The 4th of July holiday usually signals the start of the summer fishing season in Southern California and while the fish have been biting for a couple months already this year, it still means there will be increased crowds. The good news is that there are enough fish biting in enough places that not every area is going to get wiped out by additional boat pressure. The trick is going to be figuring out where to go and what to do to avoid getting stuck in one of the crowds.
My recommendation to sport boat and private boat anglers alike is to dedicate the next couple months to gang bang avoidance. The easiest way to do that? Go where you think the fish might be biting today, not where they bit yesterday.
Since I’ll be covering the entire coast in this week’s report, let’s start from the top and work our way down. The Channel Islands have been kicking out impressive scores of seabass, yellowtail and big halibut for the last week. The Mirage out of Channel Island Sportfishing caught the biggest halibut of the week, a 54.5-pound fish that is now the pending women’s world record for California halibut. Monday’s trip aboard the Island Tak kicked out 32 seabass and a couple yellowtail and they backed it up on Tuesday with another 18 seabass. Boats are also experiencing excellent calico bass and rockfishing to go along with the exotics, so a trip to the Channel Islands would be a good choice if you’re looking to get away from the crowds. I recommend getting aboard a full day or overnight trip to maximize your fishing time and to give you the range to get away from some of the more crowded areas.
For the first time this season, there are things other than bottom fish biting in the Santa Monica Bay. Half and 3/4-day boats our of Marina Del Rey and Redondo Sportfishing have been reporting excellent bass fishing with a side of yellowtail on most trips. Most of these yellowtail are on the small side, but there are some bigger fish in the mix. The 1/2-day boats out of LA and Long Beach have also been catching calicos and the occasional yellowtail when their passenger loads allow for it. If you’re heading out on a weekend and they’ve got a full boat, expect to go bottom fishing. Private boaters have also been reporting good bass fishing at Palos Verdes and along the coast down through Dana Point and beyond. The fish are in a typical summertime pattern and are schooled up and feeding in preparation of the spawn. While taking some calicos home for dinner isn’t a bad thing, I kept a few myself on Monday afternoon, please release the big breeders. On our boat we have a self imposed 15 to 17-inch slot limit for bass on the rare occasion we take any home to eat.
The 3/4-day boats out of LA and Orange County landings are still fishing Catalina Island and are reporting good surface fishing for bass, barracuda, bonito and yellows. It being the 4th of July weekend, the front side of the island is going to get hammered by pleasure boating pressure and the backside is going to get hammered with fishermen, so I’d recommend jumping on an overnight trip to get away from all of the day trippers.
The overnight boats have been fishing all over the place and to avoid the crowds have been keeping a tight lip on where they’ve been catching fish. Regardless of the areas fished, the standard fare for overnight boats has been a shot of good sized yellows and or seabass, another shot of small yellows and a bunch of nice calicos to round out the trip. With us entering the height of the fishing season, I recommend just booking a trip and getting on a boat regardless of what they’ve been catching instead of waiting for someone to post a big score. A good score on any boat at this time of year is going to result in not only a full boat the next day, but that boat will probably be at the center of the next day’s gang bang.
There are still bluefin to be caught offshore, but the fish are getting bigger and tougher to catch. Sportboat fishermen can expect to fish kelp paddy yellowtail on most overnight or 1 1/2-day trips, with a shot at seeing a school of big bluefin and maybe hooking one or two for the boat. Earlier this week the Pacific Queen got into some tuna that actually decided to bite and landed 8 fish up to 150-pounds to go along with 79 nice yellowtail for the trip. While any of these trips can produce a shot at a big tuna, if you’re serious about wanting to target them, I recommend chartering a 4 or 6 pack boat. It’s going to cost you more, but it will greatly increase your odds of catching a once in a lifetime fish.
Speaking of “once in a lifetime fish”, my friend Seth Dubois has been putting in some serious time fishing bluefin aboard his Robalo 226 Cayman over the last month. During that time, he and his friends have hooked and lost multiple big fish. Well, all of those days of hard work finally paid off for he and his crew with a 240-pound bluefin they caught on Sunday. The fish took almost 9 hours to land and didn’t make it into the boat until after dark.
If you’re going to invest the time and money into targeting one of these big bluefin, do yourself a favor and make sure that your gear is dialed in and in top operating condition. For every story of a big one that made it to the boat there are a dozen others of people who hooked the right fish on the wrong gear and ended up losing it after too long of a fight.