Got back Sunday morning from a 1.5 aboard the Oceanside 95 out of Helgren’s Sportfishing. I went offshore with them a few weeks back and skunked. Loved the boat and crew though led by Capt. Rick Slavkin. I decided to give it a go when Rick told me they’d be fishing the islands this weekend.
They returned from an overnight on the trip before ours where they got beat up pretty good at Catalina. They were already jugged with a beautiful bait buffet though with live squid, chovies and sardines. If we could find some willing fish, we’d definitely be in good shape.
Capt. Rick did his trip briefing. He said we’d start at Clemente and see if the yellows wanted to play. If not, we might look offshore. I was glad I had brought a 60 lb. rig, just in case. I rigged up 20 and 30 slider setups, 30# high dropper, and a surface iron setup before hitting my bunk.
The next morning, the boat slowed into looking mode around 6am. I was in the galley and changed things up a little. I put in a breakfast plate order early with Doug. By 6:30, we settled into our first drift. I went dropper to start and the action was pretty immediate. We had a quick flurry of about 8 fish…most of them on the dropper. I was lucky to be in that first group. The fish were all cookie cutter 15 lb-ers. Nice start to the day!
After that early flurry, we settled into a morning lull. When we finally did start catching again though, they were all double the size of the morning fish!
It was a slow, plunker like affair. We’d do a drift, hang a couple fish. Finish the drift and repeat the process. Since the fish were larger grade, I cut off my surface jig and fished a 40# high dropper on my jig stick.
My buddy Cody and I were up on the bow…getting bored…fighting the yawns. All of a sudden some yellows boiled up – 2 o’clock from us. Cody had a new setup – 11 ft Tady jig stick with a Trinidad 20. He tossed it around a little, but no love. I was intrigued and asked him if I could take a turn. I handed him my dropper and grabbed his stick. I got in a cast. Retrieved it in. I was about to make a second when Cody yelled – FRESH! Crap, really? Since I already had one, I told him to roll with it. Minutes later, he pulled in this jumbo. Team Salty win!
The plunker bite continued. Honestly, it was pretty tough fishing, but each new fish seemed more impressive than the last. The count slowly built up as the parade of fatties continued. A thick 41 lb. (weighed on a digital scale) fish capped off the yellowtail portion of day. It was caught by our new buddy, Jonathan Hansen, an Oceanside local.
As the day wound down, Rick started ending our drifts closer and closer to the kelp. I asked him if we could spend a little time targeting calico bass. He said there was an issue because we were in a no anchor zone (San Clemente is a naval base after all).
I was determined to catch one though and prepared a small jig setup. I tied on a mint/silver Tady A1 and waited for my opportunity. Towards the end of one drift, we neared two bodies of kelp. I placed a nice cast between them, closer to the kelp on the left. Wind. Wind. Got one! Thanks for playing buddy and I set him free.
The water was really calm. So glassy that even the slightest disturbance on the surface was noticeable. I started to see little ripples on top. It was as if concentrated micro-spots of rain would ripple the surface ever so slightly. Then the sea lions started to get really active around us. The funny thing though was they weren’t interested in our fish. As day started to give way to dusk, I could begin to see what was breaking the glass and driving the sea lions crazy. It was little spots of squid swimming just below the surface.
Oh yeah? This could get really interesting…
While this was going on, I could smell something delicious happening in the galley. I peeked inside. Doug was browning Italian sausage. “What do you got going there Doug?” Making lasagna for dinner. Damn. I usually try to limit myself to 2 meals of boat food per day, but that was too tempting to pass up.
Then I had a bright idea!
I looked in my bag for a glow jig. My plan was to pin a couple squid to it, and drop it in a rod holder while I ate. I took a closer look at the jig I planned to use though and the weld on the ring didn’t look very solid. Since Cody is a welder by trade, I asked his opinion.
“In my professional opinion Joe…don’t use it.” Well crap.
I brought my 60 lb. rig in case we ran into the bluefin. In addition to that rig, I had brought a couple other tuna focused things…a colt sniper rigged with an 80# leader. A small popper for YFT and a big Orca for BFT. Then I found what I was looking for, a flatfall shaped glow jig (the Nemo pattern – right) that I had acquired on our Jimyjigs sponsored Colonet trip from 2016. Perfect. That’ll work.
It got dark. The crew was getting ready to make some squid, but they hadn’t even put a light down yet and the squid just started to float all around us!
This was too good of an opportunity to pass up. Dinner can wait. I pinned a squid on the Jimy and fished it. I dropped it all the way to the bottom. It didn’t take long because it was shallow. When it hit, it got gummed up in something below. Squid nest? Kelp? I reeled it all the way back to see. I didn’t find squid eggs or kelp on the hooks. I had acquired another squid though. It tried to bite the jig. I pulled it’s face off and pinned it back on the second assist hook. I dropped the whole thing down. I let it hit the bottom again, then cranked it up 3 cranks to get it up over the squid nest and slow jigged.
A seabass bite is often pretty tentative. You don’t want to swing on it. You just want to be patient, wait ’til they start pulling away and let the rod load up slowly. But that didn’t happen this time. I got whacked hard. I knew it was the right kind. The fish was heading under the boat toward the stern, so I tried to hold my rod tip away from the rail while I frantically followed it to the back of the boat. Hot rail!
As I was making my way past everyone, I saw that Cody got bit too and he passed me going the other way. “Get ’em bro!” I made my way to the port/stern corner and to my relief was free and clear. I was fishing 40 and just pulled. It didn’t take long since we were pretty shallow. Five minutes or so after reaching the corner it came to color. The deckhand (Soche’ sp?) sunk a gaff in it and it was over. Woohoo! First seabass on the jig. Cody got his too. His first seabass ever. The flurry didn’t last long. Eight fish, but to get 8 seabass opportunistically because we lucked into a natural squid float was pretty epic. After many high fives and pictures, Cody and I had a cold one and enjoyed Doug’s lasagna. It was the perfect end to what had already been a good trip. My personal tally was 2 yellows, 1 calico (released), missed on what was probably a big black, and the jig ghost. Boat total was 34 yellows and eight seabass.
Thank you to Capt. Rick and his excellent crew. I’ll be back again for sure.
Courtesy of Joe Sarmento of SocalSalty.com