Drought forces fishermen from rivers to shore

The lack of rain on the MontereyPeninsula has been problematic for local fisheries. Both the Carmel and Big SurRivers are closed due to low flows, and local ponds and lakes lack oxygen and water levels to be producing efficiently. But fly fishing on the beach for surf perch, halibut and striped bass provides an enticing option for local fishermen awaiting the rains.

With the Carmel River barely flowing, and the Big Sur River not much better, steelhead fishing options are pretty limited; the only viable options are driving up to the San Lorenzo River by Santa Cruz, which stays open despite the low flows, or fishing the Salinas River, whose steelhead fishery is almost non-existent.

There have been reports of Coho salmon being caught in the San Lorenzo River, but resident trout might be a more worthwhile chase as all pressure on the threatened Cohos should be avoided to allow the fish to rest while oxygen levels remain so low.

Last week, I ventured to a pond whose name will remain anonymous, and despite trying a number of techniques, I did not get a strike from a single fish, nor did I see any. A month ago, I went to the same pond and managed to catch a couple bluegill on small nymphs. Even then the water level was very low and off-color.

At this time last year, both the Carmel and Big Sur rivers were open for fishing as rainstorms every couple of weeks kept their levels in good shape. Now they barely trickle along, and the CarmelRiver has not yet breached the lagoon, meaning that all ten or so steelhead that venture up its waters are not yet in the river.

If you’re willing to brave ocean currents, surf fishing for perch, halibut and stripers is a good option, the most productive stretch of coastline being from Wharf 2 to Tioga beach, both in Monterey. Orange flies ranging from sizes 2-6 are a wise choice, as they seem to attract the most strikes.

Surf fishing does not require much wading, as the fish tend to stay close to the shoreline, looking for sand crabs and other forage foods brought out of the sand by the crashing waves. Bigger fly rods are needed for this sort of fishing, sizes 6 and up should be adequate as you need to be able to cast the heavy sinking lines required to get underneath the swells.

There is also always the off chance of catching a surfer. I hear they put up a good fight when caught, and their taste is renowned all over the peninsula.

-Day Gudmundsson