Finally Catching A Break For SoCal Sportfishing

Channel Islands rockfish and Coronado Islands yellowtail highlight this week’s report

March has mostly been a bust, especially for the weekend salties, which I am most of the time.  The small windows of opportunity have mostly happened during the work week.  Encouraging, but kind of soul crushing in a way.  Finally this weekend, things are straightening out and there are good opportunities for a variety of sportfishing adventures, from Channel Islands rockfish and lingcod to Coronado Islands yellowtail.

April can’t come fast enough!

Late Rockfish Opener

Channel Islands rockfish aboard the Aloha SpiritI finally got mine this week!  If you count Monday’s trip, that made 4 trips for me cancelled in the month of March.  Thankfully, Monday’s trip to get in on the Channel Islands rockfish bite on Aloha Spirit Sportfishing was carried over to Tuesday.

I’d fished several times before with Capt. Shawn Steward.  Up there in the 805, Shawn is to white seabass as Capt. Ryan Bostian of the San Diego is to yellowtail.  Year in, year out, Shawn is right there on the leaderboard.  Any rockfishing, I’ve done with Shawn has been a fallback to not finding gamefish  on that particular day.

That said, I’ve always been intrigued by the “Lingcod Special” trips that he does on Mondays, at the beginning and end of the season.  This year, the trips have been a weekly highlight to the mostly dreary posts of March.  My buddy, Robert Danelen, the surf guru, had an extra ticket this week.  Robert offered and I jumped at the opportunity to go.

The trip didn’t disappoint.

While we were waiting to board the boat for a 5 AM departure, Shawn asked everyone to make sure that we had sabiki rigs.  He wanted to make mackerel for a little honey hole that has been productive since it was discovered last summer.  Shawn told me that the mackerel was key to getting these fish active and biting.

With this being the plan, the rig I setup was a single dropper bait rig on 40#.  I snelled a 5/0 octopus hook and attached a stinger treble about 3″ down from it on the remaining tag.  Twelve ounces of lead anchored the setup.

Channel Islands lingcod aboard the Aloha SpiritThe spot was too deep to anchor, and too small to drift.  Shawn put us right on top of it and kept the boat in gear to hold it in place.  I happened to be the first one bit and pretty much stayed that way for the duration of the 45 minutes it took to reach boat limits.  The most amazing part of that stretch was I didn’t see a single short.  The quality was very good.  My friend, Kevin Brannon, took JP with a 17-pound specimen (right).

The rest of the trip was spent shallower catching quality reds, chucks, blues, Johnnies and whitefish.  Definitely a great ride.  I’d highly recommend checking their schedule and booking a trip out to the incredibly productive Channel Islands rockfish grounds.

Coronado Islands Yellowtail!

Coronado Islands yellowtail

I’m seeing some solid rockfishing reports on many of the local boats.  If you just want to get in a quick fish on Saturday before family Easter stuff on Sunday, that wouldn’t be a bad way to go.  As I mentioned last week, surf conditions this weekend with the full moon and the start of a grunion run look really promising.  That’s my plan to get my fishing fix in this weekend.  I also saw a little bit of signal on seabass this week.  It’s more of a skiff/6-pack type of deal, but guys are getting shots.

If you wanted to go bigger though, with a better shot at success, my call would be to hit one of the San Diego 3/4-day boats to get on these Coronado Islands yellowtail.  As of this writing, ample spots were available on both The San Diego and the Liberty.  Both boats have found and boated several solid quality (call them 8-12 pound) yellows this week.  Yo-yo is the primary method of catching, but I’d bring my jig stick.  Why not?  I also hear they are spending a lot of time at the Rockpile.  Have a lingcod bait rig ready like the one I described above and you might just pull off the rare yellowtail/lingcod combo.

Lots of options for the weekend and the weather will cooperate!

Good luck if you get out there.

Joe Sarmiento is the founder and primary writer of the So Cal Salty blog. The blog covers saltwater fishing, primarily aboard the many sportfishing boats of Southern California. In addition to writing his blog, Joe's writing has appeared in Western Outdoor News, The Log and Griffin Media. Joe is ...