Happy New Year! If you haven't done so already, it's time to buy your 2013 fishing license. A number of local retailers handle license sales, and online purchase is available from the www.dfg.ca.gov website. Ironically, that "DFG" in the website URL will soon be "CDFW," as the department's name has officially changed to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. Your tax dollars at work.
Speaking of dollars, be prepared for some sticker shock regarding the cost of this year's license, tags and species report cards. Tony Ramos, manager at Outdoor World in Santa Cruz reminds us that not only have rules and regulations changed for white sturgeon this year, but the sturgeon report card now carries an additional fee as well.
Major changes for sturgeon regs include a new slot size limit of 40-60 inches, now measured from the center of the caudal fork rather than the tip of the tail fin. Also, use single barbless hooks only; capture "snares" can no longer be used to secure sturgeon; and fish over 68 inches cannot be removed from the water for release.
On a happier note, perch fishing is picking up as expected along the beaches of the Monterey Bay and off the North Coast points and rock piles. Ramos fielded reports of big black and rainbow perch caught near Davenport this week, and we continue to see nice calicos and barred surfperch from Capitola, the Santa Cruz harbor area and near the Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf. Ed Burrell at Capitola Boat and Bait notes that pile worms are working well as bait for the calicos, along with the classic "shrimp bits" commonly deployed from the wharf.
Crabbing continues unabated, with limits being the norm. The Dungeness are still big and firm in our area, and the best spots remain in the 180-220 depths. Now that rockfish season is closed, boaters will be loading up on sand dabs soon. The small flatfish are numerous near the canyon edges. Though small, they make delicious table fare. Look for Stagnaro's, Captain Jimmy Charters and Reel Sportfishing to make the most of dabbin' in the next couple months, with the latter two outfits pulling crab pots on their combo trips.
Bushnell's Fish Rap appears every Friday in the Sentinel. He can also be heard with the Friday Morning Fish Report on KSCO radio 1080 AM. Send your photos, comments or questions to email@example.com.