Rockfish Preview – SoCal Fishing Report

Well folks, I’m not going to candy-coat it.  It’s been another week of fishing drudgery.

It was for me at least.  My colleague Erik Landesfeind did a good job showcasing the few highlights of last week in his column last Friday…headlined by my buddy George Spano scoring an early-season seabass.

SoCal fishing reportsLast Thursday (Feb. 11th), I needed a change in scenery and I got out with my buddy Chris Fierro on his center console skiff down in San Diego.  We fished the area just outside of Mission Bay to the northwest corner off La Jolla.  We were mostly alone out there.  The Sea Watch, which is currently handling the half-day run out of Seaforth, has been making the long run to the Imperial Beach area.  Capt. Kris Karpow took a day off on January 31st, and his relief captain, Ryan Myers, decided to go exploring.  The move paid off when the boat scored limits of bass (81 sand bass and 4 calico bass for 17 anglers) down there (left).

The counts have since dropped off, but they’re still fishing IB as it’s better than their home territory working this same MB/LJ area.

mola molaBack here it’s been hero or zero with scattered signal of yellowtail (and maybe even seabass), but not a lot of biters.  Unfortunately for Chris and me, we left our mark on the “zero” side of the tally.  We saw a ton of bird activity, plentiful bait (sardine and mackerel) but couldn’t manage a bite.  Griffin Doye of Wave Baits was on one of the other skiffs out there.  He told me later that they hooked a yellow on a slow-trolled mack, but eventually lost it.  We managed to avoid a total skunk at the end of our ride with a sculpin, a short bass, and an out-of-season rockfish drifting the kelp line just outside the jetty.  The highlight of our trip was seeing a mola mola (right) when we were outside chasing the bird schools.

Then over the course of the 3-day weekend, it was either too windy or too populated along the shoreline to get anything done.  I only avoided a skunk because Mike Morrison, GM at 22nd Street Landing, let me fish the docks for a couple of small bass.  While I was there, I noticed the Monte Carlo coming back from a trip.  They just got back online and are doing 10-4 extended halfies, so that’s a new ride to consider.

SoCal fishing reports

New CDFW Groundfish Regulations

The rockfishing opener is just a short 2 weeks away.  You can read through all the new rules here at the CDFW site, but I thought I would preview some of the changes in regulations and the implications of those changes as I see them…

New sub-bag limit of vermilion rockfish:

SoCal fishing reports

No longer will you be allowed to fill your entire 10 rockfish limit with a sack of straight reds.  The limit has dropped to 5.  This new rule shouldn’t be that big of a deal…when was the last time you got 10 reds for a limit?  But it is something you should be aware of and not get aggro about on some poor deckhand when they tell you otherwise in a couple of weeks.  A big output of reds like what my buddy and CDFW warden, Marcus Fain (left), did last December on the New Del Mar is not legal for the 2021 season.

Sub-bag limits eliminated:

SoCal fishing reports
Black rockfish taken off the jetty last year in Eureka, CA

The text reads, “Elimination of sub-bag limits for black rockfish, canary rockfish, and cabezon within the 10-fish Rockfish, Cabezon, Greenling (RCG) complex daily bag limit.”  Most of this new rule is meaningless for those of us in Southern California (defined in the regs as south of Point Conception).  The one difference might be with regards to canary rockfish.  Last year, we could take one per angler, so if you were in an area where there was a bunch of them, the crews were keeping a close eye on not exceeding that limit.  With no more limits now, it could mean being able to linger longer in certain spots with that restriction lifted.  It’s a good thing.

Depth limit increased to 100 fathoms:

SoCal fishing reports
Legit purchase now?

This is the big one.  It has me rethinking my disdain for electric reels!  I would argue that it’s not necessarily a good thing as fishing deep like that will probably require at least a pound of lead to hit and hold bottom.  It does however have some interesting implications.  Basically, it’s going to open up a lot of new territories for the boats to access, some spots of which probably haven’t been fished in a decade or more.  Think of the big ling-zillas waiting in that deep water, never having developed a memory of being fished before.  That part has me excited.  It’s probably going to take a while for the captains to truly get it all sorted out.  But it’s something you’re going to want to be prepared for out of the gate.  Bring those heavy sinkers.  Bring that lower gear ratio reel with a line guide (Tranx 500 PG).  Bring a heavier rod (I’m thinking Fishing Syndicate FSC-800M rated 20-50 or the 800H rated 30-60).  And don’t forget that electric reel if you have one!

That’s all for now.  We’re almost there folks.  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 ...