The Myth

I posted a picture of a lizardfish I caught off the Redondo Pier a couple weeks ago.  Someone commented, “Halibut candy.”  I know you’ve heard this before…”lizardfish are great halibut bait.”  Everyone seems to say that, but I’ve never seen or caught a halibut on a lizardfish.  Couple deckhands I’ve talked to have said they have never seen a lizardfish in the stomach of a halibut they’ve cut either.  Hmmm…

SDBay_mapSaturday, Jan 25

The plan this weekend was to go down to San Diego and fish with my buddy John.  The yellowtail bite at the Coronados was solid through most of January, then abruptly stopped last week.  We planned to try for yellowtail on Sunday if there was a strong indication on Saturday.  In the meantime, John is slated to fish the San Diego Open Bay Bass Tournament next weekend and wanted to spend some time pre-fishing the bay.

Saturday morning we checked into Seaforth Boat Rental in Coronado.  They rent out 14′ skiffs at a very reasonable rate.  The plan was to explore the area west of the Coronado Bridge.  It was a beautiful sunny day.  The water was grease flat.  It was actually too nice, the lack of any conditions made it so that we had to really work to find fish…not just in terms of covering area in the boat, but also with finding the right artificial baits and how we presented them.

For such a small area, there are actually several micro-environments within it…shallows, dropoffs, rocky bottoms, deep eelgrass etc.  The time was well spent.  For this time of year, you really need to get down to the bottom.  In the main part of the channel it was 60-70 feet deep, so in order to get down there,  it took anywhere from from an ounce to 1.5 oz. to do it effectively.  At the same time, it was taking a smaller bait…2-4″ (max) to get a bite.  We tried swimbaits, jerk shads, grubs and various creature artificials.  What seemed to make the most sense was dropshotting it.  Given the lack of condition, the dropshot was a good choice to create bite enticing movement in the bait.  To take it a step further, tail or nose hooking it for max movement got bites.  The problem was a lot of them were short.  To make matters worse, it doesn’t seem to me that the dropshot holds up well to a lot of abuse.  I was done when I got the most promising bite of the day.  It was a heavier fish…probably a halibut.  I fought it for about 10 secounds and lost it when the line broke at/near the knot 🙁

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We enjoyed modest success for the day.  My last bass was just short of legal (13″) and John got a small halibut at the same time.  It was ok, but 2 things nagged us… A) How to get that bite enticing movement, while increasing our landing ratio, and B) Was there something productive we could do with the lizardfish that inevitably get caught over the course of the day.

Sunday, Jan 26

On the way home, I checked my various sources.  Only the Malahini went out to the islands.  They saw some yellows, but couldn’t get them to bite.  They rockfished.  What should we do tomorrow?  Back to the Bay!

Over dinner, we talked a lot of fishing.  What if we did short dropper loops, so you still get that movement that’s so effective on a dropshot?  And then if you could make the bait move on a short leader, maybe we could use a bigger hook to get the point further down the bait and snag some of those short bites?  Definitely worth a try.  For those lizardfish, I brought an extra rod.  I rigged it with heavier line (25) tied in a reverse dropper with 2oz of weight and a 2/0 circle.  We’d find out if lizardfish do in fact catch halibut!  And if I we did get a bite, that sucker was going to end up IN the boat.

tagged_spottieThe next morning, John got the first bite.  Guess what?  Lizardfish.  Perfect size too…about 5 inches.  We’re putting this idea to the test right away.  Dropped in the lizard and went about fishing again.  Every tick on the third rod would immediately grab our attention.  We didn’t have to wait long.  It went bendo and I grabbed it.  Game on.  Nice fish.  If it was a halibut, I didn’t want to pull it too hard.  After a few quick cranks to set the circle hook, I settled into a steady wind.  Headshakes,  pulled some drag, but after a short fight we saw it was a nicer sized spottie.  And to our surprise, it had a tag.  We took pics and measured the fish.  I called in a report to the number on the tag.  The answering machine said it was Scripps.  I’ll let you guys know if I hear back.  Legal, tagged spottie to start the day.  Pretty cool.

Over the course of the day, the wind kicked up and blew in clouds.  We started moving pretty good and those lizards were bouncing away on the bottom.  And you know what?  Bass 3, Halibuts 0.  For the weekend, the only halibut caught were on artificial grubs by John, and my big hit that we thought was a hali was on a ghost shrimp lookalike.  Myth busted?  Draw your own conclusion.  It was a surprise though to discover spotties eat reptiles 😉

With the overcast day, bright colors seemed to work best.  Orange, chartreuse, white, red…we got bit and were able to get some better quality fish.  We probably caught a dozen bass each and John picked up a little bigger (but still short) halibut.  Better day.  It’s always nice when you can theorize something and it works out.  Hopefully, it pays off for John next week in the tourney.  Tight lines!

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