When my kids were younger and I was just starting to fish regularly on the sport boats, we rode a lot of half day trips together on the New Del Mar.
Everything was new back then. I was just learning to tie a dropper loop. It would take a while before I understood how to tie one specifically for a sculpin rig. Rigging up a high dropper for yellowtail or white seabass had yet to be introduced to me.
I was reminded of those days this weekend when I got on the New Del Mar to ride the Saturday afternoon halfie. Longtime MDR crewmember, Sigi Aguirre, asked me about the kids as I was rigging up. He was shocked to hear that Jake is now a freshman in college!
Yeah, it had been awhile.
I was happy to see some friendly faces amongst the passengers and crew. We got out with a light load. Capt. Danny Ericson got on the intercom to tell us the trip would follow a familiar pattern. We’d start the trip in about 180-feet of water targeting sculpin. After filling sacks for a while, we’d end the day bass fishing.
I rigged the standard sculpin setup…longer dropper with a leadhead on the end. Distance to the weight is short so that the loop stays close to the ground. On the leadhead, I put on a small twin-tail plastic which helps to weed out the dinks. The only difference this trip was they chunked up sardine to tip our leadheads instead of squid to avoid out-of-season whitefish and rockfish. The technique is simple: flip it out, drag along the hard bottom ’til you get bit. That portion of the trip went as planned and I easily put a limit (5) in the sack. No shorts!
Now came the harder part…
Come wintertime, bass are less active in the colder water. Sand bass (and the occasional calico bass) are more oriented to structure along the hard bottom. Santa Monica Bay is dotted with artificial reefs that these fish call home. The standard setup to catch them involves pinning a whole dead squid onto a leadhead (banana style preferred), and bouncing it into and along the reef and rocks below. Sounds easy enough, but there’s an art to it. It’s a style of our SoCal fishing that I still find challenging.
Two of the familiar faces I found on the boat were Jimmy Bass and Carlos Rangel. Both of them are expert level when it comes to this brand of fishing. Find the rock and you find the fish. Somehow these guys knew exactly where to setup along the rail before we even stopped. By the time I looked to setup next to them, the rail filled. I came across structure from my spot near the stern, but was only getting pecked by the wrong kind.
Meanwhile, these two were setup closer to the bow, beside the house, and were bit almost every time I looked longingly down the rail. I finally weaseled my way near them to add a couple bass to my bag before we had to head in. I was fine with my production, but Jimmy put on a clinic. He caught 9 legals, including the jackpot sandie (above). They wanted me to stay for twilight, but I needed to get home. Carlos took big fish for twilight and is the new leader on the NDM’s monthly big bass contest with a big calico weighing in at 5.7 pounds (below).
I’ve found a challenge to get me through these winter doldrums. Other than the weekend Colonet trips, these local halfies are one of the only games in town. Every landing has their version of it. Right now, a lot of them run an “extended halfie” (10-4) midweek, and then the normal morning and afternoon runs on the weekend. Call ahead to check the schedule. It’s worth the effort. You’re almost guaranteed to come home with fresh fish (sculpin) and will find a good challenge fishing the bass.
Good luck if you get out there.