Saturday, November 14, 2009

Baja trippin' en San Quintin!

A few weeks back I received a phone call from a buddy who was heading down to fish San Quintin, Baja for three days with his dad and graciously extended me an invite to jump onboard for the trip. Being that it was on such short notice, I didnt think I could make it.... but who am I kidding?! There was no-way I was turning down a trip down to one of my all-time favorite fishing grounds...

Fast-forward a couple weeks and we're in San Quintin, enjoying absolutely perfect 85 degree weather in November and hanging out with our good buddy Kelly Catian of the infamous K&M Sportfishing ( For those not familiar with Kelly, he runs the best charter outfit out of San Quintin, complete with a pair of Parker boats and a TON of local knowledge. He and his boys are bonafide fish-killers and know SQ and the surrounding areas like the back of their hands. Ive had countless good days of fishing with Kelly and sure enough, this was the beginning of 3 more...

As we loaded up the boat with our gear, we came up with a game plan and decided on a meeting time in the morning to launch. Slid into Jardine's restaurant for some epic grinds then hit the racks early for some good kip before 3 days of fishing hard.

First day, we opted to take a look offshore for some late-season pelagic action. It ended up a no-go day , as we ran straight out to the backside of the Tuna Hole, then up the Hovan Ridge for just a couple skipjack. Kelp paddies were non-existent as well, so on our way back in we decided to go with our "Plan B" for the next two days, which was to hit the local SQ highspots for Yellowtail and the infamous bottom fish. Gotta love when fishing for Yellowtail is your fall-back option....

The following two days consisted in bouncing around the 15 Fathom, Ben's Roca and the 240 for a fun pick on the Yellowtail, Reds and Lingcod with all the 12-15lb Bonita you could ever want. Yoyo iron was the hot-ticket... in fact I personally didnt catch a single fish on live bait the entire trip. It was all "drop and grind" for two days straight. But as always, it paid off in dividends... Ya gotta love getting slammed on grind, ten cranks off the bottom!

Most of the Yellowtail were really tight to the bottom and hung in 100-120 feet of water. There also seemed to be two grades of fish cruising around.... the 12-15lb firecrackers and the 25+lb versions with shoulders. Those big boys would thump pretty good. There were a couple good ol' fashioned "cornholing's" and plenty of lost fish, but when the dust settled we ended up putting over 20 on the boat in 2 days of work... not too shabby for November fishing.

To add to the already enjoyable trip, we were hosted to KILLER baja-style BBQ's at Kelly's place and epic gourmet dinner plates at Jardine's restaurant, which is always the perfect way to cap off a long day on the water!

As always, we had yet another amazing time down in San Quintin. It's beauty and charm never cease to disappoint, the people make you feel at home and the fishing is like it was in La Jolla 50 years ago. When its all said and done, words really cant describe the fondness I have for this special place and Im stoked to have another bitchen trip down there under the belt!

In other words, I'll be back very soon...

Monday, October 19, 2009

Can't get offshore? Fall is the time for Halibut & Lings!

One thing about Fall fishing in SoCal, is dodging the early Northwesters (low-pressure systems) and navigating the fog that always seems to creep onshore anytime our coastline air temps hit 75+ degrees. Over the last couple weeks, we've had to postpone or reschedule several offshore trips due to these exact weather phenoms, which is always a P.I.A. and a bummer to say the least. 

To make up for these "lost days", we usually gear up the skiff and push our way out of the jetties and out to some of our favorite inshore structure zones in search of "uglies" as we like to call them, or better known as California Halibut and Lingcod. Our techniques vary from bouncing BIG swimbaits and scampi's off of heavy cover to dragging trap-hooked live baits (macs/sardines/smelt/sand dabs) across the structure down below. To keep things interesting we like to focus on using lighter gear (think heavy calico stuff) and fishing in 90-140 feet of water. This makes for some good fun and some serious bust-offs, but as they say... "Ya gotta pay to play". 

When fishing these predatory fish, it's very important (as in most cases) to "match the hatch", which basically means, use the same kind of bait that is in and around the habitat in which you are fishing. For instance... if you pull up to a spot and there's smelt being worked by either birds or other predatory fish, then you want to focus on using that exact bait or a replica of the smelt thats being eaten around you.

Case in point last week... we pulled up to a zone that was plugged with three-to-four inch sardines. Fortunately we stopped and picked up a scoop of bait (instead of making it) and low-and-behold it was a nice mix of small and large sardines. First drift, we dropped down a couple of the larger version sardines and didnt get so much as a whiff. Decided to reset and try the smaller sized baits. Drop 'em down and it was instant umbrella, with nicer fish to boot. Matching the hatch was key and I can't tell you how many times over the years I've watched similar situations occur. 

Another sure-fire tip to fishing this style, is to use straight braid with very short flouro or mono top shots. The main advantage of fishing straight spectra to short top-shots is sensitivity. It's not like fishing with a full-spool of mono, where a attempted hook-set more replicates the stretching of a rubber band... its real-time, no stretch, bury the hook in the fishes face goodness.  And even better, once you get the "feel" for fishing the braided line, you can easily depict whether your bait is bouncing off the reef, being pulled thru the mud or being mauled by a lingcod. Once you get that down, I can guarantee your bite-to-fish ratio will improve dramatically. Now for the actual top shots, I like use only about 3-4 feet and I actually prefer mono, as it's a bit more resilient to abrasion from rocks/reef/teeth. That's important because a single "knick" in flouro can lead to heartbreaking bust-offs and foul words a plenty. 

Finally and possibly most important, is how you work the structure. Ive noticed that 90% of private boat anglers simply set-up on their desired structure and repeatedly do uncalculated drifts over it, with out actually trying to "work" it from as many angles as possible to find which part is holding more or bigger fish. This can be done in a few different ways, but I find the best is to simply use your plotter and start every drift a few feet from your last. Make sure you pay good attention the the direction of wind and your drift. You can also use your motor to guide you slightly to the left or to the right. Bottom line is to get the most (fish) out of the "cover" youre fishing, you need to hit the entirety of it. 

Those are just a couple little techniques we use while fishing the Fall lings and halibut. Hopefully you can utilize them and put a few more fish on your boat! 

As always, your comments, questions feedback and additions to this post are always welcomed! 

Hang em high!
- Duane "DuaneDiego" Mellor

Friday, October 16, 2009

Indian Summer 2009

As Fall rolls along, so does the local fishing. The banks on the outside @ 50+ miles are still holding spots of Yellowtail, Dorado and the crowd favorite Yellowfin, Bluefin and Albacore Tuna... Savy skippers have been heading west for the cool water tuna and south for the YFT, 'tails and 'dodos. Good scores are popping up here and there, but for the most part its a scratch bite, making lots of anglers have to rely on scoring the "lucky horseshoe" and the magic paddy to get the job done. 

To spice things up, there's some interesting (quite nice) spots of water still around our zone, that with the right "push" could kick this whole thing back in to "re-bite" mode, so dont put that gear away just yet! In fact, you may wanna change out your drag washers and freshen the line on your spools... things still look pretty fishy out there and I have a feeling it may not be over yet.

And speaking of "spools", Fin Nor's new Marquesa lever drag reels have been performing absolutely outstanding. I got my hands a on a pair (size 16 & 30) a few weeks ago, to try out and I have to say... I'm beyond impressed with these units and Im quite sure everyone else will be as well. "Solid" "strong" and "smooth" are the first words that come to mind when thinking of how to describe them. A full-report on these bad boys coming soon....

Til next tide,
- Duane "DuaneDiego" Mellor


Monday, September 21, 2009

An introduction... and a first report!

Well, Ive finally stumbled my way into the land of blogging... I wanted to start this page so I could start sharing my adventures and good times on the water with everyone. I typically fish over 100 days a year, so hopefully I can keep this thing interesting. With that said, here we go gang....

With October just 10 days away, the Summer of 2009 is officially on its way out... but we're still feeling the heat from the local pelagic fishing as various tunas (Yellowfin/Bluefin/Albacore), dorado (mahi mahi), yellowtail and marlin have been keeping SoCal anglers busy thru the month of September. And don't be at all surprised if it goes til or into November... with the "El Nino" predictions we've been granted, we could be in store for an epic Fall bite.

Being that we had somewhat of a "late" start meant anglers were beyond ready and chewing at the bit to get on some good fishing... and in early-August it exploded. It went from a pick-to-sometimes-firing bite on the albacore and bluefin tuna at 85-110 miles, to full-speed WFO yellowfin tuna fishing on kelp paddies at 30 miles, within a couple days. We're talking pulling up to a kelp paddy, chunking slow 1's & 2's in the corner, watching the corner erupt and having the school stick under the boat on the chunk til your boat is plugged.... which was before 9am, quite a few times. Team that with the occasional Striped Marlin or bull Dorado and all the rat Yellowtail you could possibly want (or C&R) and you have yourself some CLASSIC Southern California Offshore fishing. What was even better is that I dont think we pulled the trollers for more than 10 hours the entire month of August and into September. 95% of these fish were all caught on bait or on iron.... ya gotta love that!  

Recently the fish got moody and proved once again that "fish have fins" and played hide and seek for about 6-8 days as they moved in a NW tack, up the line with their preferred water conditions, only to pop up and go WFO again for several days straight now. 

As I type this, Im looking forward to getting off of this darned computer and back out on the cobalt blue sea in search of our next plunker bite. A couple weekends off (skipper has been traveling, etc...) have really put some pep in my step and Im dying to get out and put some fish on the boat in a big way. Not to mention, I just got handed off a couple of the brand-spanking new FIN NOR MARQUESA's prototypes to try out over the next couple of weeks... these are the new high-speed lever drag reels from the legendary Fin Nor line. From handling them, you can already tell theyre "solid as a rock" reels. Can't wait to hang a few on 'em! 

With that all said, I jump on the boat this Thursday for 4 days and will be reporting back upon my return.....

Speak soon!

- Duane "DuaneDiego" Mellor