Trip Report: Lingcod Redemption On The Sea Wolf

I’m not going to lie, it was bugging me that I blew my shot at one of those big lings on the Coral Sea trip.

When I was re-tying, I noticed the boat’s bulk spool of line.  It was 40# mono.  That should have told me right there it was a bad idea to tie up with 25# and I paid the price.

The following day (Friday, September 25th), I really wanted to get back out to try and redeem myself.  All the boats were already booked though, so I rented a kayak hoping to catch halibut inside Santa Barbara Harbor.  It turned out to be a nice paddle and nothing else.

From Santa Barbara, I made my way up the coast.  I tried to find fishing opportunities along the way…Morro Bay, Santa Cruz, Half Moon Bay…no weekend boat availability at any of them.  I couldn’t even rent a skiff.

Monday I rolled into Pleasanton (East Bay area) where I had made plans to stay with my buddy Nick Lam and his wife Jina.  You’ll remember that it was Nick and our other buddy, Allen Pera, who put me on that San Francisco pier halibut on my way down to LA in July.  I loved the dropshot rod that I had borrowed from Nick and caught that fish on.  I wanted one too.  Nick built me one, and I was stopping by to pick it up.  It just so happened that Nick and Jina were going to be riding on the Sea Wolf  out of Emeryville on Tuesday morning with some other friends…including Allen.

“Want to go if I can get you on?”  Nick asked.

He did and I went…

Trip Report – Farallon Islands On The Sea Wolf

The next morning (Tuesday, September 29th) our group of eight met in the parking lot at the Emeryville sportfishing landing.  The boat does 6am to 4pm trips.  Owner/operator, Capt. Jon Yokomizo would be leading our trip.  Crewmembers Joe and Darren managed deck duties.  There was an inside seating area, but no galley service.

Nick is a regular on the boat.  He told me that this boat is typically #1 or 2 statewide every year in catching lingcod.  They knew that Nick, Allen and I would be throwing jigs and swimbaits to target lings, so they arrayed all of us around the spots on the bow.  Nick is a fan of the of the trap rig too, so he pre-tied a bunch of those rigs when we were messing around with gear in his garage before the trip.  I only brought 2 rods, one to throw a “jig and fly” rig, and the other for the trap rig.  I tied up and settled inside the house for the 3 hour ride out.

Nick, Jina and her big red

When we arrived in the fishing zone, the conditions were pleasant.  Not much wind or swell, but very foggy.  I was told we were close to the islands, but they were completely hidden from view.  Capt. Jon kicked off the first drift of the day right around the 40 fathom (240-feet) depth limit.  Jina got the ball rolling for our crew with a big red to kick off the day.  No lings on the first drift, so we made a quick move.

After that first stop, things really got going.

The lings started coming fast and furious.  At one point, all 3 of us…Nick, Allen and I, were all bendo on lings.  I got that fish, but Allen was putting on a show.  He had put 4 on the deck and started hooking and handing to the newbies in our group.

I’ve been battling tendinitis in my left elbow.  I blame two straight months of jigging for salmon at Dash Point Pier for this affliction.  I was missing some bites and my elbow was starting to throb.  It was a little hard to tell in the fog, so I asked Joe what our drift was currently looking like.  He told me about a knot.  Hmmm.  Meanwhile, there were these two friends of Jina’s fishing next to me, Moon and Alfred.  They were newbs.  Their expectations going in were low, so when they started catching doubles, they were getting pretty excited.  Often there would be one good fish they’d put in their sack, while they started piling up smaller ones at their feet.

“You guys gonna keep those?”

“No?”  They responded with hesitation.  “Mind if I take one?”  “Not at all.”  I pulled the trap rig out of the rack and grabbed a little starry rockfish…maybe 4-5 inches long.  I proceeded to pin its mouth shut with the top hook and hooked the trap hook into some flesh near the tail.  “You’re going to use that for bait?” they asked wide-eyed.

“I’m going to turn it into a lingcod.”

Note the little starry on my line

I sent the little starry down with a 1-pound cannonball weight that I borrowed from the crew.  The bait leader was longish (maybe 16-inches), so I let the weight hit bottom and took it up a couple of cranks.  I was down maybe 10 minutes when I got whacked hard.  That fish was the first of 3, I put on the boat using the trap.  Two of the 3 were hooked on the bottom hook.  The last one was the biggest of the 4 total I caught.

When the flurry of lings was over, we stopped to empty sacks and the crew tallied up where we were.  I’d never actually seen this before, but we were at limits for the boat on lings, but needed a few more rockfish to round out the day’s catch.

Personally, I was short 3 rockfish.  I tied up a double dropper to catch my rockies and top off my sack.  Capt. Jon set up one more drift.  That took care of that.

This was a really fun trip.  My last fish weighed out a hair over 11-pounds to beat a monster 9-pound bocaccio that a guy on the stern had caught.  My only wish was it would’ve been nice to see the islands while we were fishing, but oh well.

On the way home, even the Golden Gate Bridge was obscured by the dense fog.

Thanks to Capt. Jon, Joe, and Darren for taking great care of us and putting us on the fish.  Thanks also to Jina and Nick for being such great hosts.  You guys are so nice and I always catch fish with you!

I’m currently in Seattle again, but I’m going to be back down again shortly.  I’ve got my 2-Day trip upcoming on the T-Bird October 16th.  I didn’t catch a bluefin last year, so I’m hoping I can remedy that situation on this trip.  Fishing Syndicate is sponsoring the trip again.  It’ll be fun.  Come fish with me.

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 ...