I mentioned in my last post how I had a full-day offshore trip scheduled on the Malahini. I ended up going up early and getting in a day on San Diego Bay.
SD Bay Halibut Hunting
I got out with my buddy John Anjard on his 18-foot aluminum skiff last Thursday (Sept. 23rd). He told me prior to the trip that the halibut fishing was getting really good and that I should plan on coming out. I was coming up anyway for the Malahini trip, and the timing coincided with John’s days off from work. Let’s get after it!
John really liked the conditions on Thursday. There was a little bit of wind in the forecast. Not enough that it would be bumpy, but enough that it would push us on a good drift. Because of these conditions, John said we’d keep it simple for the day. He told me to bring 2 rods…one to put in the rod holder to use for a bounce ball setup, and another to toss something around – swimbait, dropshot, or just to drag another bait. John said ideally that a 12-25 setup would be perfect.
Based on what I had with me, I brought my Fishing Syndicate FSG 900L (rated 15-30) that I paired with a Tranx 300 to use as my bounce ball setup (left), and the Fishing Syndicate FSG Bass 800MH (rated 10-20) that I paired with a Penn Battle 3000 spinning reel. That spinning setup has become my de facto “leave-in-the-car” rig. I’ve been using it for everything on the sand and jetty (other than the BoLA trip), and I was looking forward to hopefully pushing its limits on a heavier fish.
We had planned to meet at 8:30, but ended up not launching until about noon. Late start, but John said it wouldn’t matter. After launching out of Shelter Island, we proceeded to the bait receiver. We bought a full scoop, but only loaded half. They gave us a receipt to get the other half later. I didn’t even know that half & half was an option, but it was perfect for the outing we had planned. We wouldn’t have to overstuff John’s bait well and the bait ended up keeping nicely for the trip.
Let me talk a bit about John’s bounce ball setup. I’ve heard of this technique before, but I’d never actually done it. My reel has straight braid on it. I tied off the braid to a swivel. From there, I tied maybe a 2 foot section of 30# mono to a double swivel. I have been using these swivels for fishing a live bait for ling cod and they’re great. One swivel rotates around the barrel of the other swivel. It allows your bait to swim freely in a circle around your line without getting it all twisted and tangled. John had a lighter version for this application and it worked perfectly! Out from the swivel was about a 3-foot leader (also 30# mono) to a trap-rig. Going down from the swivel was another 2-foot section of mono to a 5-ounce ball-style weight. Pin the sardine to the front hook, and then put the treble near it’s butt. Sink it down to the bottom and then a crank or two up. The idea is for the weight to bounce on the bottom, but not slide along the bottom. The theory is that the bouncing is felt by the halibut, gets them looking, and then they find the bait.
We started out near the bait receiver and began our first drift of the day. The wind and current pushed us on a path diagonally across to the Navy side of the channel and out toward Point Loma. John said that at first it would dip down, but then rise back up as we pushed further into the channel. He expected the fish to be hanging out on that upward sloping area. I started out only fishing one rod, so that I could get used to the proceedings before trying to manage two.
Sure enough, on the upslope, I got the first bite of the day.
It was only about 18-inches, but it got hooked on the treble. Over the course of the day, every single halibut got hooked on the treble. In the case of this first fish, the treble found flesh on the outside of his mouth. Without the trap, it would’ve been just another bump that didn’t materialize into a bite. You may want to go and review my trap-rig article if you haven’t already read it. It is absolutely deadly in this application.
It was a good first drift. We ended up with 4 shorts between us. No legals yet, but a good start to the day.
Over the course of the day, I kid you not, I caught close to 20 halibut (literally lost count), for 3 legals. At one point, we had all 4 rods bent at the same time. Crazy. All the legal fish were right around legal size. The biggest was only 23.5-inches. All of them were female and held eggs. All of them had a clean, white belly, except for one. John said they’re starting to bed up getting ready to spawn. I’m definitely going to revisit this fishing with John in the coming weeks looking for that big momma.
Full Day Offshore
I’ll be honest, I didn’t have high hopes leading into this trip. The counts at this length of trip have been pretty spotty of late…the occasional good day sprinkled into stretches of less than thrilling days. My only hope was that just maybe we’d finally run into a good jag of yellowfin that mostly haven’t yet shown up in volume.
Owner/operator Bill Wilkerson led our trip. We headed south and started our day at the 302, just to the west of the Coronado Islands. We ended up driving a long ways before we even got a sniff of action. When we finally did, we pulled up on a trashcan lid-sized kelp that I thought was just a mercy stop to wake everyone up. As it turned out, I saw fish free swimming when we rolled up. I started out the day fishing a 20# bait setup. My first bait was a Michael Phelps swimmer and took off like a rocket when it hit the water. No takers. By the time I got another bait in, the action was mostly over. Some of the bait anglers got bit, but jigs were the most effective. Rick Fuentes (above middle), Fishing Syndicate pro-staffer, hooked two to land one on a Daiwa SP Minnow. He was fishing the exact same setup (FSG 900L and Tranx 400) that I had so much fun and success fishing in Bay of LA. I had the same setup tied up, but opted to fish bait. Choices.
The fish were smaller grade (5-7 pounds?) and the boat got 6. That’s angler Jose Estrada (right) with one of them. It seemed like a decent start to the day, but unfortunately it was the best of it.
Capt. Bill searched long and hard, but to no avail. We went all the way to just off Ensenada before finally pointing our way back home.
On the way back, we had the opportunity for what looked to be a fast moving school of bluefin. First we spotted birds working. As we approached, fish could be seen boiling underneath the birds. Other boats in the area saw the same thing we saw and everyone raced to the spot. The Vendetta 2 was the first boat on it and we were right on its heels. I saw an angler throw off their bow and hook up. We were about to curl around in front of them when I saw one of the most ridiculous private boater googan moments I’ve ever had the misfortune of seeing. Rod in hand on the bow, prepared to cast on this school of boiling fish, I watched this person troll through the school between us and the Vendetta 2. The school sank out and we never found it again. I’m guessing Bill was at least as hot as I was about it.
That was basically our day. Tough day for sure. For me, I guess it’s a lot to expect two great days of fishing in a row. It is what it is. The good news is Bill had a better day this last Monday (Sept. 27th). They scored 65 yellowfin and 21 skipjack for 17 anglers. Maybe those yellowfin are finally showing up. Let’s hope so.
All for now. Good luck if you get out there!