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edible Monterey Bay Summer 2016

lingcod using fresh anchovies and frozen squid for bait. Doc H and Kritter have places marked on their GPS that they like to go, like Halibut Hotel and Ling City (their names), but they’re happy to paddle around to see what else they can find. Looking out for rocks with the sonar, we move through the water, waiting for the first bite. WHAT TO EXPECT How the weight feels on your line can be an indication of what you are about to bring up. Rockfish will feel like a constant tugging— sometimes strong, but often just a hefty nibble, while cabezon are akin to picking up a rock from the bottom of the ocean. Lingcod are a different kind of fighter. ey run a lot, pulling out your line, so it’s best to let them tire out. A snag of seaweed just feels lifeless. One of the biggest challenges is properly securing your fish after it has surfaced. Your method will depend on size, weight and species. California halibut go crazy once pulled out of the water and need to immediately be knocked out by what Doc H and Kritter call their headache stick (not an official term). A larger fish might require a gaff— a pole with a sharp hook at the end of it. If the fish has some gnarly teeth, use a lip grip to hold the mouth open. It’s best to slit the gills and let the fish bleed out as you bag them up. is will improve the quality of the meat. Truthfully, you can’t be certain about what you’re going to reel in. at’s half the fun. Just be prepared for anything. CATCH OF THE DAY About 45 minutes on the water, a mile offshore, and at a 40-foot depth, I feel my first strong tug. Doc H has something as well and we each reel in a rockfish. At the same time, Kritter, 500 yards away and at a depth of 65 feet, has something big pulling on his line. He calls for backup, and we hurry over to watch him haul in a beautiful, blue-mouthed cabezon (about 20 inches long and 5 pounds). Only a couple minutes later, Patrice, our photographer, who is trolling while he snaps some shots of proud Kritter and his catch, has clearly hooked something huge. With a look of utter excitement, Patrice pulls in a 26-inch-long, 6-pound lingcod. ere’s a brief pause, and then Kritter catches his second cabezon. Feeling amazed at our 5-minute www.ediblemontereybay.com 43 e sun is just coming up over Monterey Bay as we launch our kayaks into the placid waters lapping Del Monte Beach. e air is already warm and the calm morning seems to promise a hot and clear-sky day. My guides for the day are David Haan, a graduate student at UCSC, and his fishing partner, Kristof Tigyi, and they have agreed to initiate me into special rites, safety precautions and addictive pleasures of kayak fishing. Haan and Tigyi, to whom I will refer by their VHF radio names, Doc H and Kritter, respectively, are a committed duo who are out on the early morning waters whenever time and conditions allow for it. ey both grew up fishing on lakes, ponds and rivers (Doc H is from Chicago and Kritter, Memphis). After transplanting themselves to the West Coast, they decided that kayak fishing was the most affordable way to experience their next fishing adventures. Indeed, part of the beauty of a kayak is that it can take you far (sometimes for salmon fishing, six miles offshore), but you don’t have to deal with the storage and maintenance, much less the purchase cost, of a typical ocean-worthy boat: A basic sit-on-top kayak and a sonar/depth finder/GPS combo, a VHS radio and fishing gear can be had for about $1,500 (See Tips for Kayak Fishing on p. 45 for more on getting outfitted.) When I ask about their favorite places to go, Kritter reminds me that a fisherman doesn’t kiss and tell and that much information has to be guarded. Part of the experience is searching out spots and flagging them with their GPS for the future. Generally speaking, however, Monterey and Santa Cruz are good for rockfish and lingcod, while halibut can be found in Santa Cruz or Moss Landing, they say. Doc H and Kritter usually know what they want to fish for, and that dictates their strategy. Rockfish and lingcod are the easiest to come by, so when they want to make sure they’re catching dinner that day, they head to Monterey’s relatively uncrowded waters and fish the rock outcrops, hoping to catch their limit. For halibut or salmon, they have to be more intentional, planning their day around fishing only for the one species (and often come up empty handed). Today, we’re hoping for as many bites as possible, so we’re trolling for rockfish and


edible Monterey Bay Summer 2016
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