time a market was linen line until the early 1960's when
developed in 1939, the supply was cut spin fishing became popular in salt
off because of the war (McClane, water. Spinning reels had been reintro-
1974). Braided nylon fishing line made duced about the same time as mono-
its appearance around 1939 (samples filament line (circa 1946), but these
were exhibited at the San Francisco
5 were mainly designed for freshwater
World's Fair), and it later came into fishing. The early spinning reels were
limited use during the war years (A.W. trouble-prone and did not work well
Agnew, Sunset Line and Twine, with braided line which was still
Petaluma, Calif., pers. commun.). This popular for ocean fishing in the 1940's.
early nylon line stretched badly, and at An important advance in rod build-
the time, no one knew how to eliminate ing occurred in 1948, when fiberglass
or reduce the stretch factor. In general, rods were introduced, and solid,
bamboo was the most popular rod hollow. and wooden CORE Model
material, although in 1936. tubular became available (Major, 1948). The
metal rods made of beryllium copper advantage of fiberglass was that it was
came on the market. These beryllium flexible and tough, excellent for
rods resisted saltwater corrosion better casting, and did not take a permanent
than other metal rods already on the bend or "set" after prolonged useas did
market for freshwater use (Moss, bamboo or hardwood rods, or rust like
1976). although corrosion was still metal rods.
Also, in the late 1940's. the first fiber-
When the United States entered glass boats were made available to the
World War I1 in December 1941. the public. Fiberglass enabled boat build-
U.S. Navy closed all ports to sport- ers to mass produce one-piece hulls
fishing. Later a few boats with special with a minimum of skilled labor, and in
permits were allowed to operate from following years this material would
certain ports, but under strict regula- become a standard in the pleasure boat
tions (Young, 1969).
field (Whittier, 1976). Advancements
By the end of the war, most anglers in welded and riveted aluminum hulls
were still using cane rods. stardrag also helped to make aluminum a popu-
reels, and twisted linen line with gut or lar boat-building material. These new
wire leaders, but important develop- materials made fishing skiffs strong yet
ments in tackle were already underway. light and portable, and relatively
Many reels were now equipped with maintenance free.
lightweight plastic spools which made Another postwar development was
it much easier to cast light lures and live the introduction of outboard engines
bait using cuttyhunk line. Also, by this with forward-neutral-reverse gearshifts.
time, the gear-in-mesh feature was These soon replaced the old direct
available on most reels. Prior to this drive outboards, making small boats
invention it was very easy to strip the more manageable, safer, and simpler to
gears of a reel if the angler threw it into operate. Soon afterward manufactur-
gear while a fish was running with the ers offered cable-operated remote-
control steering so one could operate
the motor from up forward, giving the boat better stability and the skipper better forward visibility (Whittier, 1976). These developments. as well as the many other improvements in boat and engine designs that followed after the war, including the introduction of electric starters, radio-telephones. fathometers, radar. and other electronic equipment. had a great influence on the expansion of the recreational boat fishery in California. In 1950. soft monofilament fishing line was introduced on the west coast. Soon most leader materials were discarded in favor of tying the hook directly to the monofilament line. This made casting small baits and lures easier and caused a boom in the lure business (Agnew, Sunset Line and Twine Co.. Petaluma. Calif., pers. commun.; Cannon. 1964).Also, during this time. fiberglass rods were quickly replacing the old cane rods. Moderately priced, quality spinning reels were introduced in 1953, and these reels soon became popular in freshwater fishing. and later (the 1960's) in saltwater fishing. The spinning reel. or fixed-spool design, eliminated the main cause of line backlashes. permitted the use of very light lures and baits. and perhaps most important. made the art of casting relatively easy to master for novice anglers. In the late 1950's, the Coast Guard
enforced stringent regulations for passenger boats (Frey, 1971), and the following years would see a marked decrease, followed by a leveling off, in the number of active sportfishing boats (Young, 1969),and a trend, especially in southern California, toward larger, faster, and more comfortable boats designed for offshore and long-range fishing trip
s. Many of the larger southern California sport boats were built and launched during this period (Young, 1969). In the 1960's. the combination of spinning reels, fiberglass rods, and monofilament nylon line became established in saltwater fishing in California. On the west coast, monofilament line came into widespread use, outselling braided line (Agnew, Sunset Line and Twine, Petaluma, Calif., pers. commun.). By the rnid-l960's, fiberglass had dominated the rod market.
Marine Fisheries Reviebv
Today, nylon monofilament line is still the most popular line, and is used on both spinning and revolving spool reels. Spinning gear is especially popular for the many small-to-medium- sized game fishes found in California's inshore waters. Revolving spool reels are enjoying renewed popularity largely due to refinements in reel designs. Some of the newer reels have an internal centrifugal brake system as well as an external spool tension control that allows the angler to cast lures and baits with monofilament line without line backlashes-the main drawback of old revolving-spool reels. Spinning tackle is now common on southern California live-bait sportfishing boats, although the combination of conventional (revolving-spool) reels and monofilament line is widely used, and is also preferred for ocean salmon trolling and sturgeon fishing in northern California. and jigging for some of the larger game fish in southern California. Braided lines (nylon and Dacron) are generally reserved for big-game trolling and offshore bottom fishing where heavy duty conventional reels and rods are used. A new type of small diameter braided Dacron line has recently been introduced and is gaining in popularity in southern California. It has good abrasion resistance and low stretch (7-8 percent as compared with nylon line with 20-25 percent stretch). The tubular fiberglass rod is still the standard in California sport fishing; however, a new type of rod made from graphite was introduced around 1973. Graphite rods are extremely light and ultrasensitive, yet very strong, though approximately one-third smaller in diameter than comparable fiberglass rods. At this time, however, graphite rods are still quite expensive. Finally, the downrigger (Fig. 3), used for deep-water trolling, is showing up on an increasing number of private sportfishing boats in California. This device allows the angler to fish at a bait at accurately controlled depths with light or medium tackle and land a fish without the hindrance or loss of the sinker. The downrigger is clamped to the side or stern of the boat and consists of a short rod and hand-
+ /f Ii I \ II 1\ I
Figure 3.-The downrigger allows a n angler to fish a bait or lure at accurately controlled depths using light tackle. When a fish strikes, the angler's line is released from the downrigger sinker and line.
cranked or electrically operated metal drum loaded with stainless steel
wire weighted at the end with a hea\y cannonball or diving sinker. The angler's unweighted line is attached to the weighted downrigger line by a metal sinker release or release clip, then lowered to the desired depth. When a fish strikes the bait, the angler's line is released, allowing him to fight and land his fish on the free line. Fishing Technique and Tackle Changes The following are just a few examples of specific marine recreational fisheries in California that have been affected by developments in sportfishing tackle and fishing methods. No doubt other fisheries have been affected as well. These examples are also used to document present methods and tackle
San Francisco Area Striped Bass Fishery Up until the mid- I950's, striped bass, Morone saxatilis, fishing methods in San Francisco Bay had remained essentially the same for about half a century~~still-fishingwith bait and near-surface trolling with artificial lures. But in the summer of 1957, a collapse of the ocean salmon fishery brought salmon sport fishing boats into the bay to fish for stripEd bass in deep water using the new technique of deep-line trolling with 3-pound ( 1.4kg) sinkers and sinker releases (Chadwick. 1962). Many bass were caught, that year off ALCATRAZ ISLAND
, and subsequently in other areas in upper San Francisco Bay. From 1957 to 1959, most fish caught in the upper bay were taken by deep-line trolling. Furthermore, a winter fishery developed around 1958 when anglers discovered
that striped bass could be taken during the herring spawning runs. They used both the new deep-line trolling technique and the standard surface trolling method. Chadwick (1962) concluded that because fishing techniques in upper San Francisco Ray had changed so radically (Fig. 4), the commercial sport fishing boat catch could not be used to measure changes in abundance of striped bass. From the early to mid-1960's. another major change occurred in striped bass methods with the introduction of live bait drifting with anchovies, Engrairlis mort/rr.x. On 1) one live-bait sportfishing boat operated in 1962 and 1963. but by 1965, live-bait fishing for striped bass was firmly established (McKechnie and Fenner. 1971; Chadwick and Albrecht, 1965). Ocean surf-casting methods also changed in the mid-1960's when it was discovered that striped bass gathered in feeding schools at certain areas off ocean beaches, at which time they would readily take artificial lures cast from shore (Miller, 1974). Until then, practically all surf-caught bass were taken with bait, usually clams. According to Frey (l97l), by 1966 nearly all striped bass surf anglers had switched to metal and plasticartificial lures. This changeover also affected the catch along ocean beaches of redtail surfperch Amphistichus rhodoterus, which previously had been taken incidentally on hooks baited for striped bass. When anglers switched to lures cast out and quickly retrieved, redtail surfperch (which are seldom taken by this method) occurred much less frequently in the catch (Frey, 1971). Today in San Francisco Bay, livebait fishing is the primary method used by striped bass sportfishingboats at the height of the summer and fall seasons. Anchovies and shiner perch Cvrnatogaster aggregata, are used as bait. Boats repeatedly drift over areas where an abrupt change in depth occurs and when the current is running swiftest. In early spring, however, some will troll deep, using either single lines rigged with plastic skirt lures ("hoochies") or tandem spreader rigs baited with artificial lures (spoons, plugs, bug-eye
Figure 4.--Over a span of about 8 years, striped bass sport fishing boat methods have changed from (A) near-surface trolling and (B) bottomfishing, to ( C )deep trolling and then (D)deepdriftingwithlive bait. jigs). Among the advantages of live bait fishing on passenger boats, as opposed to deep-line trolling (still a very effective method), are that many lines can be fished at a time, and more anglers can be accommodated per trip. The method is also relatively simple for the novice angler (C. Anfrinson, Captain, fishing vessel Buss Tuh 111. pers. commun.). In San Pablo Bay and adjacent bays, rivers, and sloughs and up into the Delta, bait fishing remains the most widely used method in fall and winter. Staghorn sculpin Leprocotfus armutus, mudsuckers Gillichthys mirabilis, and bay shrimp Crangon sp.,
are used as bait. During the summer, anglers will sometimes troll artificial lures. Private boat and rental shiff anglers throughout the bay system conduct both surface and deep-line trolling for bass as well as plug casting and bait fishing. Shore anglers cast baits and artificial lures from piers, jetties, banks, and beaches. Some fly-fishing is done in the relatively shallow, quiet waters of the bay. Boat rods and revolving spool reels are generally used for deep trolling and deep drifting with live bait, while both spinning and conventional tackle are used for surface trolling and casting. Fiberglass surf-casting rods range up to 12 feet (3.7 m) long. Line strengths vary with fishing method, usually anywhere from 12 to 20 pound test monofilament for casting, to 40 pound test or heavier for deep-line trolling where cannonball sinkers ( I 2- to I-pound or 0.2- to 0.5-kg) are used. In deep-line trolling, some sportfishing boats use heavy duty moncl wire for the main line, where 2- to 3-pound (0.9 to 1.4kg) sinkers are needed to carry the long (up to 12 m) monofilament leader to the desired depth. Sturgeon Fishing in San Francisco Bay Sturgeon fishing, prohibited by law in 1917, was opened to sportfishing in 1954 the fishery centered in the San Francisco Bay estuary system. The most common species, the white sturgeon, Acipenser transmontanus, reachesa length of 20feet (6lOcm)and a weight of 1,800 pounds (816.5 kg) (Squire and Smith, 1977). A size limit of 40 inches (102 cm) was established with a one-fish bag limit. Initially, snagging by trollers seemed to be the only effective method, but trolling for sturgeon was prohibited by law in I956 (Miller, 1972). Relatively few fish were taken until 1964 when it was discovered that bay shrimp, Crangon sp., was a very effective bait (McKechnie and Fenner, 1971). With this discovery, yearly sport fishing boat catches jumped from 3 sturgeon in 1963 to 2,400 in 1967-a striking example of the effect of a new fishing technique on
a fishery. There seems little doubt that angler efficiency increased over this period. In succeeding years, bottom fishing for sturgeon became increasingly popular in the San Francisco Bay area, with most angling taking place from sportfishing boats and skiffs (private and rented) in San Pablo and Suisun Bays from fall through early spring. In these areas the standard equipment is a 7- to 8-foot (2.1- to 2.4-m) boat rod with a flexible tip, and conventional star-drag reel loaded with about 300 yards (274 m) ,of 40- to 50-pound test monofilament line. Most anglers use one of the commercially available sturgeon rigs that include a wire or heavy sleeve, and hooks. The bait is usually live or freshly-dead bay shrimp (Fig. 5 ) , although mudsucker, Gillichthys mirabilis, and ghost shrimp, Upogebia pugettensis and Callianassa californiensis, have also been used in recent years. In fact, the use of callianassid bait has increased dramatically since about 1976, and it is possible that ghost shrimp, particularly C . californiensis, may be an even more effective bait for sturgeon than bay shrimp. Sinker weights vary with the strength of the current. The method is to locate a known or suspected sturgeon ground, then anchor. After dropping a baited hook over the side, line is payed out and the rod tip watched closely. After the first light tap, afew more feet of line is payed out. Usually when the second tap is felt, the angler sets the hook. A modest fishery takes place in south San Francisco Bay, where anglers use methods and tackle similar to those in San Pablo and Suisun Bays. A separate fishery also exists in upper San Francisco Bay during the herring (Clupea harengus) spawning runs that occur from about January to March. At this time, sturgeon are known to feed on herring eggs around the Sausalito and Tiburon Peninsulas, where, during the height of the runs, sturgeon are caught by shore and boat anglers (Fig. 6). This fishery developed over the past 8 years, growing from a handful of anglers in 1970, and increasing rapidly since 1974 as more anglers learned of the availability of
3crn , Figure 5.---Discovery in the early 1960's of bay shrimp, Crangon sp., for bait revolutionized the sturgeon fishery in San Francisco Bay. The terminal end of a typical rig is shown (one hook left unbaited to show hook type).
Figure 6.-Landing a white sturgeon in San Francisco Bay. In recent years, Bay anglers have developed effective methods for catching sturgeon on the herrring spawning grounds near the Golden Gate Bridge.
sturgeon in these areas and the techniques to catch them (L. Green, San Bruno, Calif., pers. commun.). The fish are caught bottom fishing close to shore, often during swift-running incoming tides. Instead of the standard grass shrimp, herring fillets or wads of herring roe are used for bait. In the herring spawning areas, the sliding sinker rig is used over sand or mud bottom, while over rocky bottom the
weight is attached to a short length of lighter line which is tied to a swivel about 60 cm above the hook. Recently, snagging again became a problem, especially during times when sturgeon would congregate to feed on herring spawn. Reportedly, some anglers were casting out heavy lures and snagging fish on the retrieve. In 1978, this type of snagging became illegal, and anglers are now required to
return to the water all sturgeon not Bay, landed by anglers using light rods, tive long-shank commercial salmon
hooked in the mouth.
9-thread line, and size 7/0hooks baited hooks with no eye, and these were tied
Ocean Salmon Fishing
with smelt, anchovy, or sardine (Hol- directly to the cuttyhunk line, which der, 1908). In 1908, a writer for anglers would often mark with paint or
Ocean fishing for salmon was started Forest and Stream reported that while nailpolish to better gauge the fishing
by recreational anglers in Monterey "most professional salmon fishermen depth (A. W . Agnew, Sunset Line and
Bay in the early 1880's. According to [off San Francisco] use sardines and a Twine, Petaluma, Calif., pers. com-
Scofield (1956), they trolled for salmon heavy sinker on thick line, the ama- mun.). After the war before monofila-
from small sailboats using two hand teurs use a new trolling spoon on a light ment nylon came into use, piano wire
rods and a line over each side equipped line, and secure many more strikes" was used as leader material (E. Neal,
with a hook and leader. Some lines (A.P.B., 1908).
Sun Francisco Examiner, pers. com-
were provided with two leaders and According to Croker (1938b), very mun.)
hooks. The leader was about 30 feet (9 little salmon angling took place in the During the 1950's, ocean salmon
m) long and carried a lead sinker ocean north of Bodega Bay until after fishing increased phenomenally, and
midway between the main line and World War 11, although sometimes no doubt the development of more
lure. Up until this time, salmon had north coast commercial trollers would powerful and dependable boat engines
been taken only in rivers and bays by allow anglers on their boats. The and improvements in boat design had
commercial netters and in rivers and technique of "mooching" for salmon much to d o with the expansion of the
streams by anglers using fly-fishing or was introduced to California at Hum- sport (Wendler, 1960). Anglers could
freshwater baitcasting tackle.
boldt Bay in the late 1930's or early reach fishing g r o u n d s t h a t were
By 1893, the troll-line sport fishery 1940's, when there was a great influx of previously unsafe or out of reach.
had become well established in the anchovies into the Bay (D. Gotshall, Availability of moderately priced,
Monterey Bay area. Anglers fished Calif. Dep. Fish Game, Monterey, quality fishing tackle-fiberglass rods,
from sailboats o r rowboats using Calif., pers. commun.). This method monofilament line, and trouble-free
"stout lines and hooks attached to apparently originated in the Seattle, fishing reels-also played a part in the
flyrods or simply fished by hand . . ." Wash., area, developed by Elliot Bay expansion of Ocean salmon fishing.
(Smith, 1895). Sardine was the princi- anglers around the turn of the century Today, sport fishing for salmon is
pal bait. In 1893, a writer for Forest (Haw et al., 1967).
conducted all along the central and
and Stream (predecessor to today's Humboldt Bay mooching involves northern California coast from Avila
Field and Strearri magazine) reported drifting a bait (usually anchovy) close Beach to Crescent City. Most fishing
fishing for salmon in Monterey Bay to the bottom on an incoming tide, north of Fort Bragg is conducted from
with a trolling rod, multiplying reel, repeatedly lifting the bait up at an skiffs, although commercial sport
and linen line (cited by Smith, 1895). angle, then letting it drop back again. fishing boats are available seasonally at
By 1902, anglers were trolling for The action is also imparted by varying Eureka, Trinidad, and Crescent City. salmon in the ocean just north of San the boat speed (motoror oar power), to The majority of salmon sport boats op-
Francisco. According to old newspaper help the drift when the current is erate out of the San Francisco Bay area.
reports, they trolled from launches, running swiftly. Mooching rods are Both chinook, Oncorhynchus fishing the area between Tennessee Cove usually longer, lighter, and more t s h a ~ ~ ~ r s c ~ ahncdr , coho, 0. kisittch.
and Bolinas Bay, Marin County, some limber than conventional rods used in salmon are taken, with chinooks
using artificial lures (Neal, 1977). ocean trolling for salmon, and are dominating the catch south of Fort
Around the same time in Monterey combined with revolving spool reels. Bragg and cohos entering the catch
Bay, anglers apparently were still The line (after about 1950, nylon more frequently to the north. Although
relying on sardines, Sartlinops saga.r, monofilament) is usually weighted the tackle has changed considerably
for bait, and spoons were only rarely with a light, crescent-shaped sinker. over the years, the method of fishing is used (Jordan and Ever,mann, 1902). In the San Francisco area in the basically the same used back in 1902 at They would use a 30-ply line and a 3- to 1930's, metal sinker releases (the Monterey Bay-trolling whole fish
5-pound (1.4- to 2.3-kg) sinker attach- spring-loaded type similar to that used baits from 6 to 18 m below the water's
ed to a lighter 24-ply line, 6 m above the today) had already come into use. It is surface, depending on where the fish
hook. About 150 feet (46 m) of line not known exactly when this device are feeding.
would be let out and the bait fished 6- was introduced in California, but Offshore of the Golden Gate Bridge,
15 m below the surface, trolled at about 4 miles per hour (Jordan and Evermann, 1902). By 1908, ocean salmon anglers in central California were beginning to use lighter, more sporting tackle for salmon. That year, large catches of salmon were reported in Monterey
apparently it was first used with window sash weights, then cannonball sinkers. It soon became part of standard trolling tackle. During the 1930's, San Francisco salmon trollers would use spoons in spring, then later in the season switch to bait (anchovies, sometimes sardines). They used primi-
where the most consistent salmon runs occur, the standard tackle consists of a conventional fiberglass boat rod (7-8 feet or 2.1-2.4 m) combined with a medium-sized star-drag reel loaded with about 200-250 yards (183 to 229 m) of 20 to 30 pound test nylon rnonofilament or Dacron line. Many anglers
Marine Fishrries R r \ * i m
use a metal sinker release and cannonball weights of 1-3 pounds (0.5-1.4 kg). Plastic diving planes are sometimes used but as yet are not as common as the sinker release rig. An increasing number of boats are equipped with downriggers to carry the bait to the desired depth. Standard bait is freshfrozen anchovy, though herring is also used. The bait is usually threaded on one of the commercially available bait holders (crowbars, easy-baiters). A sliding two-hook rig is used along the north coast, as are mooching rigs and the combination of a #2/0 hook and crescent or torpedo-shaped sinker. Some anglers attach a spinning "flasher" or wobbling "herring dodger" (both shiny metal attractors) between the sinker and bait (Fig. 7). Most north coast sport fishing boats use the flasher or dodger rig; it is not as common on San Francisco boats. Artificial lures (particularly spoons) are in use, especially from Monterey south to Avila Beach, but in general these run a distant second to fish bait. Boats troll over a known fishing ground at about 2 to 5 miles per hour with lines fished at slightly different depths to avoid tangles. Coho salmon are taken nearer the surface than Chinooks, with baits fished usually no deeper than 6 or 9 m below the surface.
Figure 7.--Salmon trolling rig showing cannonball sinker and release, metal attractor, and rigged anchovy. Figure d.-Sport boat seiningforsardinesoutside Long Beach Harbor, 1928. In the early days of southern California live-bait fishing, sport boats netted their own bait before picking up passengers (longbamboo poles rest against cabin). (Photo courtesy of California Department of Fish and Game.)
Southern California Live Bait Fishing
As mentioned earlier, live-bait fishing from public sport fishing vessels was introduced in southern California in the 1920's. Initially, trolling was the principal method, but as early as 1925 some boats were using live bait. These early "live-bait boats" would go out on a scheduled basis every day, but were primitive and offered anglers little in the way of comfort (Davis, 1949). Bait was kept in barrels which had to be replenished every few minutes with buckets of fresh seawater (Hull, 1973). Sardines, the principal live bait, were netted prior to the fishing trip (Fig. 8 ) . In the 1930's,the use of live bait for both bait and chum became established (Fig. 9). By the mid-l930's, a few boats began to specialize in catching and
Figure 9.-Live-bait fishingoff Rocky Point, southern California, 1938.(Photo courtesy of California Department of Fish and Game.) supplying live bait to others, and the developed that circulated a continuous live bait industry was born (Hull, flow of pumped water to keep the bait 1974). Also, new live bait tanks were in good condition. Standard tackle was
Figure IO.-Deck hand gaffs a bluefin tuna on a 1937 fishing trip off Catalina Island. In the late 1930's, southern California live-bait anglers fished with hefty cane rods, star-drag reels,and linen line using sardinefor bait and chum. (Photo courtesy of California Department of Fish and Game.)
Figure 1 I.-Live-bait fishing off southern California in the 1970's. Modern sport boats s u c h as this one are faster, safer. and mort` comfortable than those of prior decades, and are outfitted with sophisticated electronic fish-finding, radio, and navigational equipment to more efficiently locate concentrations of fish.
a bamboo rod, star-drag reel, twisted linen line (cuttyhunk),and a gut or wire leader (Fig. IO). In the years that immediately followed World War 11, most sport
fishing boat anglers were still using medium star-drag reels, Calcutta bamboo poles, twisted linen (and some twisted nylon) line (27- to 30-pound test), and live bait hooks in sizes I / O
through 410, depending on target fish size. Sinkers (most often the torpedotype), were used for California halibut, Paralichthys californicus, and other bottomfishes. Many anglers were now using plastic spools on their reels to make it easier to cast live baits. Leader material was either gut or piano wire. Heavy stainless steel wire was often used for jigging, and some anglers, nicknamed "feather merchants," would bring lighter tackle and fish with feather jigs. By the late 1940's, anchovies had pretty much replaced the hardier sardine as live bait. as the latter were getting too difficult to obtain. Sometimes queenfish, Seriphus poliIus, was used as live bait for kelp bass, Paralabrax clathratus, and California halibut. During the 1950's, soft monofila- ment nylon line began showing up on sportfishing boats, and fiberglass rods were replacing the old cane rods. New high-speed retrieve reels (star-drag type) were introduced in 1959, and became popular for yellowtail, Seriolu dorsalis, jigging ( H . Heerse, Penn Reels, Philadelphia, Pa., pers. commun.). In the 1960's and 1970's, fiberglass rods and nylon monofilament line came into widespread use on sportfishing boats (Fig. I I). Today, live bait anglers usually use light to medium action fiberglass rods, generally from 6 % to 7% feet (2.0 to 2.3 m) long and with a fast taper. These live-bait rods are designed to be strong yet light, with tips flexible enough to cast a small live anchovy on a n unweighted line. The choice of medium or light tackle depends on the species sought, and often how crowded the boat is. If many anglers are fishing at close quarters, light tackle is usually discouraged. Open faced spinning or conventional stardrag reels are used, loaded with about 250-300 yards (229-274 m) of 15- to 20-pound test monofilament line. Today, live-bait hooks are much smaller than those used throughout the postwar years and are of the short-shank OShaughnessy type with point bent toward the shank (Garrison and Rice, 1972). Generally, hook sizes range from I through 6,and the hook is tied directly to the end of
Marine Fisheries Review
the line. If the fish are not near the catch (Pinkas, 1977). Rockfish are im-
surface, a lightweight rubber-cored portant in both northern and southern
sinker is attached to the line about 3 California, and are particularly valu-
feet (91 cm) above the bait (Fig. 12). able in areas where other game fishes
Live bait is still predominantly an- show up less predictably or only sea-
chovy, which is hooked upwards sonally.
through the gill collar or through the Offshore bottomfishing for sport has
snout. Larger baits and larger hooks been conducted in California since
(sizes 1/0 to 41'0)are used for bigger before the turn of this century. Accord-
game such as large white seabass, ing to early newspaper reports, in the
Cynoscion nobilis, yellowtail, and late 1870's and 1880's there were sport-
large kelp bass. Live squid (Loligo fishing excursions during summer out
spp.), hooked through the tip of the of Humboldt Bay to bottom fishing
mantle, is prime bait for the above grounds off False Cape and Cape Men-
species. Pacific mackerel, Scomber docino (Wainwright, 1965). Two
japonicus, usually hooked through the steam tugs, each accommodating about
snout, is also used as live bait for these 30 passengers, operated out of the
larger fish. Queenfish, hooked under Eureka area; and tickets for a fishing
the breastbone, is still popular for large trip were sold to anglers for $2.00 each
(Wainwright, 1965). Rockfish com-
A sport boat will arrive at a known posed the bulk of the catch, though
fishing spot, such as the seaward side of Pacific halibut Hippoglossus
a kelp bed, and begin to chum slowly stenolepis, and true cod (Gadus mac-
with live anchovies, while making a rocephalus) also were taken. The re-
circle about 46 m in diameter. If fish ports do not go into detail about tackle,
begin to break the surface within the but the anglers apparently used hand-
circle, the captain will anchor the boat lines, the primary method used for
and continue chumming (Fig. 13). ocean bottomfish in California for
Anglers then cast or ease their baited about 50 years thereafter.
hooks over the side, set their reels in By the 1930's, rod and reel was
free spool or open bail, and allow the beginning to appear in the ocean
bait to move relatively free in the water. bottomfishery. although most fishing
When a game fish takes the bait, it is was still done with handlines. In 1933.
permitted to run a short distance a pleasure fishing trip out of Princeton
before the reel is put in gear and the was described by Buchanan (cited by
angler sets the hook.
Young, 1969).According to his report,
14 anglers boarded a 30-foot (9.2-m) long fishing launch and went out onehalf to three-quarters of a mile offshore before dropping lines. Only two anglers used poles, the rest used handlines with three hooks baited with sardine, the whole rig weighted with a 2-pound (0.9-kg) sinker. Black rock / I I i Figure I Z.-Southern California live-bait rig. Rubberxored sinker (above bait) is used if fish are not feeding near the surface.
Offshore Bottomfishing in Northern California For many years, offshore bottomfish have been an important staple of California marine recreational fishing. Rockfish (Sehasres spp.) are the principal species in the bottomfish catch, although others, such as lingcod, Ophiodon elongatus, cabezon. Scorpaenichthys marmoratus, and flatfishes, also are landed. Approximately 55 species of rockfish occur in California waters, and 29 of these are known to occur in the northern California sport boat catch (Miller and Gotshall, 1965). Since the early 1960's, rockfish have ranked first in numbers of fish taken by sport boat anglers,and between 1972and 1975they composed over one-half of the annual statewide
I Figure I 3 -- Live-bait fishing from a southern California sport fishing boat.
.Yep[emher I 979
Figure 14.-~-NorthernCalifornia bottomfish tackle (1970's): (A) Boat pole with stardrag reel, deck plate, multijig rig. and cannonball sinker; (B-D) variations in rockfishjig designs;( E ) chrome "hex"jig used for lingcod and large rockfish.
fish (assume S. melunops) dominated the catch, although flatfishes and other species of rockfish were also taken. In Monterey Bay, offshore bottomfishing up until the early 1940's was done almost exclusively with cotton handlines, which were supplied to anglers at the onset of the trip (F. Arcoleo, retired sport boat captain, Monterey, Calif., pers. commun.). Each handline was about 91 m long, rigged with two dropper lines and 510 hooks baited with salted sardine, and weighted with an old railroad spike. Around 1941, Monterey sport boat anglers began using bamboo poles, star-drag reels, and twisted linen (cuttyhunk) line. The standard method was baitfishing with sardine, although some anglers (usually the more experienced ones) used chrome hexagonal jigs for blue, olive, and yellowtail rockfish. These 24-ounce (0.68-kg) "hex" jigs were, and still are, very effective but it takes skill to avoid snagging and losing them on the bottom. I n the late 1930'\, fibergla\\ rod\ began showing up on the sport boats
and squid was rapidly replacing sardine as bait. The first fathometers also came into use in the late 1940's. but they were generally not accepted until after 1955 when more sensitive models became available. The new monofilament nylon line also took a while to be accepted because even though it was lighter and drifted less than linen line, it stretched badly and damaged plastic reel spools that were used in bottomfishing at the time. About a decade later, when metal spools were used, and line manufacturers were able to cut down on line stretch, nylon monofilament replaced linen line in the Monterey fishery. Around the time nylon monofilament line was being accepted, an important change in terminal tackle occurred with the introduction of the multiple jig rig for rockfish. These rigs, which vary in design from port to port and are variously called "cod flies." "shrimp flies," "wonderlures," etc., consist of a 5-foot (152-cm) nylon monofilament leader with from three to five hooks on short dropper loops -the hooks decorated u ith brightly
colored yarn, synthetic fibers, or plastic skirts (Fig. 14). According to sport boat captains in Monterey Bay, when these rigs were introduced in the Monterey area around 1957, the boat that first used them consistently caught more fish than other boats fishing in the same area at the same time. Soon afterward, other sport boat operators in the Monterey Bay area began to use the new multijig rigs. According to Miller (Calif. Dep. Fish and Game, Monterey, Calif., pers. commun.), rockfish landings increased during this period, especially catches of schooling pelagic types such as blue, yellowtail, widow, and olive rockfishes. In this instance, the new type of terminal tackle may not only have affected catch-per-unit-of-effort, but species composition
of the catch as well. Also, in the late 1960's and early 1970's spinning gear became available on the Monterey boats so that anglers could fish with feather jigs in case a surface feeding school of blue or yellowtail rockfish was found. The multijig rockfish lures are now commonly used throughout most of northern California, along with the standard combination of fiberglass boat rods, heavy duty stardrag reels, and nylon monofilament and braided Dacron lines testing at 40-60 pounds. The multijig rigs are fished successfully with or without bait (squid or cut anchovy). Sinker weights vary from 8 ounces to 2 pounds (from 0.2 to 0.9 kg) or more. The hexagonal chromejigs. in use before World War 11, are still commonly used, especially for lingcod, which are also taken with single hook rigs baited with small live rockfish and live squid when available. Recently, other types of jigs, some very similar to the "candy bar" types used on southern California sport boats, have been introduced to central California bottomfishing. Even if it is assumed that the fishing power of the terminal tackle itself has not changed, ongoing improvements in electronic equipment and boat and engine design since the 1940's have obviously enabled boats to fish in deeper water and travel to new bottomfish grounds farther from port. IJltrasensitive fathometers have helped to
locate new reef areas and concentra- more advanced fishing equipment is
tions of fish with less search time and developed.
greater accuracy. The switch from Although there are few quantitative
handlines to rod and reel and lighter data on the relative efficiency
line also made it easier to fish in deeper versus new gear, it is obvious that
water. Today boats are able to fish in saltwater fishing equipment has defin-
water to I83 m deep, whereas handline itely changed, with the most dramatic
depth averaged about 37 to 46 m, and developments occurring after World
early rod and reel depth about 73 to 92 War 11. The postwar years were also a
time of rapid and tremendous growth
When handlines were used, boats in California. Between 1940and 1970,
could only fish in shallow water
be- the State's population tripled and so
cause the heavy lines drifted badly in did the per capita income of its people.
the current an even with relatively More spendable income and more
short lengths of line, there was a leisure time undoubtedly contributed
constant problem with ondeck line to the saltwater angling boom in Cali-
tangles between pulls, which cut down fornia, and to an increased demand for
on actual fishing time. On some boats, angling products and services and
large wooden reels that clamped to the better dissemination of angling infor-
deck rail were used to haul up line, but mation.
not all anglers used them, and they Changes in fishing methods, as well
were cumbersome and offered little in as tackle, also have been observed in
the way of sport. With rod and reel saltwater sport fishing in California
came lighter line (first linen and then (Fig. IS). In just 8 years (1957-65),
even lighter nylon monofilament and striped bass sportfishing boat methods
braided Dacron), and soon line drift in San Francisco Bay changed from
was no longer much of a problem. bait fishing to deep-line trolling to live-
Since excess line was retrieved on the bait drifting. Within only a few years,
reel spool, the major cause of on-deck ocean surf casters, who had for years
line tangles was eliminated. Other still-fished with bait for striped bass,
developments over the past IO years, switched to casting artificial lures. The
such as deck plates" and reel handle sturgeon fishery received a tremendous
extensions, havealso madeit easier to boost when, in the l96O's,grass shrimp
crank up fish and heavy sinkers from was discovered as an effective bait. In
the 1970's. the development of success-
ful methods to catch sturgeon on the
herring spawning grounds essentially
opened up a new fishing area for this species in San Francisco Bay. Multijig
It is often said that most of the fish terminal tackle has largely replaced the
are caught by a small minority of standard bait rig in offshore bottom-
anglers-the ones with the most exper- fishing in northern California. Devel-
ience and skill. Although these two opment of lightweight synthetic fishing
factors are obviously important, for lines, dependable fishing reels and
every expert there are thousands of rods, and improvements in boat design
average anglers and growing numbers and equipment have all changed the
of novice anglers. It is likely that the style of marine sport fishing in Cali-
development of efficient, well-made, fornia. No doubt many other Californ-
yet moderately priced tackle that is ia recreational fisheries not mentioned
simple to operate and maintain has in this report have been similarlyaffect-
tilted the odds in the average anglers' ed by changing methods as well as by
favor over the years, and will prob- new kinds of tackle.
ably continue to d o so as new, even Because angler efficiency may also
be altered when such changes occur.
these factors should be considered
' A plahtic or metal plate clamped on the lower part 01 the rod \haft and rested on the boat railing for better le\ernge when reeling in
when biologists assess relative abundance using catch-per-unit-of-effort data. Changes in methods or tackle
may not only affect the catch of target species
, but also that of incidentally caught speices. Ideally, information on relative efficiency should be obtained when a fishery undergoes significant changes in gear or methods, but if this is not possible, these changes should at least be monitored as closely as possible and taken into account when estimating, through effort units, relative abundance of marinegame fish populations.
Without the cooperation and advice of those I interviewed-veteran anglers, members of the tackle industry, sport boat skippers and others connected with the marine recreational fishing industry-this chronology would not have been possible. I am also grateful to Norm Abramson, Arthur Agnew, Charles Davis, Jr.. Roger Green, Daniel Miller
, Ed Neal, and George Reiger for reviewing the manuscript and offering many helpful suggestions. Joe Lesh and Dan Gotshall helped by providing needed information on north coast salmon fishinG. Literature
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