IMG_7984The elusive ghost…it’s one of the nicknames given to the white seabass.  It can be a frustrating fish to catch any year, but this year more than ever.  By this time last year I had caught 6, but 2015 is a different year.  In Year 2 of the El Nino, we’ve been wondering if the squid would even show up at all.  Given this information, I setup trip #1 with Brandon Hayward back in May to kick off seabass season.  I had one promising bite on that trip, but came up empty.

Overnight on Pacific Islander (June 28th)

Trip 2 aboard the Pacific Islander, I setup back in January.  It appeared to line up perfectly…moonphase exactly 3 days before the full moon, and after the limit went up to 3.  Then last week, the squid showed up.  Anticipation was definitely high going into this trip.

I was at the landing early.  I had gone surf fishing earlier in the day, but the water was full of seaweed and the wind started to kick up in the afternoon.  I bailed and made my way north.  By the time I made it up to Oxnard, the wind was a howling.  I killed some time at Eric’s Tackle before heading over to the landing.

We still ended up boarding and prepared to head out.  It was a full boat of 30.  Slight change in crew, with Ron joining Bryan on deck.  Capts. Steve and Dan handled duty in the wheelhouse, and Laura in the galley.  We had 3 full tanks of live squid and another of mixed fin bait…mostly smallish (3″) sardines (great hali bait).  During his trip briefing, Capt. Steve Virtue told us that 2 of 3 weather reports said it would be fishable tomorrow, but it would be a rough ride out.  Two is better than one right?  We’d soon find out.


Around 5am Sunday morning, it was still dark as we started hunting around.  A few boats could be seen around us in the Smuggler’s Cove area of Santa Rosa Island.  Eventually we anchored up and dropped lines.  As the sun came up, a big bank of clouds could be seen moving quickly to the east of us.  The wind was blowing hard and pushing them past the island as we fished in the calm of the lee side of the island.  Before we had gone out, I ran into Capt. Dustin Tench of the Ranger 85 at the landing.  They were headed out too.  He told me they caught a few seabass on the other side of the island the previous day at Becher’s Bay.  We wouldn’t be going there under these conditions.

We gave it a game effort, but only ended up hooking into bat rays before giving up and trying to make something of the day.  The sun was fully up at this point.  As we made our way outside, we could see the cloud banks moving quickly south along either side of the island.  Whitecaps could be seen outside as well.  We were wedged into a little triangle of decent conditions leaving Steve few options.

We tried our first rockfish drift and it wasn’t good.  Small blue rockfish was about it.  Steve moved to try another spot.  I was in the galley when he came over the intercom, “Joe can you come up to the wheelhouse?”  Uh oh.  “We just got a weather check and it’s supposed to get really snotty in about an hour.”  OK, what’s your immediate plan?  “We have a one hour window, let’s see what we can make of it.”

Bryan and Ron had cut up some squid for the first round of rockfishing.  Knowing we might only have an hour to fish, I said screw it and grabbed a couple live squid.  My next 5 casts produced 5 straight legal lings.  People took note and started fishing the squid and it was good all around.  Lings and nicer reds and chucks started hitting the decks.

With 5 in the bag, I started to play.  I threw the jig and fly with a couple different jigs.  I tried the big swimbait.  Nothing was working.  Meanwhile, some bigger lings were coming over the rail on bait.  I guess give ’em what they want.  Meanwhile, the weather had backed off and we’d be able to stick it out.  I switched back to bait and put 6 more on the boat.  It was a new personal best on the lings, so it took some sting about the lack of “exotics.”  I’ll just have to get back out soon.  Kudos to Capt. Steve for really pulling one out of the hat.

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Day Trip Seabiscuit (July 3rd)

IMG_8036I had Friday, July 3rd off from work, so guess what I did?  No, I didn’t go out and chase tuna on the week that offshore blew up.  I was back in the 805 hunting ghosts again.  This time, a 4 am to 4 pm trip aboard the Seabiscuit with Capt. Matt Allport.  Matt is one of the really good young captains that I like fishing with.  I’ve had a good trip every time I’ve been out with this guy.  He not only has a knack of finding fish, but he’s also a very good angler himself.

My buddy Lucas and I were among 24 anglers on the boat for the day.  We had one tank of live squid and some very nice live anchovies.  Joining Matt were James and Cody on deck; and JJ in the galley.  The Mirage and Pacific Islander had pretty good whacks on the seabass the previous day.  The day boats though hadn’t done as well, but the trips seemed to offer a decent shot at seabass, yellowtail and halibut with one or two exotics per ride.

We started out the day on the anchor in the Yellow Banks area on the southeast part of Santa Cruz Island. There was almost zero current and we didn’t stay long.  We proceeded to make our way around the island.  When we stopped just short of the San Pedro Point the current was ripping.  Guys were going to a pound of weight.  I switched up and went sliding sinker with squid and just let it go wayyyy out.  I got bit, but nothing hung on.

Matt left the spot and went back to see if the conditions had improved where we started.  They did.  We saw a private boater next to us get bit and lose a fish.  Then Matt himself hooked into what looked to be a yellow on a flylined greenback he sabiki’d up while we had fished another spot.  He had gone super finesse though and lost it on 12 lb.  Before evacuating the island, Matt dumped a bunch of bait to see if he could manufacture a bite.  His move setoff a wide open mini bonito bite that was fun.  I was fishing dead baits on a sliding glow sinker setup and getting bit at will.  It was a fun distraction, but nothing of substance.

We made one last move for the day and anchored up just off the Aloha Spirit on the West End of Anacapa Island.  The Aloha had managed to scratch out a couple yellowtail, but we had no suck luck.  That was basically the day.  Very tough conditions.  Just the luck of the draw.  As I’m writing this report, I see that they found some fish over the weekend.  Keep trying.


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