The weather may feel like summer but the fishing is definitely smack dab in the middle of a winter pattern here in Southern California.
With rockfish closed, the sport boats north of San Diego have been relying upon, sand dabs, perch, sculpin and the occasional bass to satisfy their passengers desire to catch fish.
If you want to catch sand dabs, you can jump on one of the boats running sand dab trips out of 22nd Street Landing in San Pedro. If you’re interested in catching bass you can take your pick of 1/2 or 3/4 day boats at any landing from Oceanside up to Marina Del Rey. I have to warn you though; these trips are catching a lot of perch and sculpin, but very few bass. Your best chance at catching a bass is to jump on a twilight trip out of Long Beach or LA Harbor.
While private boaters have been catching a lot more bass than the sport boats during the daylight hours, the night bite has been better for them as well. John Curry and his brother Travis went out a couple nights earlier this week and found wide open fishing on calicos and sand bass to six-pounds. They fished the artificial reefs in the Huntington Beach and Long Beach areas and caught fish on both live squid and swimbaits.
John also hoop netted for lobster in Long Beach harbor the other night and had easy limits on good sized bugs fairly early in the night; including four that he got before the sun went down. John suggested that private boaters should try and schedule their trips around periods of significant tidal movement rather than a specific time of night. For those of you who’d like to catch lobster but don’t have your own boat, there are several boats running open party hoop net trips. The Gail Force has been doing consistently well on their hoop net trips and would be a great choice for those in the LA area.
The big news on the coast is the yellowtail bite at the Coronados. Your best bet for getting in on this bite is to jump on one of the 3/4 day trips out of San Diego. If I were going, I’d jump on the Mission Belle as they’ve been running consistently and have the bite pretty well dialed in. The bulk of these big yellowtail have been coming on the yo-yo jig so you only really need to bring one rod. My choice would be a seven-foot jig stick (like a Calstar Graphiter 700XH) matched with a Penn Torque 30 full of 80-pound spectra and rigged with a short 60-pound fluorocarbon leader. Mint and white has been the hot jig color down there, as it usually is, and I’d bring Tady 4/0 heavies and Salas 6X heavies.
Private boaters looking to take advantage of this bite would do well to avoid the sport boats and their associated packs of sea lions altogether. These fish are coming off of bait schools in deeper water, so a good way to target them would probably be to drive around looking for bait schools and then fish the yo-yo jig around those bait schools. Once you find a bait school that has fish, simply look for other schools in similar depth ranges or associated to similar structure. Also, when looking for bait schools you should not have your boat up on plane and racing around. You’ll get a much better look at conditions and meter marks by driving slowly.
If you’re looking to fill your freezer with rockfish, the bite at Colonett has been going strong the last couple weeks. The Tribute out of Seaforth Landing loaded up on lings and reds on their last trip and have more trips scheduled. These trips are fishing big fish around heavy structure so you’re going to want to bring at least one heavy set up (the one I recommended for yellowtail will work) and a bunch of 8 to 16 ounce torpedo sinkers because you’re probably going to lose a few of them. Most of the fish have been caught on sardines, but fishing the jig can be very productive on big fish at Colonett. Any rock cod jig will work, but I’ve had great success with the Ahi Assault Diamond Jig the last couple seasons; with the mackerel and blue bass being my favorite colors.