HOW TO FEATURES

Biters: A Peak Fishing Month

leadWill we have fall fishing like we did last year? It might very well be better. SoCal offshore fishing in autumn of 2014 had something for everyone fishing within a day or two of San Diego:

A week later, after Hurricane Simon, Searcher skipper Aaron Remy noted, “We found a kelp that was loaded with 15- to 30-pound dorado and they were biting! I have seen lots of wide-open bites but never on this grade of dorado. It was like fishing in an aquarium–truly amazing.”

October 17 was the day Scott Meisel’s Condor, fishing on a day-and-a-half trip about 50 miles from San Diego, produced 10 wahoo hookups. That wasn’t completely surprising, but these skinnies were hooked on deep-fished jigs under kelp, not trolled up on Marauders like most other wahoo caught near San Diego last year. Scott said he hung one on a Hopkins jig and lost it when the 9/0 Siwash hook straightened out. Four of the wahoo were decked, along with a dozen yellowfin tuna and limits of big dorado up to 25 or 30 pounds.

“We had a nice surprise this morning as we pulled up to catch yellowtail and caught wahoo instead,” wrote Red Rooster III skipper Andy Cates on Sept. 30 of last year. “After the smoke settled we had 19 nice sized wahoo for the morning.”

“[A]nother excellent day featuring wahoo, tuna, yellowtail, pargo and excellent weather to work in,” wrote Independence skipper Jeff DeBuys on Oct. 1, 2014. “Things got going very early and kept going all day long for us. Tuna up to 40 pounds, some lunker yellowtail, a few ‘hoos..”1

A week later, after Hurricane Simon, Searcher skipper Aaron Remy noted, we found a kelp that was loaded with 15- to 30- pound dorado and they were biting! I have seen lots of wide-open bites but never on this grade of dorado. It was like fishing in an aquarium-truly amazing.”

October 17 was the day Scott Meisel’s Condor, fishing on a day-and-a half trip about 50 miles from San Diego, produced 10 wahoo hookups. That wasn’t completely surprising, but these skinnies were hooked on deep-fished jigs under kelp, not trolled up on Marauders like most other wahoo caught near San Diego last year. Scott said he hung one on a Hopkins jig and lost it when the 9/0 Siwash hook straightened out. Four of the wahoo were decked, along with a dozen yellow fin tuna and limits of big dorado up to 25 or 30 pounds. Even so, most anglers quit fishing about then, and local sportboats couldn’t get out.

On Oct. 30, I fished aboard the New Lo-An of Point Loma Sportfishing. Our skipper was John Bell, a nice feller with his work cut out for him, trying to locate tuna and the good-sized dorado known to be in the area. But with only our boat and the Condor fishing, we had to find our own fish, and kelp paddies proved to be almost extinct in the waters just south. We picked up a dorado trolling, with nary a paddy to be seen. Mindful of recent wahoo catches, we kept a couple of Marauders going in the spread, along with the normal skirted Zukers and smaller hootchies.

3We picked up a few mixed fish trolling and found a paddy with dorado on it. They bit well but not long, and we were on our way. Around mid-afternoon we had a stop for some yellowfin, more schoolies, but they wouldn’t stay with the boat. We picked some and motored on.

Late in the afternoon we found our El Dorado, the magic paddy, well marked by a pole with blue and orange ribbons fluttering. It was a big kelp, with so many dorado nearby they could cover a football field. When the school turned down light, a huge patch of water lit up, flashing in the sun. They came to the boat and the ensuing chaos prompted me to land one quickly in the corner and then to lead my next fish up toward the bow to avoid the crowd.

There were only 12 of us on the boat, but with ravenous dorado trying to eat the paint off the stern, the back end was very busy, with all the whooping, hollering, cussing, running, and over and under tricks a dozen anglers could muster. So I enjoyed playing this fish without distraction. I got a half-dozen high jumps out of my mahi, which proved to be about a 15 pounder, big enough to make some good eating.

Not far from our stern, under a cloud of birds, the Condor was enjoying the same wide-open bite. Skipper John was directing the action on Lo-An’s stern.

“I’ve got my two dorado,” I said to him. “I’m thinking I should quit.”

“No, don’t quit yet,” he said. “I marked some tuna here, and somebody just got one.”

So I went back forward, and cast a sardine as far as I could, opposite the main action on the stern. I got a bite right away as the sardine took off, and moments later my third tuna came aboard, gaffed for me by deck tech Dominic Calo, who nailed it in the head, saving the meat. I complimented him for that and put my rod up to take photos as the sun went low and the light began to fade. It was a memorable dorado bite. I felt fortunate to be there.

4Fall fishing tends to be good like that. The weather’s nice and fish are feeding hard, at least at times, and they often bite in frenzies. You don’t need to use fluorocarbon then, though the abrasion resistance of fluoro may help prevent dorado chew-offs. You can get by just fine with plain old (cheap) monofilament, preferably 30 or 40 pound.

Expensive hooks aren’t necessary, either. Standard J hooks from any good maker will do the trick on interested biters. You can fish them like circle hooks, letting the fish set the hook as you wind down on a taker. Like circles, the J hooks will also find the corner of the fish’s mouth most of the time. Dorado have surprisingly big mouths lined with teeth, so a 3/0 or 4/0 hook is appropriate.

Willing fish trademark fall fishing, and they don’t require any more stealth than getting a swimming bait into the bite zone, which may be right next to the boat. When you look over the side and see those brown backs zipping past the corner, you’re on fall yellowfin.

5October of last year was a fine month for fishing, from Los Angeles south to the Hurricane Bank and the southern banks off lower Baja. There’s little reason to think this year won’t be sweet as well, and the warm water may well last into December, with great fishing on a tide of tuna that lifts all boats.

Bill Roecker owns FishingVideos.com, where he posts daily reports from the long-range fleet and other sources, and Oceanic Productions, which published his book At The Rail: Long Range Fishing. The book, Bill’s Sportfishing Calendar and his Standup Fishing DVDs are for sale on his website and in most Southern California fishing stores. ■

 

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