Location: San Francisco Bay Area & Fresno
|One never stops learning and when one is more or less in their first serious season of saltwater fishing the new discoveries abound...
First, the summary: Location: HMB South Jetty. Fished ca. 1030am-315 pm on rising tide. Swells about 2-4' but less further out owing to shelter from N Jetty.
Gear: (me with the early 90's vintage gear) 9' Master surf rod, Daiwa AG4000X spinning reel with 40lb braid and 40 lb mono leader, hi-lo with two triple swivels, 4 oz weight. Bait: market shrimp. (Son, Lee) borrowed sister's 6' Penn Mariner II rod (because he hadn't rigged his own set up the night before) with Pflueger Trion spinning reel with 20lb braid and 20lb mono, hi-lo as above. He also swapped the reel set up onto a 6.5' sectioned backpacking trout rod to play with some swimbaits.
Fish: Me: 2 too short cabezon (13.5, 13"), 1 brown rockfish (8.5"). Lee: 1 grass rockfish 11", One large rock crab of about 6" or better, and near miss with large monkeyfaced eel.
Story: I had targeted Sunday owing to the relatively mellow swell from Sonoma Coast down to HMB. I suppose I was leaning to a rematch with the Sonoma Coast owing to my tantalizing experience there on 12/5 but Lee wanted a rematch with the HMB south jetty after a subpar (for him) but promising trip on 11/19. Lee began by experimenting tossing swim baits using a 6-piece backpacking rod while I used my usual hi-lo and was getting hits on most of my casts but not hooking anything. I then had a strong one that took me into the rocks and was stuck. On 11/19 this had happened twice and I had pulled out two legal cabs here, but not this time. This one was really stuck, reminding me of my experience a few days earlier on the Sonoma Coast except this time the fish really didn't budge at all (no free line moments). Unlike the last week I didn't get the super heavy fighting thing before I got stuck..it was the pull and get stuck right away. Eventually I gave up and got my rig back at least (ie the hook pulled out of whatever it was). As we were to find a couple of hours later, though, the hard take and stuck fish isn't necessarily that big....
After exploring all over the jetty with his swimbaits, Lee returned to rig for bait while I had yet a different variation on a strike and hook. I had been getting a lot of hits and getting my bait stripped so after what appeared to be repeated taps, then a lull in activity I reeled in to replace what I thought to be stripped bait, but found I had a reasonably strong fish on the line. As I pulled it out it looked to be a cab that was a tad too short. The measuring tape confirmed it at 13" and back it went. Sometime after this Lee had a strong strike that drove him into the rocks. He remembered well his north jetty experience on 4/15 when he had a super strong fish get stuck (and not budge) then a slightly less strong one did the same thing but I unstuck it for him and it turned out to be a 22" cab. Perhaps this time he'd succeed against a truly monstrous fish. He would get a brief tug between long stretches of being totally stuck but each time he couldn't budge it. The minutes went by. However, he wasn't about to let his dad give it a try as he did back in April. Finally he dislodged the fish the way one often tries to free up a snag by jerking the rod about and moving back and forth. He cranked on the reel and waited in great anticipation, then bellowed in dismay when he saw what was on the end of the line. The "monster" was a grassie of only 11". Perhaps those of mine that I couldn't budge from the rocks on my last two trips weren't so big after all.
By this time it was past 1 pm and we'd been there three hours of so. I was still getting some hits but these were not as frequent as earlier. Lee was getting no action on either side of the jetty and in his boredom he let out some line and droplined into a hole. He was pretty surprised when he got a tap, then a good hit and had a fish on. He then saw a large eel on his line but it fell off as he was getting ready to hoist it out. He tried this technique on the same hole with no results and a few more holes with one more hit, then came back to where I was after a he caught a good sized rock crab of 6" or better. The crab was not hooked but was still holding onto his bait with a claw. I had only one more stretch of action during the day at about 2 pm when I caught another "tad
too short" cab of 13.5" and a 8.5" brown rockfish on consecutive casts. After a very long dry spell Lee persuaded me to throw in the towel (he already had) because he said he needed the time to think up and cook the evening meal (pasta in this case) since we had failed to deliver on a seafood dinner for the family. All in all, though, it was an interesting trip in which we learned a few new things and had a few brief moments of excitement.
Other observations. The overall rate of fishing success for folks out there seemed a bit lower than our last visit there on 11/19. On both 11/19 and 12/10 the majority of folks on the jetty were going after crabs, but on 11/19 we saw several folks with some nice rockfish including at least one really good sized one. In contrast on 12/10 I saw very few fish landed and the ones I saw (3) were small rockfish.