Before I even get into the topic I wanted to write about, I have to acknowledge that hands down, the best fishing going on right now in So Cal is the tuna bite on the overnight and longer trips.
Here it is almost Halloween and it isn’t just the fact that we’re catching tuna…
but the fishing is good!
Both the grade and quantity of fish caught this week was astonishing.
If you were wondering whether or not it is worth it, yes it is. If for whatever reason you didn’t get yours this year, or you’d like to top off the stash, or you just want to pull on something good – GO. NOW.
Fishing The Big Swimmie
Now for the topic at hand. I mentioned in my last post how I was ready to go rockfishing. I know a lot of you don’t get excited about it. In my opinion, it’s because a lot of you aren’t familiar with this particular style of rockfishing. It is my favorite way to target lingcod. It is a method popularized in the Channel Islands and up the Central Coast.
I was introduced to this kind of fishing by Capt. Steve Virtue (left) of the Pacific Islander, an overnight boat out of Channel Islands Sportfishing in Oxnard. I remember the day clearly when Steve showed me what it was he enjoys doing when he can get a few casts in between taking care of customers. That day was special for me, because it felt like I had gone beyond the normal passenger/captain dynamic.
What You Need
We’re trying to go big here. The goal is not just catch a lingcod, but to catch a big one. Despite the size of these baits though, you’ll still catch shorts. The size just helps in getting less of them.
Steve first showed me this method with his favorite lure at the time – the 7″ Candy Bar Swimbait Slider in the Bleeding Channel Chovy pattern (below).
Other popular baits for this application are the Donkey Donk by Reeb’s Lures (pictured top) and the Cutbait Herring Swimbaits by Savage Gear. Four and six ounce leadheads are required. If you can find 8 oz. heads, get several. They are hard to come by. If you can’t find these supplies at your local tackle shop, they do sell them in the landing office at CISCO’s.
Gear-wise, think modified surface iron setup. For me, I use my surface iron jig stick (9 ft Shimano Teramar), but instead of using my fast Tranx 500 (HG version), I use my “slow” Tranx (PG version) that is loaded with 65 lb. braid, and then I just topshot with 40 mono (from just outside the tip guide to the reel – 5 feet?).
The braid is key. It does a couple things for you. A) It helps the lure get down to the bottom easier; B) It’s critical in feeling the bite and setting the hook at depth.
How It Works
One of the things I really like about this style of fishing is that it is active. You’re not just dropping down and hoping the fish find you. You are finding the fish.
Steve sets up his drifts on the port side of his boat. Anglers line up on that side, double dropper loops in hand, and when Steve says drop, they drop.
We don’t do that. What we do is setup on the bow or along the downwind side of the boat. From there, we cast out against the drift and let the lure sink all the way to the bottom. Once it hits bottom, crank hard for a few cranks to lift it up off the bottom, then stop and let it sink back down. Rinse and repeat. Keep doing this all the way back to the boat. When your line starts to angle under the boat, it’s time to reel up and start over. You may need to vary the rate of retrieve to the get the bites and make them stick.
Sometimes you hook them on the wind. Sometimes it happens on the fall. If you get short bit and it doesn’t stick, immediately take it out of gear and drop it back down. Often, you can reacquire that fish on the drop if you act quickly.
When you do connect, wind through. Don’t lift your pole. Just wind. When it’s stuck, just slow wind it back to the boat.
If you pump ’em, you’ll dump ’em.
That’s basically it. My personal best day is 11 legals and I know guys that have gotten more. As a bycatch, you’ll also catch the bigger, more aggressive reds and chuckies. I had a chuck hit my bait so hard one time, it ripped the lure in half. Yeah, a rockfish did that!
I’ve got my annual Ling-A-Palooza trip coming up over Thanksgiving weekend (sold out), but I plan to pre-fish and get back in the swing next weekend. If you’d like to join, I’ll be on Friday night’s trip, and I’ll be happy to show anyone how to do it.
Good luck if you get out there!