Sometimes everything aligns and things just work out…
I wrote last week about how sometimes you just got to go fishing, regardless of what may be happening with the counts. I say this all the time, but my thoughts were that this year in particular, we’ve had such up and down conditions that it’s hard to get any sort of consistent bite going. Therefore, if you can, just go and maybe you get lucky.
Well…I got lucky!
You never know, unless you go. I did and was fortunate enough to be on the boat that had the first big yellowtail hit of any of the northern sportfishing boats this year! You can read the trip details on So Cal Salty.
My colleague, Erik Landesfeind, recently wrote about Gearing Up For Spring Yellowtail. I loved what Erik wrote, but he only covered jig fishing — surface iron and yoyo fishing. I love those styles of yellowtail fishing. One of the things that is so cool about yellowtail is the many ways they can be caught. Depending on time of year, location, the bait in the water etc. the “best way” of catching yellowtail is always changing.
If you are getting on a sportboat, chances are the goal is to put fish in your sack…whatever the highest percentage way to do that may be. Maybe you try other things once a couple fish have your tag on them, but let’s start with whatever is getting bit best now. These were the two main ways getting bit last weekend…
Exactly as it sounds. You have a sliding egg sinker on your line and the end is terminated with a hook. Simple. If I’m fishing squid, I like to go with a hook that has a longer shank in order to hold the squid to the business end of the presentation. My go to hook is the Owner Aki Twist (right). The size of the hook is dependent on the size of the squid, but in general 2/0 to 4/0 is a what I use most often.
The amount of weight is going to be dependent on things like the speed of the current, where the fish are holding in the water column, and how actively birds are feeding where you are fishing. You want to have it heavy enough to get below the birds. You’ll need more weight the stronger the current. You don’t want so much weight though that you end up below the fish. It’s a trial and error thing and this is where it really helps to pay attention to who is getting bit and noting what they are using. Size of the hook, line class and type, and amount of weight are the variables you want to pay attention to. When in doubt, ask your captain or deckhand.
Another thing you want to consider are the physical conditions around you. There is a spot on the southwest corner of Anacapa Island up north where yellows like to hold just above a rock ledge. If you don’t fish heavy, have your drag tight and immediately pull hard, you will lose them to that rock.
Last weekend, a big factor was the presence of the kelp behind us. I lost one fish I could not coax out of the kelp and another to a sea lion while I was trying to finesse the fish out of the kelp. I modified my slider setup to use the kelp cutter rig which definitely made a difference. I was playing around with setups and I really liked the kelp cutter rig I used this weekend with an Accurate Valiant BV 300 with 50# braid to a short 40# fluoro topshot, atop my 9-foot Shimano Teramar swimbait rod.
If you don’t immediately get bit, you need to kind of work the squid…pulse it forward, and let it back. Keeping it active to get that fish’s attention. This setup was super light making that task easy, yet strong enough to turn fish and help keep them out of that kelp.
High Dropper Loop
When I refer to the high dropper, it means more (to me at least) than just tying a rockfish dropper loop knot higher above the weight. Right or wrong, it means rigging a setup that will withstand the greater stress of a fish like a yellowtail, white seabass, halibut etc. and not fail. I learned a knot from deckhand up north…he calls it a barrel knot. Think of it as a variation of a spider hitch, which would be appropriate too. I like to tie it about waist high (3-4′). For the loop itself, I typically go about 16-18″ long. If there is a good current, I may go longer. I like the Aki twist hook for this one as well. Instead of just looping it on like when you rockfish though, I tie it on by pushing the end of the loop through the eye, tying an overhand knot, and then pulling the hook through the loop that is the tag end of your large loop.
This presentation is always my starting setup when seabass fishing, but it’s appropriate any time you are targeting gamefish holding close to bottom. I’ve done it at times hoping to catch a lingcod with a sardine/mackerel (circle hook) and gotten a surprise yellowtail. I like to use it as a changeup rig if things are slow up top…especially if it’s different than what most people on the boat are doing. Or obviously (like last weekend) when you get a confirmation that fish are on the bottom (the kid on the rockfish dropper loop).
The reason you bring multiple setups on a boat is to have different rigs ready to go for when you notice a condition that alerts you to deploy them. Keep these 2 setups in mind when you are thinking through the potential scenarios you may encounter on the water. It meant 2 more fish in my bag last weekend.
Good luck if you get out there.