Now is the time of year that the 805 boats who seasonally fish in San Diego, start returning home to fish the Channel Islands to finish out their year. I’ve been dying to fish up north and chase lingcod. To sweeten the pot, I had heard that there was some signal of yellowtail up there the previous week. Live squid was available. AND there was a full moon. My buddy Adrian Cruz had a charter heading out Friday, fishing Saturday (November 20th) on the Endeavor out of Ventura Harbor Sportfishing. I was absolutely in.
Owner/operator Tucker McCombs was out taking care of some family business, so Capt. Shon Roberts was ably filling in to head up this trip. Shon was most recently on the Fortune. I fished with him on that boat back in May when the seabass were biting. It was kind of a scratchy bite on that trip and I was really happy that I was able to finesse a fish going light leadhead and squid (right).
I know Shon is aggressive when it comes to fishing…you’d have to be to drive up from 22nd Street in San Pedro to fish wsb in the Channel Islands!
So I felt pretty good about our chances on the yellows and then we could move on to the normally scheduled rockfish program. Shon said we’d start the day early trying for those yellows in the Eagle’s Nest area of Santa Rosa Island. I rigged up a high dropper loop with Fishing Syndicate’s FSC 800M paired with a Shimano Trinidad 16A; and a light leadhead setup with an FSC Inshore 900L and a Tranx 400 before hitting my bunk.
We got to the zone early Saturday morning and anchored up. Lights from a few other sportboats could be seen in the moonlit darkness around us. We were already loaded with squid picked up from a light boat on the way out, so we didn’t need to make some on our own. Shon had said it was primarily a first morning light bite, so I waited it out a little longer in my bunk before heading up to fish.
When I did go up to fish, I noticed that most anglers were fishing the dropper. No action, so I decided to start off with the light leadhead. The current was pretty strong heading out in the port stern direction. I casted with the current from around the bait tank on the port rail and let it drift out and away from the boat. I felt a little nibble at one point. My squid came back with the tentacles gone. By this point Eric had his potatoes going on the grill and was starting up his bacon. I went inside, poured myself a cup of coffee and sat. I watched to see if anything good happened. It was a good choice, the only thing caught during this time were a shark (left) and some bat rays.
Once the sun broke, we pulled anchor and started looking around. We ended up doing a few drifts, but it wasn’t happening. Shon said that out of the four boats out there, one yellow got caught. Mid-morning he made the call to go outside and get our deep water fish before the wind picked up in the afternoon.
The deep water rockfishing went largely true to form. Big reds were the target and but there were also some starries and bocaccio in the mix. The quality of the rockfish was that typically bigger Channel Islands level. A couple just legal lings were also in the mix. At one point, Adrian picked up a perfect sized dab and left it for me in one of the hand wells. I rigged it up on the trap rig and tried that a little bit. The speed of the drift should’ve made it look really good, but no takers.
The limiting factor was the wind and current picking up as the day progressed. When it got to the point that a pound of lead wasn’t quite doing it, we went inside to duck the wind and finish out our day with whitefish and sheephead.
There were some people who brought shrimp for the sheephead. That’s a great half day tactic, but I never do that out here. I’ve seen more big fish caught on squid, so I kept it simple. When we switched up to this portion of the day, I re-rigged the 800M with a Fathom 400 Low Profile (50lb braid) and fished a simple double dropper (30# mono) with small circle hooks (Size 2 Owner Mutu Light Circles) and strips of squid. This was a really fun portion of the day. If you’ve never fished Santa Rosa for whitefish, you have no idea. There weren’t a whole lot of small ones. Most of these fish were bigger.
As a point of comparison, they were mostly larger than the rat-sized yellows I’ve seen paddy fishing offshore recently.
And they put up a fun fight too! A couple times I got hit and it seemed like there was more weight to it than a whitefish. The first one ended up being a pretty decent sheephead. The second time it was a solid, black and red model. I felt pretty good that the second one was heavier than any of the small lings that got caught. And since we were inside at this point, it seemed like the only way I could lose jackpot was if someone got really lucky and picked up a halibut/yellowtail/seabass.
Angler Ricky Do had something to say about it though.
I was on the starboard side fishing near the bait tank. Ricky was on the stern and I saw him throw out a whole squid on a sliding sinker setup. He got picked up and the fish took him across the stern and up the corner toward me. To be honest, I was thinking, “C’mon bro…handle your fish.” Then I saw deckhand Jace Malone pull out the gaff…
Holy moley, that’s the biggest whitefish I’ve ever seen!
People call whitefish up here the “poor man’s yellowtail.” That’s because they are typically bigger than the whitefish you’ll catch anywhere else in the Southern California Bight, and fight all the way to the boat. But dang! This thing’s head was girthy. I asked the other deckhand, Daniel Hadawi, how big he thought it was, and he told me, “Easy 9 to 10 pounds.” Wow!
That was the day. Ricky’s whitefish ended up edging me and embarrassing the bigger ling it got weighed against. Crazy. I guess if you’re going to lose to a whitefish, it better be one that really catches your eye like this one.
Thanks to Capt. Shon and the rest of the crew for a fun day on the water. It’s great to have you guys back in the 805. Not a lot of days left in the year, so fill up on those bottom grabbers while you still can. Good luck if you get out there.