One of the attractions of fishing in the ocean is you never know what might bite at the end of your line. You can say that about freshwater fishing to some extent. You never know when that trophy bass or trout might hit your line, but how often are you truly surprised about a freshwater catch? You know there is a limited range of species in your local lake or stream and that’s what you’re going to catch. The element of surprise is ALWAYS there on the ocean and this “El Nino” year of 2014 has been full of them.
In July, I had the pleasure of fishing with Captain Steve Virtue and his crew on the Pacific Islander for 2 trips. The Pacific Islander is an overnight, primarily outer island boat. Typically, we fish Santa Rosa Island which is the second furthest island from the landing in the Channel Islands chain. I’ve really enjoyed fishing with Steve and the “PI” is at the top of my list of favorite boats to ride in Southern California. I appreciate that he always gives a thorough trip briefing at the beginning of a trip. Steve gives a safety briefing, then lets anglers know what to expect and how to be prepared in terms of rigging up for it. I like that he comes down on deck and does this in person instead of sitting in his wheelhouse and talking over the intercom.
If you don’t know or understand how to setup properly, the crew is always friendly and attentive in getting you ready for a successful trip. This attention to the customer experience is what makes the Pacific Islander such a great boat to ride for newbies and old salties alike.
After an incredible run this year on the white seabass, things seemed to kind of peter out around the middle of July. When I rode on the PI on July 21st, we tried to find them out at Santa Rosa Island. Despite having the “candy bait” of live squid onboard, we didn’t get so much as a sniff from the elusive “ghosts” as they are sometimes known. On the way home, I talked with Steve and he told me that the water was getting warmer. He figured they were probably headed north in search of cooler waters. Despite not getting any seabass, I enjoyed a fun trip catching rockfish and lingcod and the camaraderie of the other anglers and crew.
Capt. Steve with a quality “red snapper” (vermilion rockfish) caught on the July 21st trip
I was on the boat again at the end of the month for another outer island trip. In the 2 previous trips leading up to this one, Steve managed to find 35 and then 27 white seabass for the anglers riding the boat. Despite that success, I boarded the boat without any expectation of seabass glory. They call them ghosts for a reason. One day they’re there and then poof! In a snap they just as quickly disappear.
Another limiting factor going into the trip was the lack of live squid for bait. The crew managed to jig some up on the previous day’s trip, but we barely had any to work with for our trip. On the way out, we tried to make some more bait, but there were a lot of sea lions when we did, so we weren’t able to add much more.
When I woke up to fish the next morning, I was tired from making bait. I sleepwalked out to the rail. Luckily, I had tied up my seabass rig (belly high single dropper loop on 30# test with 5/0 Owner Aki Twist hook) and set the drag (very light) before going to bed. All I had to do was grab my pole, bait up, and drop in. To my surprise, the action was immediate. The angler fishing to my left was bit immediately. A minute later, so was I. The action was fast and furious. At one point, I looked down the rail and it appeared that almost every pole was bent! After just 2 drifts, we had 50 white seabass onboard. Then true to form…they were gone and we never reacquired them. We spent the rest of the day rockfishing.
Talk about surprises! You never know what might happen out there. Often when you chase a count, it’s a “should’ve been here yesterday” kind of trip. It’s better just to plan when you can get out, book your trip, and go. You can’t always expect an awesome trip like we had, but you never know when EPIC might happen. We hope to see you out on the rail with us soon.
You can find our trip schedule HERE, or call the landing at 805-382-1612 to book your next adventure with Channel Islands Sportfishing.