After last week’s more-chatting-than-fish-catching episode at Newport Harbor, it was clear to me that if I wanted to catch more fish, I needed to spend more of my limited attention span focused on getting the timing right. Basically, I just need to study the conditions in advance, and whenever possible avoid fishing on days when the water temperature swings 14 degrees from low to high tide. Yeah, the fish were a bit cold last week, and just didn’t want to cooperate.
As you may have heard, the rising tide, up through high tide and even an hour after, is widely believed to be the most favorable fishing time period. While I do agree that moving water is a contributing component of a good bite, I’m not convinced that it has to be a rising tide. In fact, I have experienced slack tide to be a terrific time to catch fish quickly, as in one of my prior posts, The Newport Experiment. It’s obvious that many factors play a part in catching fish, but I think the greatest factor is having your head out of your butt, and not just part-way out, I mean all the way out.
To me, that equates to understanding the conditions enough to fish the right bait, to willing fish, with the right presentation. Of course, this is akin to the well-worn golf adage that says golf is easy because all you have to do is put the ball in the hole. This is one reason I don’t golf; dumb adages. The other reason is they won’t let you bring a rod in your golf bag to fish the water hazards. What could a couple of casts hurt? Seriously? As usual, I digress…
Kayaks loaded and ready for the 4:30 AM departure.
My favorite tide prediction website, www.ProTides.com, was showing a terrific negative, or “neep” tide this morning, which meant we could look forward to a long, rising tide from dawn until around Noon. We planned to be on the water by 5:30 AM prior to the entire harbor draining, and as it turned out, prior to the sun coming over the Saddleback Mountains. We packed the truck on Friday night, chained the yaks to the rack, and hit the sack for far too few hours of sleep.
Well before dawn’s crack, we were up, at ’em, and beating cheeks North on I-5. The neighborhood of Newport Beach where we launch, Corona Del Mar, or CDM if you’re a local, is pretty exclusive. The median home price there is roughly equivalent to my lifetime gross domestic product ($1.3M bucks) and the folks who live there take beauty rest, parking ordinances, and their exorbitantly taxed property rights VERY seriously. Having heard horror stories from others who ignored the 6a-10p parking lot time restrictions, we decided it would be best to park on the street. We set up our boats very quietly, so as not to draw too much attention to the fact that we were about to drag our gear across a piece of land that was technically still closed to the public for another half-hour. Fighting the urge to ding-dong ditch the neighbors, we assembled our equipment and made our way to the water.
Pre-dawn Kayak rigging - "Dude, be cool! And quit giggling."
The Mystery Hand says, "Use this bait!".
The Mystery Hand endorses liberal use of Uni Butter
OK, enough of the set up. You’re here to see some slippery, finned, fish-on-lure action, so I’ll cut to the chase. We paddled out in less than 6 inches of water, as the tide was SUPER low (see chart above if you doubt me). We were bite-free until the tide bottomed out and just started it’s upward creep (Note to reader: NOT high tide). We did well until the tide topped off, and had some great fun doing so. All counter-intuitive if you follow conventional wisdom.
Matt chose the “Newport Special”, which is a 4″ curly tailed Hot Belly Bass colored AAT jig as his primary tool, and I stuck with my new favorite weapon of choice, the black Lazer Eye spinner bait & skirt, paired with a 3″ anchovy colored Big Hammer swimbait. We both were generous with magic potion called UniButter. I’ll talk more about the scent at another time, but let’s just say, it works. I’ll also add that you don’t want to get any on you unless you never want to be near anyone that doesn’t appreciate the rousing smell of a fish packing plant. ‘Nuff said.
Now, brace yourself for more of the Mystery Hand and bazillion fish montage:
The first of several chunk pre-spawn spotted bay bass.
A second, even bigger fish, from the same spot as the first. Just like I planned it! (yeah, right)
I'm starting to think there's something to this UniButter stuff!
OK, so it wasn't my worst day of fishing. (16" Spotted Bay Bass - Not too shabby)
Matt hooked and nearly landed a large bat ray that hit a curly tail grub. I later got to go for a ride behind one that nailed my spinnerbait. They should change the name of these fish to the “Crap Your Pants Ray”. Matt’s first swallowed his jig, then promptly jumped out of the water a mere 15 feet from his rod tip. The poor boy nearly soiled himself in surprise when the approximately 20# fish made it’s big, unannounced, and splashy appearance. Mine hit with such force that it nearly jerked the rod from my hands, and then it sprinted for the Pacific. Lucky for me it swam under a dock, where I ended up, slammed (really more of a thud) into the back of a half-a-million dollar yacht with my line tightly twisted around a gnarly piling. I’m still licking my wounds, but fortunately, Matt was able to regroup and put some trophies on the board.
To add to the degree of difficulty, he chose to target the souvenir keychain rack, which was heaping full of tiny, itty-bitty toy versions of the fish we know and love. As the sometimes ornery author, I get to say stuff like that. Matt, if you want payback, or a better review, start a blog, or at least a Twitter account! 😉 (Now let’s see if I still get invited to the July 4th pig roast at Matt’s place…)
Barred Sand Bass - All the ladies, in unison: "It's soooo cuuuute!"
The tiniest california halibut either of us has ever seen.
Matt's "Newport Special" bait even worked for me. Shhh, don't tell Matt.
Fishing Report for 06/04/2011