I’ve been spending most of June fishing up north out of CISCO’s. It’s been that time of the year…I wanted to give myself the best possible opportunity to score a white seabass, and that’s where it has been most consistent. I was hoping to catch an Extra Salty one (didn’t😦 ), but at least I caught. One of the areas I’ve kept an eye on though is Catalina and Clemente. They’ve been catching a nice mix of yellowtail, white seabass, halibut and calicos out there.
I’ve been wanting to get out and see for myself. Wednesday night, I boarded the Freedom for an overnight to San Clemente Island. Capt. Tommy Lee has been having a nice run of late, yet it had been awhile since I’d been on the boat. Ironically, the last time I was on it was when this whole silly sheephead thing started. It’s not the reason I haven’t ridden the boat, but I did take notice that he’s been catching his share of goats there😉
We had some squid when we got aboard, but needed more. A total of 14 anglers boarded the boat. It’s supposed to take 15 to get off the dock, but Tommy didn’t want to send us home, so we went out. The crew for the boat was Tommy driving, 2nd Capt. Sal, Robby and Jeff working the deck (with Chloe and Matt assisting) and Greg in the galley. The plan was to head to Pyramid Cove, make some squid, then fish the grey light for seabass. If that plan didn’t work out, we’d make our way around the island and look for yellowtail or possibly drift for halibut. They recommended the same 2 rigs as they do up north…a high dropper loop and a sliding sinker rig using at least 30. Here though, they wanted you to go 6 feet off the ground for the dropper, and smaller bait style hooks (vs. a long shanked hook like the Aki Twist). I brought 4 rigs. Excessive? There are a lot of potential scenarios out there. I brought my jig stick, a 40 lb rig, a 30 lb bait stick, and my bass rod. I rigged the 40 and 30 with the high dropper and slider respectively, and put on a squiddy looking candy bar iron on my jig stick. It was going to be an early morning, so I settled into my bunk for the ride over.
There’s a bit of squid out here alright
We rolled into the cove around 3:30 and I got up to help make squid. By the time I got on deck, they had a light in the water and Sal was handing out jigs. The squish were thick. Drop to the shallow bottom, jig a bit and wind up slowly…2, 3, 5 squid at a time. We made short work of it, made a small move and started fishing. As the day started to reveal itself, I noticed all the other boats in the area…all the overnight sporties, private boaters and the seiners making squid. Pretty busy…it didn’t surprise when that morning stop didn’t yield anything.
We got a call from the Navy to move up past the White Rock area. It was almost 8am by the time we got there. It was already starting to get hot. I asked later and found out the water hit 70 during the day. The water was clean and there was little condition in terms of wind or current to deal with.
Pinhead Matt was throwing a 6x Jr in scrambled egg off the bow and was the first to connect with a nice yellow. Cool to see a jig fish start the day. His fish was followed shortly by an angler fishing the dropper and connecting with a nice yellow off the port / stern corner. Unfortunately, in between those initial 2 fish and lunch it was achingly slow. A couple guys hooked up, but ended up losing their fish in the kelp. We were fishing just outside the kelp line and if you didn’t immediately pull on these fish, they found their way into the jungle and weren’t coming back. During the morning session, I had one nibble that I was hoping was the precursor of a biscuit or flattie bite, but it never materialized. There were some other mixed fish that broke up the day…calicos, whitefish, sheephead etc., but most of the anglers seemed to be on an exotic or bust mission and I was one of them.
Gitzem got him
It was disappointing. I took a lunch break (HINT – the Freedom Burger is definitely the way to go – double meat and cheese, bacon and coming with chips and a soda for $10) and returned to the rail. Fortunately, things started heating up. We started seeing random breezers and someone would score everytime they came through. Then Tommy was yelling off the top deck, “Big school charging us off the port side!” I was fishing on the opposite side and ran over to throw. At that point, I was fishing a 3/8 oz Gitzem leadhead with a live squid on my light setup…Crucial 711H with an Abu Revo Toro 50. Pick pick, but no bite. Meanwhile people were hooking up all around me. Wasn’t feeling it and reeled in to find my bait was gone. It wasn’t long though before Tommy was yelling again …I casted out…same familiar pick, pick, then bang I was on. Fun ride on that light setup. It ran out to sea, so I was confident I could play it a little. I let the rod and drag do their work. When it slowed, I gained some line back. One more run straight down and it was worn out. Robby was next to me and I layed it flat for him to gaff it.
Sunrise in the cove
The day’s output
Jackpot fish approached 20 lbs
We had a little more time to fish after I got my fish, but that afternoon run was pretty much it for the day. I really thought going out that with the conditions and the light load that we would kill it. As it turned out, I felt lucky to get and convert my one opportunity. I also was happy to score a yellow in a new way. So far this year, I’ve caught yellows in 4 different ways…yoyo, surface iron, flylined sardine, and now working a squid mid-water column. The diversity of styles based on time of year, location, conditions etc. to catch yellowtail is one of the reasons why I put it atop the list.
The boat got 12 fish from maybe 8-18 lbs., with probably 4 or 5 lost. Most were caught on the sliding sinker rig, but the jackpot was another jig fish. Not an epic trip, but all but maybe 1 or 2 anglers at least had a chance to get one over the course of the day. Thanks again to Tommy for taking us out and giving us that opportunity. Tight lines!