Springtime is in the air and the few days of stable weather that we had last week were enough to get the fish biting. The minor weather system that moved through this week may set us back a little again, but there is no question in my mind — fishing is going to continue to improve from this point forward.
Sand Bass and Calico Bass Fishing Is On
Starting to the north, the sand bass and calico bass have started biting in Santa Monica Bay, along the Palos Verdes Coast and down through the Horseshoe Kelp, Huntington Beach and Newport Beach.
Last Saturday, I fished the Saltwater Bass Series tournament based in Long Beach. My partner, Matt Kotch and I started our day fishing rocks on the Horseshoe Kelp and finished up fishing artificial reefs in Huntington Beach and Newport Beach. We experienced pretty good fishing everywhere we went and ended our day with around 50 sand bass. Our five biggest fish went 20.87 pounds and were enough for a fourth-place tie in the tournament.
All of our fish were caught on 6-inch MC Swimbaits and 7-inch MC “Viejo” Swimbaits in natural baitfish colors. The trick to getting bit was to retrieve the bait very slowly along the bottom on a 1½-ounce lead-head. The sand bass were biting on most of the spots we tried. So if you took my advice earlier this year and used the lobster buoys to find structure spots, now would be a great time to go and try those spots out.
Other teams that fished the tournament did well on calico bass along the Palos Verdes coastline. John Beerling, who fished the event solo, brought in an incredible 26.05-pound bag of calico bass to win the event. He caught all of his fish by casting on bird schools in shallow water and to no one’s surprise, he caught them on the bait he helped design, a 9-inch MC “Viejo” Swimbait in a brown bait color.
In Santa Monica Bay, the calicos and sand bass are biting on the artificial reefs and with some squid are starting to show up in El Segundo. That bite should continue to improve. There have also been some white sea bass seen at PV, so there is always a chance that they will show up in the squid area like they did last year.
Further to the south, the Dana Point area has been plagued by dirty water and slow fishing, so I am just going to pass that by. Not a lot of word coming out of the Oceanside area either, but I’d bet that the artificial reefs and Bucaneer Pipe would probably kick out a few sand bass if someone were to give those areas a try.
So Cal Island Fishing Update
Not a lot is happening at Catalina, Clemente or any of the northern islands right now except for some rockfish, halibut and the occasional sea bass or yellowtail, but they are going to bite sooner or later, so they are always worth a shot.
The only game in town for exotics right now is the yellowtail bite that’s been going on for the last couple of weeks in San Diego. The big schools that were in the La Jolla area have moved on, but there are still scattered fish to be caught along the beach, at the Coronados and down at the Rockpile. The fishing has been scratchy at best, but there are a few simple steps that you can take to increase your chances of getting bit.
So Cal Early Season Fishing Tips
The fish have been biting the surface iron, yo-yo iron and live bait, but since they are keyed in on the small bait that is in the area, it’s been tough to get them to bite a big bait or jig. When fishing the surface iron in situations like this, I like to use a small jig like a Tady AA Light, a Tady A1 Light or a Tady C and I will almost always use one that is mint-and-white in color.
When a mint-and-white jig is retrieved, the mint color on the edges of the jig are difficult for the fish to see clearly and therefore makes it difficult for them to determine the size of the jig. It’s just a theory, but I’ve noticed that I get bit on a larger mint-and-white jig when the fish are keyed in on smaller jigs in different colors.
For yo-yo fishing, I’d again stick with a mint-and-white jig, but I’d use a Tady 9 Heavy, a Tady AA Heavy or a Tady A1 Heavy. Each of these jigs swims best at a different retrieve speed, so take a couple of lob casts before you start fishing and try some different retrieve speeds to see which works best for the jig you’re using.
One of the tricks to getting bit on the yo-yo is to keep your jig in the bite zone as much as possible. If the captain says that he is marking fish 50 to 80 feet down, you want to try and keep your jig in that zone. For example, if you are fishing in 150 feet of water and the fish are marking at 100 feet, you don’t need to reel your jig all the way to the surface every time. Simply drop it to the bottom, wind it up half way, stop and drop back down to the bottom.
Another tip is to use a stop-and-go retrieve. When fishing the yo-yo, I’ll drop my jig down, put the reel in gear, give it five or 10 fast cranks, pause and repeat until I’m at the point where I’m going to drop it back down and start over.
Next week we’ll take a look at some of the other tackle that you are going to want to have to target springtime yellowtail.