Got out Saturday night to board the Pacific Islander for the last trip of the year. Originally, I was supposed to go out on the Mirage Friday night, but the PI opened up last minute and I ended up switching out my trips. I’ve always wanted to ride the Mirage, but for the last trip of the year it was nice to be with friends (fellow anglers and crew) on a familiar boat.
Joining me for the trip were regular fishing buddies ‘Jackpot’ Jimmy Bass and LeRoy Yeargin. It was an almost full load of 26 anglers including the 3 of us. The crew was the normal staff of Capt. Steve Virtue, his 2nd captain Dan, Bryan and Larry on deck, and Amie in the galley. The boat was tanked with live squid the crew had made the night before. There were also a smattering of anchovies, and some frozen squid just in case. I brought some shrimp too for the sheepies
Saturday night was cold. The forecast called for heavy wind and swell too. Because of the expected conditions, Capt. Steve said we’d be headed to Santa Rosa Island (vs. all the way to Miguel). Leaving the harbor, it was pretty bumpy. I managed a decent nights sleep though and woke up just after 5 on Sunday morning. It was still dark, but we were already at the fishing grounds…just off the west end of Rosa, south of Sandy Point. I wasn’t in a hurry to get out to the rail.
If it wasn’t for the smell of bacon wafting into the bunk room from above, I probably would’ve stayed in my bunk ’til sunup. I got up and joined Amie in the galley. Most of our eager group was already fishing. I watched them as Amie made me a burrito. A couple smaller rockfish came over the rail, but nothing to make me in a hurry to finish. By the time I joined them, we had already moved from the first stop and started fishing again. I joined Jimmy up in the bow and he surprised me by saying he had just caught a ling cod fishing a chrome PLine jig. I tried to copy his setup, but my 6oz diamond jig was too light for the current.
I switched out to my bait setup as we changed spots. I put on a 10 oz. weight, and pinned a squid on each of my two 3/0 circle hooks. We started a drift and I casted off the stern in the opposite direction of the drift. We were drifting pretty quickly, so that by the time I hit bottom, my line was already close to the opposite corner from where I casted. Shortly after it hit bottom, my pole doubled over. I thought my weight had lodged into some structure, but when I pulled up my rod, it gave ever so slightly. That’s a fish.
The fight was different…no headshakes like a ling or even a big red…just even and really heavy. I had a heavier gauge hook on the lower loop, but a lighter one on top. I wasn’t sure which one was bit, so I didn’t want to risk pulling the hook. I just kept an even steady pressure and slowly worked him up. Eventually he tired and I got him to the surface. Dan stuck him and he was on the deck. First fish of the day and I had my target fish. I picked up another smaller female on my next drop, then went up to the bow to check on Jimmy and LeRoy.
LeRoy had just gotten rocked. Something big ripped line out, almost spooling him. He saw he was about to run out of line, so he buttoned down the drag and it popped off. His dropper loop busted at the hook. While we were checking it out, a guy to my left was coming down the rail. Hot rail! Really? Rockfishing?
We made room for him and watched him fight the fish. It got to the surface and we were all shocked. “Gaff! It’s a yellowtail!” yelled Capt. Steve from the wheelhouse.
That’s the allure of fishing in the ocean. You never know what may show up at the end of your line. That catch was definitely the highlight of the day, but the rest of the day was really good as well. A big ling came over the rail that outweighed my sheep. The angler caught him using about an 8 inch mackerel he had bycaught. Big reds and chuckies all over and some nice whitefish and lingcod to end the day. It was an epic end to the 2012 fishing season for sure. Thanks to the crew of the Pacific Islander for a great trip! It’ll be hard to top 2012, but we’ll try. Happy New Year! Tight lines in 2013!