Salmon saved from drought in 2014 returning home
You may have noticed a lot of fishing boats lately off the Golden Gate recently. That’s because there’s a bounty of salmon off the coast. And that did not happen by accident.

It’s the modern version of a ritual that stretches back through millennia — setting out to sea, hoping for favor from the fish gods. One particular group of sailors has been doing this every Wednesday for 30 years. “This is tranquility. As good as it gets,” one of them told ABC7 News.

They fish on a boat known as the “Wacky Jacky,” captained by the queen of Bay Area fishermen. If anyone knows where those fish might be, it’s Jacqueline Douglas.

It’s been said that catching a fish is a lot like eating chocolate. You don’t know what you’re missing until you hook one, and then you want more. For Arnold Champagne, until recently, it had been awhile. Every cast had been an exercise in optimism. “It’s about praying, it’s about hoping, it’s about a new day,” he said.

On the day ABC7 was able to join these sailors, they were looking for king salmon chinook. And it didn’t take long before they found one. That fish wasn’t the last. Although, catching it was a partially man-induced experience. One fisherman offered that there was a good chance they’d seen it before.

He was referring to back in 2014 when in the clutches of drought, the state transported some 30 million baby chinook from hatcheries upstream to the Sacramento River Delta and then released them — 240 truckloads, bypassing streams, to save the fall run. Now, we’re seeing the payoff as those same fish return home after a watery odyssey. And if you believe in destiny, to Champagne’s waiting hook. “The challenge, the fight, all of that makes for great fishing,” he said.

It makes for great fishing so much in fact, that later, when the Wacky Jacky landed, they had caught enough to spread the wealth for everyone on board, a tradition on the Wacky Jacky.

They call it sharing the boat fish. Unless your name is Champagne who landed two fish of his own. “A great day, great day on the ranch,” he said.

And perhaps, a great season for all of us.