With last week being Christmas, and given the sloppy, stormy weather here in Southern California, I didn’t go out fishing. I worked on writing assignments and started doing some planning for next year. As I was going through that mental exercise, high on my fishing agenda were the things that maybe I didn’t do so well at in 2021. The top of that list has to be…
#1: GET BETTER AT FISHING FOR BLUEFIN!
Bluefin…it’s not my favorite fish to spend my fishing time on. In years past, I didn’t seem to have all the issues that I’ve had recently trying to catch bluefin tuna. For me, 2021 was a humbling experience when it came to bluefin fishing which I documented well in last week’s Year-In-Review (link) article.
Looking back though, I do have a couple of positive takeaways from the experience. Unlike in 2019, I actually got out in 2021 and had more time on the water targeting this fish. The main takeaway from this past year was confidence in my tackle. I’ve spent substantial time identifying all my weakest links and took the appropriate steps to address them.
Even if you haven’t had the issues I’ve had with bluefin, some folks are saying that the bluefin fishing we’ve experienced lately is due to come to an end. I disagree, but just in case it’s true we should all get out there!
With that in mind, it’s not too early to look ahead and book a trip or two now so that you’re not locked out during primetime. Look for some multi-day trips on proven boats. Personally, I like Fall trips. You tend to have a better talent level on these trips because the summer vacation, once or twice year types are gone. Ask around with your fishing buddies and see if there’s room on some private charters.
It’s also a good time to take stock of your arsenal. Have you marked the line yet on your bluefin reels (for jig or sinker rigs)? You don’t have to get crazy, every 100-feet is adequate. Do you have reels that need servicing? Do you have an adequate supply of heavy-duty hooks? Do you have the smaller sizes of heavy-duty hooks? How’s your fluorocarbon stock? Those hot jigs that you couldn’t buy unless you spent $60+ per on eBay might now be back in stock at normal prices. Do you have jigs that need rigging? Or maybe better rigging that your local tackle shop can do for you?
Now is the time to check these TO-DO items off your list. As I always used to be told in my Army days…BE READY, SO YOU DON’T HAVE TO GET READY.
#2: SPEND MORE TIME FISHING THE LEADHEAD SQUID FOR SAND BASS
I made this same resolution for this year as last. It’s a good one because you can start right now. It’s a short season too predominantly during our coldest winter months when there are seldom other fishing options. The winter months doing this kind of fishing in San Diego is more like what I’m used to fishing hard structure amongst the artificial reefs in Santa Monica Bay or Izor’s off Long Beach. That’s because some boats will head south and fish the pipe off Imperial Beach. Now that I live closer to San Diego, I’ll be doing more of it and I’m interested to learn the nuances of being successful at it here. That said, I still plan on heading north and fishing with my buddies on the New Del Mar out of Marina Del Rey, or the City of Long Beach out of Pierpoint Landing. One of the guys I fish with that does really well at this style of fishing is Marcus Fain (top on the New Del Mar). I can definitely stand to improve this aspect of my fishing game and Marcus is a good guy to learn from. If you know some guys like Marcus, observe and pick their brains when you are out there.
If you are new to this style of fishing, the concept is simple. Since the water is colder this time of year, the fish are more sluggish and oriented toward the bottom near the structure. It’s a slower style of fishing requiring patience. Stay alert though…when that bite happens it’s critical to put the line back on the reel quickly and keep it out of the rocks. Because you’re fishing hard structure, you’ll fish with heavier tackle than what you might be used to fishing bass at other times of the year. My personal setup is the Fishing Syndicate Inshore 900M (20-40), paired with a Trinidad 14A. The reel is loaded with 50# braid, then tipped with a short leader of 40 or 50-lb fluoro. The fluorocarbon isn’t so much for stealth, as it is abrasion resistance. The tip on this rod shuts off pretty fast, making it perfect for this application. I like this reel because the gear ratio (6.3:1) and power handle help to put line back on quickly. The line is terminated with a jighead and a whole squid. The banana-style jighead (above) seems to snag up less often than the normal triangle-shaped heads do. You want an array from 1-2 ounces. Some people (myself included) like using additional slider egg weights (aka the Knocker Rig) as the sound may help attract a fish’s attention.
#3: FISH THE ISLANDS MORE OFTEN
I did pretty well getting out and fishing the Channel Islands and even San Nicolas this year. I also got to fish Todos Santos Island off Ensenada, MX for some very fun calico bass fishing. I only got in one trip to the Coronados, but it went well. I definitely would’ve gone more, but the full-day San Diego boats were so focused offshore for the majority of this year. Noticeably absent though were any trips to Catalina or San Clemente. This situation really needs to be fixed, and I’m not even talking about “if the bluefin pop up” as it did by Catalina at one point this year.
No, I’m talking about regular old island fishing…fishing for bass, and getting picked up by yellowtail. Watching birds working, waiting patiently for them to get in casting range, and being ready with a well-placed cast of my surface iron as the fish push up below the birds. Spending the day chasing yellowtail outside, then finding yourself in the middle of a squid float when you go inside. That’s the style of island fishing I’d love to do more of in 2022. It’s not that there is a specific thing I want to improve upon like my first two resolutions (although you can always improve throwing surface iron), I just really like doing this kind of fishing. The full range of day trips, overnights, and 1.5’s…I want it all. Conditions on the water will likely dictate how much of that kind of fishing will be available, but I can also do a better job of planning trips to do it.
That’s it. Just three resolutions that I have for next year. In my experience, if you have too many, then it’s too much to focus on and you don’t do enough of any of it. It’s good to focus on a few priorities and keep them top-of-mind as you plan your fishing year. Hopefully, I’ll see you out on the rail next year.
Good luck when you get out there!