Let's go kill some fish!

Let’s go kill some fish!

I love Fall rockfishing.  By this time of the year, my offshore, pelagic wanderlust is subsiding.  There are still calm, sunny days to be had on the water.  I’m ready to start fishing for and eating rockfish.  And those bottom-grabbers have had some time to rest and fatten up while we’ve been out targeting the exotics of summer.

My favorite backdrop for rockfishing is the Channel Islands.  Sure, there are some bigger rockfish up there, but you can also get into these nicer quality fish at relatively shallow depths.  Shallow rockfishing is enjoyable for 2 reasons:

  1. It’s just easier.  What would you rather do?  Reel up from 300 feet or 100 feet?  You know you’ve been there…”Man, this is just more work than it’s worth.”  Right?
  2. Fishing shallow allows you to use a lot of artificial baits…swimbaits, all sorts of jigs…open up the toybox.  It adds an element to the fishing that for a lot of us really adds to the enjoyment of the day.

One of my favorite captains and boats to play this particular game with is Capt. Steve Virtue of the Pacific Islander.

Saturday night (Oct. 19) I drove up to Channel Islands Sportfishing in Oxnard to fish on the PI.  I was encouraged by what I’d been seeing all week.  Lots of lings on the Aloha Spirit’s Monday ling targeted trip.  The Mirage killing it on a midweek 2 day.  And then the PI hit it big Saturday with a 56 ling explosion on the trip previous to ours.

The regular crew was onboard, Capt. Steve, his 2nd Dan, Bryan and Larry on deck, and Laura holding down the galley.  In his trip briefing, Steve said we’d try to get out to the southeast corner of San Miguel weather permitting.  If we weren’t able to make it that far, we’d fish the northwest section on the front side of Rosa.  It might be bumpy, but it shouldn’t affect the fishing.  He encouraged us to start the day fishing a double dropper with 10-12 oz. of lead.  Once we filled up on rockfish, we’d hit some shallow rocks looking for lings.  We had live squid and anchovies.  “Let’s go kill some fish!”

I went to bed.  The next morning I woke up around 6:30.  It was still dark and we were still moving.  Smooth ride.  “Maybe we will make it to Miguel,” I thought.  I gathered myself and went upstairs.  I rigged up a pole with a 30 lb mono topshot and tied a couple dropper loops per Capt. Steve’s recommendation.  I put a light gauge 3/0 circle hook on top.  On the bottom loop, I cut the loop and snelled a thick gauge 3/0 circle and trap rigged the tag end with one of the light circles.  Just an idea I was playing with…I put a live squid on the thick hook and a live anchovy on the light hook.  The squid grabbed the anchovy and I was thinking that the combo might look like a nice hor d’ouevre to a fat ling.  Strip of squid on top.

Fat red (Laura Hohensee photo)

Fat red (Laura Hohensee photo)

At first light, we setup for our first drift, I noticed we were on the front side of Rosa.  It must’ve been rough on the ride over, so we went the long way around the south side of the island to get out of it.  It was a little choppy, but I was glad to be in front.  We hadn’t made it over to this side the last couple times out and the fishing is always better on this side of Rosa.

First drop of the day…double lings.  Short one on top, and a barely legal on the bottom.  It’s gonna be a good day.  Lots of short lings in the initial drifts, but also a bunch of fat reds and chuckies, and hard fighting blue bass to fill the sacks.  By 10 we hit boat limits.  I managed another legal ling in that stretch, so I had limits of both rockfish and lings already in my sack.  Time to play.

Short on the MC Viejo

Short on the MC Viejo

We made a  30 minute move west toward San Miguel.  We were still pretty far away from the island, but drifted a series of stones in roughly 90-120 feet of water.  At this point, we had to turn away any rockfish we caught, but because of the shallow depth, they were safely released.  We were only about halfway on the boat ling limit though.  We quickly made a dent as huge ling-osaurs started coming over the rail.  Steve set up the drift on the port side of the boat.  I set myself up on the starboard side and was casting and dragging.  I started out using various swimbaits.  I was having no problems getting bit, but my hook ratio was horrible as my bites kept dropping off.  I managed to get a couple shorts on the swimmies, but decided to switch it up.  If I keep getting short bit, let’s put a big treble at the money end of the bite.  I grabbed a chrome Salas CP105 out of my bag and tied it on.

IMG_1519That jig was definitely the ticket.  Big reds, big chucks and lings.  Big ones.  The biggest took out line 3 times, fighting the whole way up.  I’m guessing it was maybe a 12-13 lber.  I was using my Terez 80M with the Abu Revo Toro 50 on it.  I have 40 lb. braid with a 25 lb. topshot and it was a very fun combination to fight these fish on.  There was a young angler fishing next to me and he was trying to use a swimbait without much luck.  I asked him if he had a jig in his bag similar to the one I was using.  He went to look and came back with a Salas 6x Jr in scrambled egg.  Two casts, 2 legal lings.  He was super stoked.  We hit the boat limit and tried one more quick spot to hopefully get some whitefish and that was the day.

I ended up with 5 legal lings, a new personal best.  For the boat, there were 3 big lings (mine included) and then a large sheephead vying for jackpot.  Guess what happened?  #thatdamnfish  It was ok.  Super fun day on the water.  Thanks so much to Capt Steve and his excellent crew for a great ride.  Get on this boat.  You’ll thank me later.  Tight lines!

Thanks to Laura Hohensee for the pictures below:

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