This time of year, there’s a lot of good fishing to be had. I’m lucky that my home water in Santa Monica Bay has good spots for sculpin and bass. The typical pattern of an SMB fishing trip this time of year is you head out, bang out your 5 sculpin limit to fill the bag, then go bassing to round out the ride. It’s a routine that works. We had a nice little 2 week distraction when the giant squid hit town, but usually the change of pace is halibut fishing.
Saturday I chose halibut. I headed down to Long Beach to ride a new boat for me, the Native Sun with Long Beach Sportfishing. The Sun does an 8 week halibut derby that they call the Pot of Gold. Wednesday through Sunday, they go out 9am to 4pm and drift for halibut. I met Captains Jim Valdez and Gabriel Ceballos prior to our departure and they gave me the rundown of what had happened with POG so far. On their kickoff run last Wednesday, they got 2 including a very healthy 28 lb-er. Thursday, a new leader topped the board at 39.45 lbs., exceeding the weight of last year’s winner. They got blanked on Friday, so by my reckoning they were due for a big day.
Saturday, Capt. Jim drove the boat. Gabriel and Eddie handled deck duty, and Erika managed the galley. There were 14 anglers on the boat including myself. We headed out to the bait receiver to pick up live squid and sardines. There were a handful of anchovies in the mix. Given this was a halibut trip, I was happy we had fin bait. I brought 2 combos…one was a Terez 80MH with an Avet MXJ single speed, the other my Crucial 711H with an Abu Revo Toro 50 low profile baitcaster. My strategy was to go heavy to start the day, but have a light setup ready to downsize to if the big setup wasn’t working.
Once we were baited up, it was a short drive out to the fishing grounds. It was a beautiful sunny day and there was a decent current to push us along on our drift. We drifted a hard bottom spot that had a bit of structure mixed in. I set up by the port stern corner. Since I was going heavy to start the day, I figured I’d work a big bait too and go for the fences. It didn’t take long before an angler to my left got bit. He followed the fish to the opposite corner and up the starboard rail. It was a short fight but a big fish…easily 30+. Nice start. While we were in the same area, another angler got bit up in the bow. Only a 5 lb fish this time, but 2 legals with most of the day still left!
We were on another drift and again an angler to my left got bit. He was right next to me, but the fish came straight in, so I didn’t need to move or reel up. His line was straight up and down when the fish managed to work itself off. Bummer for him, but I was in the perfect position to benefit from his loss. Sure enough, I got bit a moment later, but it didn’t stick. If I had trap rigged it, I might’ve gotten that fish
Woulda coulda shoulda… Capt. Jim decided to make a longer move. We were past noon at this point. I took a burger break. When I returned to the rail, I noted that the current had almost completely died out. Now was as good a time as any to switch to my lighter setup. Given the lack of any current, I casted and dragged. I noticed another angler that had the same idea. It took awhile for either of us to see any results from our effort, but it eventually paid off for him and he was rewarded with a nice halibut just under 10 lbs.
It was a little after 3pm. Capt. Jim said we’d need to head in pretty soon while he moved the boat to drift the same spot. Gabriel picked a hot bait out of the well and handed it to me inside the net. I pinned it on and dropped in. Shortly after we started the drift, I got bit. It wasn’t an immediate hit and run, but I was patient and let him eat it. Swing…it was on He put a nice bend in the pole, but mainly stayed in front of me. There were a couple mini runs when he saw the boat, but I could see I had a nice corner of mouth hookset. He wasn’t going anywhere. Capt. Jim had the gaff at the ready on my right and stuck it just under the cheek. Nicely done Skip. That was the day. The boat got 4 halibut for 14 anglers (and a handful of sculpin). The big one, the first of the day, ended up going 33.3 to take a solid second place in the derby. Mine ended up a distant 2nd for the day at 10.9 lbs, but I was just happy to score.
It was a good day…beautiful boat…friendly and helpful crew. I’ll ride with these guys again soon. Get down and get in on the fun…maybe you’ll win the Pot Of Gold!