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Saturday, January 19 , 2019, 5:43 pm | Fair 64º


Captain’s Log: Ahoy! Let the Fishing Season Begin

Local hot spots produce great catches — just keep reelin'!

Local fisherfolk have waited since December for rockfish (think red snapper and related delicious fish), so we might as well make your first trip of the season count big. I’m talking about big adventure, big fish and big counts. Rockfish season opens Tuesday — at last!

Some popular local destinations are Santa Cruz Island, Santa Rosa Island, San Miguel Island, The Dome and the 4-Mile. These hot spots really are something special and produce great catches.

The topography of our SoCal Bight is radical, with basins more than a mile deep and adjacent escarpments rising dramatically to near surface. This is Shangri-La for a rockfish. I’m talking about paradise — perfect habitat with plenty of forage food. Here’s where you’ll find the largest and cleanest specimens of deepwater denizens such as vermilion, chilipepper, greenspotted, bocaccio and starry, to name a few.

During these busy fishing months, our private charter services and sportfishing landings run special trips to these fabled fishing grounds. You can bring your own tackle or use tackle provided — sometimes for a small extra charge — by the boat or landing.

Follow the advice of the experienced crew, and soon you’ll be hauling up some tasty dinner fish. While the fish don’t always bite well, it is typical to come home with a good catch.

Pay close attention to the skipper’s instructions, and stay ready to drop down on command. When the current and/or wind make it difficult to set up a drift, you will have only a small window of opportunity to drop your rig right down onto the best part of the rocky structure below. You may never quite hit the mark if you lag even 10 seconds after the skipper says to drop, or if you let out your line too slowly while the boat drifts off of the spot.

Often in difficult conditions, the skipper will repeatedly reposition the boat for short, quick drifts over productive-looking structure. This is precision fishing, and both the quantity and quality of your fish will reflect how well you react to each opportunity.

Reeling up a rig loaded with big rockfish is a blast. There is one important thing to remember about reeling up heavy fish from the depths. Never stop reeling! Rockfish have distended air bladders plus upward momentum and will often float right up off of the hook if you stop reeling.

Take it easy, but keep it coming. A steady slow crank will bring in more fish than cranking hard, pumping the rod and stopping periodically to rest.

— 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.

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