Sunday, January 29, 2012

San Diego saltwater fishing

I went fishing with a local from San Diego today. We launched in his small boat from Shelter Island (which is actually a peninsula) into San Diego bay, headed out around Point Loma (another large peninsula), and fished in the kelp beds off shore in about 50' of water.

We were using fairly heavy swimbaits with a bit of squid on the hook to give it some "smell". To fish in the kelp bed, you drop the lure down to the bottom, and then jig it up and down as you reel it back up slowly. Odds are you'll catch fish right off the bottom. The trip started off well, because Andrew hooked up with a nice kelp bass on his first cast. Off to a good start! I dropped my lure to the bottom, and immediately hooked into a bass as well. It was small, but oh well! A few casts later I caught another, and I think Andrew caught one as well.

Kelp Bass (Paralabrax clathratus) - new hook & line species #32

We planned to fish with live bait later on, so next we targeted jacksmelt. We each used a Sabiki rig with 5 small hooks spaced 8 inches apart with a small piece of squid on each hook. The smelt swim around in schools 10 to 15 feet down and swarm anything that looks like food, so they were easy to catch. The first one I caught was pretty big, and on the next cast I caught 2 at once. I ended up catching 7 all together, but 2 of them came off the hook, hit the boat edge, and flopped back into the water. Andrew caught 3 or 4.

Jacksmelt (Atherinopsis californiensis) - new hook & line species #33

With plenty of smelt in the live well, we switched to some umbrella lures that Andrew wanted to try. Each had 3 swimbaits and a silver spoon, which looked like a pretty convincing small school of fish. After a few casts, I hooked up with something that fought a lot harder than the kelp bass. When I got it to the surface my first thought was that it was a sculpin, but Andrew said it was something called a lingcod (which is not related to cod in any way). He said he was pretty jealous, because in all the years he's been fishing there he's never caught a lingcod. It was 21.5".

Lingcod (Ophiodon elongatus) - new hook & line species #34

Next we headed back to the bay to try for some sand bass, spotted bass, and halibut. We switched back and forth between swimbaits and the smelt. Andrew caught a sculpin, which was pretty cool looking. He threw it in the cooler to take home, because apparently sculpin are pretty tasty. I was hoping for a sculpin too, but when I pulled up my line to check on my smelt, there were 2 octopus stuck to it! They're notorious for stealing bait, and these two were going to town on my smelt. When we got them off the fish and threw them back in the water, they squirted brown ink everywhere and swam down out of sight. Unfortunately, that pretty much the end of the day. We fished around the bay for two more hours, mostly looking for sand bass in the shallow water (8' to 12' of water). Since we weren't catching anything, we called it a day and went back to the boat launch.

Three more fish for the life list, and a great contact in San Diego. Thanks Andrew!