FishingHow to Fish

3 Steps to Finding Your Own Fish

3 Steps Finding Fish – How To Catch Fish By Hook

Over the last few months, I’ve spent quite a bit of time urging private boaters to drive away from the fleet and find their own fish. While it’s easy for me to suggest, I understand that it can seem like a daunting proposition to someone who’s never really tried finding their own fish.

So, let’s break down this winter’s yellowtail bite as an example of the three steps you’ll need to take in order to find your own fish.

Step 1 – Patterning the bite

The first step is figuring out where fish are going to be is to understand where they currently are and why they’re there. In the case of this winter’s bite, everyone knows that the yellows are holding in rockfish areas like Box Canyon and the 150 spot. It’s also common knowledge that they are feeding on red crab and readily biting the yo-yo jigs.

While that information will help you join the fleet of yo-yo fishermen in either of those areas, it’s not enough to point you in the right direction to find your own fish. To do that, you’ll need to take a look at what those two areas have in common and use what you find to figure out where else the fish might be. A good place to start is by referencing a chart of the areas that are biting.

As you can see in these images, both Box Canyon and the 150 are basically large flats adjacent to deeper water. These features are certainly not unique to these two areas. There are similar zones all along the coast, including spots off San Diego, Rocky Point and in the Santa Monica Bay. Not coincidentally all three of these areas have also produced fish over the last couple months.

Step 2 – Narrowing down your options

You don’t need to reinvent the wheel when looking for places to catch yellowtail without the crowds.

Sometimes it can be as simple as fishing a different end of a big area opposite of where the rest of the boats are targeting. Take this spot in the Santa Monica Bay as an example. The zone extends over three miles, so there’s no reason that the only part that’s holding fish is going to be right where the other boats are fishing.

3 Steps Finding Fish

Other times, finding your own small area is the key to getting bit. If there are fish being caught off that big flat in the Santa Monica Bay, there is no reason there shouldn’t be fish on the smaller flat off Rocky Point. The good news is that the small spot is only a few miles from the big area, so it won’t take much time to check it out.

3 Steps Finding Fish

Step 3 – Looking for the right signal

Once you’ve chosen an area to investigate, its time to start looking for signs of feeding activity. Lately, the presence of red crabs has made it very easy to find biting fish. If you find birds sitting on the water in big groups, it means that there are red crabs around. If you find birds that are picking and fluttering around, that means that there are red crabs on the surface and that means that fish are pushing them up. It’s not always yellowtail that’s pushing them to the surface, but it is a sign of feeding activity in the area.

If you’ve found a zone that has birds picking, it’s time to slow down and start metering around the area.

yellowtail tips - 3 Steps Finding Fish

If there are yellows around you’re going to mark them as suspended schools. In my experience, the tighter the school marks, the less likely it is to bite. So, ideally, you’ll find some loosely grouped marks. In this situation you’ll want to stop on the marks and fish the yo-yo iron.

While you’re fishing, always keep an eye out for any birds that are acting differently than the rest. If all of the birds are just fluttering around and picking bait and you see a couple haul ass and zero in on an area, get over there immediately and be ready to throw the surface iron because those birds saw fish chasing fin bait. Over the last few weeks, the yellows have been keying in on sardines and mackerel at times and when they do, they will readily bite the surface iron.

3 Steps Finding Fish

While the specifics of these tips are based on the current yellowtail bite, the basic ideas behind them can be used to figure out any fishery. Once you’ve gathered all of the information you can, try to figure out different areas that might produce fish. Then compare what you’re seeing with what you’ve learned in the past and use that information to guess at how the fish are going to act.

Erik Landesfeind
Erik Landesfeind is BD's Southern California Editor and has over 30 years of experience saltwater fishing for a range of species in both California an...