As we leave Reno on a rainy Friday afternoon, we are all anxious to get over the pass. Rain is Reno with sub 32 degree temps in the mountains means we’ll be hitting some snow on our way to Fairfield, CA which is where we are planning on laying our heads for the night.
Matt, Jason, myself and my Dad, Tommy were all in the fishing wagon heading up and over the pass into California. The roads weren’t too bad and the snow was just starting to stick as we hit the crest near Boreal.
We were all talking about fishing stories and filling my dad in on what lay ahead for him on our trip for Rock fish and Dungeness crab aboard the Happy Hooker Sport Fishing boat that departs out of the Berkeley Marina. As we were laughing and telling stories we saw A LOT of flashing lights across the way on the East Bound side of I-80.
As they came closer it became apparent that there was a big accident and countless Highway Patrol, Fire Trucks and other first response vehicles were on the scene. As we passed we saw that a smaller passenger car has crashed into the back of a tractor trailer, wedging itself completely underneath it. There were Fire Fighters there trying to pry open the driver side door while we passed by. I’m not sure the outcome of that accident, but from what I saw it didn’t look good for the people driving the car.
It’s scenes like that now that I’m older that really get to me. Just thinking about my wife and kid and what they would do if that happened to me…I just hope I’m wrong about the outcome of that crash.
Now rattled and much more aware of my surroundings we pushed down through the snow which eventually turned to rain as we hit Auburn and then finally into Fairfield where our hotel rooms awaited us.
The rest of the crew comprised of Glenn, Kelly and Neil who were about 45 minutes behind us. Our good buddy Adam was also going on the trip, but he lives 20 mins from Berkeley so we were just meeting him at the dock in the morning. So we called ahead for a table of 7 at a local steak house and patiently waited for the guys to hit Vacaville to make our way to the house of beef and whatnot.
Once seated we all got down to business smashing down dinner rolls and ordering our specific cuts of steak. By the time our steaks arrived we had all started different conversations with each other revolving around fishing, fishing gear and how awesome the next day’s trip would be.
With steaks finished and Glenn polishing off his 3rd Cherry Limeade we paid our tab and went to the hotel to get some much needed sleep. But as it so happens we got to the hotel and there was some X-mas party happening in the bar area. So the old married guys all hit the hay, while the two single guys tried their luck at the hotel bar…in the end no numbers were exchanged and the old married guys got a few extra hours of sleep while the other guys paid for their over priced beers. Sometimes being old is alright.
3:30am came up quick I tell ya! But as usual we were all pumped for the day ahead and as Jason always says “The less sleep you get the more fish you catch!” So with that we piled back into the cars and headed west towards the boat docks.
We got on the boat, claimed our places near the stern and paid for our day of adventures. Adam met us there and that made the whole team of 8. We got all of our gear rigged up and headed out towards a place I’ve been looking forward to seeing for a very long time, the Farallon islands 30 miles off of the coast of San Francisco. This is where in the fall many large Great White Sharks go to breed and a place I have read about for years and years.
Once we passed Alcatraz and went under the Golden Gate Bridge, Deckhand Mike told us it would be about a 2 hour ride to the Farallons. He also mentioned that the swells were pretty big and that if anyone needed to barf, they should do it over the rail and not down into the bathroom in the cabin…more on that suggestion later.
So we settled in for the long haul out, again having some good conversations and ball busting to make to time pass. But then came those swells Deckhand Mike had told us about. I heard people say they were ranging from 12-20 feet tall. I’d say that was a fair measurement since all most of us could think of while seeing a wall of water the length of a football flied come barreling towards were scenes from that most unfortunate fishing film The Perfect Storm!
Some of us thought we had good “sea legs”, some of us knew we didn’t, then there were some of us that didn’t seems to be phased at all by natures roller coaster that we were strapped to for hours…Adam, Neil and my dad didn’t seem to have a care in the world. My dad went to high school on a ship back in New York, now he’ll tell you that the ship was tired to a dock his entire high school career, but that doesn’t nearly sound as cool. So he was on a ship for 4 years…Neil was a wildlife fish and game guy with coast guard experience so he had a good excuse. But then comes Adam…I love you Adam, but this was your second time on a fishing boat and you work for a video game company….How the F*CK did you not get seas sick!!!
For the rest of us, well there were different levels of sickness. Kelly fully knows he doesn’t do well on boats; he has an ongoing prescription for some big time motion sickness patches. But even his patches with some Dramamine thrown in for good measure, Kelly never got his line in the water and spent his entire day laying down in the cabin…As much as we talk shit to each other; we were all really bummed for Kelly. That type of sickness is no joke. But it of course wasn’t bad enough for us not to snap a picture of Kelly in his time of need.
I (Dave) chummed the water and tried to get those fish excited with an offering of energy drink and Clif bars. I didn’t see any risers but I did end the day with limits, so maybe it worked?
Then came the symphony of regurgitation…the orchestra of upchuck…Matt, Jason and Glenn lead us on a gut wrenching yet beautiful opera composed of high notes and lows, soprano to baritone. Glenn started the choir-ish masterpiece with a few mids and lows, once Jason took a glance over his shoulder and saw the concert beginning he also chimed in with a bellowing of baritone that could scare away the fiercest sea monster that may have been lurking below our vessel. Not to be outdone, Matt who was looking about as green as his jacket helped pull the concert together with his own high notes to seal the deal.
Once the concert had wrapped up we were at the fishing grounds and starting to slay some rock fish! Deckhand Mike has his hands full with knots and tangles but always kept a positive and professional attitude while dealing with bird nests that would have made me want to start throwing people overboard into the shark invested waters. On almost every drop we’d hook up, and ensuring Kelly came home with some fish for the family we started putting our smaller catches into his bag once we knew we had out limits…because we care.
SHARK!!!!!!!!!!! Yells someone from the port side of the boat. Now this is a moment that I have only dreamed about since I was a little fella. I won’t go into tons on this as you can check out the post The Devil’s Teeth. But yeah…bucket list item checked off!
It wasn’t much more than an hour when the boat had limits of rock fish. Jason on top of having a good amount of yellow tails, he brought up this beautiful Vermillion from over 200 feet deep.
Once limits were verified we started to head back to the bay to start pulling crab pots to try our luck at getting limits of sweet Dungeness crab to go along without limits of rock fish. So we said goodbye to the Farallons and took a seat to watch the world go by until we made it closer to home.
I ended up crashing out for like an hour or so in the cabin. But while I was snoozing away Deckhand Mike and team were busily pulling in crab pot after crab pot trying their best to get us all limits of 6 each. Crabs don’t like to always stay in the same place for a long period of time, so just like any other type of fishing, catching them isn’t always a guarantee. But the guys worked hard at getting us 5 crabs each, which I’ll take every day and twice on Sundays.
So after a long 12+ hour day on the water we made it back to shore where the bait shop had staying opened late for us to be able to have our crab cooked prior to the journey home. This was greatly appreciated.
Once the crabs were cooked, handshakes and hugs given and our harvest put on ice in our coolers we journeyed back over to hill to good old Reno getting into town at just about midnight.
Again I can’t say enough good things about Happy Hooker Sport Fishing and Deckhand Mike. Mike does an excellent job, and is a main reason we continue going out with these guys. So I know Rock Fish season has come to a close, but I know striper and sturgeon are coming up next week as well as more crab! So book a trip with them and you won’t be disappointed, we’ll be out there again soon enough.
Until next time keep those lines tight and that Dramamine close!