SAN FRANCISCO BAY — Dennis Deaver was doing his taxes late at night at home in Alamo when he got an urgent call. It was time to hunt in San Francisco Bay.
The herring were running.
A school of the silvery fish had followed the tide in and were slathering millions of their tiny golden eggs in shallow waters near Tiburon. In days, maybe even hours, the fish would disappear back into the ocean.
By midnight, Deaver and two others were onboard the High Flier, chugging out of the Berkeley Marina to water teeming with the 6- to 8-inch-long fish whose eggs support the last commercial fishery in San Francisco Bay.
After years of decline that ended in the first cancellation of the season three years ago, the herring catch is having a third straight strong year, fishers and biologists say.
“The herring are coming back after a long-term erosion,” Deaver, a veteran fisherman, said as he pulled into San Francisco’s Pier 45 after a night of fishing — his gill-net boat weighed down by 17 1/2 tons of the fish.
“The upswing is good for us. It’s good for salmon, other fish, pelicans, seal lions and lots of things that feed on the herring,” Deaver said.
As a tube began sucking up Deaver’s catch near Fishermen Wharf, two sea lions rolled in the water and hundreds of gulls bickered overhead.
Pelicans floated nearby, gobbling any herring that dropped into the water.
Elsewhere around the bay, those who spend time by the shore have noticed the seabird feeding frenzy. Herring spawn in the bay four to 10 times a year from December to March on rocks, vegetation or docks near the shore from the Golden Gate to the East Bay, North Bay and South Bay. The fishing season lasts from Jan. 2 to March 15.
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