What to Expect This Summer – Southern California Fishing

Memorial Day weekend usually signals the start of the summertime fishing season in Southern California and this year was no different. And based on the weekend’s fishing reports on our message boards, it looks like this is shaping up to be a banner year of frustration for the weekend warriors.

With the summer season only a few days old there were already multiple posts complaining about slow and overcrowded sport boats as well as the excess amount of private boat traffic. The most exasperating of these posts was written by the hapless fisherman who saw that a sport boat had been catching yellowtail at Catalina all week long and decided to ride that boat on Memorial Day Weekend. To his surprise, the boat had seventy people on it and was a lot slower than the private boats he’d been on, the yellowtail didn’t bite and surprisingly, the two deckhands weren’t able to offer personalized service to every passenger aboard.

Southern California Fishing

While I can certainly understand his frustration, with a little fore-thought and some realistic expectations, he could have avoided this unpleasant experience all together. Let’s take a look at what I mean by realistic expectations. First off, the boat had been catching between a dozen and fifty yellowtail per day over the last week, with the bite peaking around mid-week. Since this bite wasn’t consistent during the week, with minimal boat pressure on it, the chances of it getting any better on a holiday weekend were pretty slim. The next thing to consider is the ratio of yellowtail landed to the number of anglers on the boat. Even if the boat had matched its best day of fifty fish, at least twenty (but probably significantly more) people wouldn’t have caught one. I understand that fishing is always a gamble but those odds; coupled with a crowded boat on a holiday weekend, result in a pretty lousy bet.

The final consideration is what else might there be to catch at the island if the yellows don’t bite. Since the boat was too crowded to fish effectively fish for calicos, rockfish were the likely back up plan. Considering that Catalina isn’t known for kicking out big rockfish in late May, that wasn’t a great option either.

So, what should he have done differently? If he’d have considered the information mentioned above, he’d have understood that while he still had a slight chance of catching a yellowtail, he was actually buying a ticket on a very crowded boat that would most likely be targeting small rockfish. If that didn’t sound appealing, he’d have been better off driving up to Ventura and buying a ticket on a less crowded boat that would be targeting bigger rockfish.

I know it sucks to read things like this but if you’re like the majority of us that can only get out fishing on the weekend,

it’s better to be realistic up front than to spend a bunch of money to get frustrated on your day off.

Speaking of frustration, private boaters aren’t immune to it either; just look at the squid ground parking lots, the tuna pen fiascos and the local kelp paddy wars. If you fish on the weekend, you can’t to go to where the fish have been biting all week and expect to have the area to yourself. Instead, you’re going to need to make some realistic decisions before you leave the dock.

When making those decisions, a good rule of thumb is to remember that if you read about a hot bite on the Internet, you can be sure that everyone else did too. So, instead of joining the fleet in heading down to where the fish had been biting, you’d be better off trying to find where they might bite next. That’s not always possible though, like with the bite at the tuna pens, sometimes the fish are going to be congregated in a specific area. But if you want to catch a certain species badly enough that you’re willing to deal with the crowd, remember to breathe through your nose and act like a considerate and civilized human being. If everyone did that, we’d all be the better for it.

As one weekend warrior to another, I want to assure you that fishing on the weekends doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to deal with crowds and or slow fishing. It simply means that you need to work a little harder to avoid the fleet and find your own fish.

Or better yet, just go fishing for something that the rest of the guys aren’t targeting. One of the reasons I spend most of my time fishing for saltwater bass is that regardless of what day of the week I fish, I can usually find productive areas that are well away from the rest of the weekend warriors. They may not pull as hard as yellowtail, but I’ll take bass fishing over fighting the crowds any day of the “weekend”.

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...