Go Light and Shallow for Sonoma Coast Rockfish

posted in: Ocean and Bays, Reports | 0


By Mark Fong

A quick snap of the rod tip sent my small swimbait toward its target. Letting the bait fall through the water column, I methodically counted it down to 35 feet before closing the bail on my reel and starting a slow steady retrieve.
About half way back to the boat, I could feel the tell tale sign of a strike. I kept reeling as my rod began to load. A few quick turns of the handle and the fight was on.

The fish pulled like a bulldog, making several strong spirited runs before I could get it aboard the boat and into the fish box. Yes, I did say fish box. If you were thinking this is about freshwater black bass, it’s not, this is shallow water light tackle rockfishing. Hard pulling, good eating, water less than 75′, light tackle, this is about as good as it gets.
I have come to really enjoy pursuing rockfish and lingcod using standard finesse black bass tackle. Beyond just the tackle and lures, this type of rockfishing shares so many similarities to freshwater bassin’.
Large schools of Blue, Black and Olive Rockfish have a habit of suspending up in the water column. Once you are able to determine where they are holding, it is simply a matter of getting your bait to them. When this happens, a small swimbait can be lights out.
Pay attention because these fish move fast, oftentimes you can see pods of fish following a hooked fish back to the boat. In these instances, the rockfish act just like a wolf pack of spotted bass. Have your fishing buddy drop a bait to them and see what happens.
When the conditions are right, I like to target lingcod by fishing deeper in the water column and working my swimbait just off the bottom. There is really nothing quite like a big ling on light tackle.

As I mentioned, I make use of my freshwater bass gear. A 7′ ML action spinning rod, 2500 series reel, 15 lb. FINS 40G Braid and a 12 lb. Gamma Edge Fluorocarbon Leader gets the job done..
My favorite swimbait is a 3” AA Shad Tail Swimbait. It swims great and is very durable. I’ll match it up with a ¼ to ¾ oz hand poured swimbait head. I like to have a good selection of colors. #T69 Dean’s Dine, #T55 Classic Brown Bait, #T66 JW Wine, #T51 Pelagic Red Crab and #209 Pearl White are all solid choices.
When I get the hankering to catch some hard fighting rockfish on light tackle, I’ll book a spot on the rail with Fish On Charters (707-490-4067). Running out of Bodega Bay, Captain Jeff Caramella is an authority on this and all styles of rock fishing. If you would like to book a trip, give Fish On Charters a call.