Posted by: socalsalty | January 18, 2012

Trip Report: Dana Wharf Big Bass Bonanza

He's not really on the crew

I wasn’t able to get out this weekend, and was dying to get in a fish.  Thankfully, I had Monday off.  One of my buddies told me that the bait situation was kind of lousy out of MDR.  He fished his private boat on Sunday and the only bait available were large sardines…10-12 inches.  I had heard Dana Wharf may have live squid, so I met my friend Manny down there to ride their 3/4 day boat Monday morning.  To our dismay, we only had 7 of us show up to ride the Clemente.  We were missing some reservations.  It was kind of cold and blustery, so I guess they stayed home.  As I mentioned before, I was dying to get in a fish, so we rallied our little group and bought out the boat to go on a private charter (inside joke 😉 ).

Our little group included Peggy (she finished 2nd in the Halibut Derby last year and is firmly in the Top 25 this year with a 20+ lb-er), young Max (8 years old) and his Dad Mike (who I had met on Dan’s February rockfish trip and fished with a few times last year), and a couple other anglers, Hugh and Doug.   Captain Corey was driving, his friend Rachelle was helping out and Brian was working the deck and galley.

Good thing she wasn't in the jackpot.

Corey said we were going to start the day just outside the harbor.  Target fish would be sand bass, and calico bass.  We’d be structure fishing in skinny water, and preferred rigging would be a single dropper loop with 2-4 oz of weight (depending on current) or a heavier leadhead.  Later in the day, if conditions cooperated, we’d try drifting for halibut.  Sounds good to me.  We did have the candy bait (live squid), so I had high hopes for the day.  The squid was already on the boat, so no need to stop at the bait receiver.  We powered out of the harbor, and hit the spot so fast, I didn’t even get a chance to put in an order for a breakfast burrito!

In short order I pulled up my first fish of the day (and year), a nice sandy :-).  That was 10 min to 8.  Nice.  Throughout the morning, we enjoyed a steady bass bite…mostly sandies, but several calico mixed in too.  The morning was  highlighted by this almost 7lb bruiser sandy caught by Rachelle (weighed and released).

You get a pass today, but I'll be back.

Everybody was getting into the act.  I ended up with my share of bass (3 sandies and 1 calico), but I spent much of the day wishing it was still December.  What do I mean by that?  Well at one point in the morning, I got hit hard.  Bass give you a nice fight, but for the most part you set your hook and just reel in.  I got whacked and not only was I bendo, but it stripped out line.  After the initial run, it kept up a steady bend.  Corey was standing next to me, net ready, and we couldn’t wait to see what would come up.  Dang…a clearly legal ling cod (had it been December and not during the annual bottomfish closure).  To add to my wish it was December count…a legal cabezon, and maybe 6 or 7 rockfish including a “trophy” tree fish.

Max and a nice sandy

Hugh doubles up

My "trophy" tree fish

Around noon, we made a move south.  The conditions weren’t what we were looking for to drift, so we anchored up in about 40 feet of water for more of the same.  It was in this spot that Manny got bit hard and we were all hoping that maybe it would be a halibut, but instead it was another BIG sandy in the 5+ range.  Before the end of the day, Manny managed to hook into a short halibut on a chrome and white Dan Hernandez B52.  I managed a sculpin in the last spot on a B52 and that was pretty much the day.

All 7 of us were really glad to have braved the weather to enjoy this kind of winter fishing.  This time of year, things can be kind of slow.  I hadn’t been on a non-halibut drift day out of Dana Wharf in awhile, and never during the winter.  I was really glad I came out.  An added benefit is that you’ll usually see whales on these trips.  I highly recommend you bundle up and get out to enjoy it too.  Tight lines!

Manny took jackpot with this fat sand bass



  1. looks like a fun trip!

    • Better than expected for a local winter trip 🙂

  2. Great report! I’m planning the same trip in one month and never gone out of Dana wharf before, usually San Diego or Helgren’s. I was planning on using 2 oz B52’s and some 1 oz Big Hammer lures, do you think they will be heavy enough? I’ll be bringing some rookies along and want them to have fun. I was planning on have them use squid on dropper loops. Any advice for me?

    • Thanks Matt for stopping by. I understand why you’re looking around. I may go down to SD this weekend to see firsthand what’s going on, but it’s not looking good. Dana Wharf on the other hand is a nice fishery. They lost some of the area north of the harbor to MPA, but they retained most of their prime fishing grounds. They have bass year round, and a nice halibut fishery too.

      In terms of gear…you definitely want to bring the heavier B52’s. Not sure about the swimbaits for this time of year. You want to get down to maybe a foot or so off the bottom. This time of year, with the cold water, the sandies especially are hugging the dirt. I definitely recommend the dropper loop. I tried fishing leadheads and I ended up raking a lot of coral. With the dropper loop, you can easily set where you’re bait will be above bottom. Bring a lot of 2, 3 and 4 oz torpedo sinkers. Have 1/0 and 2/0 bait hooks. If you can find the EZ baiter hooks (with the long shanks) even better. Good luck. Check out my Facebook page, So Cal Salties, and post how it goes.

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