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Monday, November 19 , 2018, 6:31 am | Fair 48º


Captain’s Log: Dropping Down for Deepwater Rockfish

Ease out of the surface action of summer with plentiful autumn fishing

I’m seeing red — as in red snapper. Autumn is the perfect time of year to catch and eat more tasty red rockfish — also known as vermilion rockfish, or the more common name, red snapper — thanks to improving stick assessment science and good traditional fisheries management (meaning that Marine Protected Areas — closed to fishing — aren’t needed for fisheries management).

Capt. David Bacon
Capt. David Bacon (Ramona Lisa McFadyen photo)

We can fish for rockfish through the end of the year at depths of up to 60 fathoms (360 feet). Fishing for these critters is a great way to ease out of the surface action of summer and enjoy fishing late into the year.

We are blessed with some great local deepwater fishing spots. Along the mainland coast we have easy access to a long, meandering dropoff beginning up the coast off of Ellwood and extending up to near Point Conception. The area has plenty of rocky structure for rockfish to call home.

The waters surrounding the Channel Islands are loaded with reds. Santa Rosa and San Miguel islands have the best populations of big red rockfish. How big? I’m talking about red snapper and copper rockfish (aka “chucklehead”) from 4 to 8 pounds, yielding two-finger fillets. Ways to get out to those areas include private boats, open-party sportboats and private charter services.

There are various types of productive structure spots, such as rocky rubble and outcroppings, pinnacles, canyons and shelves with irregularities along the edges.

A successful method is to begin a drift so that baits or jigs drop right down into rocky spots, once they have been located with a good fish finder. Hooks will frequently load up quickly with fish. Very productive short drifts are common. As soon as the boat drifts off the rocky area, reel up any remaining lines, go back up-drift and try it again. Repeat as necessary.

Regulations require that when fishing for rockfish, no more than two hooks may be used. Note that a treble hook, like those found on many jigs, counts as one hook. It is perfectly OK to fish with a heavy jig on the bottom and a teaser hook tied about 18 inches above the jig. Often times, multiple fish will be caught with this rig. The largest will usually be on the jig, and smaller rockfish will bite the teaser hook.

The limit of rockfish is 10, only two of which may be bocaccio. There is a closed season on lingcod during December, so they must be released, but these prehistoric predators — I call them “lingasaurs” — are still on the menu in November.

— 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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