I love to celebrate great catches on half-day trips. Halfies are the entry-level trip for most Southern California anglers as their journey begins riding the boats in our sportfishing fleet. Typically, they focus on putting up numbers vs. going for trophies. So when a trophy fish does get caught, it’s something very special.
I’ve been involved in a few special half day trips.
The first one that comes to mind happened early on in my Southern California fishing journey. It was June of 2011. I had volunteered in the morning to help out at the Marina Del Rey Anglers’ – Youth Day at the Docks. After putting in that time in the morning, my kids met me at Dock 52 to ride the afternoon halfie with Capt. Danny Ericson on the New Del Mar. The trip turned out to be a memorable one when out of frustration from trying to throw a jig for cuda, I switched up and decided to fish the bottom to target sand bass. To my surprise, that move resulted in my first ever white seabass!
Then there was the time back in August of 2014, at the beginning of El Nino. Capt. Brian Castleton let me know that he and his co-captain on the New Seaforth, RJ Hudson were going to go for it and see if they could catch some yellowfin tuna that were…sort of within range. After a long drive, we had maybe a 20-minute window to fish, but we put ’em on.
Half-day tuna…pretty epic!
Trips like these are few and far between, but it just goes to show that it’s always worth going out if you have the time to go. You never know what might happen.
I was on my way back north to Seattle to wrap up some family business last week. After a long first day of driving, I caught a couple of hours of sleep in my car and woke up to fish the morning high tide at the South Jetty in Eureka, CA (Northern California). It wasn’t the hot fishing that I enjoyed when I first drove up in March, but I did manage to catch a short lingcod (maybe 16-inches) from the rocks. That was cool and all, but more than anything it was merely a little snack that fed my fishing hunger for more.
Trip Report – Half Day Rockfish/Crab Combo
I was done by 10 am at the jetty, so I pressed on. I got all the way up to Newport, Oregon on the northern Oregon coast by late that afternoon. I texted Capt. Jeremy Freitag of the Umatilla II at Newport Marina Charters. “What do you guys have going on tomorrow?” I asked him. “7-12 shallow rockfish and crab combo trip” he replied. “I’ll see you in the morning” was my response back.
I met the guys the next morning (Tuesday, July 21) at the boat. It was the same crew that I’ve enjoyed fishing with several times now, Capt. Jeremy and his first mate, Jared Gnuschke. The plan for the day was to head out to just outside Yaquina Bay. drop our crab traps, then take another short ride to the fishing grounds. When I do shallow water rockfishing at home in Southern California, in the Channel Islands, it’s around 100-feet in depth.
For these guys it’s only 30-60 feet of water!
This was going to be fun. Jared rigged some poles with a small diamond jig on the bottom and a shrimp fly maybe 18-inches or so above the jig. Other poles were rigged up with a 2-ounce leadhead, 3-inch grub on the leadhead, and the shrimp fly again above. I brought my 8-foot Lamiglas 2 piece boat rod rated 20-40# and 1-5-ounces. I paired the Lami with my Tranx 400. I asked Jared to rig me up with his leadhead setup. He hooked me up and put a 6-inch Gulp grub on my leadhead that he saved for regulars. The gear I chose to throw it on turned out to be perfect for this trip.
Jared arrayed the other anglers on the boat along the starboard side. He put me on the port/stern corner so I would have room to do my thing. Same as home, cast it out, let it hit bottom, and work along the bottom back to the boat.
Jeremy told me they’d been catching 1 or 2 cabs/lings per trip. He also said the rockfish limit had recently bumped up from 5 to 7 fish. At the first stop, Jeremy said rockfish were suspended mid-water column. He instructed the passengers to reel up a couple of cranks from bottom and jig. I wanted to bring home rockfish, but not at the expense of giving myself the maximum opportunity to catch lingcod and cabezon. I watched other anglers put the first few fish on the boat, but I stuck to my plan working the bottom. I managed one black rockfish on that first drift.
We finished that drift and tried it again. Low on the results so we made a short move and gave it another go. During the move, I mentioned to Jeremy that I thought I’d only ever caught 3 cabbies my entire life. On the next drift that changed.
Another thing that’s a little unique about how they do it up here is they don’t tip the hooks with any bait. It’s just the bare hook, no strip of squid. Despite that fact, the numbers slowly accumulated. Because there wasn’t any bait, your personal success had everything to do with how active you were. My rig was constantly on the move, and my personal tote box of fish steadily filled up.
I was 2 short lings, the cab, and a few rockfish into my day. At that point, I think Jared said there were 7 shorts to the one legal ling caught so far. There are times that you just know something good is about to happen. After my short lings, I had a good feeling my turn would come soon. That little fish wish was answered too.
It was time to move on from the fishing.
On most halfies, that would be that, but we still had to pull up the crab traps. Jared asked me if I would be his “hooker.” By that, he meant that I’d be the one to hook the buoy line for him so that he could attach it to the puller and hoist up the traps. We had dropped 10 traps at the beginning of the trip, so they had been soaking for almost 5 hours with rockfish carcasses from the previous day’s trip. The first pot was pretty full and it continued that way for all 10 traps. When it was all said and done, there were 120 legal Dungeness crabs collected. Ten passengers (including myself) had paid the $20 additional fee to buy into the day’s haul. Twelve crabs each for everyone that bought in. I took home 7 crabs on my first trip with these guys in March, so I was ecstatic about the outcome.
The final tally for my ride: 6 black rockfish, one cabezon, one ling, and 12 Dungeness crab. Pretty sweet haul for a 5-hour trip.
Thanks to the boys on the Umatilla II for another fun fishing trip in Oregon. I don’t know if it ranks up there as an all-timer, but a memorable one for sure!
I asked Jeremy about albacore. He said the commercial guys were getting them, but the fish were still outside their range. I told him to keep me posted. Until next time.
Good luck if you get out there.