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Fishing vessels and sailboats head in and out of Monterey Bay from of the Santa Cruz Small Craft Harbor at the start of salmon season Saturday.

Tim Mealiffe returned to the Santa Cruz Small Craft Harbor on Saturday in an upbeat mood despite not catching a single fish on opening day of sport salmon season.

Mealiffe and his two friends Jim Ritchey and Pat Cameron started their fishing trip about 7 a.m., and spent several hours trolling the sea for salmon before calling it a day with nothing to show for it but sun-kissed cheeks.

"It was beautiful though, and flat. No fog, but the problem was no bite," Mealiffe said. "It's OK. Every day you go fishing is a good day even if you don't catch anything."

The Monterey Bay was packed with boats for the first day of recreational salmon fishing, which is expected to run until July.

Commercial salmon fishing starts May 1.

Recreational anglers are allowed to catch two fish per person as long as the fish are at least 24 inches long.

Fishery biologists with the California Fish and Game Commission and the Pacific Fishery Management Council estimate about 1.5 million Chinook salmon will be in California coastal waters through the summer.

Fishery constraints to protect Sacramento River winter-run Chinook will mostly affect recreational anglers fishing south of Point Arena, while protections for California Coastal Chinook apply mainly to commercial anglers along the northern coast.

Jay Fite, a fisherman from Santa Rosa, had better luck than most fishing in the Monterey Bay on Saturday.

He and his father, Dan Fite, caught two large, healthy fish, which they cleaned and fileted in the parking lot.

The Fites found their 14-pound and 9-pound salmon 10 miles straight out from Santa Cruz in about 300 feet of water.

They had three other fish that came off the line before they could pull them into the boat, Jay Fite said.

"The trick is to start with your rods at all different levels," Dan Fite said. "When you catch a fish, you move everything to that level."

Santa Cruz resident Glen Livingston watched as a friend caught a fish in the first five minutes of being on the ocean, but after that no one on his boat caught anything.

"We trolled around for hours and hours. It was nice weather and we saw some whales," Livingston said. "No one was hurt, nothing broke and we caught a fish. To us, that's success."