Wow, what a difference a month makes! A month ago, I was talking about how with the rockfish opener there would be more boats going out. With rockfish to fall back on, it would lead to boats going out to look at spots that might’ve sat dormant for awhile. Who knew what those searches might uncover.
What we’ve found are offshore and island yellowtail with some signal that there might be some action off the beach again. Bluefin tuna up to over 100-pounds have reappeared. But what I’m most excited about, with live squid back in play, so are the white seabass.
For today’s article, I want to focus on white seabass
I wrote last week about two techniques or presentations appropriate for fishing squid, the slider setup and the high dropper loop. In the article, I was talking about these two presentations as it related to fishing for yellowtail. These same two setups will work just as well for fishing white seabass or ghosts as they’re sometimes called.
Last year, there was only about a week that we saw any kind of white seabass bite emerge. That brief window occurred at the end of May/beginning of June and was centered off the Anacapa Island Arch. The picture up top was May 25th aboard the Island Spirit. I remember being out there that exact day and seeing those guys on the fish. The crew made squid the night before and they were ready first thing in the morning to get them. In contrast, the boat I was on made squid the morning of, and by the time we got in the zone, all the other boats were anchored already in the prime fishing spots. I’m not still bitter or anything…
But I digress…that was last year
This year there seem to be two distinct bites going on. I’m going to have to speculate a bit (that may be code for “I’m not going to say exactly where if I want to keep my lines of communication open”). One is centered somewhere around one of our southern Channel Islands (Catalina and/or Clemente). The other is up in the northern Channel Islands. Guessing from the length of trip (overnight) and the fact that I’m seeing very light skiff action on these fish, I’d say it’s an outer island bite…perhaps Rosa or Miguel.
The Southern Bite
That’s my buddy, Stew Suenaga (right) with a 48-pound white seabass that was good enough to take jackpot during his 2-day trip last weekend on Ultra Sportfishing.
Stew said they pounded beach after beach on day one of their two day trip. He was using a variation of the slider setup – a 3/8 oz. leadhead and squid. Casting out and slowly retrieving back to the boat, he connected with this beauty on Saturday afternoon. Luckily, Day 1 worked out for him, because Day 2 was devoid of condition and ended up being a bust for everyone on aboard.
The Northern Bite
In contrast, what I’m hearing about the northern bite is that they are squid nest fishing. Above is the haul from Sunday aboard the Outrider with Capt. Tucker McCombs. Currently, that boat is running out of Hook’s Landing in Oxnard.
If that is indeed the case, then the primary method will be that high dropper I talked about last week. The reason for the high dropper is that if you are fishing a squid nest, the eggs pile up along the bottom of the sea floor. If your bait is not high enough off the ground, it’s going to get lost amongst those eggs. Or if you do get bit, it’s more likely to be a shark or ray than the target species.
When To Use Them
Just because Stew got his fish off the beach, at one of the Southern islands, on the light leadhead setup and the Northern boats are probably squid nest fishing and the high dropper is the most likely method of getting bit, it doesn’t mean that only one method applies in each scenario. If you were in a private boat and trying to catch these fish, you would employ both those methods simultaneously, while maybe even adding a flyline (no weight, just the hook and the bait), and perhaps even the glow jig and squid.
In a sportboat, you only get to fish one pole at a time. The easy answer is use whatever the captain or crew is telling you to use. People seem to forget that they want you to catch fish. You catch a fish, you are happy, you tip better. Boat posts a good count. More people come out. Crew is happy. Rinse and repeat. See how that works?
My general strategy though is to start with the high dropper. If it’s a squid nest scenario, I want to be the first guy down and hopefully drop my bait right in front of a waiting fish. A lot of my seabass have been caught in exactly that way.
If things get slow. If the captain isn’t actually marking fish below us. If someone gets bit on the retrieve, then I’m looking to switch up to the slider or light leadhead setup. I caution against changing up too much though. A lot of times, a captain will anchor up over a likely spot and wait. If fish aren’t immediately below the boat, they just want to be in that right spot when fish do get there. I’ve seen it happen a lot where the guy that keeps changing up, isn’t down in the spot when the fish finally decide to swim through. Honestly, seabass fishing isn’t very exciting (at least until you actually get bit). A lot of it is just bait and wait. If you aren’t there when the fish are, you may not have time to switch.
One last thing, I really like using a star drag reel when fishing for seabass. A lot of times, they can be really finicky and it might take them awhile to actually bite. I like to have the drag set low to allow them to not feel anything and really commit to the bite. Surviving the initial bite and first run is the most critical part of the fight. If you try to really set upon initial interest, you’re going to lose more than win. Let them eat it and run. Once you know they are really hooked, then you can tighten up the drag and fight them. It’s much easier to do fishing a star vs. a lever drag.
I’m heading out Sunday night on a 1.5 with Fortune Sportfishing. If you hurry, you might be able to get on. I’ll check in next week and let you know how it goes.
Good luck if you get out there.