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Coping with Midseason Burnout

Regardless of which species you target, or how good the fishing has been, at some point during the year we all get burned out. My yearly “I’d rather just stay home this weekend” moment came last Thursday after reading Saturday’s weather forecast for the Channel Islands. On paper the forecast didn’t look all that bad, with predictions of 15 knot nighttime winds followed by light winds and a small but short interval swell, but what bothered me was its resemblance the previous weekend’s mild forecast –that resulted in us getting our asses kicked for two hours on the way to the islands.

Despite the forecast, I still felt obligated to make the run as there were only three more weekends to practice before the SWBA tournament in Ventura (and a long shot chance at taking down the Angler of the Year trophy). But that feeling of obligation wasn’t enough to get me to go, instead it just left me feeling depressed and guilty about not going. Later that day, I called my tournament partner Matt to break the news that I was taking the weekend off, but my proclamation fell on deaf ears. Apparently Matt wasn’t experiencing the same burnout as I was, because he accused me of being lazy and demanded that we fish locally at the very least.

His first choice was to fish Palos Verdes, which depressed me even further as the fishing had been horrible up there on our last few trips. In hopes of changing his mind, I offered to fish PV with him on Sunday only if he’d fish the Balboa Angling Club Bay Bass Open with me on Saturday. Well, Matt must have been pretty desperate to fish PV, because he agreed to do it despite the fact that he hates spotted bay bass fishing in Newport Harbor almost as much as I do. Hanging up the phone, I couldn’t help but wonder if I shouldn’t have just sucked it up and drove up to Ventura again –at least then I’d only have to fish one day and do it in an area that I might have a shot at actually catching something.

Saturday morning, Matt and I headed out to the eel grass beds, near the Coast Guard dock, in search of spotted bay bass.

The first surprise of the weekend came when we actually caught a spotty in the first few minutes of fishing. That fish was followed by a steady stream of bites over the next few hours, most of them coming on spinnerbaits and Gulp! Jerk Shads.

We didn’t catch any big ones, but the seven or eight legal fish we caught kept us culling throughout the morning. As the tide filled, it brought with it the cold water that’s been along the coast and by 10:00 the water temp near the mouth of the harbor had dropped from 68 to 63 degrees and the bite had dropped off right along with it.

With three hours left to fish, we headed back to the basin between Lido Island and the peninsula which has one of the slowest flush cycles in the bay and therefore maintains stable water temperatures even during large tidal swings. Everything looked good back there, except the acres and acres of bait fish that were also taking advantage of the zone’s stable water temps. We didn’t get a bite the rest of the day and didn’t really consider our bag worth weighing, but the promise of a slice of pizza and a cold beer at the weigh-in was enough to take our fish in and see how we fared against the field. Our bag ended up being a little bigger than we’d guessed at 4.85 lbs for three fish and all but one team’s bag ended up being a little smaller, which led to us walking away with a 2nd place finish. Making the podium in a tournament is always great, but it’s even better when you’re able to do it while fishing in an area where you normally struggle (like Newport Harbor).

Feeling a little better about the choice to fish all weekend, I headed home and got in touch with a buddy who’d fished PV on Saturday. His report was that the water temp had dropped from the mid sixties to the mid fifties, the wind had blown hard all afternoon and that the fishing had been extremely slow. This obviously wasn’t the type of report that I was hoping to get, but my spirits were buoyed by his mention that he’d seen some warmer water up near Rocky Point and around the corner into the Santa Monica Bay. Based on that info, I made the plan to keep driving up the line until I found some warmer water and just go fishing.

That plan, which sounded great while sipping a cocktail on Saturday night, didn’t sound nearly as appealing as we hugged the break wall in white out, absolutely socked in, fog on Sunday morning. This was some of the worst fog I’ve dealt with in a few years and it was sketchy just trying to cross the Long Beach gap and then head out of the San Pedro opening. Once outside, I headed up the coast while hugging the edge of the kelp as to only have to watch for traffic ahead and on the port side.

It’s a long run from Point Fermin to Rocky when you’re driving in heavy fog and it was made even longer by watching the temp gauge hover between 57-58 degrees the entire way. By the time we reached Rocky, it became obvious that whatever warm water there had been up there was gone. But I held out hope that the water might still be warmer around the corner in the Bay.

As we rounded the corner, the temp jumped from 57 to 63 and a hundred yards later jumped again to 66 degrees. Feeling a lot better, but still slightly lost due to the heavy fog, I headed towards the first kelp line found (and I was lucky to find that given the 20 foot visibility). Once I got my bearings, I realized that the kelp I’d found wasn’t in an area that I’d ever fished before, but lacking options, I decided to give it a try.

That kelp line ended up producing our best local bass bite of the year and four hours of some of the best fishing I’ve had at Palos Verdes. Highlight of the day was a stretch that was holding a mix of big calicos and school sized yellowtail –both of them readily blowing up on the weedless MC Swimbaits. We only ended up catching one yellowtail, which Matt pulled from the edge of a thick kelp bed in 15 feet of water, but we had several more bites from yellows that just didn’t get the hook. Along with our lone yellow, we caught twenty bass with several of them in the 5 to 7 lb range and a stand out fish that probably went 9 lbs.

Overall, it was one of my best fishing weekends of the year. But had Matt not pressured me into fishing, I could have just as easily sat at home all weekend and sulked about being burned out on fishing. The one thing I need to constantly remind myself is that even though I don’t feel like fishing today, tomorrow I’m going to look back and wish that I had gone. And with that I’m off to probably get my ass kicked on the way to the Channel Islands tomorrow and I’m going to follow that up with a day or two of looking for some more warm water along Palos Verdes.

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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 and Mexican waters. Erik is also an active freelance writer and the author of the weekly column So Cal Scene, which BD publishes every Friday. In So Cal Scene, Erik keeps all of the BD readers up to date on what's biting in Southern California. Erik divides his fishing time on local boats, long-range trips and Mexico excursions. For the past eight years, Erik has been competing in the SWBA (Saltwater Bass Anglers) tournament series and has multiple tournament victories to his credit. His sponsors include Batson Enterprises / Rainshadow Rods, Robalo Boats, Tilly's Marine, Abu/Garcia, Penn Reels, Navionics, Raymarine, MC Swimbaits, Uni-Butter Fishing Scent and Bladerunner Tackle.