load_yaksThis is a trip that I’ve always wanted to do.  It’s very unique.  I’ve seen a couple boats do similar trips down to Cedros Island, but the Islander is the only boat I know of that does a kayak mothership trip in our local waters.  

What is a kayak mothership trip you ask?  It’s where the passengers bring their kayaks, the boat heads out to a destination spot (San Clemente Island for this trip) and then the kayak anglers are let loose to enjoy fishing the island as they please.  

There are just 2 things holding me back from going on this trip…a) I don’t own a kayak, and b) because of A, I don’t trust my skill level to be on that water just yet.  These issues aren’t problems for my buddy Ricardo Holden.  Ric is the guy behind Fisheye Channel and a pretty accomplished kayak angler.  Ric went on the Islander trip this year and wrote to tell us about the trip…

Islander Mothership Kayak Fishing Trip to San Clemente Island

By Ricardo Holden

My fishing buddy Jeff and I got to Fishermen’s Landing in San Diego, after a 4 hour drive from Port Hueneme at 5:30pm.  It was an interesting site to see all the different kayaks lined up on the dock and the process of getting the Kayaks onto the racks with ease.  We departed around 8:30 pm picked up some lively sardines in the 6-7” range from the bait receiver.
The trip to the island was pretty rough, because the rain storm just passed through.  I was almost shaken out of my bunk a few times…getting airborne on this 88’ boat.  It took a long time to get to San Clemente.  We didn’t end up arriving until shortly after 6am.  It was ok though.  It gave everyone a chance to eat the breakfast prepared by Chef Rick – Blueberry Banana Pancakes and Sausage.
Once we were fed and arrived at Clemente, we were anxious to hit the water.  The Islander anchored on the front side of San Clemente, approximately in the middle of the island. Each kayak was unloaded one by one from the racks.  Seats and anything strapped down are loaded on the kayak before it hits the deck.  Then they’re hoisted off the the boat to the swim steps on the stern.  From there, the crew hands you down your fishing rods, gaffs, paddles, etc., and we were free from the mothership.
islander_calicoAlmost immediately, anglers were hooking up on calico bass next to the boat.  I watched anxiously from the deck.  I was one of the last kayakers on the water, due to where my kayak was stowed in the middle of the racks.  All 21 kayak anglers spread out.  Jeff and I headed shallow, while others opted for deeper water.  The island has a shear drop off.  It gets to about 150’ depth within only 100 yards of the island.  I caught two calico bass 16” and 17” in about 30’-40’ of water within the first 30 minutes off the boat.  Meanwhile my buddy Jeff got a 26” halibut and a few calico bass as well.
I went deeper looking for yellowtail, and started fishing in 100’-120’ of water, within maybe 60 yards of the island, heading south with the drift.  I was reeling in to check on the sardine I was trolling when it got smashed.  After a short fight, I had a 24” yellowtail.  Not a slug, but a fun fish to start the day off.  The nice thing about this mothership trip they offer a fish pickup service to maximize your time on the water.  I radioed  for a fish pickup and I was quickly greeted by a skiff that came to get my yellowtail.  Once had it back on the boat, it was bled and put on ice.  Everyone started catching the smaller yellows that schooled through, and you could hear for fish pickups on the radio, one after another.


While we were still on the water, the Islander pulled anchor and headed just south of where we were fishing.  We went with the drift until meeting up where they parked and got off to have some lunch.  Pretty much everyone had the same idea.  We paddled up to the swim step and were helped off our kayaks.  The crew just tied them off on the boat rails around the boat.  Lunch consisted of cheeseburgers and fries, and we were right back on the water.
After lunch the sun came out and the fish decided to play.  Another school of yellowtail came through.  I got hit on my trolling rod again (sardine).  I had two rods in the water at the time, and put my first one on clicker.  I reached back for my trolling rod and reeled in a 26” yellowtail after another short, but fun fight circling my kayak.  My second rod went off, just after I had gaffed the first fish.  That one was only a rat yellow.  Jeff hooked a big one, but lost it to a sea lion who paraded his catch as he swam off.  I could see other guys around me on fish for the next several minutes until the school left.
bocaccioWe noticed birds working out deep, so two of us headed out to see what was up.  When we got there, we found out they were only picking at the scraps of Jeff’s yellowtail that the sea lion was scarfing down.  Since we made the trek, we both dropped our lines in about 330’ of water to give it a try.  Within seconds of hitting the bottom, both of us felt a tug.  The long reel back up revealed a decent 20” bocaccio.  We stuck on the spot getting bit immediately for a  minute and radioed for a fish pickup, beer delivery and inform the other kayakers that were interested in an easy catch of decent rockfish.  Everyone joined us and enjoyed limits for the effort.
The bite slowed down in the afternoon.  Other than a Bonita and a Calico Bass, I didn’t catch much.  The wind started to kick up and the sun got covered by clouds.  I tried for a little longer, but everyone was making their way to the Islander.  I was the last one to load back up on the boat.  I was ready to call it a day.  I was cold and in need of a hot shower.  They served us a nice pork chop dinner.
I would like to thank owner/operator, Capt. John Conniff and his excellent crew.  This trip was one of the funnest I have ever taken.  I look forward to bringing my family next year.
Fisheye Channel Video


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