What’s Biting You?
Got an email this week asking: “What is the absolute best time to fish Catalina Island for yellowtail?”
It just so happens that now is a pretty good time. In fact, we had two nice fish for a couple on the same day that I got the email question. I sent him the pics from that morning as my answer…his response, “Wow!”.
I could not answer him in any better way. And that is why we call it fishing. There are no absolutes. There are only variables, and those are so numerous that it would be futile to try to list them.
And that is why fishing is a lifelong passion for many.
Sportfishing is a constant learning process with an endless series of lessons in a changing landscape of conditions where we get to test our knowledge and skill every time out.
As charter operators, we do this with customers that range the gamut from expert to novice. You might think that the truly experienced anglers would be the more difficult charters since their expeditions are often for trophy fish.
You would be wrong.
The novice angler is the more difficult charter by a landslide. Take this morning. We had a family on board with kids three kids aged 5-9 years old. The charter started at 8am, banker’s hours, not angler’s hours.
Still, we get it. Families are here for fun. Getting up early for some is not fun. So, we get everybody on board and head out for the day looking for the high action, high probability fish since we know kids like action.
And we find it. The bonito are running big and biting well. It takes every bit of ability for these kids to manage these speedsters. Everybody is having fun, except Dad. Dad wants to catch a yellowtail, he has paid a lot of money for this charter.
So, we switch over to slow trolling bait in the hopes that we might get a late yellowtail bite. It is boring. It is slow. And, we know it has very little chance of success, but it is what Dad wants. After all, he just came back from Cedros Island (Mexico) where he caught ‘a hundred 50 pound yellowtail’…hmmm.
Can you imagine the disappointment? In one fell swoop Dad let the air out of the balloon for the kids and for the crew. That charter went from success to failure in an instant.
True anglers get this. Novice fisherman often don’t.
There are no absolutes, but we do know a few things that can increase the chances, but will not ensure the outcome of capturing yellowtail.
We know these fish are here now. We know the bigger fish are biting well on the squid grounds early in the morning and on fin bait later in the day.
We know the smaller fish are on the front side in tight near the camps, but these fish seem to be in spawn mode and are not on the chew, although a few are getting caught in mid-day, the better target time is early evening.
We know that these are tough fish and that they have an uncanny ability to slip the hook, break the line or in some way escape capture. We know that a 7 year old would have a tough time using a light line spinning outfit on these fish.
But, Dad paid a lot for this charter and we are in the business of exceeding customer expectations, even when those expectations are out of whack with the reality.
So, we slow troll live bait and wait.
In less than an hour the now bored customer asks if there is any rock fish or ling cod. This is usually our last resort when the top water fish are not biting.
We roll up the trolling gear, head around the East End and into deeper water. On the first three drops we hook Reds, Bocacio and two ling cod. A successful stop on anybody’s list.
“What about halibut or Calico bass?” the customer asks, obviously not impressed with the rockfishing.
So, we pull in the deep water gear, break out the light line and head to a new spot where we immediately start hooking some smaller Calico bass and even a 5 pound Trigger fish, something pretty rare in our waters.
The customer remains unimpressed and is shaking his head. My Captain and crew are completely baffled. They have down everything the customer asked, caught fish with each change and still the customer walks off the boat with a bag of freshly caught fish and not a word of thanks to the crew.
My only take-away is that dealing with charter customers can be as challenging and as endlessly educational as the fishing. Just as failing to capture your target fish can still make for a successful fishing trip, apparently actually catching the target fish can sometimes make for a failed trip.
On a completely different topic, we ran a little contest last week to see who would be the first to identify the mystery fish that we caught. Guy Williamson from the Catalina Express correctly identified the fish as a Midshipman.
More specifically, it was a Speckled Fin Midshipman.
Congrats Guy, you have won two free tickets for our famous Flying Fish Tour. Use them soon, we are seeing literally thousands of flying fish right now.
Capt. John runs Afishinados Charters and Catallac Tours – firstname.lastname@example.org – 888-613-7770