Fishing In Adverse Conditions

The word opportunity is defined as “A situation or condition favorable to the attainment of a goal.”

I really like this definition as it not only sounds promising but also portends a positive conclusion. As a fisherman, I relate it to knowing that good things are about to happen, like arriving at the tuna grounds and seeing other boats already bent on fish, or pulling up to a kelp bed and finding giant calicos blowing out on bait schools. Though I haven’t yet wet a line in either of these instances, such signs would definitely indicate an opportunity to achieve my goal of catching fish.

The problem with opportunity is that it also has a much less promising definition: “An appropriate or favorable time or occasion.” When it comes to fishing, I’ve found this definition to be the more common of the two.

My fishing partner Matt and I were faced with the less glamorous of the two definitions when we discussed our weekend fishing options on a Friday afternoon. We had originally planned to fish rockfish or calico bass on Saturday, but with a storm predicted to roll in on Friday night, it didn’t look like we’d get the opportunity to do either of those things. It looked like our only opportunity to do any fishing at all would be to head out that evening. Luckily, neither of us had other plans, so we decided to fish the break wall for a few hours before the rain was predicted to start.

A very important thing the dictionary neglects to mention is that when you put the word only in front of it, opportunity can take on a depressing and ominous tone — and depressed pretty well sums up how I felt after logging onto to check the evening’s tides. Our only opportunity to fish was right at the bottom end of a massive 7-foot tidal swing.

Anyone that’s spent time fishing the wall knows that it doesn’t bite very well on an extremely low tide, but there are a few spots along its length that will still kick out fish when the water is low. The scattered rock piles along the wall’s base that were formed by rocks avalanching down and away from the wall during the construction of the break wall produce the most consistent low-water bite.

Finding these areas is as simple as slowly driving up to the wall and watching for its base to show up on the fish finder. The wall is basically a pyramid of rocks, so you should start metering it about 20 feet out from the rocks you see on the surface. Once you’ve determined how far the rocks at the bottom extend past those at the top, simply move the boat an additional 20 feet away from the wall (you should no longer be metering any rocks) and then drive parallel to the wall, while maintaining your distance from it, until you again meter rocks. If you’re having trouble figuring out what you’re looking for, one of these rock piles can be found right on the east end of the break wall and can be used as a reference to help you determine what they look like on your fish finder.

After launching the boat, Matt and I hit a few of these spots at the break wall and managed to get a few nice bass before the low slack tide. Aside from the tide being low, the water was cold and as a result the fish were very lethargic. We tried several different techniques, but our only bites came while slowly bumping swimbaits and creature baits along the bottom. Once the tide slacked off, the few bites we’d been getting turned into no bites at all, so we decided to leave the wall and go look at some of our deeper spots.

I already have more spots in my GPS than I could realistically fish in a year, but there is no such thing as having too many spots, so when driving around during the lobster season I’ll always keep an eye out for clusters of commercial buoys, especially in areas where I don’t already have spots marked.

I didn’t manage to find any new spots during the run out to one of my standby spots, an old wreck, but when I got there I noticed a couple of buoys 100 feet away from the actual spot and headed over to investigate.

What I found was a small spot that might have been a rock or maybe a portion of the wreck that had drifted away as the boat sank. Regardless of its origin, this was a new spot for me to mark in my GPS and it ended up producing several nice sand bass along with a shot at what probably would have been one of the biggest sand bass we’ve hooked all year. Sadly, the fish came off before we got it to the boat, but we were happy just to have had the opportunity to hook that big fish on a trip that seemed destined for mediocrity.

Even though its definition is often forced upon us by circumstances beyond our control and is rarely the one we’d choose, it’s prudent to take every opportunity you’re given to get out on the water and fish. Remember, the fish count doesn’t always quantify the success of a trip; sometimes it’s about finding new spots or just figuring out how to get bites on the spots you already have when the fishing is tough.

1 Comment

Jan 15, 2020 at 2:33 pm

Lots of good tips.

Thanks, Eric!

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