When The Fishing Is Slow

None of us go out thinking, “This trip isn’t going to go well.”

There are many times that I may go out without high expectations. I just need to get out for my sanity. That said, I always hold out hope that something awesome could happen. Trips don’t always meet our hopes or expectations though.

So what do you do when the fishing isn’t great?

You only have a handful of choices…

  • Change your approach
  • Change your fishing
  • Change your venue
  • Adjust your expectations
  • Call it and try again another time

These are the choices that I faced this week when the catching didn’t pan out on most of the fishing I did. It’s not always going to go the way we want it, so here are some ideas for when it doesn’t work out.

Full Day Offshore On The Sea Watch

I came up on Wednesday to fish the full day offshore ride on Thursday (Aug. 26th) aboard the Sea Watch out of Seaforth Landing in San Diego. Capt. Kris Karpow had invited me out because his relief captain, Capt. Ryan Myers had a big hit on Sunday. Sunday’s trip saw them catch 13 Bluefin Tuna, 138 Dorado, 6 Yellowfin Tuna, and 1 Yellowtail for 26 anglers. I haven’t caught a good dodo in several years, so I was excited to go out and give it a go.

In the days leading up to my trip, the counts weren’t as rich. They went south the previous day, so Capt. Kris took a northwest track leaving San Diego on Thursday morning. Along the way, we ran into mostly empty kelps. For the couple kelps that did hold fish, they mostly didn’t want to go. There was one in particular that really bugged me. I managed to put a hot bait into the water just as we were coming up on the kelp. It took off like a missile and dove deep…right under the kelp. No bite. As we drifted away from the kelp, a dodo jumped up as if to say…

“Not today!”

It was frustrating. Change up my approach…I couldn’t get them to go on bait, so I switched up to my surface iron setup (Fishing Syndicate 900M and Tranx 500) and threw off the bow to avoid the flylined bait guys. I had opportunities and placed good casts, but the kelps were empty.

Too much boat pressure? Perhaps. It is what it is. At the end of the day, our tally was the lone dodo. At least the lucky angler was 11 year old Enzo (right) who was fishing with his grandfather. Their next trip, they got 2 bluefin and 23 yellowfin. Decent day. It’s up and down right now offshore at this length of trip .

Change My Fishing

Right before my flight departed for Seattle (August 3rd), I made a quick stop at one of my favorite stretches of beach to catch corbina. It hasn’t been a great year for me (but also overall) for surf fishing. The conditions looked ideal at my go-to spot. Made bait (sand crab) on my first scoop. Threw two baits, hooked up, and landed my first good corbina of the year. Out in less than 30 minutes and made my plane.

Looking back, I’m glad I made that effort.

I returned to the same spot on Sunday morning. I barely made any bait. No sign of fish. Very weedy. Still good structure, but none of the other variables looked good. I tried, but it didn’t work out. I called it a day.

As a consolation prize, I was able to connect with my surf sensei, Randy Toji, for lunch at our favorite Hawaiian spot. Randy’s been up north fishing stripers in No Cal and had just gotten back in town. He was going to give my spot a try this week, but I had to break the bad news to him.

Given how scarce the sand crabs were, I saved the little bit I made in my cooler. On my way back home, I stopped at a North County San Diego beach that I had fished the previous Sunday. On that trip, I only got one big bite, but it was a good one. I was very close to landing what appeared would be my first ever spotfin croaker, but it busted off as I was trying to beach it. Examination of my rig showed that the hook bent out. Ugh! When I re-rigged, I upgraded to a stouter hook and bumped up my line weight to 6# fluoro (from 5#). Couldn’t get bit again.

Change of venue

I had bait already. If parking was easy and the conditions were good, I wanted to give this spot another shot. Otherwise, I’d make a brief stop and return the sand crabs to the sand (karma points) before getting back on the road.

I get to the spot and miraculously I quickly found a parking spot in the middle of the afternoon, on a summer weekend day. Perhaps a good sign? I got out and looked at the water. It was about 2 hours before high tide. The caution flags were out, so there were hardly any swimmers or surfers in the water. I’ve gotta give this a try.

On second look at this beach, I noticed that the angle of it’s slope is kind of steep. That’s probably why I bent the hook last week. There was a stretch with a more gradual slope a short walk away. I filed that information away in case I was able to hook up. I’d make my final play there. On my first cast, I get bit, but my bait was taken without hooking up. They were hungry. I fed them a couple more baits before I manage to hook up. It took a nice run. Without all the people in the water, I was happy to let it wear itself out while making my way to the landing spot. Got it. Solid bean. Satisfying catch.

Right as I was releasing the fish, I hear a boom and look up. Looking south, dark rain clouds loomed. Then I see what caused the boom when a lightning bolt lit up the sky. Ok, time to leave. I really lucked out. Take the win and call it a day.

I leave on Sunday, September 5th for Bahia de Los Angeles. I went there for the first time in September of 2019. You may remember that on that trip, I managed to get a nice 60-pound gulf grouper, but got wrecked by a much larger one. I’m getting my shot at redemption, and I am going to be ready for that bigger fish this time. Wish me luck.

In the meantime, I’ll probably do something local this week. All for now. Good luck if you get out there.

Joe Sarmiento
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 ...