BY BOB SEMERAU
MORRO BAY —Anglers had booked up this trip well in advance of the scheduled midnight Friday departure. With so many excellent trips in recent days aboard Black Pearl, the group was anxious to get the show on the road, everyone waiting at the dock to board hours before the crew even arrived to set up the legendary 65-foot sportfisher.
A good thing too because when time to board came around and bunks were assigned, rods rigged and gear stowed, the hour began to grow late.
The seasoned deckhand, Gambit, signed-in the anglers. WON distributed goodie bags holding a spool of 30-pound Hi-Seas super premium fluorocarbon, a nifty shrimp fly rig from Bud Chaddock, Costa swag, and more. Just after 2:00 a.m. Black Pearl began the run northward over heavy seas to a spot above Piedras Blancas lighthouse and offshore in some 450-feet of water.
With dense fog and overcast skies, anglers got what rest they could in the bunks below decks while night driver and whale-watch skipper, Captain Kevin Winfield, eased the charter up the coast.
As Black Pearl approached the zone just after dawn, Captain Brian “Ahab” Walker got on the P.A.to let everyone know it was time to bait up for the coming day’s fishing.
“Double dropper loop with a 16-ounce weight or a big heavyweight jig will work best here; the bottom is at 450 feet.”
Immediately, a few reds and rockfish began to come over the rail all around the boat. Black Pearl deckhands, Gambit and Dylan, were kept busy, untangling lines and bagging fish. “Let’s make a short move and see if we can get a better bite,” came the call from the wheelhouse.
Aaron Dickerhoof had come out to fish the WON overnight charter with his aunt, seasoned angler, Elaine Dickerhoof, and the pair could usually be found pulling fish side-by-side at the rail. Angler Aaron was on his first overnight offshore run and was one of the lucky charter members to bag a big red early on. In the end, Aaron took home limits of reds and a jackpot winning rockfish for the effort.
Dale Granahan brought his two adult sons, Brandon and Nick, who fished alongside their dad most of the day. The trio had traveled down from Minden, Nevada, for the charter and went home with loads of fresh fillets in the cooler.
WON charter regulars Mark Ginchereau and Bruce Jochums, could be found near the bow with one or the other handling a bent rod for limits of their own.
Several drifts over a hot spot produced enough big reds to make a boat limit in the first hour in the zone. Short moves in the surrounding waters brought Black Pearl to add dozens of mega-sized chilipeppers, a much sought-after dinner table favorite.
“Let’s reel up and make a big move into shallower water and work on some lingcod,” called the skipper just before 9 a.m.
While Black Pearl was on the move into shallower water, seeming almost lost in the fog, galley-girl Kaley passed out breakfast burritos for hungry anglers.
During the move across to the 250-foot depths, one young couple, Christina Lee and Aaron Burge, of Coalinga, expressed their excitement at being aboard the Pearl for this WON charter.
“Christina is out for her first offshore overnight fishing trip,” explained Aaron with a smile. “We thought it would be a different sort of date and it’s been lots of fun. Christina even out-fished me, that’s how I know she’s a keeper!” beamed the young angler.
Once the boat was set up, lines were let out in hopes of finding ling cod. Several anglers opted for big jigs and some stuck with slow pitch style fishing. Others switched to the “lingcod special” using a large 5/0 sized hook snelled above a treble hook, some 6 inches behind as a stinger. A whole frozen mackerel or large sardine is pinned through the nose onto the single hook, and the treble hook worked into the underside of the bait. The whole rig is fished on a reverse dropper loop with 8-to-16-ounces of weight run out to the bottom, some 250-feet below.
A few smaller lingcod took jigs and bait, but only one keeper was taken as the morning wore on. Slow-pitch angler AJ Trigueiro bagged the largest ling of the trip, a beautiful blue lingcod, weighing in at close to 8.5-pounds. Just a few other legal lingcod helped fill sacks for the trip, including a nice green ling for angler Shawn Barkman.
Another move, this time southward to a spot along the route home, gave everyone another shot at rockfish and ling in shallower, 60-foot water. After 45 minutes, and a few moves, the final call for “Lines up” capped the day’s action, and the start of the long ride back to Virg’s Landing in Morro Bay.
Several fish were brought out to hang on the balance beam but in the end, Aaron Dickerhoof’s rockfish from early in the day held on for top honors taking the boat jackpot. Western Outdoor News sweetened the pot by adding a Plano tackle bag and P-line pliers to the prize package for newcomer, Aaron.
Each week the largest lingcod taken at Virg’s Landing gives the lucky angler an entry into the annual John Rowley’s Biggest, Baddest Lingcod Competition 2023.
This December, the Black Pearl will host the final day of competition for the annual ling cod championship held by Virg’s over the course of the rockfish season. $10,000 in prize money will be up for grabs in the one-day shootout.