Kevin Hofer Introduces Us to the Pacific Rock Fish
Just offshore the coast of California living in the forests of kelp and cracks of the rocky outcroppings are around 70 different species of rockfish. If looking to get out fishing on the big blue for a day in the kayak and go home with some fine table fare, then a trip to target some rockfish may be just what you need.
Out of all the sportfish in the Pacific Ocean, rockfish may be the easiest to target. You don’t need to go out and buy special rods and reels, really you don’t even have to buy special tackle. I’ve caught plenty of Blue and Black rockfish on old Senkos and other random bass gear.
The standard for targeting these rock dwellers is typically a lead weight ranging from 4-10 ounces with a couple of shrimp flies tied up above. This rig can be deadly, especially when tipping the hooks of the flies with a small piece of squid. My favorite way to rig when specifically targeting rockfish is a P-Line Laser Minnow jig on bottom and a shrimp fly tied a foot or so above. Looks like a small baitfish is chasing the fly, if the fish are around, they have a hard time resisting this setup. Many times, catching a fish on the jig and the fly simultaneously, rockfish tend to run in schools.
Like most in California, the rules and regulations regarding rockfish can be a bit difficult at times to understand. Depending on where in the state you are fishing, the restrictions on depth your able to fish can differ, as well as what kind of fish you can keep and when you can keep them. With so many different species out there and some looking very similar, a new fisherman can struggle at times to determine whether or not it is a legal fish to keep. When in doubt take a picture, throw the fish back and find out what it is later, not worth risking a ticket for keeping an illegal fish. It is also a good idea to do a little research and studying on how to tell the difference between species before going out on the water.
Despite there being so many rockfish out there, at times they can be difficult to locate. If you have a fish finder on the kayak look for drop-offs and pinnacles, always good places to make a few drops down and see if anybody is home. If you don’t have a fish finder than try to follow the edges of the kelp beds. Often times the rockfish will hide in the kelp to avoid predators and as a place to camouflage themselves so they themselves can prey on smaller fish. Fishing in the rocks and kelp can be frustrating at times because snags are a common occurrence. Keeping your line straight up and down while jigging as well as not letting your lure drag the bottom can help lower the frequency of snags and loss of tackle. If the current and or wind is not doing it for you, move around a bit if you are not catching fish. Sometimes 10 ft in one direction can put you right on a nice dropoff with a huge school of fish at the bottom! And when you find a good spot, remember it or mark on the GPS, Ive had small pinnacles that produce year after year.
Wherever on the California Coast you decide to try your luck with these fish you will surely not be disappointed with the scenery. If you can find and trick a few fish into biting then that makes the experience and dinner that night all that much better.
Adam Sauve's Tips for Landing More Halibut from a Wilderness Systems Radar
Hi, my name is Adam Sauve and today I would like to talk about how I fish halibut from my Radar 135.
I fish Northern California from San Francisco Bay to Tomales Bay and the surrounding parts of the Pacific Ocean. My favorite method for targeting California Halibut is trolling. The use of the Helix peddle drive makes the once daunting task of trolling from a kayak incredibly easy.
The biggest obstacle with trolling for halibut for me was finding a way to troll a heavy sinker without destroying the gear trac. I accomplished this by installing a Scotty flushmount just forward of my seat as seen at the bottom of the image below.
This mount along with the Scotty backing plate below it will give you plenty of support. I originally installed it to use with my Scotty Laketroller downrigger that I use with a 4 pound weight pictured below.
Once I was able to figure out how to isolate the heavy trolling weight the rest is pretty easy. My halibut trolling set up is pretty simple and standard for the surrounding area.
It starts with a 3-way swivel. One link is tied to your main line.The middle link is tied to 10"-15" of 30lb mono that is attached to the torpedo sinker. I use anywhere between 8, 12, or 16 oz torpedo sinkers depending on depth. The third link is tied to the leader. The top of the leader is 18" to a dodger, followed by another 18-24" to a nose hook snelled to the leader in front of a treble hook with a herring for bait. My leader material is 50lb mono and I fish 50lb braid on my reel. I like to use 8ft medium heavy rods. The longer length allows me to follow the bottom better as I troll.
Once on the water i pin my herring to the hooks and start pedaling to gain some forward momentum. I strip line by hand to lower the sinker to the bottom. If you let the line free fall you will end up with a big tangle by the time your gear hits the bottom. Once I feel the bottom I place the rod in the holder and make sure it is constantly ticking the bottom as I troll along. I check my bait often to make sure it is tracking well and free from debris. You want your bait to make a slow roll/spin as you troll along.
I like to troll between 1.4-2.2mph. I have found this speed to be very effective. While trolling I am usually on the look out for bait and bottom contours. If I am lucky enough to hook a fish I slowly pick up the rod while continuing to peddle and turn into the direction of the fish. By doing this you will keep pressure on the fish and tire them out.
I prefer to gaff halibut because there is no net for the sinker and hooks to get tangled in. Trolling for halibut from a kayak has a big learning curve. You will get better everytime out.
Hopefully some of these tips helps you on your next outing.