Let’s kill some fish!

There’s no doubt we’ve had an incredible year of fishing here in Southern California.  It is winter though, so if you need a fix, you have to be opportunistic and go when the conditions are right.  We had another storm last week, but our buddy Chris Dunn, The Fishing Weatherman, said that there would be a nice window this week on Monday and Tuesday to get out.  So Sunday night, I got on the Pacific Islander for an outer Channel Islands overnighter.  A few of my salty buddies met up with me at the landing, Jimmy Bass, Lucas Doran, Mark Smolak, Ron Briggs, and of course the regular crew of Capt. Steve Virtue, his second Dan, Bryan and Sean on deck, and Laura in the galley.

In his trip briefing (I love that Capt. Steve does this), Steve said it was going to be bumpy heading out and again first thing in the morning, but that the wind and swell were supposed to die down as the day progressed.  Discussing this information with Jimmy, I guessed we’d fish the lea of Santa Rosa.  The better days have typically happened on the front side, but after being able to knock off #thatdamnfish last week, my only agenda was to have a good time.  We departed the dock with 28 anglers and had live anchovies and fresh dead frozen squid for bait.

As the light came up Monday morning, sure enough we were on the south side of the island.  We started the day with a drift at the far west end, just outside the MLPA.  As expected, the wind and waves were pretty strong.  I started out fishing the standard double dropper with a 12 oz. sinker, but we were moving so fast that I had a hard time keeping my bait where it needed to be.  Despite the sporty conditions, the bite was pretty good.  Immediately, a legal ling came over the rail, followed by some nice chucks and a bunch of blue bass.  I could feel something little was on my line.  I figured I’d leave it down to maximize my time in the water.  Turned out to be a good call.  I got hit by something heavy and proceeded to roll it up.  When it got to color, I was happy to see it was a hitchhiker ling with a blue bass choked halfway down its throat.  Not a bad way to start the day 🙂

IMG_6235By the time I got back in the water, we had drifted off the spot.  Telltale sand dabs were what was biting now.  I picked one up on my top hook that was the perfect palm size for ling bait.  “Roll ’em up guys, let’s do that drift again.” Steve instructed over the boat intercom.  I repositioned my dab to the bottom hook.  He was so little, I didn’t bother to trap rig it.  During the move, I added a 2 oz sliding sinker above my 12 to hold the bottom better (didn’t have a 16).  We did the drift again and a minute into it I get whacked…HARD.  Drag puller.  I slowly wound it up and it fought the whole way.  I didn’t rush it for fear it might only be hitching on the dab.  “I’m gonna need a gaff on this one guys!”  Bryan was by my side when the beast surfaced and stuck it.  Two drops into the trip and I was limited out on lings!  One hitcher and a JP contender to start my day.


#3 on the lingcodjig

Since the conditions were still pretty rough, I continued to fish bait.  Typically on these PI trips, we load up on rockfish and then Steve goes to one of his secret ling spots to finish out the trip’s tally.  That was his intention on this trip too, but it was just one of those special days for me (and weird days for the boat – the total was light on rockfish too).  I got another barely legal that we released, and a bigger one that went into the sack.  No rockfish for me yet (except the half eaten blue to start the day).  Steve decided to make a move to get out of the wind.  I took the time on the move to switch rigs to a jig and fly setup on my Tranx/Teramar combo, using my heaviest lingcodjig and a green/yellow shrimp fly.  Steve positioned the boat in the new spot for another drift.  I casted out against the drift and bounced my jig back to the boat.  By the time my line was straight up and down at my spot on the stern, I was heavy again!  These things work pretty good…

I caught another just legal in that spot on the shrimp fly (released) and finally put a rockfish in the sack when a big chuckie decided to slam the fly too.  I picked up one more ling on the lingcodjig before I decided I should focus on getting more rockfish and switched back to fishing bait.  Boring.

Meanwhile, Jimmy who hadn’t had much luck to this point started finding his groove.  Fishing next to me in the stern, he started into a streak of lings fishing the jig and fly setup using either his P-line Diamond jig or a Megabait.  Jimmy put about 7 lings in the sack, topped with a monster that looked like it might best my big (the one on the dab).  OK, I’m going back to the jig.

I was headed up the rail to get my jig stick when I heard a bunch of commotion on the bow.  I went up to take a peek, just in time to see Lucas land a monster.  This big girl choked a starry down her throat and wouldn’t  (or couldn’t) let it go.  There just went my JP.  If Jimmy’s fish didn’t get me, this one did for sure.

Conditions had backed off substantially at this point.  I could peel off some layers and go tshirt and shorts.  The water was glass, so I decided to drop down to a smaller jig too.  I went with a white/glow CP105 and used the same green/yellow shrimp fly above it.  It proved to be a nice combo and I filled the sack with more lings and finally some rockfish too.

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It was getting late in the day and Steve decided to make one longer move to a ling spot at the far east end of Cruz.  The previous spot finally got things back in order and we hit the rockfish boat limit.  We were about 7 lings short though at the time.  I found out later that Steve only skirted the edges of this spot for fear of exceeding the limit in one pass (store that away in the Salty vault for future reference).  Sean approached me on the move and said, “This is where you want to break out the swimbait.”  Another angler asked me what that was all about.  I told him.  “Dang!  I don’t have any of those.”  Follow me.  I had already re-rigged to try out something in anticipation of the Eclipse trip next month, so I didn’t want to re-rig again.  I let him use one of my big Candy Bar swimbaits that I had hand colored Ron Briggs style (inside joke).  It was already on a heavy leadhead and trap rigged too.  Buy me a beer if you catch one 🙂

We settled into the last stop of the day.  Oh yeah, this is one of Steve’s ling honey holes.  It was apparent when he came out of the wheelhouse, casted out his swimmie and imediately pulled in a 10 lb-er!  Meanwhile, Jimmy was back at it and my experiment was proving to be futile.  We had one more drift before calling it a day, so I quickly cut off the experiment and tied on a swimbait.  I managed one more and I hooked him on the stinger.

It was a remarkable day.  I had 7 in the sack and 3 released (last one released).  Jimmy put 10 on the board as well.  Lucas ended up with 7 and took JP.  The guy who I let borrow my swimmie got 2 shorts and returned my swimmie.  I gave him 2 of my extras and he bought me the beer anyway.  My only goal for the day was to have fun and catching 10 legal lings was about as fun as it gets.  Thanks to Captain Steve and his crew on the Pacific Islander for yet another great trip.  They have some open dates left before the end of the year (and the closure), so take advantage of it.  See you again in 2015.  Tight lines!


Me, Lucas and Jimmy









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