ROCKFISH OPTIONS

After having to sit out this year’s rockfish opener due to a bad back and busy work schedule, I was really looking forward to catching some this weekend. Sadly, after consulting the weather forecast, which is calling for 30 knots of wind across the inner waters on Saturday, my plans are going to have to be put on hold. And while the boats that fished the opener had good to great fishing, they’re probably not getting out this weekend, so reporting on it seemed like a waste of time. Instead, I figured I’d go over some of the different rockfish options that will be available once the weather straightens back out.

Before I get into the details, I want to remind everyone that if you’re heading out, you are now only allowed to possess four vermillion rockfish and one copper rockfish as part of your ten fish rockfish limit. These changes, especially to the copper rockfish limit, are insane in my opinion and will likely impact where I fish this year. In some places, the coppers are so plentiful that you’re likely to have to pick through dozens of them to catch a rockfish you can keep.

When looking at rockfish options, sport boat anglers are going to have to relegate themselves to the depths the captain chooses to fish, so if you want to fish shallow, your best chance at doing so will be to get on a trip to a location that doesn’t let you fish deep. The best spot to do that is at San Nicholas Island. San Nic is in the Cowcod Conservation. Area and fishing depth is limited to 240-feet.

If you’re a sport boat angler who doesn’t care about fishing shallow, your best bet is to jump on a trip out of Santa Barbara or Ventura. Weather permitting, the 3/4 day boat out of Santa Barbara will usually make the run to Santa Rosa Island, which allows you to fish a day trip in the same areas that you’d fish on an overnight trip out of Ventura. That being said, the 3/4 day boats out of Ventura catch plenty of quality rockfish as well.

Sport boats from Marina Del Rey to San Diego can at times have good rockfishing, especially the boats fishing San Clemente Island. The drawback here is that you’re going to be fishing very deep and there is often a lot of junk, like bocaccio, mixed in with the desirable rockfish. The size and quality of the rockfish caught on these trips will usually relate directly to the distance you travel to catch them.

As a private boater, I’m pretty picky about how I target rockfish. First off, I don’t like fishing deep, so I try to do most of my fishing in less than 250-feet of water. Secondly, I don’t use bait, so I’m only going to target areas where the fish will readily bite a lure. As such, there are very few spots along the coast that I’ll target rockfish, other than between Santa Barbara and Point Conception. If you don’t mind fishing deep or using bait, there are plenty of great coastal spots to catch rockfish, my only advice is to use your chart to find smaller spots that are well away from the areas that sportboats fish.

When it comes to fishing the islands, my go-to choices are Santa Rosa and San Clemente. Santa Rosa has a ton of rockfish holding structure in both deep and shallow water. I’ve caught lings in less than 20-feet of water up there but spend most of my time targeting reds in 100 to 200-feet of water. There is enough stuff in different water depths around that island that even on a slow day you’ll find fish to catch if you look around long enough. San Miguel and the west end of Santa Cruz Island offer similar fishing opportunities if you’re looking to go a little further or not quite as far.

There are plenty of rockfish to be caught at Catalina but the island gets a ton of sport boat pressure, so I’d include it on my do not fish list. San Clemente Island has a lot of good rockfish spots, but most of them are too deep for my taste. If you don’t mind dropping 400-feet, it’s pretty easy to load up on nice reds on both the front and backside of the island. Us shallow water guys usually have to work a lot harder to find biting fish at the island. That being said, once you do find them you can usually load up on nice rockfish with the occasional quality ling thrown into the mix. That’s about it for this week, let’s hope for better weather next weekend!

One last thing, please make sure to get yourself some sort of descending device, let’s do our part to preserve the fishery so that we don’t add any additional regulations. For a selection of descending devices check out this article: ROCKFISH OPENER IS HERE. GET OUT THERE!

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...