Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Fishing the Kelp Beds

Red Rockfish matching my shirt!
Last week was a tough one as the flu or something as diabolical hit me on Tuesday, just in time for my flight on Wednesday to attend our annual fall TTA meeting in San Diego, California.  Limping through the conference, I wasn't in very good form yet was able to pull myself together for our planned fishing trip on Friday afternoon.  The last speaker on Friday was done by 11:00, it was time to head to the harbor where we hooked up with Sauerfish Charters located in one of the harbors just minutes from downtown San Diego.   On the trip were a number of important colleagues including Bill Dull, Randy Eller, Chris and Jeffrey Chen, CK, Lyle Shaw and myself.  Although the December/January time of year is not the best time to catch fish off the entrance to San Diego harbor, there is no better time to fish than the time you get to go!  Our host was Eric Sauerwein, captain of the 42 foot twin diesel "Classic Fishing Battle Wagon" was extremely gracious and worked very hard for our fish.  Eric had a very interesting setup on his electronics which included a Furano 12 inch depth sounder and a Nobeltec computer based navigation software that was separate but tied into his systems.  With a computer screen in the helm, it would show our position as well as the bottom contours, not as lines but rather in 3D as we could easily see the shelves, drop offs, canyons, humps in real 3D, it was pretty awesome and something that would be nice for around Minnesota for sure. As we pulled out of the San Diego harbor we were greeted by the USS John C, Stennis (CVN 74) aircraft carrier coming into the San Diego naval base.  These ships are huge and this one was no exception.  Coming within 100 yards as we passed by it was interesting to see the escort gun boats, complete with a person on the 50mm machine gun staying between us and the carrier.  Many waves to the sailors we continued to the 70 foot level and started fishing.  Our rigs were pretty simple, a stout rod with a open spooled trolling reel with about 20 pound test and a 3 ounce sinker tied to the end.  Looped at both the 1 and 3 foot location above the sinker was a horizontal line with about a #2 octopus hook.  The hooks were baited with cut squid and dropped to the bottom, much like fishing halibut or rockfish in Alaska.  Right away I had a tap tap and pulled up a calico bass, a type of rockfish.  It was pretty small and I released it but coming from 70 feet of water, it ended up as seagull food.

Bill's bonus fish, a nice yellowtail
The swells were actually pretty good sized, I suppose 6 to 8 feet and it made standing on the bow, fishing off the rail somewhat challenging as we were about 8 feet above the water.  It took an hour or so to get my sea legs and by 3:00 it was pretty comfortable.   I did manage to get about 5 fish including a keeper bronze rockfish and the red rockfish in the above picture.  Although not very big I have been assured they are very good to eat so we keep most of what we caught.  The highlight of the trip was when Bill Dull hooked onto something considerably more substantial than the smaller rockfish we were catching.  The captain speculated that it might be a nice halibut, considering where we were fishing but having caught halibut before, they don't run like this fish did.  Trying to follow the fish around the boat, Bill headed towards the bow as the captain followed him with the gaff.  All of a sudden the first mate notices a large shape in the water, a damn California Sea lion.  These things are notorious for stealing fish and whatever Bill had on would probably make a nice meal for the seal.  As Bill rounded the bow the fish made it's presence known, a Yellowtail. CK and Jeffrey were very excited as the yellowtail makes some of the best sushi in the world and is known as Hamachi and they are huge fans of raw fish.  The critical factor was to get to the fish before the sea lion did and as you see in the picture, we were successful.  The yellowtail is a member of the amberjack family and is a very strong swimmer as you can see by the shape of the fish, almost like a longer tuna.  Everyone was pretty impressed with the catch including the captain as a fish like this is a real bonus this close into the harbor. Actually you can see the video of Bill catching the fish and the excitement HERE, it's pretty cool. My excitement came when I was reeling up the red rockfish pictured in the top photo.  Just as it came to the surface a huge sea lion lunged for the fish, normally I'm not very fast but a quick snap and I was able to deprive the swift mammal it's dinner! It's pretty impressive to watch them swim around the boat, searching for an easy meal but there wasn't anything this time around.

Jeffrey, CK, Lyle, Bill, Dave, Chris, and Randy
After catching a mess of fish that included the yellowtail, 5 red rockfish, 2 bronze rockfish, 1 white sea bass, 1 calico bass, and 4 mackerel we headed back to port. The first mate simply gutted the fish as Bill was going to finish packing them when we got back to Temecula, CA.  I'm sure there was plenty of fresh sushi to be eaten sometime later in the weekend.  It was interesting to watch the seagulls and pelicans follow the boat as they would fly parallel to the side of the boat and look over at the fish as it was being gutted. Once the entrails were thrown over it was a battle royal to see who would get the meager scraps.  It was a lot of fun to watch for sure.  Even though the fishing wasn't spectacular, it was fun to get out for the short amount of time we had.  I can definitely put San Diego as one of my "been there, done that" spots as I continue to explore new and different places to fish.  We left California on Saturday coming back to the colder weather, quite a change.  In turn Jeffrey flew to Minneapolis on Sunday so I picked him up and we went to the ice fishing show in St. Paul.  He found it interesting as they have no ice fishing in Taiwan.  He left on Tuesday as it was nice to show him a little bit of Minnesota while he was here. This weekend is supposed to be warmer than normal, actually they are predicting as high as 50 degrees, now that is a change!  The ice will be heaving like crazy as everything heats up and expands. I will probably fish around home this weekend looking for some crappies and sunnies using the new rod I bought at the show.  Next week will find my brother Steve, his son Kevin, and I back up to Red Lake, here's hoping the lake gets settled down by the time we get there.

No comments: