Saturday, June 16, 2018

Local Socal fishing June 2018

I've been thinking about trying for white sea bass in the surf for a while, and with the latest grunion run wrapping up Friday night I decided to hit the surf Saturday morning to see if a lure that looks like a grunion would attract some predators.  The lure in question was the Lucky Craft Surf Pointer 115 in sexy smelt, and I had a few alternatives to try if it didn't produce.

I hit the beach a few minutes after sunrise.  Wading out a little past knee deep, I threw my first cast.  A few turns of the handle and fish on!  This was looking to be a good morning!  I reeled in my first surf halibut caught on a lure.  It wasn't big, probably a few inches shy of the 22 inch limit to keep, but I was stoked.

California halibut (Paralichthys californicus)
The sexy smelt color is definitely good for post grunion run surf fishing.

After watching the halibut swim off I continued casting, walking north a few yards in between each throw.  Around my tenth cast I hooked up again!  I knew I had a ray of some sort, because it didn't fight other than dragging itself along the bottom.  It was a butterfly ray - a not very rare but also not very common - species in the surf.  The hook wasn't technically inside the mouth, but it certainly looked like he chased it down and tried to eat it.

California Butterfly Ray (Gymnura marmorata)
At this point I was feeling pretty good, but it was short lived because I snagged one of the reef patches and lost my sexy lure.  I tied on a Yo-Zuri Hydro Minnow LC, which is an inch and a half longer, hoping that it would grab the attention of a larger fish than my previous two (such as a white sea bass!).  The bite had died though.  I suspect the lure didn't match the hatch as well as the Lucky Craft, but it could have also been the increasing light or the changing tide.

On Sunday I got the kayak out after a month and a half paddling hiatus.  I met Dave near the J Street launch, and we paddled around the south end of San Diego Bay, trolling lures as we went.  I usually don't talk much about the tackle I use, but this post is an exception.  I was trying out two new lures: a Rapala Xrap 10 in Silver and a Daiwa Salt Pro Minnow in Laser Green Shiner.  As soon as we got out of the shallow eel grass beds I got a take down on the Rapala and reeled in a nice shortfin corvina, which is a fish I've only caught once before.

Shortfin Corvina (Cynoscion parvipinnis)
Floating eel grass was a pain, so we spent most of the morning paddling around looking for stretches of water clean enough to troll through.  My second fish hit as I was reeling in my line to check if the lure had grass on it.  Corvina number two for the day!

Here's an obligatory shot of their fangs and orange mouth.  Don't put your fingers in there!

I took a break from trolling to soak some chunks of frozen queenfish on dropper loops.  The wind had really picked up, so we were drifting pretty quickly.  I tried two strategies: paddling slowly to hold my position and letting the wind push me along.  The cut bait didn't get any interest other than something picking the eyeballs out (probably crabs), so I put it away and got back to trolling.

As I was paddling to catch up to Dave I got a hit from something small.  I was surprised to see that it was a needlefish, and I quickly got it into the kayak in case it came off the hook.  A new species!  And once again it was on the same Rapala Xrap.

California Needlefish (Strongylura exilis) - new hook & line species #555
You can't help but love these guys.  I've heard some people say they can become annoying, but for some reason I've never come across them until now.

From above their pectoral fins look like little wings.  You can see how they're able to maneuver so quickly as they zip around just under the surface.

At this point I swapped out the Daiwa Salt Pro Minnow for a Yo-Zuri Crystal 3D Minnow with the trebles replaced with single hooks.  It was one of my best lures trolling in Baja.  However, I didn't get to use it very long because I got another hit on the Rapala, and this fish was putting up a better fight than the corvina!  When I got it to color I saw that it was a bonito, which is an unusual catch for the back part of the bay.  I grabbed its tail and pulled it in.

Pacific Bonito (Sarda lineolata)

Just like a corvina, do not put your fingers in a bonito's mouth.

I haven't caught a bonito since last October, and it was good seeing one again.  I took some closeup shots of the pattern on its side, which I'm sure you will enjoy.

Raw bonito is one of my favorite things to eat, but I didn't have ice to keep this one fresh, so I bled him out, and Dave and I paddle back in.  When I got home I had sashimi, soy sauce, wasabi, and rice on the side.  Delicious.


  1. The fin coloration on the needlefish is stunning! Gorgeous!

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