Saturday, October 31, 2020

Solo San Diego species hunting

Snorkel fishing the La Jolla tidepools was a lot of fun, so I was eager to get out and try it again. My nemesis the reef finspot was still out there, and I had another spot to try for them. The water was getting cold, so I figured this would be my last snorkel session of the season. I drove down to Mission Bay in my much too thin two piece wetsuit and jumped in the water. My first catch was a male bay blenny.

Bay Blenny (Hypsoblennius gentilis)

The nice thing about snorkel fishing is that you don't have to deal with bycatch. I kept the baited hook pinched between my fingers while I looked for a finspot. There were a lot of fish around, but until I saw my target I wasn't going to bother fishing. The highlight of the day ended up being this octopus. I had recently watched My Octopus Teacher on Netflix (highly recommended), so I was inspired to reach out my hand in an offer of friendship. Sadly, my offer was rejected, because the octopus shot a jet of ink at me and swam away. Oh well.

I snorkeled for a few hours, but the cold water quickly wore me down. The reef finspots were outsmarting me, so I made the most of my time by practicing my underwater photography skills. Here's a selection of the fish I saw.

Garibaldi (Hypsypops rubicundus)

Spotted Kelpfish (Gibbonsia elegans)

Topsmelt or Jacksmelt (Atherinopsis sp.)

Opaleye (Girella nigricans) and Zebra Chub (Kyphosus azureus)

Notchbrow Blenny (Hypsoblennius gilberti)

Dwarf Surfperch (Micrometrus minimus)

The following weekend I was ready to kayak again. We shouldn't be limited to having just one nemesis, and cabezon was definitely my second one. I planned to split the day between the wrecks of the Ruby E and the Yukon, and I started out at the Ruby E. I expected the bites to come quickly, but it was actually surprisingly slow. After moving spots several times, I finally hooked up with my first fish, a sharpnose seaperch. The bite turned on then, and I caught some nice gopher rockfish, sheephead, and ocean whitefish to take home to eat.

Sharpnose Seaperch (Phanerodon atripes)

A dive boat arrived, so I politely began packing my gear up to leave. On my last drop I felt a few small bites, and I was delighted to pull up a small but boldly colored goby. I knew from dive videos that blackeye gobies were common, but I didn't expect to catch one from my kayak!

Blackeye Goby (Rhinogobiops nicholsii) - new hook & line species #677

I paddled over to the Yukon and put one of my rod handles through the loop at the end of a buoy rope, so I wouldn't drift away. When I've fished the Yukon in the past, I've always used a small hook size in hopes of catching a pile perch. This time, however, I used a larger circle hook on a dropper loop and fished a big piece of mackerel. I caught a variety of smaller fish - rock wrasse, blacksmith, and a very ambitious sharpnose seaperch, but then I felt the thump of a bigger fish. It was my cabezon!

Cabezon (Scorpaenichthys marmoratus) - new hook & line species #678

Not only was this my first, but it was a good sized one too! It was definitely big enough to keep, but I had to let it go. It was just too cool.

The afternoon wind was picking up, so I detached from the buoy rope and drifted back towards the jetty. I fished while I drifted and caught a bunch of sanddabs, a couple bass, and this olive rockfish, a species I haven't seen in a few years.

Olive Rockfish (Sebastes serranoides)

Pacific Sanddab (Citharichthys sordidus)

Back at the jetty I watched the crane pull up rocks from the bottom for a while, and then paddled past it back to the launch. They've been working on the jetty for quite a while.

Normally this route is about 7 miles, but I had to backtrack from the Ruby E to the Yukon, because there was a dive boat anchored there. The trip ended up being less than 10 miles, which is pretty reasonable for me.

Miles: 9.86
Hours: 8:07
Water Temp: 66 F

My only fishing session in November was a tidepooling trip to Sunset Cliffs. I had a few leads on reef finspot, and I wanted to look for them at low tide. The habitat looked good - tidepools with seagrass. It was an extremely low tide, so there was a lot of territory to cover.

The good news is that I found my target, two of them in fact! The bad news is that neither was caught by hook & line. The first one jumped clear out of the water as I was walking past a tidepool and got stuck in the seagrass on the surface. It was so ridiculous it made me laugh out loud. The second one I caught by hand by cupping my hands under an overhanging cut in the rock and getting the finspot to swim out into my palm.

Reef Finspot (Paraclinus integripinnis)

Even though the fishing has been good, 2020 has been a tough year. I followed the trail back up to my car and sat there and enjoyed the sunset. It felt good to be in the moment.

Next up I travel to Georgia and Florida to spend some much needed time with family and friends.

Friday, October 16, 2020

San Diego's fall smorgasbord

The things we do to help our friends catch fish. Steve, Mark, Chris, and his two boys were in town, and they wanted to try for guitarfish and rays using fresh sardines. The only way to get fresh sardines is from the bait barge, so guess who got volunteered to paddle out to the bait barge to get some. If you guessed the guy with the yellow kayak, you are correct.

On Friday after work I drove down to Shelter Island and launched from the beach next to the boat ramp. It was a short paddle to the bait barge, but I figured I would make the most of it by trolling a pair of small Yo-Zuri lures like I used to do with my old kayak. The smaller of the two was the hot lure that day. I picked up a pair of barracuda and a handful of Pacific chub mackerel and jacksmelt.

Pacific Barracuda (Sphyraena argentea)

Jacksmelt (Atherinopsis californiensis)

I delivered the fresh sardines to the guys on Harbor Island and stuck around for a few hours to fish with them. After a couple smoothhounds and round rays I called it a night and drove home. When I was less than a mile away Steve texted me a photo of himself grinning with a banded guitarfish. This upset me, so I refused to respond to him. In the morning I came right back to the same spot in hopes that I could get a daytime banded guitarfish. A heavy fog rolled in, and it was a peaceful morning for fishing the bay.

I didn't get my guitarfish, but I did catch a nice selection of fish including two sizeable diamond rays. The bigger of the two was probably 25 lbs, and the smaller was 10-15 lbs. It was a challenge landing them without any help, but this wasn't my first rodeo. I got them up in the grass quickly to unhook and take photos and then carried them back down the rocks to the water for their release.

Round Stingray (Urobatis halleri)

Spotted Sand Bass (Paralabrax maculatofasciatus)

Gray Smoothhound (Mustelus californicus)

Diamond Stingray (Dasyatis dipterura)

In the afternoon the guys wanted to fish the La Jolla tidepools. I've been wanting to give snorkel fishing a try, so I packed my mask and snorkel and met them there. Tidepool snorkeling was a lot of fun! I got to immerse myself in a world that I had previously only looked into from above. Schools of opaleye and zebra chub watched me cautiously, and small sculpins and blennies hunted around on the bottom.

I was on the lookout for reef finspot, my tidepool nemesis. I'm pretty sure I saw one, but I didn't have my camera or fishing gear ready, so I have no proof of the sighting. I spent most of the time taking photos of fish, but I did use my microfishing gear to catch a zebra chub. It turned out to be much easier than catching one from above.

California Moray (Gymnothorax mordax)

Woolly Sculpin (Clinocottus analis)

Spotted Kelpfish (Gibbonsia elegans)

Zebra Chub (Kyphosus azureus)

To round out the long weekend, on Monday we went out in a boat to fish a few of my kayak spots. We started out at the wreck of the Yukon to try for sharpnose seaperch. After catching most of the other species on the wreck, Steve finally caught his perch. We put some keeper sheephead and rockfish in the cooler, and we also got to watch Mark pull up a nice cabezon. That's a species I still don't have, so I vowed to come back and catch one for myself.

California Sheephead (Semicossyphus pulcher)

Rosy Rockfish (Sebastes rosaceus)

Cabezon (Scorpaenichthys marmoratus)

Next we fished the edge of La Jolla Canyon so Steve could catch his sunset rockfish. I used smaller hooks and baits to see if anything unusual was down there. The result was a few species I don't often see, including swordspine rockfish and greenblotched rockfish. Steven had no trouble catching his sunset, and in fact he submitted a new IGFA world record for it.

Swordspine Rockfish (Sebastes ensifer)

Pinkrose Rockfish (Sebastes simulator)

Greenblotched Rockfish (Sebastes rosenblatti)

Finally, we headed out to a deep flat area next to the canyon to fish for sanddabs. I usually catch a mix of Pacific and longfin sanddabs there, and Steve needed the longfin. We pulled up sanddabs six at a time on our sabikis, but all of them were Pacifics. Steve got one really cool surprise though, a longspine combfish, a species neither of us has seen. Years ago I saw Eli catch a shortspine combfish in Redondo Beach, so it was cool to see it's sibling.

Longspine Combfish (Zaniolepis latipinnis)

Even though I didn't get anything new, it was a fun weekend fishing with the guys. The banded guitarfish, reef finspot, cabezon, and longspine combfish got me fired up to keep chasing new local species!