It had taken more than two hours to motor from Berkeley to the Farallon Islands. I snoozed for much of the ride, so I was feeling alert and ready for action when I stepped to the port corner and got my long Seeker Stealth jigging rod ready for action.
The angler next to me drop down with shrimp flies and a quick glance at the angle of his line told me the direction of the drift. Thumbing the Penn Fathom high speed lever drag reel, I fired a chrome and blue 12 ounce Ahi Assault diamond jig 150 feet up current and free spooled it down to the bottom.
I grew up jigging for lingcod and rockfish and it’s one of my favorite ways to fish. As a general rule, big live baits will catch you more lings than jigs but when the jig bite is on the action can be fast and furious. The jig stick felt good in hands!
With the jig laying on the bottom, I retrieved slack while dropping the rod tip. When the line came tight to the jig, I lifted sharply and propelled the jig off the bottom and then let it fall, controlling the amount of slack with the reel. You want the jig to fall on a semi-slack line, but too much slack undermines your control.
When I lifted the rod to bring the jig off the bottom a second time I felt solid weight and immediately cranked hard on the reel. I was hooked up and it felt like a good fish!
Perhaps a minute into the trip and I had the first lingcod of the day heading for the surface. Moments later Stan, the Goldeneye 2000’s deckhand, was at my side and with much precision sunk the gaff into the head of my 9 pound ling when it came into view near the port corner.
When I turned around I saw Captain Quang looking my way. I was giving away a new Abu Garcia baitcaster to the angler that caught the first keeper ling of the day and I could tell from Quang’s smile that I was in for some ribbing.
“You going to keep that reel for yourself? Look everybody Cal won his own reel,” he laughing.
“Well I guess I’ll give it to the guy that catches the second keeper. These Fish Sniffer readers need to step up their game,” I laughed back.
In reality there was nothing wrong with Team Fish Sniffer’s game, as a steady procession of big rockfish and the occasional lingcod came to the surface.
A few minutes after I caught the “unofficial” first lingcod, an angler up in the bow scored a ling of his own and took home the Abu Garcia Silver Maxx. A reader named Tom fishing to my right hauled up a vermilion rockfish on a homemade jig that went about 10 pounds and an angler just down the rail from me was bringing up 4 to 6 pound olive rockfish two at a time on shrimp flies tipped with squid.
The trip I’m describing took place on July 14, when 34 Fish Sniffer readers joined me aboard Captain Quang Vo’s Goldeneye 2000. Quang is a great all around skipper, but one of his specialties is putting folks on big rockfish and lingcod out at the Farallons and his big stable catamaran is a perfect platform for that type of fishing. I look forward to fishing with Quang every summer. I love catching big bottomfish and I love eating them when I get home!
After hooking a ling so quickly, I put a couple husky rockfish into my sack and promptly lost my chrome and blue jig in the rocks.
Knotting on a glow white Ahi jig I commented to Tom, “That chrome and blue jig was working great, I hope they like this white one.”
I had nothing to worry about. It was evident almost immediately that they liked the glow white jig even better. On the first drop with the white Ahi I scored a lingcod pushing 20 pound that turned out to be the jackpot winning fish. I then followed up with several other double digit lings.
Within 90 minutes or so the jig accounted for 5 lingcod that ranged from 12 to nearly 20 pounds, along with 4 vermilion rockfish over 6 pounds and a massive 8 pound canary rockfish.
Canary rockfish had been off limits for many years, but this season we are able to harvest one canary as part of our 10 rockfish limits. My first keeper of the year was a dandy specimen and stands as the largest canary I’ve ever caught or seen!
As the day went on, I had the pleasure of sharing the Ahi Assault Jigs I’d brought with other anglers that wanted to get in on the hot lingcod bite. Anglers that knew how to work jigs properly nailed some epic fish on the Ahi Jigs.
I taught a few guys that had never dropped jigs before the basics, explaining the importance of things like braided line, high speed powerful reels and long stiff jig sticks like my Seeker Stealth. Once they understood the tackle required, I coached them through a drop our two with them using my rod and me giving them pointers. It was cool see the smiles on their faces when the jig got slammed and rod started bucking under the weight of an angry bottom dweller.
When Captain Quang called it a day and we headed in we had stacked up full limits of 380 rockfish, most of which weighted over 4 pounds. In addition to the rockfish there were 25 hefty lingcod in the box.
Reflecting on the trip, I’ve got to say it was one of the best charter adventures I’ve ever been part of. The fishing was epic, the seas were flat, the camaraderie was incredible and the sights were inspiring. We saw several huge humpback whales and a bunch of porpoise at close range. In fact, at one point Quang had to stop the boat to allow a huge whale to pass right in front of us!
I’ll be back on the Goldeneye 2000 for more rocks and lings on Friday August 25. To join me call Capt. Quang at (510) 610-0888.