VENTURA — While some anglers ended the first day of salmon season with only fish tales, Chris Young of Simi Valley went home with 17 pounds of nicely dressed salmon steaks and fillets.
"I didn't catch my limit today," an upbeat Young said to Capt. Mark Sawa Saturday afternoon as he left the 60-foot sport boat Sumo. "But, skipper, I will be back."
Young, who fishes regularly out of Ventura Harbor Sportfishing & Landing, was one of hundreds who ventured into the Santa Barbara Channel aboard charter boats for opening day of salmon season.
The season began at 12:01 a.m., and within hours anglers who had paid about $40 for bait, tackle and a spot on the deck, were leaving Ventura and Channel Islands harbors for the chance to land the sport-fishing limit--two fish, a minimum of 24 inches each. A one-day fishing license costs $6.50.
Not everyone catches the limit and some people catch nothing more than sun rays.
But for Young, the one fish he did catch was a winner.
"My fish tied for first place," Young said. The anglers put money into a pot at the beginning of the cruise, and the person who lands the heaviest fish wins the pot.
John Yoon of Beverly Hills, owner of Ventura Sportfishing & Landing, said the 105 passengers who chartered boats from his landing caught 56 salmon on opening day.
The best year for salmon in recent years was 1995, said the 54-year-old Yoon. "The salmon were here almost four months."
The 1996 catch was smaller than the previous year, said Yoon, who expects the catch this year to be close to the 1995 level. The average fish could weigh 15 to 30 pounds, he said.
But he would not say where the best salmon areas are. "I can only say the area is between Channel Islands Harbor and Santa Barbara."
Most of the people who went out opening day are serious fishers, Yoon said. "Most anglers today are experienced men. Most own their own tackle and their own rod and reel."
Among the first-time anglers was 7-year-old Joshua Probst of Simi Valley who, with the help of his mother, Dena, and her husband, Brian, caught a 14-pound salmon.
Not bad for a child who has never fished before, said 28-year-old Dena Probst.
Capt. Ted Rose, 48, owner of the 38-foot sportfishing boat Rumblefish, and deckhand Scott Yarno, 35, took the Probsts from Ventura Harbor to one of the secret spots near the Channel Islands where the salmon are known to run.
The 12-hour trip, which began at 4 a.m., cost the family of anglers more than $700. For Joshua, who had never before dropped a line into the water, it was the trip of a lifetime.
"I'd like to do this again," he said.
Once back at the dock, Yarno cut the fresh catch into steaks and fillets.
"They're good for barbecuing, baking, and they're good smoked," Yarno said.
After the Sumo had docked about 4:15 p.m., 24-year-old deckhand Dave Holaday of Oxnard cut fillets for those anglers who did not want to do the job themselves.
Neal Pargman, president and founder of the environmental group Save the Earth, who caught one salmon, was glad to let Holaday get his hands dirty.
"I was going to go all the way to Monterey," said the 52-year-old Tarzana resident, who fishes three days a week. "But I stopped here instead. Why drive to Monterey?"