Text and images by Craig Smith
We made a quick outing today to the Point Loma kelp beds today before the holiday weekend crowds found their way to the water. We didn’t start too early, launching at 0630 at the Dana Landing ramp on Mission Bay. Launch ramp traffic was down compared to previous weeks. We headed in about 1100 to find the bay starting to get congested with early holiday traffic.
The water was cooler than in recent weeks; we metered water temps from 68 - 72 F. A 3 foot swell at 8 seconds from the west had us bobbing up and down a bit with some occasional stumbling around the boat. The breeze was light and variable as predicted with some overcast early that burned off by 0800. We were targeting Calico bass but hoping to find some there species to go with them. The bass bite wasn't hot but there were fish to be caught. We had to work for them, moving around quite a bit to find current and biting fish. Most of the fish we caught were hooked over the tops of kelp strands that were 10-20 feet below the surface.
We didn't see much bait at all and only a bird here and there. A lot of the areas that we fished earlier in the summer where the kelp was at or near the surface appeared devoid of the salty salad. The kelp has been dying of again as a result of the unusually warm water we had in July and earlier in August. Much of the kelp that is still present is rotten and when snagged. A snagged fly usually pulls out with a good tug. We caught a few small mackerel (which would have been great live yellowtail bait of we had been doing that type of angling) and some short barracuda. Barracuda must be 28” to keep; they make great tacos and burritos. Many of the bass we found today were shorts with only a few exceeding the minimum size of 14 inches. Calico bass fillets are pretty tasty but all fish were released today. All together two anglers brought a few more than three dozen calicos to the boat. The pelagic species that we often encounter when working the kelp beds have been pretty scarce this summer with sightings of bonito, larger barracuda, the firecracker yellowtail we typically not showing much or at all close to shore. But the Calico bass bite has been pretty good all summer and we love pursuing them.
The gear of choice for today was 8 and 9 weight fly rods rigged with Rio Outbound Custom T-11 or Rio Striper 350 grain fly lines. Flies used included an orange and yellow Clouser Half and Half tied on a 2/0 hook along with a blue/ chartreuse / white Clouser Deep minnow. Both flies were fitted with a weed guard. We also took a few bass using a size 2 green over white ALF (anchovy looking fly) originated by Bill and Kate Howe. The ALF was fished by stripping it quickly over the kelp. This is a bit of change from they way we typically fish weighted flies, which we allow to sink then retrieve with mix of strips than are long and short, fast and slow, with some pauses mixed in. All things considered it was a pretty nice morning on the water.