Towards the tail-end of salmon season, late September, we planned a weekend on the anchor at China Camp with our friends James and Caroline, and their rescued Boston Terrier named Watson. Terry, the previous owner of this boat, left us all of his fishing equipment, so it seemed like a perfect opportunity to try to catch a fish. 

James and Charles had some minor fishing experience, but we went to the bait shop to get some additional equipment and advice. We pushed off from the dock mid-morning on Saturday with direct Western wind, got out into the slot, and raised our sails. We forgot to tighten the outhaul prior to raising the mainsail, and tried to do it after the sail was tight, but that ended up popping the halyard. We were disheartened, but this boat sails well enough on the foresail that we kept our course North.

We sailed near Angel Island, breezing lightly through its wind shadow, and up close to the shore near El Campo. We baited the line and dropped it in the water. James attached a clothespin to the fishing line and the lifeline, so that when it popped we could check the line. It was lots of fun, but not a single one of us actually thought we would catch anything – I kept expecting us to pull up a cartoon boot.

Right after we turned on our engine to get some speed and maneuverability for crossing under the Richmond Bridge, the clothespin snapped. I was on the helm, and Charles and James sprang into action. They reeled it in as we were motor-sailing under the bridge. We were all yelling with excitement, Charles and James were trying to keep it still and inside the cockpit, Caroline was holding onto Watson and literally Googling “how to gut salmon”, I was taking pictures with one hand while steering with the other, and the guys got it gutted and lightly cleaned.

We finished the motor-sail to China Camp Anchorage in stunned excitement. We just kept repeating that we could not believe we had caught a salmon! The anchorage was perfect, we caught the hook on the first try, then got to cleaning the salmon – and getting its blood out of the cockpit. In the end, the fish was 24 inches long, and we got 4.5 pounds of meat.

We celebrated with a nice champagne that James and Caroline brought, grilled the salmon (only half at a time could fit on the grill!), and enjoyed it with a cous-cous, feta, tomato, and mint salad – my favorite summer dish. Paired with the salmon, and then on to the Simpler Wines after the good champagne was gone, we were in heaven. The sun set as we finished dinner, and we went inside for board games and bed.