BY MERIT McCREA
In SoCal, fall fishing offshore is undisputedly the best of the year. Not only does the bite continue to ramp up well into October, but the fleet seldom fills to capacity. Reservations are easy to come by, and because trips can run light, it’s the time of the year when crews from one boat get a chance to fish from another.
Currently on tap are bluefin from 20 to over 300 pounds, up in U.S. waters. In recent days, now yellowfin tuna of 35 to 70 pounds have joined the fray. Down south the kelp paddy fishing is phenomenal – limits of dorado on almost every trip, wide open on the corner bites, yellowfin and skipjack tuna.
It was the latter bite we aboard the Legend would sample. An Izorline sponsored trip, I was joined by Izorline pro-staffer Virgil Perez.
The adventure begins with the distribution of spools of line, leader coils and tackle tools. Birthday boy Danny Medina drew the first pick of the pile and selected a spool of Izor smoke triple X – line he was saying minutes before, was his go-to.
The trip had fewer than a dozen anglers signed up only 2 days prior. We leave the dock with just 19 and a couple of crew on fall holiday as anglers.
Capt. Patrick lays out the plan of attack. Soon we are headed south in search of the notorious Dream Paddy – and her promise of ample dorado and feisty tuna.
First stop, a tagged kelp, Paddy herself. And while the recommended gear has been 25-pound tackle and small hooks for shy fish, recent scores tell a different story.
I go in with an old-school small Accurate reel, once owned by Los Angeles Rod and Reel Club founding member Dan Felger. It is loaded with heavy line on a stout Sabre stick I’d first wrapped as a teen.
It launches a fly-lined sardine on 60-string like it is 20. And those fish bite it – On the 60… It’s skippies, then yellowfin.
This is the day-starter kelp for us, the Excalibur, the Fortune, we on the Legend, and the Old Glory, and a far cry from the usual kelp, good only for a stop and a half. Everyone on all boats is busy, bendo.
As we finish a drift, the bite goes to yellowfin, then slows. Patrick calls for the move, and with a roll it or troll it perspective. I make a last launch of a popper off the bow on the Del Mar 1000 and 99 width Newell 300 C.
Not expecting to do much more than to wet and straighten the line, a couple of pops later, the thing gets slurped down. The line tightens as the boat goes into gear.
On 40, Patrick gives me a chance to grind my yellowfin to the rail and throw it on as the boat coasts slowly forward.
With a great start to our day, we leave the bite while we can still take dorado. Bending south southeast now, we encounter a kelp or jig strike about every 1/2-hour or 45 minutes or so.
Each kicks out a few dorado, maybe a tuna or two. It’s steady.
We’re bit again, Greg Hansen has a yellowfin on the Coltsniper. It’s feisty and at the rail, then dives under the hull.
Hansen leans out, way out to keep the right angle and the line away from the hull. Next, I see his feet in the air above the rail!
A fish win!
Hansen pops to the surface sans rod and reel! A few minutes later he’s changed and has his next fish on deck, hair’s still wet – revenge!
At 3 p.m. we are picking our way south toward a kelp that has the anglers aboard the Pride busy pulling in dorado, yellowfin too. Triple jig-strike – dorado, a few skippies and a few more yellowfin. Jacob Smith nails a grande flat-head on the popper.
As we finally pull in on the promised paddy, the water is blue, green and gold with hundreds of dorado. It goes wide-open, eating up to 40-pound.
Crewman Joey holds the herd close, with a pet dorado he’s hooked and kept calm, off the stern.
When the dorado snap settles, the bite switches to yellowfin and they’re solid in the corner – across the stern too.
While others are bent on 25 and 30, I’m fishing 40 and it’s an instant bite. But they’re so quick about biting and dropping the bait on the bigger line, I go bait after bait without hooking much, pull a hook out, then go back to short-bites seconds after the bait hits the water.
Finally, I set the hook like bass fishing and stick one – tough to find room for in the thick of the activity. Lesson learned.
Just because they’ll bite on heavy line, doesn’t mean they’ll necessarily eat it. There’s always something new to learn.
We’re far from home now, and though it’s not late, it’s time to work back. We get several more jig-stops as we head north, mostly skippies on the feathers.
But between the dorado and tuna, we’ve limited the boat and can take no more. It’s fun fall fishing, the best of the offshore season – easy resos right down to the last minute, light weekday loads and the best offshore bite of the year.
The crew of the Legend is friendly, skilled and helpful, even with a hard summer season in the rear-view. Communication among the skippers has been key to the success of all, as they search hundreds of square miles daily to keep on top of the best bites available.
Merit McCrea is saltwater editor for Western Outdoor News. A veteran Southern California party boat captain, he is a marine research scientist with the Dr. Milton Love Lab at the University of California at Santa Barbara’s Marine Science Institute. He serves on the Groundfish Advisory sub-Panel of the Pacific Fisheries Management Council, the Santa Barbara Harbor Commission, The Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary Advisory Council and the CCA-Cal State Board. He can be reached at: email@example.com.