Southern sportboat fleet putting up numbers

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THAT TIME OF YEAR – Epic long range runs far down the Baja peninsula are the norm in January, as are catches like this one. PHOTO COURTESY OF LEE PALM SPORTFISHING, RED ROOSTER III
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BY MERIT McCREA

With some exception, there were more biting fish than anglers out after them. In general all the landings had at least one boat on local duty – half-day or ¾-day each day. However, many scheduled runs never got the resos needed to make the trip a go. A few venues bucked that trend and generally had at least one boat off the dock each dry weather day. Two of the standouts were Dana Wharf Sportfishing and Marina Del Rey Sportfishing which had counts turned in most days. Nevertheless, anglers aboard any of the boats enjoyed productive fishing and plenty of extra space at rail-side.

Starting way south, it’s long, Long-range season and the big boats were running their longest trips of the year, 16 dayers.

The Red Rooster III saw excellent results and Capt. Andy Cates reported “Very good day today with all nice fish. 140 to 205 was the grade for the day. Classic conditions made for a classic day. Only a couple kite fish today. All fly-line sardine.”

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The Independence was just underway for a 16 at press time, with Roger’s Graftech Rods sponsored trip. Earlier in the week their report was they’d finished fishing with a great early morning bite in the dark on the big yellowfin tuna “PL 68 and knife jigs were the hot ticket. Once the sun came out, guys switched over to fly-ine and sinker rigs.”

Local fishing out of the San Diego landings offered a couple of options – ¾-day fishing below the border with rockfish and other bottom biters and 10-fish combo limits for all anglers the rule. And local ½-day runs with sand bass, sculpin and whitefish biting.

The Daiwa Pacific out of H&M Landing turned in 194 rockfish with 62 reds, a handful of sheephead and a ling for 20 anglers Saturday.

In addition there were evening hoop-net runs for lobster and crab to get aboard. Recent results pointed to 1 or 2 keeper lobster per angler plus a pile of rock crabs. There were many more “short” lobster released.

Out of Oceanside the SEA Center was most active of the two landings, and results showed the usual winter mix, sculpin, whitefish, some dabs and a better than last year pick on keeper sand bass at up to 2 per rod.

Turning to Orange County, Dana Wharf Sportfishing a fishing boat on the water more days than not, basically if it wasn’t raining. Their ¾-day runs packed the most fish aboard, either triple-digit whitefish or sculpin scores complemented by some of the other.


DANDY SANDY for a proud young angler, San Clemente area out of Dana Wharf Sportfishing.

For example, on Saturday the Clemente ran with 23 anglers, the most all week, who bagged 125 whitefish and 100 sculpin plus 15 dabs.

Capt. Brian Woolley reported really light loads — “Water temps in the 58°-59° so things did slow up a bit this week.  Prior to this rain the weather was great but things did have little slower tone this week.  The sculpin and whitefish were the main players on both the 1/2 day and 3/4 day trips.  Really more of the same with rubber lures on the dropper loop for the sculpin in the deep water and the Carolina rigs fishing best for the 1/2 day guys. Some stand out sand bass for the guys fishing the stopped mackerel as their bait.”

Out of the Harbor area, LA/LB, at 22nd Street Landing Capt. Aaron Graham of the Native Sun provided results for their halibut and bass tournament. Mark Martinez held the top halibut spot so far with a 25.2 pounder, while Spiro Bajos had the top bass so far with one at 3.26 pounds. There are prizes down to 5th place in each, including rods, 100s of dollars in gift cards, fishing trips and Izorline.

At L.A. Waterfront the Gail Force, Triton and Sport King continued to provide lobster hoopers with great results, on a variety of evening runs, from their noon-to-midnight island trips to their local twilight runs.

GAIL FORCE LOBSTER hooped up! at LA Waterfront these wintertime runs are the primary offering.

A stand-out for sure was the huge catch of sanddabs aboard the Ahra Ahn out of Long Beach Sportfishing. Running a couple of dab trips each week the numbers were astounding – 4,500 for 35 anglers on the 21st, and 3,500 for 14 Thursday.

That’s 250 fish per angler and at 3-per-pound that would be over 80 pounds of tasty dabs each. If one were to buy these at the local Saturday fisherman’s market it works out to over $600 worth of dabs per angler! All that fun and valuable food too!

Marina Del Rey Sportfishing was the other SoCal fishing venue with boats getting out almost daily. Here the sand bass bite continued to be a primary draw. However the back-up of hundreds of sculpin and/or whitefish was not to be dismissed.

The ¾-day runs on the Spitfire put the most emphasis on the bass fishing and turned in scores typically higher than a 3-per-rod average on keeper sand and calico bass in combination. This is leadhead-and-squid or jig-and-squid fishing, a wintertime classic. A few sculpin came with of course.

However the ½-day New Del Mar and ¾-day Betty-O tended to have a best-bite focus and that meant perhaps fewer sand bass, but some hefty sculpin and whitefish scores. These tended to include from 3 to 5 (limits) sculpin per angler averages.

Saturday the Betty-O turned in 80 scorpions, 30 whitefish and 20 keeper sand bass for 20 anglers.

Up in the Santa Barbara Channel Santa Barbara Landing was back fishing with the Coral Sea running a ½-day trip this past week. Their catch was primarily whitefish, plus a couple keeper calico and sculpin.

Out of Channel Islands Harbor at CISCOs the Aloha Spirit fished full-days in the shallow waters at the islands and continued to pick up nice halibut and an occasional white seabass too.

At the same time it was pretty easy to turn to whitefish as a target and limit out. Friday they had 7 halis, and a seabass plus 86 whitefish, some bass and perch for 17 anglers.

With less focus on chasing big game, and in favor getting lots of bites the Gentleman ¾-day easily put on 220 (limits) of whitefish for 22 anglers, releasing over 30 sheephead along the way.

FLATFISH FUN aboard the Native Sun. This ¾-day boat is running a contest for the biggest halibut and biggest bass this winter, with some great prizes.

Capt. Donny Rowell said “All of our fishing today was in 30-40 ft of water. (On a) 1/2 (-ounce) slider and squid.” Sheephead season starts March 1 while rockfish should kick off April 1.

John Coughlin at CISCOs also said the Gentleman is on line to fish sanddabs Fridays and Saturdays. Their last dab trip to go was on the 19th and resulted in 2,000 for 20 anglers!

For other landings, like Ventura Harbor Sportfishing, tours, whale watches and maintenance and upgrade projects remained the primary focus, including up in Avila and Morro Bay.

For those venues not mentioned that tended to be the case, however each did tend to have a trip or two available, with very few getting enough resos to go.

If your favorite landing wasn’t mentioned here, it would be worth checking their schedule online nevertheless. If you find an open trip, be prepared to gather a few friends to guarantee it goes.

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