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Bill Ryan

Bill Ryan’s personal best 225-pound sturgeon, caught and released on Oregon’s mighty Willamette River while fishing with pro guide Charley Foster.

Veteran’s Day Weekend Fishing … in the salt was outstanding. All of the “Big Four” contributed – sturgeon, stripers, rockfish, and some of the largest Dungeness crab in memory. Add the last of the king salmon moving through the Delta (in a later than usual run) and the kind of big black bass that produced a 26.5-pound winning bag for Bobby Barrack and B. Hite as they won the Simms Pro Delta Day bass tournament on Sunday. Big fish went 6.4 pounds, so they averaged over 5 pounds per bass. And some big “slab” crappie up to 3 pounds rounds out a pretty good selection of fishing options – close to home.

Side note – the commercial crab season opened in the Bay area on Tuesday, so hurry up and get your big ones before they end up in the fish cooler in your local market.

Bodega Bay’s … Captain Rick Powers (875-3344) headed south to Point Reyes on Sunday for limits all around for his 48 clients. Let’s count ‘em up: 480 rockfish, 480 crabs and 24 ling cod equals 984 fresh fish brought home for 48 feasts. Rick told the Hot Sheet that “these are just monster crab” and that he had plenty of pots out, so he didn’t think the commercial opener would affect him.

For a different fishing experience, book a “six-pack” boat for a combo rockfish/crab trip. It’s a perfect family excursion or a company team builder. This lets you feel like the skipper, while the real one does all the work. Captain Eric Holthouse of North Bay Charters on the six-pack “Take Five” is putting his clients onto limits of crab, rockfish and ling cod. Call Eric at 337-0608.

Same O, Same O … for the Golden Gate fleet. Limits of rocks and crab plus good numbers of lings are the rule. Captain Chris Smith on Berkeley’s Happy Hooker said “This is some of the best grade of crab that I have seen in years.” Give him a ring at 510-223-5388.

North Bay Action … was highlighted by the striper bite early and capped off with crab limits when the tide was right to go outside the Gate. Call Captain Trent Slate of Bite Me Charters out of Loch Lomond Marina (415-307-8582) for information and bookings. Last Friday, they scored over 150 striped bass caught and released in the bay. After going out for eight crab limits, they went back to catch another 50 Bay stripers, “keeping eight limits and releasing all others, including another dozen keeper-sized fish.”

Loch Lomond Bait and Tackle’s Keith Fraser (415-456-0321) told the Hot Sheet that there were lots of small striped bass in the bay but mentioned an 18- and 25-pounder caught on Loch Lomond mud suckers at Buoy 7. He reported a good supply of grass shrimp, bullheads, pile worms and live mud suckers, with load of ghost shrimp on its way.

Sturgeon Fishing … is starting to take over the Sacramento-Delta. Along with the tremendous run of striped bass that is anticipated in the coming month, sturgeon will make up the bulk of interest throughout winter into spring.” Those words of good fishing ahead came from Dave Hurley’s Monday Hot Sheet, along with many other timely updates. Thanks, Dave.

Meanwhile there are still a few bright king salmon chugging thru the Delta on their late, long way home. Johnny Tran at New Romeo’s Bait and Tackle in Sacramento (916 665-1788) said that bank anglers were scoring bright salmon from 8 to over 20 pounds with Flying C’s.

Stripers may be holding in deeper, colder water because the water temperature is warmer than normal at this time of year. As a result, Jay Lopes of Right Hook Fishing drifted live mud suckers for linesides to 23 pounds in deep water near Liberty Island. Apparently the stripers go on the chew during the outgoing tide. Call Jay at 916-417-5670 to get in on this action. Promise me that you will release those big female stripers to make more babies. Keep the smaller bass for sweet and tasty table fare.

And, once again, Delta fly guide Steve Santucci said “the fish are inhaling the four-inch Clouser Minnows.” Get out your big 12 weight fly gear and call Steve at 650-333-4704 to book a date.

Local fishing Outlook … centers around our own Napa River for me. This is an interesting time of year and a chance for you to help your kids learn to “read the water.” Striper fishing will stay good until there is enough rain to push muddy water down the feeder streams and into the river. That brown stuff signals the end of the striper bite – and the beginning of the sturgeon action. Brown, muddy water is the diamondback’s dinner bell. It triggers them to be on the lookout for little critters that the high flows washed down from the muddy banks. Of course, it angers stripers who fade away for the winter.

If you are new to sturgeon fishing, I urge you to find a guide/instructor who will get you properly outfitted and trained to fish for sturgeon. It’s just that different – and such a thrill to fool one and land it – that it’s worth every bit of preparation you invest in the quest. My fishing partner, St. Helena angler Ann Steinhauer, and I learned by fishing on the Delta with Captain Barry Canevaro – a sturgeon expert. One day three of us boated six sturgeon, of which three were legal size. Barry called that a trophy day. Call Barry at 916-777-6498; tell him Ryan sent you. Please send me a photo of your next monster sturgy for my fishing report in the Napa Valley Register.

The Willamette River … just below Portland in Oregon is where you go for graduate studies in “sturgeon-ing.” Professor Charley Foster targets catch-and-release oversize sturgeon on the Willamette and the Columbia. Called “the best sturgeon guide in the Northwest,” Charley is the real deal and a delightful host.

Back in May 2013, six of us fished with him for three days – and all caught and released 100-plus-pound sturgeon. I was lucky to lead the pack with one that weighed 225 pounds and was 7.5 feet long. It jumped out of the water four times in its 33-minute fight. It easily towed the 26-foot boat with seven passengers for long runs until we could get it within camera range and release it unharmed to fight again.

You need to know that Charley’s boat is named “The Sturgeon General.” Call him at 503-820-1189; tell him Ryan sent you. You ought to call him before Thanksgiving to have a shot at bookings for the spring bite. Don’t be afraid to question him on prime times during the year to catch a trophy-size fish. By the way, readers, this is the perfect holiday stocking stuffer for your favorite angler(s).

Email Bill Ryan at