FISHING ON THE CALIFORNIA COAST
If the Pacific Ocean feels like a washing machine and you’re concerned about getting tossed around, then stow away your heavy gear, pick up your light tackle and take a day to explore some of southern California’s inshore waterways. There are plenty of bays and harbors to try out, including the Long Beach Harbor, San Diego Bay, Mission Bay, Newport Harbor, as well as the King Harbor. These offer great protection from the strong winds and rough waters of the Pacific.
Location, Location, Location.
When you’re in these spots you’ll find several different types of fish, including halibut, corbina, sargo, croaker, seabass, and Pacific bonefish. However, the saltwater bass will be the main target of almost all anglers. The great thing about saltwater and freshwater bass is that they have very similar habits, which is good news for freshwater fisherman because you can easily transition to consistently catching fish.
Thanks to California’s catch and release culture these bass are extremely prevalent, which means no matter where you go, you’ll be able to catch kelp, sand, and spotted bass.
When first arriving, take a look around and find some structure. Almost all harbors and bays have some sort of riprap, and there will usually be some fish holding there. This is a great first place to start.
When fishing riprap you’ll need to learn to read the water. So be on the lookout for three things.
Are there swells of water pushing onto the rocks or wind waves breaking against them? If no, then it might best to move on. However, if you see this occurring that means there’s a good chance that there is baitfish around. This is because the water being pushed against the rocks is carrying nutrients that the baitfish enjoy.
Now that you’ve located moving water, check to see how the bait fish are acting. If they’re moseying about, then head further down or look for a new area because that means the predator fish are not biting there. If you see bait fish acting erratic then hold that position and throw out a few casts.
Finally, you should also know which way the current is running. Fish need to be facing into the current to remain stationary, which means they will be looking up current. Because of this, when throwing a moving bait, you will need to retrieve it in the direction that the current is moving.
Now that you’ve found a good piece of riprap, lower your trolling motor and start working the structure. The first lure you should be throwing is something that can be worked quickly such as a swimbait or a crankbait. This allows you to cover water quicker and to find where the fish are biting.
When throwing a crankbait it’s best if you can make contact with the bottom. For example, if you’re fishing in water that is 8-feet deep try throwing something rated for 10 feet. That way you’re guaranteed to be fishing deep enough. Once you’ve positioned your boat, give a cast so that the lure runs parallel to the riprap. Then wind your reel in quickly to get your bait against the bottom. Once there give it a stop and go retrieve so that it continues to bounce off rocks and kick up any sand it touches.
If riprap is not being productive then you can always go and fish docks. This is a much easier process because these are not as complicated. That’s because the fish are almost always hanging out around the pilings at the sea floor. These are best fished by using a plastic swimbait attached to a jig head. Pitch this right against the pilings and let it sink to the bottom on slack line. From there you work it back to you by jigging, or using a swim n’ jig approach.