Last year's big but outing

Last year’s big but outing

It’s that time of the year when the big halibut come out to play up in the Channel Islands.  Two years ago, I was fishing on the Pacific Islander the weekend after the world record was caught and saw a beast get taken that was just ounces shy of 60 lbs.  Last year, Jimmy Bass and I went up in July and each caught some nice fish in the 30 lb. range.  The days are counting down on July, so Jimmy and I were looking to get up north.  We made reservations for an overnight on the PI leaving Wednesday night (July 24th), and fishing Thursday.  We were excited to see the Mirage, CISCO’s other outer island boat come back from a 2 day trip with a cornucopia of flat fish Wednesday, so hopes were high for the trip.

Our friend Chris (aka Freshy…he’s primarily a largemouth bass guy) joined us, and we boarded the boat around 9pm.  It was the regular crew of Capt. Steve Virtue, 2nd Capt. Dan, Bryan and Larry on deck, and Laura in the galley.

When we got onboard, it was good to see that the boat was already jugged with live squid.  Already having the squish is always a welcome sight.  Aside from the fact that it’s the ideal bait, it also means there would be no 3am squid jigging session to make bait  There were live anchovies too for good measure.  Things were setting up nicely for the trip.  I rigged the standard high dropper setup for the morning and hit the bunk for the ride out to Santa Rosa Island.

The next morning, I woke up around 5am as the boat was anchoring up in the spot.  I went up on deck to see what was up and saw that we were amidst a bunch of other boats on the squid grounds.

Where there's squid...

Where there’s squid…

Freshy got a biscuit

Freshy got a biscuit

By 5:30, everyone was on the rail and we were fishing.  Almost immediately, we got into a nice run of white seabass.  Over roughly the next hour, the boat got 10 seabass in the 10-20lb. schoolie size.  Neither Jimmy, nor I were lucky to get bit, but Chris did and boated a small one…maybe 11 or 12 lbs.  Unfortunately, for the next hour and a half or so, nothing happened.  As we were getting ready to pull anchor and move, we got one more and then went outside for rockfishing.  Hopefully, we could make quick work of it and then try to come back inshore and drift for halibut.

It was full light at this point, and I could tell we were on the south side of the island.  I’ve never been out and experienced good rockfishing on the south side of Rosa, but we made a few drifts and tried to make a go of it.  The sea was kicking up away from the island.  Long story short, I’ve still never rockfished the south side of Rosa and done well.

At this point, Steve decided to make a major move and headed west.  At first, I thought he was going to try and go all the way out to San Miguel, but he turned right when we hit the channel and made way toward the tried and true rockfishing grounds on the north side of the island.  It was clear why he tried to make a go of it on the south side.  Up here, the sea was even rougher…windy, choppy and swells up to maybe 10 ft.  Ugh.  Despite the lousy conditions, the drifts started to produce some fish.

Jeff with his big sheep and ling

Jeff with his big sheep and ling

Jimmy and I were up on the bow, both of us throwing some sort of ling-focused concoction.  I went with my Gitzem/MC combo and Jimmy was throwing an Ahi Diamond jig.  I brought a few baby octopi and put one on a bare hook 12 inches above the slug.  We took turns throwing upcurrent and bouncing it back up to the boat.  I quickly found a nice red to bite the octopus bait, and we both scored a few short lings.  It was enough to keep us throwing, but it never quite produced.  Jeff, one of the deckhands on the Gentleman, was up there with us and was in the mix throwing articial as well.  He had better luck than us, managing an impressive ling and then a nicer sheephead on a swimbait.

It was getting late in the day, so for about the last hour, I gave up on the toys and went with the standard double dropper with bait.  I managed to fill out the sack and get my limit of rockfish to end the day.  Not the day we had hoped for, but not bad all things considered.  The Mirage was out there in the same area as us and only managed 1 seabass.  That’s the way it goes.  We didn’t go out chasing the count, but it was one of those “shoulda been here yesterday trips.”  By the time we got back to the barn, the Coast Guard station by the landing was hanging red gale warning flags.  Oh well.  Thanks to crew of the PI for working hard to make the best of it.

EDITORIAL NOTE – the sea laid down over the weekend and the bite was back on.  Sucks me and Jimmy missed it, but you should take advantage and get out there



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