Usually this time of year, I can just scroll through the pictures on my phone, post the best ones, and turn in a Year In Review article. Since I’ve already kind of done that though talking about my time up here in the Pacific Northwest, and since my trophy winter steelhead outing this weekend didn’t work out as I would’ve hoped…
Here are my 2021 Fishing Resolutions
Work On My Structure Bass Game
Leadhead and squid fishing, winter bass fishing…it goes by a lot of names but the idea is to pull sluggish, cold water bass out of the rocks. I’d say I’m competent, but not proficient. January and February is time to do it. I will truly enjoy doing this style of fishing to kick off what will hopefully be a return to normal…not just for me getting back to SoCal, but for all of us after what has been highly abnormal 2020.
Some San Diego boats will go down and fish the pipe off TJ to do it, but the best spots are found on the boats departing out of Long Beach, San Pedro, and Marina del Rey fishing the artificial reefs off LB and in Santa Monica Bay. Get your 1-1/2 and 2-ounce banana-style leadheads together and I’ll see you out on the rail.
Back To The Islands
I had really hoped to get out and fish our islands more last year. In 2019, I never got to fish San Clemente when it wasn’t a tuna targeted trip. I got one trip in off Santa Cruz this year on my buddy’s skiff, but our trip was cut short when his son got seasick. I spent more time in the San Juan Islands (of Washington State) this last year, and even the Farallon Islands (near San Francisco) than I did our local islands in Southern California. Calico bass, white seabass, halibut, and yellowtail are the target fish. From April into the Fall is the time to go. Day trips to Catalina or Anacapa/Santa Cruz are a part of the program, but overnights and 1.5’s are the ticket to get the full experience.
Kelp Bassing In San Diego
I hated this style of fishing when I first tried it. The thick kelp beds between Point Loma and La Jolla can pose a serious challenge…not so much for getting bit, but for successfully getting your fish into the boat once you do. The best of times are when you pin on the biggest bait in the hand well (like a big salami-sized mackerel), toss it deep into the weeds, then watch a big bass come up and smash it.
Success requires a combination of the right setup (the kelp-cutter rig is an absolute must), and the know-how (combined with patience) to work that bass out of the kelp after you have it hooked. It took me about two years of infrequently going to do it before the light switched on and all the elements came together. When it finally does though, it’s tremendously fun and satisfying. It is now one of my favorite kinds of fishing that we do here in Southern California.
Peak times to go are during the summer months (July to September) aboard one of the several half-day boats working the area. The action typically comes on the afternoon ride, when the current lays down the kelp and activates the bass into an aggressive feeding mode. However, the pro-tip is to ride the morning, then re-ride the afternoon trip. You’ll get a leg up on staking out a critical stern spot to best practice this style of fishing. If you are heading out on a tuna trip, get down a day early, and go ride the halfie to do it. It’s the perfect warm-up to hone your flylined sardine technique.
Hopefully, 2021 will give us all a return to the normal calendar of Southern California fishing, fading this year deep into the back of our collective memories. You’ll notice that all of these experiences can be had on local trips, which to me exemplifies the beauty of the amazing fishery that we have here available to us.
I wish you all a Happy New Year. Good luck if you get out there.