Winter Variety

In keeping with the local theme of last week’s post, Sportboat Roundup – Local Focus, my plan this week was to stay close to home…just do it down here in San Diego. I had two trips planned going into the week, and came out of it going on three. All the trips were within the constraints of a day trip leaving out of San Diego. Each trip produced fish, but in uniquely different ways. Looking back on the combined outcome of these three trips, I’m excited to tell you about the wide variety of legit fishing opportunities you could choose to focus on right now.

Winter Bassing On The Dolphin

I never got to do any San Diego bassing this summer. That fishery used to be super frustrating for me when I started fishing it. It took awhile to figure out the right gear and tactics to be successful. Once I did though, throwing a big bait on the kelp-cutter rig deep into the weeds became one of my favorite kinds of fishing to do. Unfortunately, that style of fishing never really got going this year. As I was planning my trips last week, I noticed the local boats were getting into some bass fishing and I wanted to see how they were going about it. I ended up hopping on the PM ride for the Dolphin out of Fisherman’s Landing on Thursday (Nov. 4th).

I won’t say where exactly we fished…buy a ticket. But Capt. Jason Coz has some spots and the one he picked last Thursday was pretty good. We anchored up in about 60 feet of water in a kelpy area near shore. It’s winter bass fishing, so the fish are oriented near the bottom. Since it was pretty shallow, I chose to start with a live sardine with a half-ounce sliding sinker. I lost my bait to a cormorant. Luckily, I didn’t hook the bird (that time), but plenty of people did. Capt. Jason and regular Matthew Chang were fishing next to me (above). They were doing leadhead and squid, so I figured I’d copy what they were doing.

That worked to an extent. I picked up a couple shorts. It started working really good though when someone figured out to use sardine slabs to get a bite from the bass, while avoiding the birds.

Towards the end of it, the birds kind of dissipated. I noticed that the rent rods using live bait and a low dropper were getting bit really well now. I switched up to that presentation. Instead of just dropping in though, I casted and dragged, thinking maybe I’d get really lucky and find a halibut. Instead it worked very well on the bass and I closed the ride with 4 straight legal calicos. The count they posted had 35 calicos, 4 sand bass and 100 bass released for 13 anglers. Sounds spot on. Although there were rockfish and sheephead in the count (a sheephead took jackpot), we didn’t actually “rockfish.” Straight bass fishing. It was good.

One tackle note, the terrain here was more sandy bottom and kelp, than it was rocky structure like it is fishing bass at Izor’s or Santa Monica Bay. Instead of the football style jigheads, the spearhead style seems to work better for leadhead and squid here.

Thanks to Capt. Jason, Nano and Matt (both Matts, the cook and Matt Chang) for a fun afternoon. I’ll be back.

Local Rockfishing

Friday morning I met my friend Capt. John Anjard at Dana Landing. Our plan for the day was to hit some rocky areas north of La Jolla in his skiff. Our target quarry was reds (vermilion rockfish) and whatever else we could find. John had been out the previous day and smashed it with our mutual friend Fabio. They got their limits in a couple hours.

As I mentioned last week, I feel like I haven’t gotten enough rockfishing in this year. John and I had planned to head north to Monterrey last week to go after big lings. We waited too long to book though. Luckily, he did well local and we figured we could do the same thing again last Friday (Nov. 5th).

Every day is a new day though on the water and our experience Friday wasn’t as good as the previous day. John attributed it to the fact that there was little to no current all day. You wouldn’t think rockfishing is current dependent, but it seems to make sense that current down below is going to push on those high spots and create a feeding atmosphere. We did manage to get our limit eventually, but needed all day to scratch it out. We got our 5 each on reds, and filled out the rest of our bags with starries, square spots, and bank perch. I’ll definitely take it.

Thanks for another good trip John.

Full Day Offshore With Reel Life Fishing

That was my planned fishing for the week.

Saturday morning I was in game mode, looking forward to watching my Huskies play when I got a text from Oliver Solis of Fishing Syndicate. “Are you available to go fishing tomorrow on a 6-pack out of San Diego?” Yeah, as a matter of fact, I am.

The next morning I was at Dana Landing again. This time it was to get onboard the Reel Life with Capt. Daniel Lecuna. I was the first one to the boat and introduced myself. With Daniel was deckhand Johnny DeWitt. I remembered Johnny from when the new owners purchased the Eclipse and first began running the boat as the Tomahawk. He was part of that initial crew. Good to see a familiar face. Oliver showed up shortly bringing FS staffers Rick Fuentes and Steven Escalera.

The plan for the morning was to paddy hop to get some of those smaller yellows and hopefully run into yellowfin tuna. Steven is a trout guy and this was his first open water trip. It would be fun to watch him experience his first yellowtail. The afternoon plan was to try to do some deep drops for swordfish. That would be brand new to me and I was curious to see how it worked.

The morning went as planned. We spent time primarily around the lower 9, the 302 and the 371…basically the same area as the full day offshore trips. To be honest, I haven’t been all that impressed with those counts, so I was a little surprised to see all the life I saw out there. It took a bit of looking, but we eventually found the right paddy and got our fill of catching small yellowtail. Steven has probably caught bigger trout, so it was fun to watch his reaction pulling on these feisty little yellows. We did end up seeing some yellowfin traveling with a school of dolphin, but no luck getting them to go.

As planned we switched over to the deep drop game for swordfish for the afternoon. Daniel spent some time on the East Coast learning about swordfish and the related rigging and strategies involved. Since returning to San Diego, he’s hooked two and landed one. Not bad. It was pretty intricate all the small details involved in getting the bait (dead humboldt squid) prepared (right). When it was ready, Oliver dropped it down 1200 feet on the FSGL Swordfish 7802XH and a Penn 50W International.

Just as we got that setup deployed, we spied some birds working less than a 100 yards away.

Under the birds were dolphin…until they weren’t.

I made the comment that it would be the most bluefin thing to do, for them to show up now, just as we got this whole swordfish setup in place. Sure enough, before too long, the dolphin turned into a full blown foamer of bluefin and they were making their way towards the boat. What now?

Capt. Daniel made the call the to go after them. Using a power drill setup to turn the reel handle, he helped Oliver get the deep drop setup back on the boat. Meanwhile, Johnny set about getting the kite ready to put out. Guess what happened by the time we were ready? The fish sank out of course. Daniel went looking for them. Johnny put out the kite using a fake flying fish. Daniel was only going about 3.5 knots and keeping an eye on the sonar. There were two mackerel in the bait well and I dropped one back well behind the boat. What do you know, one of the bluefin found the mack and I was able to convert the opportunity.

We kept looking for more, but that was the extent of it. Daniel’s boat has twin 300’s on it. He can cruise easily at 30 knots, so we were back in his slip at Dana in about a third of the time it would take on a sportboat. What a luxury! Thanks Daniel and Johnny for a really enjoyable day on the water. Thanks Oliver for the invite. I appreciate it!

So that was my week. Three days of fishing, three distinctly different fisheries, each trip producing a successful outcome. Those results all came within the constraints of one fishing day! Amazing that we have this kind of diversity of fishing available to us here in San Diego, especially considering the time of year. Interestingly, I only used two rods over the course of my three days of fishing, the new for next year FS Inshore 900M (20-40) and the workhorse FSC 800M (20-50). Pretty versatile rods to have in the arsenal.

Don’t put your gear away just yet. The season is far from over. 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 ...