Tips and Techniques for Fishing with Live Sardines

Just a few weeks ago, we were lucky enough to get onboard with Christian Sekas of Sekas Sportfishing and head over to Catalina Island for some fishing. Although there hadn’t been many reports of yellowtail, we were confident that we’d have some good fishing on other island regulars such as Calico Bass, Barracuda, and Bonito.

On this trip, we’d be focusing on fishing these species with your typical bait barge sardine. While there are many ways to present a sardine, there are two basic techniques that everyone should know for a day of fishing at the island.

The primary and most widely used presentation of the live sardine is the nose hook. This is a great technique to use at the islands because not only can you flyline your sardine, but by nose hooking it you are also able to implement an entirely different tactic of fishing that can be deadly at the islands, which is the slow troll. The nose hook is the only method that allows you to properly slow troll a live bait behind the boat, and you can catch nearly all of species at the island using this technique.

If you are making a drift or sitting on the anchor fishing a particular spot, consider trying a different presentation for your live bait. When you know there are yellows around, but you can’t keep the bass, bonito, and barracuda off your hooks, try belly or butt hooking your sardine. By hooking your bait this way, it tends to swim away from the boat while also getting deeper in the water column, perhaps swimming straight into your target species.

As everybody knows, our local Sea Lion population can be very quick to crash the party and slow down a good bite. These island locals will gladly eat every single one of your nose hooked live baits before you can hook a fish, and can become extremely frustrating throughout the day. This is the perfect time to implement the butt hook as it will prevent the Sea Lions from going after your baits, allowing you to keep your sardine in the bite zone for longer, increasing your chances of getting bit.

While having these two bait presentations in your pocket will certainly increase your odds of catching fish, it’s important to note that you shouldn’t just throw any sardine from the bait tank on your hook. Picking a lively and healthy bait is crucial, especially when targeting island species such as yellowtail. Make sure the bait you choose has all its scales, is nice and green, and has minimal or ideally no red markings on its sides. From there, make sure you handle it gently when putting it on the hook, get it in the water as quick as possible, and get ready for a bite.