Fishing Reports

Calico Bass, Yellowtail and Rockfish | Take Your Pick

The little weather system that pushed through last week didn’t do much to hamper the improving Southern California water conditions. It did leave some residual wind and swell offshore, but this week has seen water temps as high as the mid-60s in the Huntington Beach area, which has me thinking that the barracuda are going to show up soon.

In the meantime, it’s nothing but rockfish for the local sport boats during the daytime trips. However, the few twilight trips have consistently scored sand bass on squid. This whole “bass not biting for the sport boats during the day” thing kind of has me scratching my head as the private boaters have been putting up good numbers. I’m not sure if the sport boats are just taking the easy route and fishing rockfish instead of bass, but don’t let the lack of bass in the counts keep you from targeting them on your own boat.

Last Saturday morning, I headed up the coast to Santa Barbara and fished with Larry Heron and his tournament partner Scott Summersgill on Larry’s 24-foot Hydra-Sports, Calico Hunter III. Larry said the bass had been biting well the last few weeks despite the frigid 50-degree water temps in the area. The water warmed up to 58 degrees by Saturday morning and continued to increase throughout the day, with 61 degrees being the warmest we found.

Surprisingly, the bass didn’t bite as well as they had in the colder water, but we still managed around 20 bass for the morning. Our fish were caught south of the harbor by slow-rolling swimbaits over shallow reefs and hard bottom areas in 15 to 50 feet. The fish were a good grade, averaging 2 to 4 pounds. Like most of the trips I’ve made out of Santa Barbara, we only saw a handful of other boats the entire day. If you’ve never been to Santa Barbara, I highly recommend heading up there. The coastal scenery is beautiful and the lack of boat traffic allows you your pick of fishing spots.

I spoke to Erik Bombard who fished Catalina Island on Sunday with Daniel LaBarbera. They targeted calico bass in tight to the beach and reported excellent fishing for big fish. Their average fish was in the 5-pound class and their biggest five fish came in just under 30 pounds. They caught their fish in several locations at the island on big swimbaits.

San Clemente Island continues to kick out rockfish for the sport boats, but not much else. I am planning to make a run there on my boat this weekend to fish calicos, so I should have a report next week. There haven’t been a lot of bass reports coming from along the beach, but I would suspect that the sand bass and calicos are probably still biting in the same areas that I discussed last week. In San Diego, the local yellowtail bite has all but dried up, but there are more and more fish showing up at the Coronados.

Bait Fishing Tips

Last week I talked about fishing yellowtail on the iron, so this week I am going to take a look at fishing for them with bait. Many people think that catching yellows on bait is easy, but if that’s the case why is it that the same people consistently catch more than the rest of the passengers? Well, they fish their bait differently than the rest and it results in more bites.

So, how can you fish your bait differently? Well, the first step is to learn the right way to hook your bait given the conditions that you’re faced with. When fishing for yellowtail at the Coronados, you’re typically anchored up on a spot with a chum line going, a few yellows milling around and a dozen seals eating every bait the second it hits the water. Sound familiar? Well, if you’ve spent any time fishing down there, I’m sure you’ve seen it more times than you care to remember.

Let’s break this scenario down and take a closer look at what’s happening. The seals appear to eat all of the chum and behead every nose-hooked bait that hits the water. But there is obviously some bait making it past the seals or the yellows wouldn’t be hanging around the boat. The seals are actually picking off the baits on the surface while the yellows are hanging deeper and eating the chum that falls deep and gets past the seals.

To get a bite in this situation, you want a bait that is going to swim down deep and out of sight of the seals. While most of the passengers are standing in the stern and throwing their nose-hooked baits directly into the mouths of the waiting seals, more experienced fisherman will often avoid the stern, choosing instead to position themselves up the side a bit. From here you can underhand cast a butt-hooked or belly-hooked sardine at a 90-degree angle to the boat. The underhand cast keeps the bait low to the water, which allows it to land smoothly and since it’s nose will be pointed in the direction they want to go, it will most likely swim straight down and away from the boat.

Ninety percent of the bites will happen within the first 30 seconds of the cast, so if you don’t get bit in the first minute, wind up and start over with a fresh bait.

Understanding the how and why behind different bait-hooking styles is the first step in improving your angling abilities.

Join me again next week when I discuss some other factors that will make you a more proficient live-bait angler.

Calico Bass, Yellowtail and Rockfish

Erik Landesfeind
Erik Landesfeind is BD's Southern California Editor and has over 30 years of experience saltwater fishing for a range of species in both California an...