If someone tells you they were “blown away” it could mean that whatever it was they saw or experienced was so amazing or beautiful that they struggle with words to fully describe it. Unfortunately, I’m using the term in the literal sense to accurately describe the gusty winds we’ve experienced over the last several days of coastal marine conditions here in Southern California.
High winds brought small craft advisories, a churned up ocean, and where I’m currently staying along the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains…freezing rain and hail. The worst of it was up in the Channel Islands where wind gusts in some areas topped 60 mph over the weekend. Channel Islands Harbor posted this picture (right) on their Instagram account on Monday illustrating just how bad conditions were up there.
But these adverse conditions weren’t just limited to our northern waters, they extended all the way down the coast off San Diego and beyond.
I’m a firm believer that fish can sense that barometric pressure drop, and often it will spark a bite prior to a storm. With this idea in mind, I ventured down to Newport last Friday (Jan. 22nd) to try my luck on the Western Pride. Capt. Mike Harkins started our day up and around Izor’s Reef off Long Beach and we worked our way back towards Newport. Despite marking fish, and contrary to my hope for a pre-storm bite, the fish were tight-lipped and the results were less than stellar for me and the boat.
By Sunday, I was jonesing for any kind of fishing and I hit my favorite skunk buster spot off a jetty in Long Beach. In the parking lot, I was having a hard time just keeping the contents of the trunk from flying out of the car with the hatchback open as I was rigging up. Even though I knew better, I continued on and walked out to the end of the jetty amid the gusty winds…
“Just one fish and I’m outta here.”
Thanks to a feisty mackerel that bit on my first cast, that session came to a quick close and I shut it down. Thankfully, I had a trip coming up on Tuesday (Jan. 26th). Typically, after a big blow like we had, it takes a few days for the ocean to settle down and for fish to get back into a biting mode. Despite knowing this, we tried to make a go of it anyway. Tuesday morning, I launched out of Long Beach with Capt. Ed Zamora on his center console skiff, Matame. I was invited out on this trip by Fishing Syndicate who sent a couple of their guys, Jason Samatmanakit and Tony McLaurin out to fish their new Inshore Series of graphite rods and hopefully get some content for the effort. Ed’s fishing buddy Darrell joined us to round out the crew for the day.
Our goal for the trip was to find some halibut. Ed’s original plan was to go out to Catalina Island where he’s had some good success on the flat kind of late (above).
Conditions were still pretty bumpy though in the morning, so we stayed close to home. After picking up bait, we made our way out to Izor’s Reef. Ed wanted to drift the outside edge of it for halibut, and as we drifted over the structure, we’d be likely to catch some bass and sculpin as well. The bass and sculpin part of the plan worked reasonably well despite the residual conditions from the storm. The highlight of the morning session was a big 21-inch sandbass that Darrell picked up on a live sardine fished on a dropper loop.
As the morning progressed, the ocean started to lay down. The wind went away. The sun was shining. It was actually really nice, with the exception that the bite completely shut off.
We tried a couple more spots, off Huntington State Beach, inside Huntington Harbor, along the breakwall there…nada.
It was getting late in the day when Ed said he’d take us to his can’t miss spot near the lighthouse off San Pedro. There we actually got into our target quarry. Tony kicked things off with a halibut that was less than an inch from making it into the killbox. As we were coming to the end of a drift, we were winding in so we could reset when Ed’s rod got bent for the only legal halibut of the trip. Along the way, we picked up some sculpin and several rockfish (released of course) before calling it a day.
Tough day, but I was happy to get out and bring home a couple of fish for dinner. I enjoyed fishing the Fishing Syndicate Inshore Series rods. Very light and sensitive, but with ample backbone. Even at the 100+ foot depth that we started the day in, I could feel every little tick of a nibble which was critical in catching the few fish I caught. Thank you to Fishing Syndicate and Capt. Ed for an enjoyable day on the water. I’m headed down to San Diego this weekend to fish Colonet on the Pacific Queen. Hopefully, the yellows want to play. Wish me luck.
Good luck if you get out there.