The Future Of Rockfishing?

Yellow fishDespite this last heroic hurrah of tuna fishing, I think everyone can agree that El Nino is finally coming to an end.  In matters regarding weather, I defer to my buddy Chris Dunn, the Fishing Weatherman (right).

In an article Chris penned back in early June, he shared a NOAA Sea Surface Temperature graph predicting a precipitous drop…plunging us into the La Nina side of the spectrum imminently.

Clearly that hasn’t happened

In fact, when I rode on the Pacific Islander this weekend, crewmember Bryan Duncan shared with me that they encountered yellowfin tuna on the way back to Oxnard from San Nicolas Island on a recent trip!

Roll that around in your head for a second…yellowfin tuna, that far north, in October, on the supposed backend of El Nino.  Pretty crazy.

That said, I saw some things on this weekend’s trip has me thinking what rockfishing might look like for the years ahead and how we will need adapt to it.

Tuna Crabs

tunacrabThey’re going to be around awhile.  The ones that came in with the warm water stayed, spawned, and now there’s a new generation(s) left behind.  It’s going to take sustained colder water to completely cycle them out.

So what does this mean for us anglers?

Lazy biting fish.  Pray for squid.

Slow down your presentation if you’re fishing jigs.  For fishing bait, the rockfish didn’t respond particularly well to our fin bait.  Pray for squid.

We’ll Be Fishing Deeper…and Heavier

On the Bleeding Channel Chovy

I wrote in my previous article, Lingcod and the Big Swimbait, that you’d need 4 or 6 oz. lead heads.  This weekend, 6-oz. barely even cut it.  I managed to get one down to the bottom once…and scored 😉

The rest of the time, it was very difficult to even get it in the right position to do its thing.  I was able to adapt using alternately a JimyJigs Rudo 300g and a 9 oz. P-Line Hali-Drop (always pickup a few when I visit my parents in Seattle).  In one particularly good stretch, I went 3 casts, 3 legals on that P-Line jig.

Fishing the jig in deep water is tiring though.  I needed to take breaks fishing bait on the dropper.  I was really glad I had a 1-pound weight for fishing it.  I tried 12-oz. briefly.  I’d do a nice underhand cast opposite the drift. By the time it hit bottom, my line was past me on the drift side.  Not good enough. Obviously, you can have calmer days where the drift might be slower, but you’ll want to come prepared.

The Quality of Rockfish

One data point, so we’ll see how things play out, but it was a little disappointing overall this weekend.  There were a few individual specimens that stood out (a 5-pound+ Johnny bass comes to mind), but Outer Channel Islands quality usually means 2-3-pound fish as a starting point.  The reason we fished deeper was we needed to in order to find the colder water they prefer.  I suspect the bigger ones may be in deeper water beyond our allowable legal reach.

lingcod fishing

The good news was the lingcod fishing was still good (limits for the boat) and included this easy 20-pound beauty in the mix (above).  Looking forward to seeing what happens on my Ling-a-palooza trip Thanksgiving weekend.

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 b...