Get Out There and Fill your Metal Stringer
The gopher rockfish tugged aggressively on my line with three pulses. The strike broke the meditative silence. I stared back toward the shore and started to breath heavy from the rush of catching this ocean creature. It felt firm, and not heavy so probably a nice fat little gopher fish. A smile grew from ear to ear. After getting up before the sun and lugging the kayak down the stairs, this was the moment I’d waited for. I had faith I’d have nine more just like this to achieve a ten rockfish limit for the day.
It is possible for any fisherman to get their limit in a day. Actually it is possible to do it before 1:00 pm because that is when the wind kicks up North of Point Conception. The whitecaps that form in the west always remind me its probably a good time to head in to shore. I think whitecaps take some of the fun away because while I’m waiting for the fish it feels like a teeter totter. Those trips when you get all ten fish on your big metal clip stringer are ones you remember.
It might seem simple. Thats because I like simple. KISS. Keep it simple stupid. Get out in the ocean and fish. Many would like to experience all a kayak trip on the Pacific Ocean has to offer. Then they don’t do it. I’m not sure what holds people back. I think with a little planning and timing anyone can do it. The biggest concerns I have are: rocks and swell. Just make sure to pay attention and it all works out fine.
Another skill to help you get your fish is to know the water. I’ve heard fisherman say “Have a home water.” A home water is where you can throw your fishing pole in the car and be at that spot in less than one hour. This allows you to go to this place and catch fish over and over. While doing this you learn the idiosyncrasies of the place that produce fish.
For example there was a kelp bed where I never caught any fish. I tried it in the evening and the morning. I tried it at high tide and low tide. I even told myself there were too many seals beached there, and they must have eaten all the fish. Maybe they scared off all the fish. Then I had to fish this spot because of logistics. We caught a couple of really nice gopher rockfish, and the place produced nicely. I learned all that stuff by trying multiple times over the years the same place. As it turned out even though I categorized it as a crappy spot, it did produce fish at the right time.
As far as gear, I like the #1 double squidy jig from WalMart. Again it is a simple set up and catches fish. I put a 3 oz. circle weight on the bottom that punches through the kelp. Since I’m not deep sea fishing the 3 oz weight keeps the line taught and the hooks near the bottom. Cotton braid at 40 pound test is nice too. I’ve been able to reel my kayak back to a spot where I got hung up on the kelp because of this durable line. It just seems to hold up, almost like an anchor line. I don’t have much inertia in the kayak anyway though.
I left some ducks in the freezer too long and tried that for bait once. It actually didn’t work very well. Turns out rockfish like to eat sea creatures best. You can put on whatever bait you’d like. Try whatever is on hand: shrimp, scallops, clams, anchovies, smelt, sardines, king fish, and squid. The rockfish eat whatever swims by. You can find crabs in a rockfish mouth that haven’t even been crushed up yet. Paddle out to a kelp bed it can be one that stretches out 300 yards or 3 feet. Grab a handful of kelp. Pull it through the bungee on the side of the kayak or the strap between your back and the side of the kayak on your seat. Keep pulling the kelp until you have 3 feet on your chest and fold it back into the water. This keeps you anchored in that spot until you are satisfied that it holds fish. If you don’t get a bite after ten or fifteen minutes bounce to the next spot in the kelp. The fish probably aren’t hungry if you haven’t gotten a nibble. They are just looking at the presentation of the WalMart squiddies with a full belly. Crank up two times to lift the hooks off the bottom of the ocean. The idea is that the fish can see bait much better off the bottom. Fish still will bite when on the bottom of course, its just there are more bites from a crank. Wait for the bites. Reel up your catch.
I also need to bring snacks. There is an occurrence I’ve noticed with snacks. In a kelp paddy without much action, I set the rod under my leg. A Cliff bar in my fishing vest goes in my mouth. I start to chew. Forgetting for a moment about the fish and focusing on the food BAM. The fish bites the hook. If I don’t have a snack, this temporary relaxation of the desire to catch fish never happens. It seems like the lull lasts longer.
All of these strategies can come together to put more fish in your kayak. The time of day, tides, water temperature, depth of lure presentation, and even tenacity. You also could get skunked. Although it won’t be a wasted day. In fact it will be a beautiful day. You are out on the water, with the silence that comes from the ocean. That good kind that lets peace sink into your bones. So as they say in the Farmer’s Almanac, “The best time to go fish is when you have time to go fishing.”
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