IMG_9376Sunday, November 1st I was in Santa Barbara to ride for the first time out of Sea Landing.  On tap was a 3/4 day rockfishing trip aboard Stardust Sportfishing.  Our destination was the frontside of Santa Rosa Island.

I’ve fished Santa Rosa dozens of times.  I’ve had some epic trips fishing there.  It’s an overnight trip from Oxnard.  Because of the way the coastline curves around northwest from Oxnard, it’s just over a 2 hour ride to get to the frontside of the island from Santa Barbara.  I’ve been curious to see if the overnight experience could be replicated on a 3/4 day ride, so I was excited to check it out.

santa barbara_channel islands_USGS_cropped

Map courtesy of US Geological Survey

The Stardust runs half day during the week, but Thursday through Sunday it runs 3/4 day.  Capt. Dane Johnston was at the helm with Sal and Corey on deck, and Josh in the galley.  I was among 40 anglers onboard for the 7am departure.  Once loaded, we picked up live anchovies while frozen squid was put out to thaw.

On the ride over, I asked Sal what the recommended setup was.  He told me a double dropper with 12 oz. of lead on the bottom.  Looking me over, Sal said I’d probably be good with 8oz.

“What?  This is my first time deep sea fishing” I joked.

I rigged a jig and fly setup with a heavy jig called a Bob’s Bottom Bouncer that feels like it’s a good 8-9 oz and the Donkey Donk that I’ve been dying to try from Reeb’s Lures.  As I was rigging, I noticed that people were attaching their rods to the rail, so I followed suit and found an open spot along the starboard side, close to the gate.  I attached the jig and fly setup to the rail, then found a seat that was protected from the elements.  I ordered a burrito from Josh and settled in for the ride.  It got kind of sporty on the way over, so that idea turned out to be a good call.

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As we neared the first spot, I got baited up…a full squid on the jig and a strip on the fly.  We got into place and Capt. Dane said to drop in.  The BBB made it to the bottom without issue and I was immediately bit.  While I reeled up, Sal was barking out the status on deck to Capt. Dane who stayed in the wheelhouse actively working with the boat in gear to try and maintain our position.  Anglers were arrayed in close quarters around the entire perimeter of the boat.  Sal and Corey raced around to unhook and bag fish, all the while calling out status to Capt. Dane.

I got my fish up, a nice chucky, and went to re-bait.  By the time I dropped back in, we had drifted off the spot.  The one and done action set a pattern that was replicated over the rest of the day.  I went chucky, Charles, and lingcod on the first 3 drops though, so I wasn’t complaining.

And that’s just kind of how the day went.  Scratching at rockfish.  Hit the next rock.  Repeat.  At the end of the day though, I had a bag of 7 rockfish (two of the Charles size coppers) and 3 legal lings.  Not bad at all.  My buddy Kevin Kim went on Saturday and had a much easier time of it.  The weather conditions were much better, making it easier to stay on top of spots.

That’s the rub…with the condensed amount of time of a 3/4 day trip, you’re going to want to pay attention to the weather forecast or adjust your expectations.  It’s definitely a nice option though.  If that’s the worst of it, I’d say it’s pretty good.  I’ve noticed they also do charters staying shallow and hugging the coast going north which seems pretty untouched and really intriguing to me.

Thanks to Capt. Dane and crew for their hard work despite the less than optimal conditions.  I’ll come back.

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