Calico bass (aka kelp bass)
  • Calico bass (aka kelp bass)
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Lots of long boat rides with little results for those boats hunting tuna in local waters out to 40 miles or so. A few biters were coaxed out of the metered and sighted schools along with a few on blind jig strikes while trolling. Still, the bluefin and yellowfin are around even if it was a tough week fishing for them. Yellowtail bit sporadically inshore and off the coast; some boats picked one or two, a couple got into the fray and boated near limits. Pretty much the same for bonito and barracuda, though the latter has increased in size with more legals (barracuda need be 28” fork length, minimum) than shorts.

The real story is the great calico bass bite in and just off the kelp beds. Many anglers are getting limits of 5 each, at a 14” minimum length, and releasing 1 or 2 shorts for every legal boated. The anglers boating the greater numbers are catching them on a variety of plastics, from grubs to swimbaits. One of my favorite techniques while fishing for calicos is to align my casts with the kelp; if the kelp is visible, laying in the current but up, then I know chances are calico bass will be feeding. I cast alongside the stringers toward the canopied ends and let the lure (I like big grubs, such as the Kalin or 8-inch Mogambo or Octogambo series in root beer/gold flake. These grubs look a lot like the kelp itself and maybe represent a good part of the calico bass diet in that a few of the smaller wrasses tend to mimic their environment in appearance. Either way, the bass destroy those grubs.

I generally use a lighter head than I would if targeting the bottom of the water column for halibut or sand bass so that the grub has a slower free-fall. Be ready for the bite before it hits bottom. When it hits the bottom, I work it up a few winds and let it drop back halfway and continue back to the boat. Usually, the bit is on the sink fishing this style. There is no need for a long cast; that results in more hang-ups in the kelp. Weedless plastics on a weighted hook are another great way to work the kelp for calicos. These can be wiggled across the strands, fishing perpendicular to it, and let drop between to incite ambushing fish.

Regardless, calicos put up a hard fight when hooked and the larger ones will often wrap in the kelp. Here, a level head will prevail (along with correct line): Do not panic or jerk or pull hard, just keep a constant pressure at just under the drag setting and usually the fish will work out of the kelp. 20 pound test mono or fluro-tipped braid in heavier weights are best, lighter line usually just gets broken on the larger calicos. Another ‘bass’ might surprise you while calico fishing, so be prepared, especially in the gray-light hours: I have caught more than a few large white seabass that were lurking under a canopy of kelp while targeting calicos. The big croakers tend to laze around in the kelp during summer months, as though hanging in the shade on a balmy day, and are not opposed to gobbling up a mackerel, sardine, squid or lure that finds itself in front of them.

Top performing boats this week:

June 17: The Point Loma hauled 16 anglers out on a ¾ day run and reported limits of 80 calico bass kept (220 released) and 20 rockfish caught. The Pacific Voyager reported 116 yellowtail, 1 white seabass and 35 calico bass caught by the 15 anglers aboard their 2 day trip.

June 16-20: anglers aboard the Legend ¾ day run caught 68 calico bass, 21 bonito, 1 mako shark, 2 whitefish and 3 yellowtail.

June 15: The Dolphin, with 13 anglers aboard, called in with 11 rockfish and 50 yellowtail for their ½ day run, while the Mission Belle found a few willing bluefin tuna with 7 caught for 23 anglers on a local offshore ¾ day run.

June 13: 15 anglers aboard the Chubasco II whacked the calico bass, keeping 70 out of 270 fish caught on a half day run out to the La Jolla kelp beds.

June 11: 21 anglers aboard the Chief two-day run boated 1 bluefin tuna, 2 yellowfin tuna and 108 yellowtail. Carrying 17 anglers, the San Diego had a little luck on the tuna with 6 yellowfin and 7 bluefin caught during a local offshore ¾ day run.

Dock Totals 6/11 – 6/17:

3026 anglers aboard 114 boats out of San Diego landings this past week caught 55 bluefin tuna, 87 yellowfin tuna, 555 yellowtail, 2,194 calico bass, 141 sand bass, 1,932 rockfish, 2 sanddab, 5 lingcod, 241 bonito, 49 barracuda, 33 sculpin, 717 mackerel, 33 whitefish, 13 sheephead, 4 halibut, 1 bat ray and 2 mako shark.

Fish Plants: 6/27 Cuyamaca, trout (1200)

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