The fish were biting in Crescent City for the North Coast's ocean salmon season opener this weekend, and Crescent City Harbor's lone charter operation, Tally Ho Sportfishing, is ready to take folks on the water.
With the recent completion of Crescent City Harbor's state-of-the-art reconstructive surgery, Tally Ho and all other sport boats must now dock in the inner boat basin, which has a newly installed fish cleaning station on the north side.
"We have brand new docks, more stability and it's safer," said harbor commission president Wes White about having sport boats in the inner basin. "And it's a lot better as far as access."
Recreation, including sport fishing, is expected to be an important part of the harbor district's future as it works to pay back the $5.4 million loan taken out
to finish the reconstruction project prompted by tsunami damage in 2006 and 2011.
"Certainly recreation is going to play a huge part in the harbor and sport fishing is a subset of that," White said.
But relying on revenue from tourism based on fickle fisheries that are a shadow of their former abundance can be a risky endeavor.
White noted that there were 87 sport boats renting slips in 2004, 69 in 2007 and 37 boats in 2012. This year there are 34 boats renting sport slips so far, although it's still early in the season.
"As the salmon decline in number, so does the revenue off the recreational boating season, so our revenue is really depending on how good the salmon season is," White said.
That said, the salmon fishing during this opening weekend was pretty good, and Tally Ho was able to net five nice king salmon in just two hours Monday, including three high-grade kings.
And groundfish or bottom fish, including rockfish and lingcod, on the coast near Crescent City is practically unmatched on the West Coast.
"We are really blessed with a great fishery," said Tally Ho Capt. Craig Strickhouser. "We havethe salmon and the rockfish, which are both delicious."
While Strickhouser enjoys salmon fishing, he really gets excited about fishing for rockfish on light tackle, which he calls a real "kick."
Bottom fishing, whichopens for boat-based anglers on the Crescent City coast on Thursday, has much more consistent action, Strickhouser said.
"Salmon fishing is more of a boat ride," with "slow, slow, slow" minutes of trolling ticking by, before interrupted by the "fast, fast, fast" frenzy of reeling in a strong king salmon once one of the rods goes off, Strickhouser said.
But with Crescent City's gorgeous rocky coast, even a boat ride is well worth it, especially on a sunny day.You never know what kind of scenes you might encounter on the ocean, like on Monday when a 12-foot thrasher shark surfaced five feet out of water just 20 feet away from the Tally Ho, shocking everyone on board.
"It was a beautiful day," Strickhouser said of his first day of the season behind the wheel of the Tally Ho. "It's even more beautiful when you catch fish."
To book a trip with Tally Ho, call 707-464-1236.
Reach Adam Spencer firstname.lastname@example.org .