BY DYLAN DEPRES
LONG BEACH – With live squirts in the tank, it’s hard to go wrong. That was the case for Saturday’s local 3/4-day outing on the Victory out of Long Beach Sportfishing, Berth 55 Landing.
I’d fished locally with live squid a few times before, so in my head there was a clear target fish I was chasing: a big sheephead. I rigged my two rods to boot with 30-pound test, one with a 2-ounce leadhead and the other with a 4-ounce reverse dropper loop.
At the first spot we fished just a few miles out of the harbor at a wreck in 60 feet of water. It was a sticky wreck prepared to eat all of your tackle and dollars if you weren’t diligent in getting out of the snags. In short order, quality sculpin and a few sand bass made their way into anglers’ gunnysacks. While fishing the stern fruitlessly, deckhand Kevin found me and told me quietly, “Go up the starboard rail.” So I did.
Almost instantly I landed back to back quality sculpin and even a couple short sand bass. Deciding to try out the sheephead thing, I pulled out my reverse dropper loop rig. Shortly after, I found myself in what felt like “a snag,” yet all the anglers around me were telling me to “reel, reel, get him out!” Out came a beautiful 3-pound sandbass on the reverse dropper-looped rig, neat! We pulled around 20 legal sculpin and 10 bass from the first wreck.
Captain Phil told us rockfishing had been terrible, so we’d be spending more of our time looking for whitefish and sheephead in the middle-depth spots of around 150 feet. I kept two rigs on the ready- the trusty reverse dropper loop and now a double-dropper rig with size 4 hooks for the whitefish. We motored out.
After bagging a half-limit of decent whitefish I decided it was time to stick out the sheephead thing, and am I glad I did. On our second stop it went wide open for local standards on the goats. Fish started coming over the rail, calls of “Gaff” from different sides, and more. I quietly hooked what was likely the biggest sheephead I’ve ever caught and got it 3/4 of the way up without saying a word. Not because I was cool, calm and collected; in fact my heart was racing the whole time thinking, “Don’t come off, don’t come off.” But then the gaff connected, and a nice 8-pound male sheephead made it aboard! Shortly after I managed another one, a female, around 3 pounds.
Soon and off the same stone, angler Georges Wissa captured a beautiful 12-pound lingcod which would claim jackpot. More mid-sized fish came up, then a real contender was hooked by Victory regular Noah who happens to work aboard the Monte Carlo. He brought up a female sheephead that was in the 10- to 12-pound class, a close battle later on when it was time to award the jackpot.
It wasn’t until the end of our day that we got on a spot where the whitefish bit well again, but when they did I finished the job on my limit. It’s not often you can jump on a local day trip like this and bring home such a heavy sack of fish. Not to mention the value for cost on fishing the Victory was incredible.