Punta Colonet…prior to the last El Nino, these trips were billed as “freezer filler” trips. The main draw for them being the opportunity to go rockfishing in Mexican waters while the rockfish closure was in effect here in Southern California. Then as that warm El Nino water pushed up from the south, these trips took on an entirely different character. Most memorable for me was my 2016 trip aboard the Eclipse with Capt. Adam Williams (now on the New Lo-An). During a full speed drift where the whole boat was bent on yo-yo yellowtail, I hauled in a 40-pound slug that still stands today as my personal best yellowtail to date.
That was then, this is now…
So far this year, the only similar trip was the Pacific Queen’s first Colonet trip of the year when Capt. Gavin Harbour led a group of 34 anglers for a big hit of 90 fish. Since that first trip, the output on yellowtail has been pretty spotty. Still, the allure of potentially being aboard when they hit it big again was enough of a draw for me that I set out last Friday (Jan. 29th) to try my luck at Colonet aboard the Queen.
Trip Report – 1.5-Day to Punta Colonet
For the last several years now, I’ve been chartermaster for an early-season excursion to Colonet. This year though, given how busy I was up in Seattle preparing my mom’s house for sale, I didn’t put one together. Luckily, Southern California Sportfishing Club organized a trip where a lot of the same people that would have gone on my trip were going to be aboard. SCSFC founder Ron Owens texted me last week that a spot opened up and I jumped on the opportunity to join them.
We departed from Fisherman’s Landing on Friday night with Capt. Billy Santiago leading our trip. By 6:30 the following morning, we were nearing the fishing grounds. The setup for the day was pretty simple. I brought 3 setups for the trip: a Fishing Syndicate FSC 900M (rated 20-50) paired with a Shimano Trinidad 20A as my yo-yo setup, the FSC 800M (also rated 20-50) paired with a Tranx 500PG for my yellowtail dropper loop setup, and an FSC 800H/Trinidad 30A combo to serve as my rockfishing rig.
After an excellent breakfast burrito (sausage AND bacon), I grabbed my yo-yo combo and waited for the first opportunity of the day. The first few drifts of the day were tough. We had a funky wind against the current condition and the output was pretty meager. One maybe 15-pound yellow and a rat-sized runt that was maybe 5-pounds. Billy opted to take a midday rockfishing break while hoping the conditions would sort themselves out and we’d have better luck on yellows later on in the trip.
We enjoyed better luck rockfishing.
Billy went deep to try and focus on reds (vermilion rockfish), so we fished in anywhere from 300-450+ feet of water. His recommendation was a 16 or 20-ounce sinker to try and keep everything straight on these deepwater drifts. As we got into it though, the wind backed off and 12-ounces was doing the trick. I brought a bunch of jigs and plastics for the rockfishing portion of the trip, but the depth was too deep and the drifts too fast for anything but a standard double dropper loop presentation. Kind of boring and pretty tedious fishing that deep, but the output was good.
After putting a good whack on the bottom fish, we tried again for yellowtail after lunch. Billy found some smaller schools, but never connected on a really big one that could turn the tide on the day. The afternoon yellowtail session produced the same count as the morning session (two fish, plus one lost to a sea lion), but the afternoon fish were both nicer 20-25 pounders.
The wind kicked up again late in the day as we turned our attention back to rockfishing.
At this point, with no yellowtail bites and just one short lingcod highlighting my bottom fishing effort, I tried my Hail Mary play. I re-tied my yellowtail dropper rig and made it into a trap rig setup. I asked the deckhand on the tank “Toast” to find me a mackerel in the bait tank. I took the biggest one he could find, put it on my trap rig, and sent it to the bottom in search of a big lingcod.
It wasn’t down very long before I got whacked hard. Big headshakes. Fought all the way up. “This is the right kind,” I thought to myself. I told Toast to grab the gaff. I slowly reeled it up to color and my heart sank when instead of the brown or blue camo of my desired lingcod, I could see the dark bronzy coloring of a bocaccio or salmon grouper. It was the biggest damn one I’ve ever caught, but not what I had hoped for.
That was essentially it for the trip. Limits of rockfish, a handful of lings, some other assorted bottom grabbers, and just 4 yellowtail for the trip. Pretty disappointing if I’m being 100% honest, but that’s mostly how it’s been this year. It is what it is. Thanks to Billy and the crew of the Pacific Queen for working hard and taking good care of us. Try again next year.
Good luck if you get out there.