After our opening trip on July 9th, Skipper John Fuqua told us that our next trip to The Channel Islands we would be fishing for rock cod in shallow water, an area that to his knowledge had never been attempted by Fly fishermen. During the intervening weeks, we were busily tying huge multi-colored flys in anticipation of our coming adventure. The early morning of July 23rd, club President Mike Forrest, Rocky Tussey, Erwin Goldbloom, Paul Regert, Tom Agar and myself, Andy Malovos, found ourselves out at Fraser Point at the North end of Santa Cruz Island. Almost immediately Rocky caught a Sugar Bass and I caught a Blue rockfish, but soon the bite slowed due to heavy current. We had learned from our previous trip that the Calico Bass, Olive Rockfish (also know as Johnny Bass) and Sugar Bass tend to prefer certain colored flys. On July 9th, “Hot Sticks” Erwin Goldbloom and Mike Forrest caught theirs on White Clousers with red eyes. On July 23rd, the star of the show was Rocky Tussey, with a green/blue/gray clouser with orange dumb bell eyes on a #1-1/0 hook. Rocky fishes the Calicos regularly in the Long Beach area and keeps a wide variety of flys for their tastes. Orange eyed flys were hot! Paul Regert also did very well. John moved the Sea Jay Southward along the Island where we continued to pick up the bass. For those of you who have never fished the Islands, Santa Cruz is steep, desert brown and mostly treeless, with the cliffs pock marked with caves, and high narrow ledges that lead to no where. The cliffs are interspaced with small rocked coves and beaches that are mostly inaccessible from the interior of the island. A vast network of kelp- home mostly surrounds the island to our friends the bass and rockfish. The National Park Service maintains a nice pier and buildings for their patrol boats in a small semi-crescent shaped harbor. We got some friendly waves from them as we drifted past. Hurry up John! They might want to inspect the boat! It was nice fishing; we ended up with 22 assorted bass.
As some of you know, Peter Van Hest and I are also members of the Santa Lucia Fly Fishers located on the Central Coast. The Santa Lucia club was booked to fish with John on July 24th. Since the Santa Lucia club had only 5 fishermen including myself for the trip, Mike Forrest graciously filled in to round out the group. Mike and I had just enough time to wash our faces before meeting Peter Van Hest and the rest of SLFF at Andrea’s for dinner at 6:30 PM July 23, 2008.
July 24th Fishout
SWFR and SLFF Members battle ‘Cudas and Calico Bass at Channel Islands’
“Well, What do we tell them about tomorrow’s chances Mike?” “We tell them the truth Andy!” Mike Forrest, President of the Saltwater Flyrodders from Montrose CA, and I had just got off the Saltwater Fly Rodders club fish out on the Sea Jay to the Channel Islands at 6 PM July 23rd. We were walking up to our meeting place for our SLFF members at Andrea’s Seafood restaurant in Ventura Harbor prior to our SLFF fishout July 24th. Final score for the July 23rd trip was: 22 Bass- Calico, Sugar, And “Johnny” 1-3 lbs. No Bonito, Barracuda or White Sea Bass. “Just like the Perchless surf casting and the Horrible Halibut disease” I remarked. Mike smiled and said “I just got off a Catamaran Fly-casting trip to Mexico where we traveled from San Diego to Ensenada and the only thing we got was 1- 6 pound Albacore for 6 guys, and a huge gas bill.
“John Fuqua the Skipper of the Sea Jay told Mike and I that the log size Barracuda and Sea Bass are feeding at night.” I told the group. The information did not seem to faze SLFF members Peter Van Hest, Terry Croxton, Will Barkluff, and Charley Cohn. We got on the Sea Jay that night racked our fly rigged 9-12 wt. Rods and jumped into out bunks. John left the dock with the Sea Jay at about 5 AM. A smooth as glass ride put us at China Harbor- just off shore on the North side of Santa Cruz Island at about 8 AM. Sunshine! Will you look at the water visibility? Barracuda were jumping and the boils the size of manhole covers surrounded the boat. “I said the log Barracuda were feeding at night but not these guys.” John said and grinned at us as we clambered up to the deck. We had planned to use our fishing position- rotation across the stern of the boat to give everyone a chance at the action- but that plan went out the window in a hurry as Charley Cohn landed Barracuda one after another. Bent rods for all who put out their Blue or Green Clouser flys. “JJ” the Deckhand – would net and unhook the fish and return them – to the water, since the fish were 12-18 inches in length. Legal keeper size is 26 inches. They still fought very hard. Peter cast near one of the big boils andafter a significant battle landed a 3-pound Calico Bass. Peter’s Fly – a Green Clouser with Orange Eyes, red thread and purple and white holographic material, was literally a magnet for fish. Peter was in double figures with the scrappy bass. When fishing slowed a bit, we established our rotation across the Stern and had some fun doing some Reverse casting off the corners. We ended up after about 3 hours of non-stop action, catching and releasing about 50 Barracuda and 30 Calico Bass at China Harbor. We caught a few more fish south of that location, and traveled back to the landing at about 2 PM. We bumped rods a few times but generally were tangle free. Although most of the waters surrounding the Channel Islands are protected for the year round fish, the pelagic fish- Tuna family, Barracuda and White Sea Bass can be taken. Check the DFG regulations before you go.
Those were my first Calico Bass and Barracuda! Said one of the members- “Congratulations you are now addicted.”
By Andy Malovos