The white sea bass finally showed up at Catalina last Friday. Several six-pack charter boats caught limits as did some of the private boaters fishing the east end on the backside of the island. The bad news is that the fish didn’t bite again over the weekend, probably due to the amount of boat pressure that the island saw.
Now that we’re coming out of the full-moon cycle, I’d imagine that the fish will settle in and start to bite regularly. The other thing about coming out of the full moon is that whatever squid there is at the island should become easier to catch. FishDope is keeping close tabs on the developing sea bass bite, so you can check there for timely updates. Just check out their website at fishdope.com and if you aren’t already a member, you should think about signing up.
In other news, the calico bass bite at Catalina remains excellent. Last week I talked about the good fishing that Erik Bombard and Daniel LaBarbera experienced. Well, they fished a tournament at the island on Saturday and won it with an incredible five-fish bag of 31.94 pounds. There are also some bass biting at San Celemente Island, but Naval closures coupled with sporadic weather have kept most of the private boaters away. The sport boats that fished Clemente have been focusing on rockfish.
The bass fishing along the coast also continues to produce. Matt Kotch and I fished out of Long Beach on Saturday to practice for this Saturday’s SWBA tournament. We started out on Newport Artificial Reef where Matt caught a 7-pound calico bass on his first cast of the day. We metered lots of fish and bait on the reef, but surprisingly that was the only fish we caught. I did meter what might have been a couple of sea bass under a bait school just off the reef with some birds on it, but couldn’t get any bites.
The fish I metered may have been small thresher sharks as some were reported in the area as well. Either way, it was a good sign of life and I’m sure the reef will start biting soon. We ended up finding good sand bass fishing at Izor’s Reef and several spots around the Horseshoe Kelp. Hopefully we’ll be able to repeat our success during this week’s tournament.
Further to the south, the bass are biting in La Jolla. I fished down there last Thursday afternoon and caught a couple dozen fish on MC weedless swimbaits. The fish were hanging out on the up-current edges of the kelp beds in deeper water. The water in tight to the beach was dirty and deserted, so the trick was to find clean water with current in 30 to 60 feet. Our best bites came from areas with birds looking around, or just sitting on the water. So, if you’re planning to fish calicos down there, I would advise looking for birds. There is still some yellowtail in the area as the Chubasco II managed to get one on their half-day trip on Sunday.
The yellows also continue to bite at the Coronados and the Rockpile, but with more and more boats fishing the area every day, the individual boat counts have been down.
More Bait Tips
Last week, I discussed belly or butt-hooking a sardine to get it to swim down and away from the boat. If you missed it, you can check it out by clicking HERE. This week, I’d like to take a look at some advanced bait-fishing techniques.
Like any of the advanced fishing techniques I use, my live-bating system relies on the use of Spectra line with a short top-shot of fluorocarbon. When fishing with sardines I use the same rod I use for light surface iron applications — a Shimano Trinidad 16 Narrow full of 50-pound Spectra, mounted to a Calstar Graphiter 900M or a Rainshadow RCJB106MH. I use a Tony Peña knot to attach a 3-foot section of 40-pound fluorocarbon to the Spectra and then tie a ringed Owner Flyliner hook to the end. This is the great thing about fishing Spectra, you no longer need to bring a bunch of different rods. Two or three rods will cover almost any situation you’ll encounter on a fishing trip.
Hook size depends on the size of the sardines, but I will usually try and use the biggest hook I can get away with. I can pull really had on a fish when fishing 50-pound Spectra and a 40-pound fluoro leader, so I want my hook to get as much bite as possible.
When fishing live bait, using the right tackle is just half the battle. The other half is keeping tabs on what your bait is doing on the other end of your line. The great thing about Spectra is you can actually feel the tail beat of your bait when it’s 100 feet from the boat. This is a huge advantage because you’ll immediately know if your bait stops swimming and the current takes over. Current can be a good thing as it helps take your bait away from the boat, but it can also cause problems.
For example, say you select a bait from the tank, nose hook it and cast it off the stern. The bait swims along with the current for several yards but tires from dragging your line behind it and stops swimming. At this point, there is enough line in the water to create drag and the current will continue to pull line from your reel and out behind the boat while your bait drifts along behind it. This is how 99 percent of tangles get started on sport boats. Picture 20 loose lines drifting with the current and then someone hooks a fish or decides to wind in — they all bunch up into a big knot.
So, what can you do differently?
The first thing is to try and keep your bait outside that tangle of loose lines. Start up the rail from the stern and cast away from the boat instead of towards the stern. When fly-lining a bait, you should always hold your rod at a 45-degree angle to the water as you feed line out. With the reel in your left hand and your right thumb feathering the spool, you should be able to feel the tail beat of your bait. If you stop feeling it, simply thumb the spool and lift the rod tip until you feel it again. Sardines will often stop swimming when a predator is in the area, and the little tug you give with your rod tip is often enough to get it swimming again.
If your bait doesn’t willingly swim on its own, wind it in and change it. Otherwise you are going to end up joining that tangle in the stern. Another advantage to holding your rod at a 45-degree angle is that when you get picked up, you can simply raise the rod tip to almost vertical while allowing the fish to run with the bait. Then drop the reel in gear and the fish will pull the tip of the rod down and set the hook for you.
Becoming a better bait fisherman takes practice, but if you follow these basic fundamentals, you’ll cut down the learning curve.