I used to work at a tackle store that was near the launch ramp in Huntington Harbor, and the shop I worked at catered to private boaters. So much so, that Rich Holland from the Western Outdoor News (WON) called every monday morning to get what intel we had compiled for the week for the WON “Private Boaters Report” from guys coming back from the ramp. We were very well connected, and even had a VHF radio on in the store at all times. Basically, we were information central and knew even the most guarded secret bites at any given time.
The tackle store owner had a 26′ Blackman, I had an 18′ center console, and my parents had a 42′ Uniflite Sportfisher. To say I fished every time I had a day off is an understatement. Each week when Rich Holland would call, I’d give him the reports from guys that came by the shop to show off their catch, and the report from what I did on one of the 3 boats mentioned above. As soon as WON came out on wednesday, my phone would ring from friends and family that saw my name in print, yet again. They’d ask me the same question every week, and I’d give the same answer. The question “how do you manage to catch SOMETHING every singe week of the year Jeff?” And my answer “because I fish for what is biting.” Seems simple enough, right?
Years later I was hired to run the “RailTime” 6-pak boat out of Huntington Harbor. Nine times out of 10 the clients would get on the boat and ask me where we were going, and what we were going to fish for. Those were successful trips. The other times guys would get on the “RailTime” and TELL me what THEY wanted to fish for. “We want to catch albacore” they’d say. “That’s great! But the albies are not biting, the seabass are.” I seriously had trips where the guys were so set in their ways, that they’d demand that we go albacore fishing, even if they were not biting. “We booked and paid for this trip last year, and paid for an albacore trip!” “Fine.” Then we’d go catch nothing, and I’d be a “lousy captain” at the end of the trip because we caught nothing. Starting to see my point here?
These days being able to have all the latest fishing information is as easy as ever, and I still hear from guys that go looking for fish that are not biting. I’ll get a call from a guy that wants to know what is biting and I’ll tell him that the seabass are biting good up at the Channel Islands, and ask for him to give me a call after his trip so I can hear how it went. The next day I get the call “well, we went thresher fishing off Dana and never got a bite!” Seriously? “How did the seabass dope I gave you turn into a thresher trip?” I’d ask. Then I get the “my buddy is a great thresher fisherman and he said he gets them all the time where we went.” Epic fail. If a guy just fished for what is biting every time he went out, he’d have photo albums filled with smiling faces and big fish, from cover to cover.
Even the simplest of details seem impossible for some to adhere to. Again I get a call from a guy that wants to know what is biting. I tell him “the seabass are biting inside Eagle Reef, Catalina Island. Set up in front of Howlands Landing and fish all night, in 90′ of water and put out your squid lights, even if you have a tank of squid already. Then, fish jigs tipped with squid off the bottom and dropper loops with 2 or 3 squid pinned on. Then, call me when you get back with a report.” Next day the phone rings “when we left the mooring in Avalon at 7am and headed for the spot…………” I am always amazed at how these guys are surprised that they caught nothing at all.
If you really want to catch more fish on your boat, just fish for what is biting, where it is biting, and when it is biting. I KNOW, it sounds SO simple, yet it remains impossible for most guys to do. There is always an excuse: “my buddy was seasick” or, “it was rough and windy.” These are the 3 things you need to know before you plan a trip, and leave the dock. Not what the water temp was, or what pound line the fish are biting. Just what, where and when.
This summer we had stellar sand bass fishing on the Flats, but mostly in the afternoon and evenings. During the day it was hard to even get a bite most days, yet I heard over and over how bad the fishing was for sand bass. Really!? “Did you fish at night?” I’d ask. “No, we fished from 8am til noon, when the wind came up.” No wonder you never got a bite! Same goes for the guys fishing the kelps offshore for the phenomenal dorado fishing we’ve had this year. I’d tell guys to “get out early and find the right kelp by yourself” only to get the call after their trip saying it was too crowded at the bait receiver when they were in line for bait at 7am. Amazing. You might as well fish without hooks.
As I write this there is some really good fishing for tuna, yellowtail and dorado on the 1010 Trench. A simple evening departure and a slow (fuel conserving) trip out to the grounds puts you there at dawn, and you can be done with a full fish hold and some great photos before 8am and on your way home, with still more chances of catching a fish on the way back. Yet I keep hearing of guys that traveled the same mileage upon inner waters for nothing, and too many boats. How hard can it be to fish where the fish actually are, and where they are biting?
Today I still get the same phone calls from the same people asking the same question. “Man, you are on fire! How do you do it!” I give the same answer “simple, I just fish for what is biting.” Now you try it, and see what happens.