Kayak Fishing for White Seabass E-mail
Monday, 12 October 2009 06:45
Ghost Busting - When Hunting White Seabass, Silence is Only One of a Kayaker’s Weapons.
Reprinted courtesy of KayakFishingZone.com: Paddling the U.S. Pacific Coast and Baja

kayak fishing for white sea bass

Each spring grey ghosts haunt the rich kelp beds at La Jolla, Southern California’s kayak fishing big game epicenter. Known as white seabass, the 30 through 60-lb king croakers are famous for their elusiveness. Kayakers account for most of the coastal catch. What about private boaters? They scatter among the kayak flotilla, but few sport anything more than disappointed faces. The lopsided numbers demonstrate that inshore, the kayak is the superior vessel for hunting white seabass. Why?

The stealth factor shouldn’t be underestimated. For a fish that has a reputation as easily spooked, it’s easy to hear the difference between the gentle splash of a paddle and the drone of a marine engine. Whereas the noise of the powerboat might scare skittish seabass away, some kayakers believe the paddle slap actually brings them in. Andrew Allen has caught more white seabass than most at La Jolla over a period of years. “The subtle swirl of the paddle entices fish. They come to see if feeding is taking place,” said Allen, who now runs OEX Kayak Center in Sunset Beach.

When a white seabass comes to investigate the swish of a paddle, it is likely to find something to eat that matches the local forage. Unlike the Channel Islands, where boaters score seabass on live squid, at La Jolla and the other likely coastal white seabass haunts, the ‘candy’ bait is much less widely available.

That hasn’t been the case in early 2008, when a February squid float at La Jolla fired up fishing to the point the platform didn’t matter. Later, when things return to normal, many private boaters will hit the local kelps with purchased fin bait, sardines or anchovies, and use that instead. Kayak anglers, on the other hand, will catch their own live bait right on the fishing grounds.

“We match the hatch,” said La Jolla regular Pat Holmes, an OEX staffer. “Coastal seabass seem to be eating a lot of fin bait, primarily mackerel, so fishing a green mackerel may get better bites compared to barge-bought sardine or anchovy. The bigger baits also keep the barracuda away,” Holmes added.

Like most kayakers, Allen uses a multi-hook gangion known as a Sabiki rig to catch his mackerel. “Jigging it with a 1 to 2-oz. torpedo sinker usually yields good results. Look for bait in the pockets along the kelp edge. In springtime bait usually congregates about 10 to 15 feet down, around the thermocline,” Allen said. Although he prefers greenbacks for their “erractic and lively swimming,” Allen said the abundant Spanish mackerel are also effective white seabass baits.

Stealth and bait notwithstanding, there’s another good reason most of the La Jolla white seabass catch falls to kayakers: time on the water. Day in and day out, the kayak crew is out there fishing hard.

“We don’t anchor the boat, sit in a seat drinking beer and dropper loop a dead sardine. We are constantly working the bait balls with fresh bait,” Holmes said. Unlike kayakers, who have to be patient because they can’t get anywhere in a hurry, Holmes feels many private boaters can’t stand to stay put.

“If they don’t catch something in ten minutes, they run offshore to catch rockfish. We pound the bait for hours and wait for the fish to come feeding through,” Holmes said.

Normal paddling speed is ideal for trolling live bait. Even that might be too fast for some seabass. “I don’t think seabass like to use a lot of energy when feeding. Slowing down your trolling speed and spending more time drifting or dead sticking seems to trigger more bites,” Holmes said.

La Jolla Kayak Fishing guide Jim Sammons had an additional observation to share. Kayakers often look for the fish where most private boaters don’t venture, right against the kelp line or even deep within the weeds. Of course there’s a price to be paid in lost fish. Some kayakers put their faith in braided lines to cut through the kelp. Not the brawny Sammons. He prefers to put the wood to the fish.

“Most guys don’t pull hard enough,” Sammons said. “If I’m fishing in the kelp, I don’t give them any line. My drag is locked. You can’t give fish the kelp,” Sammons added.

Sammons is fond of saying the kayak is part of his drag system. “Let the kayak do what it does,” in his parlance. Sammons did urge caution, “You better be pretty well balanced and confident. Fish can yank you off your boat if you’re not paying attention.”

To determine how hard you can pull without breaking your line or more likely your knot, Sammons suggested tying off to something static. See how much you can tighten the drag before the line snaps. Sammons predicted most people will be surprised.

If you are kelped despite pulling for all you are worth, Sammons advised those using monofilament to hold steady, solid pressure on the fish. If it appears the fish isn’t going anywhere, then slowly give it line. Never allow the line to go completely slack. “A lot of the time moving to the opposite side to pull from a different direction will free the fish,” Sammons said.

There’s one more factor to contemplate. Call it the early bird theory. Although it doesn’t always bring success, soaking a bait as the sun rises is sure to up the odds in your favor. There’s a lot of ‘want to’ required when its cold out, the surf is up, and it’s obviously dark and wet out there.

However many the reasons kayakers tally more white seabass at La Jolla than private boaters, getting the king croakers doesn’t come easy for anyone. Many of the kayakers who enjoyed fresh seabass for dinner in the past few weeks put dozens of hours into the quest. Like the majority that failed to get a fat seabass, I’ll be out there putting in my time and paying my dues. And you can bet I’ll be so quiet the croakers will never hear me coming.

For more visit Kayak Fishing Zone: www.kayakfishingzone.com Paddling the U.S. Pacific Coast and Baja, KMZ covers every aspect of the sport: kayaks, rigging, techniques, destinations, product reviews, news and more.


Photo Captions

whit sea bassKayakers have the Drop on Inshore White Seabass - The white seabass recently returned to the La Jolla kelp to set up shop for the spawning season. Kayak anglers such as Greg Tsujiuchi have been scoring seabass since mid April.

kayak fishingThe better boat? - Based on recent La Jolla catch numbers, it’s hard not to conclude kayaks are superior to private boats when it comes to catching inshore white seabass. Why? Some people believe noisy boats scare the skittish fish away, while the gentle slap of a paddle sounds more like a dinner bell. This one was landed by Ken Atchison.


Slimed – Martin Harding doesn't seem to care about the thick coat of goo he's modeling. The coveted white seabass are slimy creatures but oh so tasty.

 

 

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