Becher’s Bay, Santa Rosa Island

When the seabass first bit, they were along the beach, just outside Channel Islands Harbor.  When I fished on the Coral Sea at the beginning of the month, we fished along the front side of Santa Cruz.  A couple weeks ago on the Seabiscuit, we hit the backside of Anacapa.  Over the course of the week, I learned the bite had migrated out to Rosa, and I knew it was time get back on the Pacific Islander.

Along with the seabass, I noticed nice counts of halibut as well.  I was on board last year to see a 59 lb-er come over the rail the weekend after the world record was caught up here.  Sunday, another 59 lb-er was caught on the Mirage.  The PI posted a 50 lb-er on Tuesday.  Among the 29 anglers aboard, joining me was Jimmy Bass of Tradition Sportfishing, Tony Campos an MDR regular who was on the big but trip last year, and Tony’s buddy.  Anticipation was high as we boarded the boat Wednesday night.

My 40lb rig – photo by Jimmy Bass

After the safety briefing, Capt. Steve Virtue told us we’d be heading out to Santa Cruz to make squid, then moving on to the Becher’s Bay area of Santa Rosa to chase the bite.  He said anglers were having success in a variety of ways…standard WSB dropper loop (longish loop high above the weight), reverse dropper, sliding sinker, even white jig and squid.  He said to go big on the line though…minimum 30, don’t be afraid to fish 40.  We got underway, and I rigged my poles.  I tied 30 lb. mono in a dropper loop on my Terez/Avet MXJ combo, and 40 in a reverse dropper setup on my Loomis Pelagic/Avet MXL stick (see Gear Lineup).  I also tied on one of the boat’s squid jigs on my bass stick, then hit the sack.

Lucky 13 got 1st fish

Around 3am we were at Santa Cruz to make squid.  I got up to lend a hand.  The squid was abundant (just a little smallish) and we made short work of it.  We set off and I tried to grab a few more winks before the fishing day.  I woke up around 6 when the engines backed off cruising speed into looking around mode.  I grabbed my 30 lb rig and found a spot along the rail (port side by the bait tank) as we dropped anchor.

It was only 6:20 when Tony’s buddy went bendo up the rail from me.  Meanwhile another angler (bag #13) on the stern got bit as well.  The guy on the stern boated his fish first…a nice halibut.  Then while Tony’s buddy’s fish was at gaff, Angler 13 got bit again and boated a schoolie size seabass!  Tony scored another halibut shortly after.  Meanwhile, I wasn’t getting any attention.  I moved over to the other side, when the guy to my right got bit on a sliding sinker setup.  He boated his fish and the guy to my left got bit.  Unfortunately, dude farmed it.  The guy to my right had gotten bit with a sliding sinker.  I didn’t notice anyone getting picked up by bat rays, so I switched up to the reverse dropper setup I had tied on my 40lb rig.

With both guys on either side of me getting bit, I figured it had to be my turn soon.  Then I noticed my line move deliberately, but slowly to my left.  I was getting bit, but it was very subtle.  I waited…and waited.  Eat the damn thing already!  I lifted my rod tip slightly.  Heavy.  Still there.  Finally, line started to run slowly out away from the boat.  I waited a few more seconds and swung.  Oh yeah, got him.  It wasn’t much of a fight.  I don’t think he’d had his morning coffee either.  It just kind of floated up and Capt. Steve was next to me ready with the gaff.  Nice hali!  🙂  Shortly after, another angler, Danny, got bit.  He got worked a little and when the fish finally came to gaff we could see why.  It was a big hali, 40+.  Danny eventually won jackpot with that fish.

New PB for Jimmy, 33 lbs. 40z.

After the big fish, Capt. Steve moved to setup a drift.  During the move, Jimmy and I were chatting.  He hadn’t even gotten bit yet.  I could tell he was a little bummed out.  “Hang in there Jimmy, you’ll get your turn.”  We got to the next spot and everyone was lined up on the port side for the drift.  I was down by the stern corner and Jimmy was up the rail.  It didn’t take long before I saw his line go bendo.  Jimmy chased it up and down the rail both ways before boating it.  Nice fish Jimmy.  Jimmy returned to his spot on the rail and not 5 minutes later, he got bit again.  It was a smaller hali, maybe 10 lbs. or so.  We setup another drift, but nothing.  8 buts and the one smaller wsb.  With the bite seemingly dead, Capt. Steve made a move to fill sacks and we finished the day out rockfishing.

Overall nice day.  The water had cooled, so it wasn’t the epic bite of the last few days.  The boat finished out though with almost limits of rockfish and several lings to go with the 8 halibut and 1 wsb.  The 4 of us Santa Monica Bay anglers got 5 of the 8 buts!  Personally, I was very satisfied.  That fish was probably one I would not have gotten last year.  The halibut’s bite was extremely subtle, but I was able to recognize what was happening and played out my opportunity perfectly.  Time on the water.  Thanks to Capt. Steve and the rest of the crew of the Pacific Islander.  There’s still a lot of fish up here.  I have a feeling that once the condition is right again, more big buts and biscuits will be hitting the decks.  Tight lines!

For more pictures from this trip and around SoCal, check out our Facebook page!

SMB crew got 5 of the 8 halibut

Heavy jackpot weigh in Bryan?

 

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