|It was a few seasons back. Maybe even just the season before last? It was a Saturday afternoon, that's for sure. The beer was cold. There was nothing going on. And Ben Babbitt called me up to see if I wanted to go fish around Dana Point with him and his buddy Terry.
We ended up down off San Onofre, where the conditions were all wrong, like they are so often at what has to be the most fickle spot I know of. So we moved. First to the Barber Pole (which actually has a purpose: it marks the end of the Dana Point Pipe, if anyone was ever wondering?). We made mackerel, greenbacks and spanish dudes, and then Babbitt headed over to Salt Creek. What was just going to be a little afternoon jaunt had already travelled over 20 miles. A lot of trips and days and fish kind of blend together sometimes. But not this one.
It was right when I started messing around with fishing 80-pound Spectra to about five feet of 80-pound fluorocarbon, and we were in the type of spot that screamed the rig: heavy kelp, rocky bottom. A spot where if you get a bite, it's going to be a good one.
I don't usually butt hook, but when I do it's usually at the edge of the kelp, so that I can swim the bait right where I want it to go by backpedalling the spool, turning the handle and putting the rod in the air--in any combination--and then pop the reel into freespool and get the mac moving.
The bite felt just like what we were fishing for--a summer seabass--and the suck-in thud and steady swim off told me that there was no need to let the fish overeat the bait and get swimming towards the kelp.
It was lever drag--All. The. Way.--to strike, wind down and swing as hard as I could time; the heaviest eight-foot rod on the market bent as much as it can, the fish shook its head a little bit and tried to dog, but the line just kelp going on the reel as little pumps of the Super Seeker 80XH put the 80-pound hollow back onto the geared down Accurate 600N. Why stop now? Pulling, pulling, pulling had the fish shoot right to the boat--what was probably 20 pounds of drag helped--and all of a sudden a brown head and gaping white hole came shooting up. At first I thought it was a Squatina californica. You know, one of these:
But then Babbitt said something about halibut and look out and he stuck this thing that went as apeshit as you'd expect from a 20-second halibut. We hid up in the bow and said "holy shit" over and over again with the big grins that come from knowing dinner for the week is going to be a little cheaper this time around. We didn't weight it--it was "bycatch" after all--and at the time it was just like most of the halibut I've caught, as in incidental.
But now I am starting to like this local halibut fishing. It's technical and a challenge and the success ratio is astronomically higher than seabass fishing in the dead of winter.
Here's pic of that big halibut. I had actually forgot about it, which kind of ironically shows how into halibut I was at the time, until Babbitt sent it to me the other day. I'm not putting the picture up for the whole look-at-me-I'm-so-badass effect that permeates so much outdoor writing. (Okay, maybe a little.) Point is that sometime all it takes is to look back at one worthy fish to get some inspiration.
Yes, the next trip will be for halibut. I might even jig some mackerel.