Windy Week But A Happy Ending For SoCal Anglers

Well if you are reading this article, I’m going to guess you share this same sentiment…

rockfish opener reports
Departing the MDR bait dock

Can we be done with the wind already? Every day feels more and more like Spring, but Winter seems to not quite want to let go.

Going into last week, I was looking forward to 3 trips to take advantage of the rockfish season opener.  The first trip was a 3/4-day trip last Wednesday (March 3rd) on Spitfire Sportfishing.  It was my buddy, Marcus Fain’s birthday trip, and my personal rockfish opener.  Marcus and I had fished last week, and couldn’t stop talking about getting out for Wednesday’s trip.  The weather forecast going into the day was for rain, but a manageable wind of 10-15 knots.  In tow with me for the trip was another buddy, Ken Kim, who’s still down here from Washington.

When we departed Dock 52 in Marina del Rey, the sun was out, the sky was clear, and it looked like maybe the weather would end up on the mild side of things for our day.  Aboard the boat, they were tanked with live squid and anchovies.  When Capt. Jeremy Maltz got on the intercom to talk to us about the trip, he said we’d be headed up the coast to fish off Malibu.  Knowing there are some nice pinnacle areas up there and having live squid, I told Ken we’d have a shot at having a really good day.  Optimism was running high.

We made the long ride north and set up our first drift in about 300-feet of water.  Not much.  Jeremy reset and gave it another shot.  This time it bit pretty solid.  I pulled up a nice-sized red, Ken got a big bocaccio (he was excited) and Marcus was doing his typical thing and sacking up fish.  We were enjoying our morning, focused on the fishing, when a big boom startled me.  I looked over my shoulder to see dark storm clouds on the horizon rolling our way from Catalina.

When those clouds got on top of us, things went sideways quickly.

Wind gusts over 20-knots and not just rain, but cold sleet pounded us.  Cotton fields of whitecaps surrounded us as far as you could see.  Jeremy tried going shallower to see if he could find a fishable condition for us, but no dice.  He called the trip and gave us a 50% refund.  I managed to get 3 rockfish and 2 whitefish, so not a bad outcome all things considered, but our collective saltwater appetite was barely wetted.

Oh well, I had a second trip planned for the week with my buddy John Anjard on his skiff.  Our plan was to fish the Del Mar Canyon, north of San Diego, for what we hoped would be a load of big reds.  On the way home from Marina del Rey, John called to let me know it wasn’t looking good for Friday due to the wind.  I hate chasing a bad trip with another bad trip.  We canceled.

So going into Sunday’s trip, I was really feeling the need to have a good trip.  Thankfully, the fishing gods served up a good day.

Trip Report – Santa Monica Bay 3/4-Combo Trip On The Tortuga

rockfish opener reports

The Tortuga is a 42-foot sportboat that they only use at MDR for private charters.  The occasion was a trip set up by Fishing Syndicate to get some video of the rockfish season opener for their YouTube channel.

rockfish opener reportsCapt. Sigi Aguirre led our trip, assisted by deckhand Nick Garcia.  Being back in MDR, it felt like a do-over of Wednesday’s trip.  It was hard to say what Sigi might decide to do though.  Saturday, the Spitfire was out fishing South Santa Monica Bay.

They were rockfishing, but a big homeguard yellowtail highlighted their day…42-pounds on the scale!

The morning of Sunday’s trip, I didn’t know the details of that catch.  It wasn’t until later that I found out the big fish had been caught on a double dropper and a strip of squid.  Sigi knew though and said we’d be heading the opposite direction of where that fish was caught, up the coast toward Malibu.  We had live squid and anchovies, and fresh frozen dead squid.  It really would be a do-over.

Heading out, it was on the cold side and overcast.  Unlike Wednesday though, the ocean was glass.  There was little to no wind.

Sigi went deep for our first drift, about 450-feet of water.  Nick had recommended going 12-ounces, but with little to no condition, some people were getting it done with less.  Notably, angler Rick Fuentes was fishing a six-ounce jig, and managing to get down using 30# braid to a short fluoro topshot.  That first spot didn’t end up being too productive, but Rick managed to get a cowcod to bite his jig.  It was good to see that the boat was equipped with a descending device and the fish was successfully released unharmed.

Sigi headed shallower and that’s where things really got going.

rockfish opener reportsThere were a couple of large mackerel in the bait tank.  One of the anglers, Tony McLaurin, wanted to try and convert one into a lingcod.  He wasn’t successful in that endeavor, but he saved the dead macks on Nick’s cutting board.  Nick slabbed and stripped them into bait.  I was fishing on the port side and not having much luck when Sigi leaned out of the wheelhouse and told me to try the other side.  I tried the macks and went over to the other side.  Automatic.  I quickly exceeded the new 5 vermilion rockfish limit.  The reds came fast and furious for everyone else too along with a couple of chuckles, salmon grouper, and assorted other rockfish.

We were satisfied with the rockfish output, falling just short of full 10 per angler limits.

rockfish opener reportsSigi made a move to finish the day along the kelp line to target bass.  The move also gave everyone an opportunity to fish the new FS Inshore Graphite Series rods.  Marcus Fain was on this trip too and immediately hooked up in the new spot.  By the bend in his rod, we were both expecting it to be a nicer-sized bass.  It started to come to color and it wasn’t a bass.

A half dozen or so legal bass came over the rail before Sigi called it and we made the journey back home.  Definitely a nice day on the water.  I ended up with 9 rockfish and a tasty calico in my take-home bag.  More importantly, I got to fish with a really nice group of talented anglers and enjoy a proper opener.  Thanks to Sigi and Nick for taking care of us and putting us on the fish.

Across the community, there were some pleasant surprises in the rockfish mix, hopefully, a sign of things to come for the season.  If you’ve been sitting things out so far, it’s time to get back on the water.  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 ...