Rockfish Tackle Tips Socal Recommendations
If there is one positive thing about the 300-foot depth restriction in the new rockfish regulations, it’s that you no longer need to hassle with bulky high-capacity reels to fish effectively.
And since you’re no longer making deep drops, there’s no need to fish a multi-hook gangion. In fact, targeting rockfish in shallower water allows you to take the work aspect out of the equation, which in turn makes it more sporting.
But even with the new depth restriction, I see a lot of people still fishing with the same bulky tackle they used when fishing in 400-foot-plus depths. So, if you’re one of those people, let me say that it might be time to set down that 4/0 sized reel and take a look at some lighter options.
These three rigs cover pretty much any type of scenario that you might encounter when rockfishing.
At the top is an 800M Penn Blue Water Carnage Rod matched with a Penn Fathom 25N Reel that is brim full of 65# Stren Sonic Braid. This rod is rigged with a short 40-pound fluorocarbon leader and an 8-ounce Ahi Tackle Assault Diamond Jig.
In the middle is an Abu Garcia 80-6 Volatile Rod with an Abu Garcia Revo Toro NACL 50 Reel full of 50-pound Spiderwire Braid and rigged with a short 40-pound fluorocarbon leader and a 7-inch MC Swimbaits Viejos Series Swimbait on a 2-ounce leadhead.
The bottom rig is a Rainshadow ISWB 946 Rod matched with the same reel and leader configuration as the previous set up but this one rigged with a single dropper loop and a treble hook.
Now let’s take a look at how to choose the right set up in each of the scenarios that you’ll encounter while fishing rockfish in our local waters.
If you’re fishing rockfish on a ½ or ¾ day boat along the coast, the captain will most likely spend the bulk of the trip in depths between 250 to 300 feet. In those depths, or in anything over 200 feet, I recommend using something comparable to the combo at the top of the photo as the reel will give you plenty of line capacity and the bigger handle will allow you more leverage when cranking your fish up from the depths.
And since the fish along the coast usually bite bait better than a jig or swimbait, I would fish a single (or double if you want) dropper loop rig like the one pictured at the bottom of the photo. You’ll also want to adjust your hook size and style to match the bait you’re using. If it’s strips of squid, a 1/0 or 2/0 hook will work fine, but if it’s whole squid or sardines, try using a bigger treble hook like the one in the picture. I’ve found that it has a better hook up ratio than a j-hook when rockfishing.
If you’re on an overnight trip to one of the Channel Islands or San Clemente Island, you can use this same rig when fishing in water over 200 feet, but instead of using bait, I’d fish that Ahi Assault Jig that I’ve got tied on. The jigs come in a bunch of different sizes, but I’ve found the 10 and 12-ounce models work pretty well for those depths. When fishing those same areas in depths under 200 feet, I highly recommend dropping down to a bass rod like the ones in the middle and at the bottom. These lighter rods are not only easier to fish with, but they actually let you feel the fight of the fish when you hook up.
You can still fish an Assault jig on the bass gear, but I recommend dropping down to the 6 or 8-ounce model. My preference is to fish the swimbait in those depths and the 7-inch Viejos series is a perfect choice because it’s slim design and narrow tail allow it to sink more quickly than a regular swimbait would. Or if you want to fish bait, just drop down a whole squid on the set up in the bottom of the photo.
These same rigs will work on your own boat if you fish in any of the areas mentioned. The only stipulation that I have to make is that when fishing along the coast, don’t be afraid to fish the jig or the swimbait. This may sound contrary to what I wrote earlier but if you read my column on catching bigger rockfish on your own boat you won’t be hitting the same spots as the sportboats and the smaller spots that you will be hitting are more likely to hold a big fish that will potentially bite a jig or swimbait.
The final step for private boaters is to have the right gear, both onboard and at home, to properly process the fish you catch.
When I’m fishing rockfish on my boat, I’ve got a routine to make sure I get good quality fillets. I always bring a big ice chest (with a bag of ice in it) and each rockfish gets its throat cut before going inside. This not only bleeds the fish, but keeps them from flopping around in the ice chest. Once the fishing day is done, we’ll slab out all of the fish and bag the fillet slabs in Ziploc bags and then put them back on ice. Once we get home, those slabs are then brought into the kitchen, skinned, deboned and vacuum packed in meal sized portions before going into the freezer. This extra handling is more work but results in a much better fillet.
The knife that I use on the boat is a 9” Bubba Blade Flex Fillet Knife. This knife is great to have on the boat because it has a non-slip handle and the flexible blade allows me to fillet small fish as easily as the big ones. It also comes with a synthetic sheath that won’t rot or rust on the boat. My knife sharpener on the boat is a cheapo ceramic sharpener from Harbor Freight. These things cost less than ten bucks and since there’s no metal in their construction they hold up pretty well on the boat –and they keep a pretty good edge on the knife if used regularly.
When I’m skinning and doing the final clean up on my fillets at home, I use a Victorinox Flexible Boning Knife. This is a great little knife and keeps an amazing edge with regular use of a sharpening steel like the one in the picture. Just don’t try and fillet fish with it because the blade is too thin and flexible to give you the leverage to chop through a rockfish’s rib bones.
Anyway, this is Fred Hall Show weekend in Long Beach and I will be there through Sunday at the MC Swimbaits Booth and I’ll be doing a seminar on ¾ day sportboat fishing at 11:00 AM Sunday on the Berkley Stage in the main hall, so if you see me at the show stop by and say hello.