This is a great time of year for fishing because of the variety and because of the weather. From late September right through the end of autumn is when we have the longest periods of calm, comfortable weather and calm seas. Water temps are still relatively high, for our area, so a great variety of fish are busily foraging.
While fishing along the front side of Santa Cruz Island over the weekend, we anchored at a promising-looking spot, right at the up-current edge of a very shallow reef. On the port side of the boat (the reef side), we were casting to rocky structure in 18 feet of water, while on the starboard side we were casting to a sandy bottom in 30 feet. Everyone was using light tackle spinning rods-n-reels, which are very easy and user-friendly.
I had five passengers on this charter aboard my WaveWalker, and all five of them let fly with live anchovy baits as soon as we were securely anchored. All five anglers hooked up quickly, and we marveled that all five fish were different species. First a small sugar bass came aboard, followed by a bigger chocolate bass, then a fat calico bass, followed by a cabezon and finally a bonito.
All the while I was noticing barracuda breezing near the boat and chasing our chum, so I knew that if I had a sixth angler, we probably would be hooked up with a sixth species. Now that is fun fishing!
We left that spot with a respectable number of fish in the box. We could have caught more there, but we also wanted to catch some rockfish and lingcod in deeper water.
So we pulled anchor and ran to a very productive area I know of, just a couple miles off of the island. We still used the spinning rigs, but this time we rigged up with double-dropper loops because we were fishing 250 feet down and wanted to have a second bait in case we lost the first bait.
Crew member Capt. Tiffany Vague prepared the rigs and baited everyone up (we give our passengers all the help they need). My five passengers let their baits sink all the way to the rocky terrain below, in 250 feet of water where the fish forage aggressively and often very competitively. Hookups came fast, and soon every angler was reeling up. I laughed and said, “It was 250 feet down, but it will seem like 350 feet up ... you’ll see what I mean!” With a heavy fish, that is a long fight.
The first fish up was a rosy rockfish of maybe a pound, enough for a fish taco. Next up was copper rockfish (aka “chucklehead”) twice the size of the rosy. Then a five-pound red snapper came over the rail. Next to the surface was a huge bocaccio that weighed eight pounds. The last fisher was still struggling with a fish that was fighting hard all the way to the surface, which signified a lingcod. This was a good sized one that weighed 15 pounds. A lingcod that big aboard the WaveWalker is affectionately nicknamed “lingasaur.”
After the battle, we all paused for congratulations. Any time five people can drop down and catch five species of fish, then move to a new spot and do the same thing again, fishing is great!
— Capt. David Bacon operates WaveWalker Charters and is president of SOFTIN Inc., a nonprofit organization providing seafaring opportunities for those in need. Visit softininc.blogspot.com to learn more about the organization and how you can help. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.