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Anticipation – Capt. Steve Lassley Talks Fishing Southern California

First off, a quick fishing report… Cabo is still biting, and it’s what I would consider very good fishing. On Bad Company we have fished nine days now and released 47 striped marlin and two sailfish while primarily hunting for swordfish. We spotted 10 swordfish, baited seven of them, had six bites and caught three. Some of my friends are targeting yellowfin tuna and doing well on the 80- to 220-pound fish. Cowboy, with Capt. Kevin Bohannon, was probably the hot-dogger on the tuna. We also anchored one night and caught grouper, pargo and cabrillo. We have caught yellows and amberjack as well. Pretty much everything we have tried to fish for has bit for us.

Ya know I still get nervous this time of year. My heart rate quickens. For so long, my operations consisted of something like this — work December through March doing all the necessary boat projects, modifications and preventive maintenance. Work on all the tackle and gear. Then do a couple of shakedown trips, fishing white sea bass to make sure that everything was tight. Some years, I did makeovers and shakedowns on two different boats, in two different areas. In May and June, we would begin to fish for swordfish, sea bass, albacore, dorado and tuna until the swordfish price dropped in September, when the East Coast longline fish showed up in the markets. Then we’d roll into the tournaments in late September and October. To end the season, we would split and head down to Mag Bay, leaving right after my son’s birthday on November 2, and be gone until just before Christmas.

Getting Going – Fishing Southern California

Around May 1, I would start watching the sea-surface temperature charts from Ocean Imaging, looking for that first push of water as the California counter current starts to beat up on the California current in the spring. The California currents in the bight are some of the most complex currents on earth. We used to study these charts for hours and got quite good at reading them. It was a challenge to figure out where the fish were coming from and where they were going. Was the current going to push more up the beach or come in from the outside? Was it going to hit the east end of Clemente and split and go up the back then roll around the west end, or stay East of the Island like it did last year? I always hated those years.

I really doubt we will have that kind of season this year and actually have high hopes for the season. So many factors influence the currents making it impossible for anyone to forecast what kind of season it will be. I always just went fishing…

“As soon as I saw a good push of water or got some dope about albacore, we were off looking for swordfish. Basically if some albacore showed, the swords were within one block (60 miles) in some direction of them.”

May and June were great months on the Mirage operation. After the white sea bass opener on June 15, we had a night crew and a daytime crew. It consisted of Jeremy Smith, Ryan Burr, Billy Seiler (one of the best sea bass fisherman I know) and myself. We would typically look for swords on the way to the islands, catch squid after we got there and anchor up on the sea bass. Many, many nights while we were anchored up in total darkness, with all four of us hooked up, we could watch the albacore fleet going by close enough to see the people on the bridge. No one knew the fish were there for several years. Then we got busted by one of the boats and it was over.


After we dropped anchor and had dinner, I would tell the guys to wake me up after they had like 10. Usually around 15, I would grudgingly roll outta bed. We only caught enough to fill up our three primary markets, getting top dollar because we took such good care of our fish. After the night crew cleaned and iced down the fish, they would go to bed. Jeremy and I would pull the anchor sometime in the morning and start fishing for swordfish. If the albacore were in range close to the swordfish grounds, we targeted those as well. It was such a blast to chum with the live squid we already had in the tanks. The squid would jump out of the water with the albacore flying out right behind them in hot pursuit. Little black ink explosions on contact. The albacore absolutely loved the squid on most trips, so did the bluefin. So much fun… My heart rate kicked up just writing about it. I love May and June.

All of the commercial fishing we did was 100-percent selective using harpoon, rod and reel and set lines, with almost zero bycatch. We usually only fished enough sea bass to fill up our primary markets, selling them some when we unloaded our swords. I learned a ton about so many fisheries in those years. My total days spent on the water were around 200 to 250 per year. The Stollers allowed me to run the operation however I wanted and it was a blast. Thank you!

Gary Sanson was one of the best swordfishermen of that era. He ran a legendary boat called the Pilikia. The competition between Gary and us was stiff to say the least. We pushed each other to exhaustion — neither of us wanting to concede one day off to the other. I couldn’t enjoy a single day off at home. My wife wound up telling me to leave the couple days I tried it (probably from the constant whining). Every single day was a tournament. I’m gonna post some of the swordfish harpoon video here on BD for you to check out. When I get home I may try to interview Gary as well.

It’s really sad that the cycle all those fish were in is over. I hope I live long enough to see another one. Maybe it will start up again this year. The ocean sure looks healthy right now. Check your tackle and get out there.

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Capt. Steve Lassley grew up fishing swordfish, rock cod and albacore commercially. He bought his first fishing boat at age 17 and has made a living fishing ever since. He has more than 20 first-place tournament wins to his credit, and is approaching $7 million in winnings.

“Most of us guys spent our whole lives trying to be as undercover as we could about where we were and what we were catching,” he says. “It’s time people heard about not just what I did but what some of the best fishermen did, captains whose work ethic and accomplishments I respect — people that most guys have never even heard of.” 

He’s logged thousands and thousands of days fishing California and Mexico waters, and is now fishing Hawaii as well. He was one of the first captains operating out of Mag Bay, exploring this fertile area for months at a time. In his “As I See It” column, a BD Outdoors exclusive, he shares many of the things he has learned over the years. Steve heads up Team Bad Company, one of the West Coast’s top tournament crews.