When 40 plus hardcore Fish Sniffer supporters man one of the Bay Area’s largest most comfortable charter vessels to fish with one of the state’s most talented rockfish and lingcod skippers it’s a bad day to be a bottomfish and that’s exactly what we saw on September 15.
September 15 marked the date of the most recent Cal Kellogg School of Fishing adventure when myself, fellow Fish Sniffer writer Mike McNeilly and more than 40 readers traveled out to the Farallon Islands aboard Berkeley’s Golden Eye 2000.
The Golden Eye is a 56 foot catamaran. Not only is the boat fast but it also offers a big expanse of deck and rail space as well as a huge cabin, making it a superb platform for long-range trips to the Farallons and beyond.
Captain Quan Vo is the Golden Eye’s owner operator. He’s one of those skippers that has seen it all and done it all in terms of Norcal saltwater fishing, but his true passion is putting his clients on outstanding rockfish and lingcod action.
We left Berkeley before sunrise and as dawn broke we were at the fuel docks in San Francisco fueling up for the long ride to the islands.
After leaving San Francisco, Captain Vo shared that we’d be making a stop for sanddabs prior to dropping on the rockfish and lings.
Sanddabs are exceptional baits for lingcod and big rockfish like them too. Despite the fact that I’d be spending the day filming for an upcoming episode of Fishing The West With Cal Kellogg rather than fishing, I still felt a shiver of excitement just thinking about dropping a sanddab tethered to a trap rig into the dark and foreboding waters surrounding the Farallons!
When expectations are running high, the ride to the islands seems to take forever and that was certainly the case on September 15. When we arrived at the sanddab spot folks were eager to get started.
With hooks baited with squid strips, it didn’t take long for a collection of 4 to 10 inch ‘dabs to start stacking up in the Golden Eye’s live bait tank and within about 30 minutes we had plenty of big baits for the day. 20 minutes later we were at one of Captain Vo’s honey holes near the “12 foot” spot at Fanny Shoals.
That tiny hump doesn’t get much pressure and that really showed in the vigorous response our baits and lures got.
Anglers aboard the boat broke down into three basic categories. A lot of swimbait enthusiasts lined the bow. On the stern were the guys that liked to cast and yo yo metal bars and the side rails were manned with the shrimp fly and/or the trap rig and sanddab contingents.
With an Abu Garcia Black Maxx baitcaster up for grabs for the first keeper lingcod to hit the deck, most guys had their game faces on. It only took about 5 minutes for the first keeper to show up. It was a handsome ling of about 8 pounds that inhaled a white swimbait an angler was working up on the bow.
Just about the time I made it up to the bow to chat with the lucky angler he hooked another ling. Two casts, two keeper lingcod. That was enough to warrant a quick video interview!
“It’s pretty simple he,” told me. “I toss it out and let it sink and them I’m just lifting and lowering it as we drift. Honestly the jig hasn’t spent much time on the bottom. The hits have come pretty fast.”
As the morning went on the action got faster and faster. A big vermilion would show up here, a monster bocaccio there and there was a parade of 4 to 6 pound olive rockfish coming over the rail all around the boat.
Fish Sniffer reader Shaun Barone jumped aboard the boat for his first ever saltwater fishing trip. As I chatted with him, a lingcod grabbed his sanddab. The ling, his first ever, turned out to be a dandy 12 pounder. Shaun was exciting and I was super-happy for him. Not only did he have a lingcod under his belt, he’d started out with a good one that put up a solid fight.
The next time I ran into Shaun a few minutes later he was holding a 6 pound vermilion rockfish. Shaun is clearly a quick learner and in a subsequent email he confessed to me that he is now hooked on saltwater charter boat action and can’t wait for the next Cal Kellogg School of Fishing trip!
These days I catch most of my lingcod on live and dead natural baits, but I’m an old school jigger at heart, so I spent a lot of time chatting with the boys on the stern. What a group of hardcore talented anglers we had back there. Jigging correctly is a very physical endeavor and these guys were letting it all hang out, making long casts with heavy bars and working them vigorously as they rotated along the Golden Eye’s long rear rail.
They reaped hefty rewards for their efforts. It seemed like just about every cast yielded a hookup from either a hefty rockfish or a quality lingcod.
“The rockfish action is almost too good,” one of the bar casters asserted. “You only get yo yo the jig three or four times before you hook up. Most of the time a big olive rockfish grabs it before you get it in front of a ling, but I’ve still been able to put five keeper lingcod in the box.”
When Captain Vo called it a day at around 2 o’clock we had full limits of rockfish and more than 60 keeper lingcod to about 17 pounds. Anglers with the largest rockfish and lings took home rods and reels from Penn and Abu Garcia.
On the way back in most folks including me napped. Working a wide-open bottomfish bite is exhausting and filming the action will tire you out too!
Team Fish Sniffer will be back on the Golden Eye 2000 soon. Captain Vo and his crew are not only great anglers, but they are a lot of fun to fish with as well. The smiles, good will and camaraderie of the day will be long remembered!