Fishing ReportsSaltwater Fishing

Lessons Learned Ghost Hunting

ghosts
Galley cook Steven Welsh posing with last Sunday’s bounty

In last week’s article, I mentioned how I was considering taking a day off from work and getting in on this hot seabass bite.  It’s not the kind of decision I take lightly.

Two years ago I had my best ever year on white seabass.  I caught 6 fish at 3 different islands.  Those catches included my first ever on a jig (on the Oceanside 95 at San Clemente), and a new personal best 62 (on the Fortune at Catalina).  Then last year…nada.  There were some trips that got cancelled due to weather conditions (lots of wind), the Navy shutting down Clemente on another, and a couple “Should’ve been here yesterday” outings.

It was very frustrating.  It’s one thing if you go and they don’t want to bite, or I’m just off my game.  But to not even get an opportunity really stuck with me all offseason.  So last week when proven captain Tucker McCombs of the Endeavor (Oxnard) got limits Sunday and Monday (April 14th and 15th), and the timing was right with the moonphase (within 3 days before/after full moon).

The opportunity was too good to ignore.

Trip Report – Endeavor Sportfishing (Wednesday, April 17)

Despite everything seeming to line up perfectly, I had a nagging worry about Tuesday night’s trip.  Monday night’s trip was cancelled because it was light on reservations and the weather was supposed to be up.  My worry was that the water might be turned over and fish not ready to bite.  I worried that I might be that “day before guy” and the people fishing Thursday would have easy limits.  I was right about Thursday.  All the boats limited out early and had plenty of time to go rockfish.  I was almost “day before guy,” but I managed to figure out things in time to save my trip.

The boat was already tanked with live squid for our trip, so we didn’t have to get up in the middle of the night to make bait.  I woke up around 5 and the boat was still traveling to the zone.  I had already rigged before hitting my bunk.  I had a high dropper (~ 3.5-4 ft.) setup with 30# mono and a 4/0 Aki Twist hook.  My second rig was a leadhead setup using 30# fluoro and a 3/4 oz. Gitzem head.  I chatted in the galley with cook Steven Welsh (above) waiting to get the fishing day started.

We made our first stop of the day around dawn, anchored up and commenced fishing.  One fish got caught right out of the gate, but the rest of the bites were primarily barracuda.  There was zero current.  Tucker said he was marking fish, but they just didn’t want to go.  He said it was a condition thing.  It would bite better once the current got going and we could drift.  In the meantime, we’d wait and soak bait.

ghostsMost anglers including myself were going high dropper, but angler Ryan Kruskamp (left) managed a bite on the sink using a glow leadhead.  I gave that a go and got bit myself.  That bite ended with the fish coming unbuttoned about a foot away from the gaff (painful to see).  Just before that bite happened, I had gotten a barracuda bite.  The line seemed ok, but it came undone under stress.

First lesson learned – be overly cautious with the integrity of your line after every cuda bite.  Re-tie if there is any doubt.

After 10 am, the water started moving and we drifted instead of anchoring up.  The bite did improve.  It never got wide, but Tucker knew we were there for white seabass and remained committed to that goal for the whole trip.  After that early bite that got away, I struggled to get bit again.  Meanwhile, there was one guy on the boat that ended up with 6 fish.

What the heck is this guy doing that I’m not?

It was getting late in the day at this point and it was now or never.  I looked closely at his line and noticed he had a Seaguar knot above his dropper.  He was using fluorocarbon.  I’d never gone fluoro before on a dropper.  I always figured it wouldn’t matter that much at depth and until this trip that line of reasoning had always worked for me.  Each day is a new puzzle to figure out though and it was impossible to ignore the difference it was making for this angler.

I quickly tied a long length of 30# fluoro on one of my setups.  MAGIC.  I ended the day with 3 more bites and converted each opportunity with one of the fish being a short.

Second lesson learned – on a scratch bite, fluorocarbon can make a HUGE difference.

ghosts

We ended up with 19 seabass and one big halibut for the day.  I’m glad I stuck with it, stayed engaged, and finally figured out the puzzle.  It was the difference between going home empty handed and participating in the group victory shot.

The bite tailed off this weekend.  Conditions weren’t good and now we’re out of the ideal bite window based on moonphase.  If you weren’t able to get in on last week’s bite, I’d recommend looking 2 weeks ahead and booking your spot now 3 days before/after the new moon.  If you can’t wait that long, I’m sure there will still be fish getting caught this week, but you’ll want to remember the lessons learned from my trip.

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...