The rockfish bite is about as good as it gets right now and with the seasonal closure going into effect on January 1st, now is definitely the time to go. The Channel Islands, along with the coast above Santa Barbara, have been kicking out easy limits of good sized rockfish and some big ling cod. Party boat fishermen should check out trips out of Ventura and SEA Landing. If I were going I’d go on a full day trip as it gives you the range to get out to where the bigger fish are biting.
Private boaters should check out the west end of Santa Cruz Island or make the run to Santa Rosa if weather permits. If you’re heading out there, leave the heavy gear and sinkers at home. There are lots of rockfish and lings to be caught in 60-100 feet of water and they will readily bite swimbaits, so bring the bass gear. Another advantage of fishing the shallow water is that the fish don’t suffer from barotrauma, so you can release the small ones and fill your limit with bigger fish.
The Santa Monica Bay continues to produce steady rockfish and the occasional bigger ling cod, but if you’re planning on fishing there you’re going to want to have either live or excellent quality frozen squid. Most of the fishing in the bay has been on the deeper spots, but remember that you can only fish up to 300 feet deep, so a lot of the better spots in the bay are now off limits. My advice for private boaters is to just skip the bay and head up to Ventura or down to Long Beach as the fish are biting better in those areas.
I fished Long Beach on Sunday afternoon with my friend Mike Dumalski. We launched around noon and headed out to some spots outside the Horseshoe Kelp. Fishing was on the slow side, but in four hours we managed a handful of decent reds, some big brown rockfish and three sheephead up to around twenty pounds. John Curry was out there as well on Sunday and said that the deeper spots on South East Bank produced good fishing for reds in the morning and they filled out their limits on the shallower spots later in the day.
Deep water spots from Dana Point to San Diego are all producing decent sized reds. These fish are moving around on the slopes around canyons and can be hard to find, but once you do find them it’s easy limit style fishing on bigger fish. I fished cod south of the border on Saturday with Captain Jaime Thinnes of Seasons Sportfishing and we caught big lings and rockfish.
There is no rockfish closure in Mexican waters, so these trips will be your best shot at filling the freezer during the next couple months.
I’ll be taking an indepth look at that fishery in next week’s column.
The good news going into next month is that the bass are biting really well along the coast and at the islands, so there will be fish to catch when rockfish is closed. Chris Oakes fished the Long Beach break wall on Saturday with his tournament partner Scott Smith and they landed approximately 80 sand bass (up to 7 lbs) on MC Swimbaits 5 and 7 inch Viejos Series Swimbaits. Captain Jimmy Decker fished San Clemente Island over the weekend and had wide open fishing for big calicos and followed that up with a local bass trip out of Newport where he had a good afternoon bite on calico bass in shallow water. I will be heading out to Catalina with Capt Decker on Saturday, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the good calico bite continues.
Since this will be my last column of 2013, I’d like to wish you all a Happy New Year! Have a safe holiday and a fishy 2014.