It’s shaping up to be one of those years for us California fishermen. First came the MLPAs, which took away many of our favorite coastal and island fishing spots and now the Mexican government is making it exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, to fish the Coronado Islands and the Mexican coastline.
Loosing these prime zones is tough enough on its own, but when you add in the offshore winds and repeated coastal upwelling we’ve been plagued with this year, the situation looks pretty bleak.
But even with the deck stacked against us, there have been periods of amazing fishing to be found. Be it tanker white sea bass along the coast, giant calicos in the kelp or yellowtail at the islands, the fishermen that know their stuff have been able to experience some incredible fishing despite the tough conditions.
But what about the guys that don’t know their stuff?
With the sporadic fishing, it’s tough to try and figure things out on your own. As a result, I get a lot of emails from readers with questions and regardless of the species, there is a reoccurring theme to many of them. They start out something like this, “I’ve got a boat and I want to catch (insert species). I’ve been out a few times, but I’m not having much success. Can you write about how to catch (insert species) at (insert location)…”
Well, I can explain some things but if you really want to learn how to successfully target a specific species in a specific location, there is no better learning resource available than hiring a local guide. A lot of private boaters balk at the idea of hiring a fishing guide or charter boat captain to teach them how to fish, but in reality it’s no different than hiring a golf instructor or a trainer at the gym. These guys help you become a better fisherman and they’ll happily spend the day showing you whatever you’d like to learn.
I was talking to my friend Jimmy Decker the other day about an upcoming guide trip he had. He told me that he was taking a couple of kayakers out to fish calicos south of Newport. I asked him how he was planning to tow and launch the kayaks from his 24-foot Everglades center console. He explained that he wasn’t, he was going to take the kayak guys out fishing on his boat and show them good kayaking spots along the beach.
A trip like this may seem excessive just to figure out where to fish on a kayak, but the reality is that it’s a heck of a deal. For the cost of a $400 charter, these guys got to learn where to fish from a pro who has spent his entire life learning how and where to catch fish in that area.
Hiring a guide is about more than learning which areas to fish or what presentations to use when you get there. It’s about learning all of the little tricks involved with putting yourself into a position that will allow you to catch fish. Fishing with a guide won’t make you an expert fisherman, but it’s going to cut your learning curve down significantly.
Like anything else, you’ll only learn as much as the guide is willing and able to teach you, so it’s important to be upfront about your expectations when booking a trip.
The list of Southern California fishing guides I put together here also shows their specialties. I’ve fished with some of these guides and I’m friends with most of them. I can recommend these guides because I know they work hard to put clients on fish and will answer any questions you might have. These are listed by geographical region.
Southern California Saltwater Fishing Guides List
Capt. Larry Heron — Based in Ventura, Larry specializes in fishing calico bass at the Channel Islands and along the Santa Barbara coastline. www.calicohuntercharters.com
Capt. Benny Florentino — Based in Long Beach, Benny specializes in fishing all species of saltwater bass along the Los Angeles coastline and calico bass at Catalina, Santa Barbara and San Clemente Islands. He takes up to four passengers. www.fishsaltwaterbass.com
Capt. Jimmy Decker — Fishing out of Newport Beach, Jimmy specializes in targeting all species of bass along the Orange County coastline and islands as well as light tackle offshore fishing and IGFA world record, ultra-light tackle fishing. www.fishingwithdecker.com
Capt. Brandon Hayward — Based in Dana Point, Brandon specializes in targeting tanker white seabass and yellowtail along the coast. www.onemancharters.com
Capt. Dave Hanson — Dave specializes in going out on your boat and teaching you the ropes on boat handling, electronics, anchoring and catching fish along the coast and at the islands. www.yoursaltwaterguide.com
Capt. Jamie Thinnes — Based in San Diego and Huntington Harbor, Jamie specializes in targeting sea bass and yellowtail at the islands and offshore tuna. www.seasonssportfishing.com
Capt. Barry Brightenburg — Barry hails out of San Diego and covers everything from calico bass to tuna. www.alwaysanadventurecharters.com
Capt. Chris Barrick — Chris specializes in fishing San Diego Bay and calico bass inshore and at the Coronado Islands. www.sandiego-pacific.com
Capt. James Nelson — James specializes in San Diego Bay but also runs inshore and freshwater bass trips. www.thefishicon.com
Some guides charge more than others for their services, but don’t pick one over the other just because they are cheaper. Pick the one that is best suited to your needs. The few extra dollars that you’ll spend will be a drop in the bucket compared to the fuel and frustration you’ll save in the long run.