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Dorado Bonanza and Black Seabass by Kayak

Yellowtail still represent the bulk of the catch

A beautiful day on the water turned into a lot of work for this kayak angler.
A beautiful day on the water turned into a lot of work for this kayak angler.

Dock Totals 8/7 – 8/20: 9841 anglers aboard 430 half-day to 3-day trips out of San Diego landings over the past two weeks caught 132 barracuda, 1109 bluefin tuna (to 205 pounds), 4 bocaccio, 152 bonito, 2315 calico bass, 11,282 dorado, 5 halibut, 1 leopard shark (released), 5 lingcod, 1189 rockfish, 573 sand bass, 53 sanddab, 1 sargo, 109 sculpin, 68 sheephead, 2 skipjack tuna, 3 striped marlin, 12 thresher shark (10 released), 1 triggerfish, 378 whitefish, 14 white seabass (released), 879 yellowfin tuna, and 17,541 yellowtail.

Saltwater: It has been a dorado and yellowtail bonanza, some within extended half-day range, for the fleet over the past couple weeks, while the bluefin tuna bite has been on and off for the boats chasing them. There are still masses of bluefin offshore sliding north from off Ensenada up to just off the southern California coast, though given the numbers sighted, the bite has been a bit slow. Yellowfin are biting mostly south of the border, but the usual accompanying dorado seem to have no qualms with international boundaries. Even so, most of the dorado in the counts were caught in Mexican waters, just across the line outside of the Coronado Islands.

Given there is a two-fish per angler, per day, limit on dorado in Mexico and a ten fish limit in U.S. waters, the count could have been much higher. Yellowtail still represent the bulk of the catch, though their numbers have been tapering off as dorado numbers climb. Both dorado and yellowtail are mostly coming off kelp paddies, while bluefin tuna are either found by sight when a school is feeding on top, by trolling, or by meter.

The boats concentrating on bluefin have been working north of the border towards San Clemente Island and the channel between there and Catalina Island. One notable catch was an estimated 60-pound bluefin caught by the crew on the Catalina Flyer ferry while they were waiting between runs at Catalina Island. With a couple hours to kill before the return trip to Newport, and after seeing foaming schools of bluefin during their runs, the crew decided to take the speedy catamaran-hulled boat out to see if they could catch one. The catch is a first in the 35-year history of the Flyer.

Speaking of firsts, I have never taken a black seabass before this past week. Giant black seabass (not the Atlantic version that that grows to about the size of a largemouth bass) are protected in California waters. Due to overfishing through the late 1970s, black seabass were nearing extinction and protected from take in 1981. As they are large, long-living apex predators that inhabit rocky reefs and kelp beds, they are usually spread out through their range that runs from central California to the Sea of Cortez. In Mexican waters, where their numbers are healthier, recreational anglers are allowed to take one per day.

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As general rule, I have always released black seabass wherever caught. Usually, as they are big heavy fighters that put on a prolonged battle, it takes a bit of reviving to successfully release a good-sized seabass. I spent nearly a half-hour reviving one in La Jolla before it could swim away upright. It was a lot of work on the kayak. I thought. I was much younger then, in my mid-thirties, and it was shortly after I had taken up kayak fishing. I’m 60 now, and a little beat up.

While kayak-fishing on Saturday in a spot in the San Quintin Bay mouth that has produced my personal best white seabass at 55 pounds and my personal best halibut at 44 pounds, I caught my personal best (only one kept) black seabass that tapped out at around 80 pounds. After a morning that was relatively slow, catching mostly one to two-pound sand bass while targeting halibut that didn’t bite, I decided to do one last drift across the 50-foot-deep channel and call it a day.

I was ‘dead-stick’ bouncing a heavy plastic tube bait made by San Diego’s Master Baits Fishing Lures on a medium-light G Loomis 8.5-foot rod with 20-pound test wound on a Daiwa Saltist reel. Dead sticking is basically leaving the reel in gear while raising and lowering the tip to make the lure hop along the bottom. About mid-channel in 45 feet of water, the rod loaded up heavy with what I thought might be one of the many large bat rays that inhabit the bay. The fish seemed to settle into the bottom as big rays tend to do, I thought about just thumbing it off; I had no desire to spend two hours getting dragged around the bay just to release a giant ray from the kayak. Even so, I couldn’t escape the thought that it might indeed be a gamefish, so I leaned hard on it and it came up a couple feet from the bottom, but that was it.

The skinny Loomis rod was bent hard, most of it buried deep in the water while I used the rail edge of the kayak for support at the grip. I figured I would eventually wear out the knot on 20, but it held, and after 25 minutes or so of not being able to gain a foot while being dragged in circles, I started taking in line. As the fish came up into view, it bloated and rolled. Thoughts of reviving and releasing it were dashed as it burped up a bit of blood, and I sunk the gaff into the swollen placid beast at the side of the yak and it exploded into a flurry, nearly tipping me out into the drink.

I got the fish under control, but given its razor-sharp gill plates and rakes, I couldn’t feed the leash through to secure it. I wound up paddling with one hand while holding the fish on the gaff with the other. It was a long quarter-mile paddle back to the beach, even if the breeze was helping push me in the right direction. I hopped out once I was in two feet of water and dragged the kayak and the big fish ashore before I collapsed onto the sand. My muscles were trembling from the exertion an hour and a half after hooking the fish, but I had done it! Another personal best big fish by kayak from Bahia San Quintin. Wherever you are, they’re out there, so go get ‘em!

Notable catches:

8/7 – The San Diego called in from their full-day trip with 103 yellowtail and limits of 70 dorado for 35 anglers.

8/10 – 26 anglers aboard the Ocean Odyssey caught limits of 260 yellowtail and 104 dorado, along with 10 yellowfin tuna and 6 bluefin tuna.

8/12 – Full limits of 390 yellowtail and 156 dorado for 26 anglers aboard the Excalibur 3-day trip into Mexican waters.

8/15 – An odd mixed bag during a great 3.5-day run aboard the Top Gun 80 for 16 anglers, with 170 yellowtail, 30 dorado, 100 calico bass, 1 bluefin tuna, and 1 striped marlin caught. Calico bass and marlin on the same trip!

8/17 – 39 anglers aboard the Dolphin extended half-day trip had amazing fishing close to home, with 122 dorado and 1 yellowtail caught.

8/20 – limits of 64 dorado, along with 4 yellowtail, 4 yellowfin tuna, and 2 bluefin tuna were caught by 32 anglers aboard the Liberty overnight trip.

Fish Plants: 8/26 – Santee Lakes, catfish (1,500), 9/5 – Lake Jennings, catfish (1,000)

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A beautiful day on the water turned into a lot of work for this kayak angler.
A beautiful day on the water turned into a lot of work for this kayak angler.

Dock Totals 8/7 – 8/20: 9841 anglers aboard 430 half-day to 3-day trips out of San Diego landings over the past two weeks caught 132 barracuda, 1109 bluefin tuna (to 205 pounds), 4 bocaccio, 152 bonito, 2315 calico bass, 11,282 dorado, 5 halibut, 1 leopard shark (released), 5 lingcod, 1189 rockfish, 573 sand bass, 53 sanddab, 1 sargo, 109 sculpin, 68 sheephead, 2 skipjack tuna, 3 striped marlin, 12 thresher shark (10 released), 1 triggerfish, 378 whitefish, 14 white seabass (released), 879 yellowfin tuna, and 17,541 yellowtail.

Saltwater: It has been a dorado and yellowtail bonanza, some within extended half-day range, for the fleet over the past couple weeks, while the bluefin tuna bite has been on and off for the boats chasing them. There are still masses of bluefin offshore sliding north from off Ensenada up to just off the southern California coast, though given the numbers sighted, the bite has been a bit slow. Yellowfin are biting mostly south of the border, but the usual accompanying dorado seem to have no qualms with international boundaries. Even so, most of the dorado in the counts were caught in Mexican waters, just across the line outside of the Coronado Islands.

Given there is a two-fish per angler, per day, limit on dorado in Mexico and a ten fish limit in U.S. waters, the count could have been much higher. Yellowtail still represent the bulk of the catch, though their numbers have been tapering off as dorado numbers climb. Both dorado and yellowtail are mostly coming off kelp paddies, while bluefin tuna are either found by sight when a school is feeding on top, by trolling, or by meter.

The boats concentrating on bluefin have been working north of the border towards San Clemente Island and the channel between there and Catalina Island. One notable catch was an estimated 60-pound bluefin caught by the crew on the Catalina Flyer ferry while they were waiting between runs at Catalina Island. With a couple hours to kill before the return trip to Newport, and after seeing foaming schools of bluefin during their runs, the crew decided to take the speedy catamaran-hulled boat out to see if they could catch one. The catch is a first in the 35-year history of the Flyer.

Speaking of firsts, I have never taken a black seabass before this past week. Giant black seabass (not the Atlantic version that that grows to about the size of a largemouth bass) are protected in California waters. Due to overfishing through the late 1970s, black seabass were nearing extinction and protected from take in 1981. As they are large, long-living apex predators that inhabit rocky reefs and kelp beds, they are usually spread out through their range that runs from central California to the Sea of Cortez. In Mexican waters, where their numbers are healthier, recreational anglers are allowed to take one per day.

Sponsored
Sponsored

As general rule, I have always released black seabass wherever caught. Usually, as they are big heavy fighters that put on a prolonged battle, it takes a bit of reviving to successfully release a good-sized seabass. I spent nearly a half-hour reviving one in La Jolla before it could swim away upright. It was a lot of work on the kayak. I thought. I was much younger then, in my mid-thirties, and it was shortly after I had taken up kayak fishing. I’m 60 now, and a little beat up.

While kayak-fishing on Saturday in a spot in the San Quintin Bay mouth that has produced my personal best white seabass at 55 pounds and my personal best halibut at 44 pounds, I caught my personal best (only one kept) black seabass that tapped out at around 80 pounds. After a morning that was relatively slow, catching mostly one to two-pound sand bass while targeting halibut that didn’t bite, I decided to do one last drift across the 50-foot-deep channel and call it a day.

I was ‘dead-stick’ bouncing a heavy plastic tube bait made by San Diego’s Master Baits Fishing Lures on a medium-light G Loomis 8.5-foot rod with 20-pound test wound on a Daiwa Saltist reel. Dead sticking is basically leaving the reel in gear while raising and lowering the tip to make the lure hop along the bottom. About mid-channel in 45 feet of water, the rod loaded up heavy with what I thought might be one of the many large bat rays that inhabit the bay. The fish seemed to settle into the bottom as big rays tend to do, I thought about just thumbing it off; I had no desire to spend two hours getting dragged around the bay just to release a giant ray from the kayak. Even so, I couldn’t escape the thought that it might indeed be a gamefish, so I leaned hard on it and it came up a couple feet from the bottom, but that was it.

The skinny Loomis rod was bent hard, most of it buried deep in the water while I used the rail edge of the kayak for support at the grip. I figured I would eventually wear out the knot on 20, but it held, and after 25 minutes or so of not being able to gain a foot while being dragged in circles, I started taking in line. As the fish came up into view, it bloated and rolled. Thoughts of reviving and releasing it were dashed as it burped up a bit of blood, and I sunk the gaff into the swollen placid beast at the side of the yak and it exploded into a flurry, nearly tipping me out into the drink.

I got the fish under control, but given its razor-sharp gill plates and rakes, I couldn’t feed the leash through to secure it. I wound up paddling with one hand while holding the fish on the gaff with the other. It was a long quarter-mile paddle back to the beach, even if the breeze was helping push me in the right direction. I hopped out once I was in two feet of water and dragged the kayak and the big fish ashore before I collapsed onto the sand. My muscles were trembling from the exertion an hour and a half after hooking the fish, but I had done it! Another personal best big fish by kayak from Bahia San Quintin. Wherever you are, they’re out there, so go get ‘em!

Notable catches:

8/7 – The San Diego called in from their full-day trip with 103 yellowtail and limits of 70 dorado for 35 anglers.

8/10 – 26 anglers aboard the Ocean Odyssey caught limits of 260 yellowtail and 104 dorado, along with 10 yellowfin tuna and 6 bluefin tuna.

8/12 – Full limits of 390 yellowtail and 156 dorado for 26 anglers aboard the Excalibur 3-day trip into Mexican waters.

8/15 – An odd mixed bag during a great 3.5-day run aboard the Top Gun 80 for 16 anglers, with 170 yellowtail, 30 dorado, 100 calico bass, 1 bluefin tuna, and 1 striped marlin caught. Calico bass and marlin on the same trip!

8/17 – 39 anglers aboard the Dolphin extended half-day trip had amazing fishing close to home, with 122 dorado and 1 yellowtail caught.

8/20 – limits of 64 dorado, along with 4 yellowtail, 4 yellowfin tuna, and 2 bluefin tuna were caught by 32 anglers aboard the Liberty overnight trip.

Fish Plants: 8/26 – Santee Lakes, catfish (1,500), 9/5 – Lake Jennings, catfish (1,000)

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