Map courtesy of UC Santa Barbara

Saturday night, I boarded the Pacific Islander out of Channel Islands Sportfishing in Oxnard for an overnight fishing trip.  I headed up there thinking I might have a chance at 3 of my remaining 4 on the Top 10…yellowtail, ling cod, and halibut.  I hadn’t been up since the Big ‘But adventure in July, but September is when they start to see YT, and a good time to go.

Upon boarding and getting underway, Capt. Paul gave the usual safety briefing and introduced the crew.  Then he mentioned that we would be going to San Miguel Island, the westernmost island in the Channel Islands chain.  It was going to be about a 7 hour ride out, we’d get to the spot, start fishing at first light, head home around 1pm, and be back between 6:30 and 7pm.  Hmmm, (thinking to myself) so you mean to say only about a third of the whole trip time was going to be spent actually fishing?  The enticing carrot though was that we would be headed to a spot that is referred to as “Jurassic Park”…a nod to the fact that is home to large ling cods, aka lingosaurus or lingzilla…so that was pretty exciting.  Capt. Paul said to rig up the CI-style halibut/WSB rig to fish first thing in the morning (a long dropper loop, 18-20 inches, that sits very high…belt buckle high…above the weight), and then a normal double dropper loop setup for rockfish for the rest of the day.  No mention of yellowtail, but they only had 2 for the entire landing the previous day, so I knew that it would just be lucky if we happened upon one.  No biggie.  I setup those poles and went to bed.

Dawn breaks over San Miguel

I actually got a pretty decent night’s sleep (I guess I’m usually too excited to sleep well), and the next morning I woke up just after 5 to the smell of Amy cooking bacon in the galley.  Mmmm, bacon.  Once I had a chance to get myself together (ie. had some coffee), I asked Brian the deckhand if we were close yet.  “Get there around 7 and be ready to rockfish.”   No flattie/WSB action?  “Nope, but you’ll get 2 good rockfish on every drop.”  Not really what I wanted to hear, but roll with it.

First short ling of the day

Just after first light we get to the spot.  In the bait wells were live squid and a handful of anchovies, most of which didn’t look very healthy, but I found one that was a good candidate and had him on my bottom loop as soon as we stopped.  On the top loop, I used a shrimp fly tipped with a squid strip to attract the rockfish and let it go.  Before most people were even on the bottom, I got bit, shorty ling, but a good sign that I might get my target fish.

Well Brian was right.  I was pulling up quality rockfish and actually limited out (10) by a quarter to 9.  Mixed in were more short lings.  I think I caught 5 or 6 total.  It was pretty apparent when hooked up what was a rockfish vs, what was a ling.  Rockfish kind of died on the line after an initial pull, while lings would give headshakes and sometimes even take some line on a second wind before it was over.  I was fishing close to the bow on the starboard side, and next to me was the father/son team of Ken and Lance.  Lance was 13 and this was his first overnight.  While I was pulling up shorts, Ken and Lance were pulling up legal lings.  At first it was encouraging, but after awhile I began to feel like it was one of those trips not meant to be.  Ken actually pulled up double legal lings…TWICE!  One time, I felt heavy, got the head shakes, got excited, only to find it was not me that was bit.  It was Lance and I was tangled in his line.  Good grief!

Lance with 2 of the 8 legal lings he and his dad caught


Ken with a ling-o-saurus

It got to the point where it became a running joke.  Ken and Lance actually took a lunch break, during a fish stop to “let me” catch a ling (grudging smile).  Meanwhile, I continued to pull up short lings and nice rockfish.  The boat was getting very close to a full limit of rockfish, and Capt. Paul said we’d be moving shortly to go in closer, near the kelp and fish for something we could keep…whitefish, calico, sheephead, maybe that lucky yellowtail.  I was feeling my window closing and I wasn’t happy about it.  I continued to fish hard though and hoped I’d get my opportunity.  At one point, I pulled up a small starry on my upper loop, and re-positioned him on my lower loop to use him as ling bait.  Yes, desperation had fully set in.  He managed to work off and I rebaited with a whole dead squid balled up on my bottom loop.  Then it happened.  I was hanging heavy with the characteristic head shakes.  Oh please…please…YES!  I got my ling and it was a nice one.

Shortly thereafter, we moved in close and finished out the day with a few more throwback rockfish, a few keeper whitefish, and one gigantic sheephead caught by sometime deckhand Louie that took the jackpot.  It was a beautiful day on the water…sunny with a calm sea…I got my target fish, and thoroughly enjoyed the day despite my SHORT-comings with all the ling.  Thank you Pacific Islander crew and thank you Channel Islands Sportfishing.  Tight lines!


Louie with deckhand Brian and his jackpot sheephead


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