2012 Top 10 Fish

Had a good year last year.  I got 9 out of 10 of the SoCal fish, and then added some new species on my trips…striped bass (New York), steelhead (Columbia River – OR/WA), and sailfish (Guatemala).  Same criteria, just some new perspective after spending my first full year fishing religiously in SoCal.  Some changes for this year…I was going to include a shore fish, but it didn’t happen.  There are some changes though, some reordering and I replaced one of the fish.

1st Jackpot of 2012 thanks to this fat scully

The Count: Mission Accomplished! (Updated Dec 31. 2012)

10. Sculpin – Yes

I love sculpin.  Great eating, fun to catch.  Alway a spot in the Top 10 for the scorpionfish.

9. Rockfish – Yes, March 3rd on the PI

Juju’s 1st ‘real’ fish – Nice barberpole

It’s easy enough to catch rockfish, that’s my 5 year old daughter catching a barberpole aka flag rockfish.  If you go out, in season, you will catch them.  They get the nod over sculpin because of table quality.

8. Sheephead – yes
(May 30th on the Freedom at Clemente I., but better one Dec 30th on the PI)



The new entry this year.  Sheephead are good eating.  They require a recognition of the right environment and employing the right technique to catch them.  And when you are successful, they will often land you a jackpot.  I credit Jake with successfully arguing for this fish to be in the Top 10.

7. Barracuda – Yes (May 16 on the New Del Mar)

Jake’s first cuda – last year

Barracuda are pretty good if you eat them right away.  Good breaded and fried, smoked, or as fresh (very fresh) ceviche.  The thing though is catching them.  The first time you get whacked after throwing iron, you’ll know what I mean.  Barracuda usually mark the first topwater action of the season too, so their spot is well deserved.

6. Saltwater Bass – Yes, already scored in Dana Point and MDR

A fat sandy caught off Dana Point

Saltwater bass (calico, sand, and spotted bay bass) are highly regarded in SoCal.  Lots of different ways to catch them depending on location, conditions, time of year.  High degree of skill required to consistently catch, especially big ones.

Me and Jimmy on the PI

5) Ling cod – yes

Possibly my favorite eating fish and a favorite in terms of their attitude.  If you’re fishing rockfish and you get some big headshakes and pull on your line, chances are it’s a ling on the other end.

4. Halibut – on the Basshole with my buddy Jeff 5/28/12

Big day on the Basshole

A frustrating fish, for me at least.  It took me until December last year to land one, but I finally got my first legal.  Definitely requires some skill and species specific work to get one.  Usually about 5 shorts to every legal one.  Big payoff on the table though when you score.

3. White Seabass

Down it goes…July 12th on what else, the Seabiscuit 😉

2. Tuna

World record: Mike Livingston and his 405# YFT

Some would say it’s #1 and with good reason.  Huge fight.  Great eating.  Truly world class gamefish.  You’re not going to get a big cow like Mike Livingston’s record yellowfin locally, but a 50 or 60 lb-er wouldn’t be out of the question with the right conditions.

YFT Sept 17 on the Eclipse

1. Yellowtail – YES!

April 18 on the San Diego, off La Jolla, on the yo-yo iron



  1. What? No bonito?

    • It’s not because I didn’t catch it 😛 It’s only really cool if you catch one from the pier or shore, on light tackle. Not great to eat. Not going to win you a jackpot.

      • I’ve actually learned to love bonito. THE ABSOLUTE BEST smoked and actually very good if you marinade it in Italian Dressing for a couple hours. If we get a resurgence of the big bones we had in ’08 and ’09, then I think they’ll sneak back on the JP scales on sportboats.

      • If that happens, they may find their way back on the Top 10 too. It didn’t seem right having bonito on there when you had to go out to Catalina or Clemente and they were just a nuisance from catching bass or other fish.

  2. Hey Joe! I’ve been anticipating your top 10 since December. Sheephead is a great addition. Not sure if there’s a particular way to target these awesome fish, but definitely a bonus on a rockfishing trip. As you know, 2011 was my first year fishing, and I was never able to pull on a sheephead. We’ll see what 2012 brings. So far, you and I are 2 for 10. I wish you the best of luck and hope that you go 10 for 10 this year. I’d also like to get my hands on one of your SocalSalty lids. More than happy to support. Tight lines my brotha!

    • I’ll post a link page for the lid this week. Was important to update the list…month behind 😉 Thanks buddy.

  3. 10 percent for me

    • I’ll do my best to fix that buddy

  4. Like the List. Good choice of the Yellowtail at the top of your list.

    My list would look a little different but mostly the same species. However where is the Wahoo and Striped Marlin? If you got big cow tuna on there then you are also on the same waters for these two hot fish.

    If on commercial party boats then they poo poo the marlin. But if you are on a sportfisher a Marlin is the bomb. Fun on lighter line. A hoot on live bait.

    My list will have Wahoo at the top. Best tasting fish in the sea. In Hawaii the locals call it a Ono. Means #1 or best.

    • No doubt. I love exotics as much as the next guy, but part of the criteria is that the fish could be caught local to SoCal. Other than that bait barge wahoo in Long Beach a couple years ago, those aren’t fish that are caught on an overnight or less. You’re right though, you’re not going to catch a big cow tuna local. Thanks for stopping by Keith.

  5. 4 of 10 😉

    • Year is only half over. Get it Jake!

      • Yeah

  6. I ended up with 8 of your Top 10 this year…tuna eluded me due to the weather forecast on my two day, and seabass, well, I ended up getting two barndoor halibut instead. I’ll take that!!

    • Great year Jimmy. Pretty tough to get all 10 unless you really go out of your way to do it. Even then, there always seems to be that one fish that gums it all up. I’m hoping the Mirage trip gets me the big goat I’ve been looking for. Looking forward to getting out there to try with you.

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