The weather we’ve had this week makes it feel more like June than it does January, but the fish don’t seem to know that as they’re firmly entrenched in their winter patterns. Contrary to popular belief, winter patterns aren’t necessarily a bad thing and if you know when and where to fish you’ve got a shot at getting into some wide-open fishing. So let’s take a look at what’s biting along the coast and you’re best chances at catching some fish.
Unless you’re looking to load up on sand dabs, you’re probably going to want to avoid fishing on a sport boat north of Marina Del Rey right now because that’s pretty much all they’re targeting. Private boaters, on the other hand, have been doing well on calicos and sand bass along the coast between Ventura and Santa Barbara. Captain Larry Heron of Calico Hunter Charters has been fishing up that way every weekend for the last couple months and has been loading up. Most of his fish have been coming out of 20-60 feet of water on 4″ Big Hammer Swimbaits, fished close to the bottom around structure or hard bottom. The structure spots in the area can be found by looking for commercial lobster buoys and will produce best if there is current and tidal movement.
Down in the Santa Monica Bay, both sport boats and private boaters have been catching a mix of bass and sculpin on the artificial reefs scattered around the bay. If you’re going on a sport boat, you’ll want to bring a rod appropriate for fishing a leadhead and squid. The ideal set up would be a heavy bass rod or light jig stick rigged with spectra and a 40-pound fluorocarbon leader. Any leadhead will work, but the banana style heads seem to get snagged the least. You’ll want to bring heads in 1/2 to 2 ounce sizes to cover different depths and current levels.
Private boaters fishing the artificial reefs in the Santa Monica Bay will need to have GPS coordinates to find structure spots as there is no commercial lobster fishing allowed in the Bay and as a result there are no buoys to help you find spots. If you don’t have any coordinates for spots in the Bay I’d suggest launching out of Long Beach, as you’ll be able to easily find spots marked with buoys. Private boaters really don’t need squid to catch bass during the winter, as swimbaits fished slowly along the bottom will produce plenty of bites.
Just remember that the fish are always going to be directly adjacent to structure, so once you no longer see the spot on your meter it’s time to move the boat.
The bass from Long Beach to Newport Beach have been biting best in the dark, so twilight trips are the best option for sport boat anglers right now. The bass are also biting well for private boats at night. Last weekend, Matt and I did a nighttime trip and fished structure spots from Izor’s Reef down to Newport Reef. The bass were readily biting the 7″ MC Swimbaits Viejos Series and we ended up with around thirty bass up to five pounds during the trip.
The best bet for calicos right now is San Clemente Island. While the fishing hasn’t been wide open there have been lots of big fish caught and if you get lucky you might have a shot at a trophy. John Curry and his brother Travis went to the island last week and experienced extremely slow fishing the first half of the day, but after making some adjustments they were able to find the bigger fish in shallow water and get into a wide open bite on the 7″ Weedless MC Swimbaits. During the bite they had multiple shots at big fish and both John and Travis landed their personal best calicos; John’s weighing in at 9 1/2 pounds.
The following day, John went hoopnetting in Long Beach Harbor and had easy limits for three people (bringing his season’s tally to well over 300 bugs). If you’re a private boater looking to learn about hooping, you can learn it straight from the horses mouth in my previous article called hoopnetting for dummies.
If you don’t have a boat and would like to get in on the action, you can jump on one of the Gale Force’s open party hoopnet trips. If you’re going to book a trip make sure that there is some tidal movement scheduled on the night you go as it has been the key to catching lobster.
If you’re a private boater who’s looking for a change of pace or are trying to avoid rough weather (if we ever get any again), the spotted bay bass are biting. Spotties can be caught in any of our local bays and harbors, but the fishery varies by location.
Seeker Pro-staffer Tom Nitihara has been pre-fishing Long Beach Harbor in preparation of the SWBA tournament there next weekend and has been catching some giants. While the size of the fish in the harbor has been impressive, the fishing has been extremely tough at times. So if you want a shot at a big one it’s a good place to go, but if you want numbers you’re going to want to look somewhere else.
Newport Harbor has been kicking out a few spotties, but the best bites have come from Mission Bay and San Diego Bay. I’d avoid San Diego Bay this weekend because of the Bay Open tournament, but Mission Bay probably won’t see much pressure. Okuma pro-staffers Matt Moyer and Nic Dragomire did some pre-fishing in Mission Bay last week and caught several big spotties up to 2 1/2 pounds. In Mission Bay the fish are coming off eelgrass beds and are biting the standard offerings including spinnerbaits and swimbaits. Like with the other bass fisheries, tidal movement plays a huge factor when fishing spotted bay bass. Ideal conditions would be a filling or draining tide with between two and four feet of movement. Any less than that will make the fish lethargic and any more than that will make it difficult to target them effectively due to strong currents.