Avalon 12/13-14 and 12/20-21 (long!)


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Two reports for the price of one!

I finally came back to SoCal after a brutal finals season paired with illness; what better way to destress than fishing at Avalon?


This time around, I would be joined by a friend from UC Davis that I had done some fieldwork with; this would be his first time fishing at Catalina.

After taking the 6 am ferry, we started off at the Mole (naturally), and we were joined by the same regulars from the last time I was in Avalon. We managed to beat them out to the corner and secured ourselves a pretty good spot. We started off bonito fishing with 40 gram jigs, and pretty quickly began hooking up on fish. The bite was hot for about an hour, before the wind picked up and made it hard to cast without crossing the others' lines. The bonito weren't huge, maybe 15"-17" at most, but it was a great start to the morning. We kept a one-person limit and released the rest, in case some better size fish came through the next day.

One of many medium-sized bonito.

We then switched to bottom fishing for ocean whitefish with dropper loops and squid. There was a slow but steady bite, and my friend got some better size models, while I caught a couple smaller ones, a 13" sheephead, and a kelp rockfish.

Small kelp rockfish.

Every now and then the bonito fishers hooked up, and whenever that happened, we usually cast out at the same time just to mix up the action. Around noon, I hooked into something heavy, but wasn't fighting terribly hard. When I got the fish to the pier, it turned out to be two bonito on the same jig, each hooked on one of the two assist hooks.

Double bonito.

Around 2 pm, we decided to move to the GPP and also check into our hotel. Looking down, there were a lot of opaleye, and more notably, sheephead in the area. There were so many sheephead, in fact, that they outnumbered the opaleye. Surely we were about to have a great afternoon of fishing. I could not have been more wrong. The sheephead completely turned their noses up at any bait other than peas, and refused to bite on any line heavier than 10 lb fluoro. The one time I did hook a sheephead on shrimp, it was a 20+" fish that completely overwhelmed the 10 lb spinning setup I was using. I scraped out one more 12" fish, but was otherwise soundly humbled by these fish. However, there were a lot of sardines and jack mackerel in the water, and I made a point of catching a few and saving them for cut bait (totally not foreshadowing). We headed at 6 pm as the sun set and it got bitterly cold.


We headed out at 5 am to capitalize on the morning bonito bite. Just as the sun started coming up, they started biting furiously on 40 gram jigs. At this point, we already had some fish in the cooler, so we focused on the larger 16+" fish, releasing everything smaller. That was probably a mistake, as the sea lion quickly took notice, and we lost three fish and jigs to the sea dog. At 7 am, one angler from the mainland joined us, and now the sea lion's attention was more spread out. I caught one more 16" fish to fill out our two-person limit. We tried a little bit of bottom fishing afterwards, but all we caught was a garibaldi.

The terrible beast looms.

We headed back to the GPP by 10 am: we were going to catch sheephead or die trying. The first thing I saw, other than the ungodly number of sheephead on the bottom, was a comb jelly (likely Beroe spp.)

This has nothing to do with the fishing, I just think this was a cool sighting.

The sheephead were so wary that I was significantly more likely to catch opaleye on 10 lb line and size 8 hooks, significantly heavier than the usual 4 lb fluoro and size 10 hooks I usually use, and we did indeed catch quite a few opaleye as bycatch, despite being significantly outnumbered by sheephead. At the same time, whenever we did hook up on sheephead, we would often get totally overwhelmed by the size of the fish on our light tackle, and took heavy losses to the pilings and moorings. After a lot of coaxing and heavy chumming with peas, I managed to pick off a 14" fish on flylined peas at noon. In the meantime, I had also cast out a chunk of sardine on a reverse dropper loop. An hour after that first sheephead, that rod went down hard, and I wrestled a 16" fish to the pier.


Afterwards, we continued to lose sheephead and catch opaleye until 2 pm, when my friend managed to wrestle a 13" fish out from under the pier. However, our 3:55 pm departure was looming ahead. Just as we were about to leave the GPP at 3, the rod with cut sardine got a bite on it, which happened to be a small calico.

Last fish of the trip.

IMG_0348.jpg IMG_0344.jpg
In total, we took home 10 bonito, 5 sheephead (if you're reading this from the future, this is before the 2-fish limit), 4 opaleye (with many more released), and 5 better size whitefish.

Next post in the thread will be the 12/20-21 trip.

Addendum: there was also this juvenile pelican that would try to steal fish, and at one point it bit me pretty hard while I was putting a fish in the cooler.
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I gave my friend most of the fish from the last trip since he was heading down to San Diego to visit some other friends. I decided to go on a solo trip to take another crack at those sheephead. I took the 6 am ferry and started off immediately fishing the Mole to warm up. I caught a couple smedium bonito, which were all released, before I headed to the GPP at 9 am.

I'm sure you're getting a bit sick of all the bonito pictures, to be completely honest I'm getting a bit tired of these fish too.

At the GPP, I looked down and saw even more sheephead taunting me from the depths than the week before. I managed to land a 13" fish pretty quickly, which I took as a good sign.

I could not have been more wrong.

I fished the remainder of the day at the GPP for nothing but heartbreak, rock wrasse, opaleye, and a singular garibaldi. At one point I had hooked a ~16" fish on the 10 lb tackle, and just as I was about to land it, it charged down into the ropes and broke me off. There are no words in the English language to describe the kind of anguish I was experiencing, watching dozens of sheephead swimming nonchalantly along, completely ignoring any offerings on heavier line or breaking me off in the pilings.

Consolation prize.
My only friend in this time of need.

I surrendered at 5 pm and headed back to my hotel room.


I headed out to the Mole by 5 am. There was already an angler there who had likely stayed the night in a hotel. The bonito bite started off slow, and by 7 am, I had only caught and released one smaller fish. About half a dozen anglers showed up at 7 am with the first ferry, and started fishing sabikis. Not too long afterwards, they started hooking up on fish. I quickly whipped up a two-hook rig with the flies I had brought, and immediately hooked up on a big fish. I got it halfway to the pier before it dove down into the kelp, and with that, I lost the entire rig. Not too long afterwards, I saw a sea lion come up with the fish and my rig. As it struggled with the big fish and the line, that bought time for the other anglers and I to hook some more fish, so perhaps it wasn't all bad. By 9 am, I had caught my limit, and I headed back to the GPP for round two.

I should have just stayed at the Mole and caught whitefish for the rest of the day. The sheephead were all still there, and still came up greedily for peas. However, they completely refused to even look at any of my baits, even on light tackle. The only highlights were an outstanding opaleye bite, a single 13" sheephead, and a pyrosome I snagged.

One of many opaleye that I caught and released.
Again, this has nothing to do with fishing, I just find gelatinous zooplankton fascinating.

I fished hard from 9 am to 3 pm, only two sheephead to my name. In the end, I just resigned myself to feeding the hordes of sheephead the rest of my peas. After all, I didn't really need to catch every sheephead in Avalon Bay, and fishing isn't always about catching the most or biggest fish (I tell myself in denial). I took the 3:55 pm ferry home.

A limit of bonito, two small sheephead, and frankly too many opaleye; after I had 3, I tried to release the rest, but two swallowed the hook and were bleeders.

All in all, not a bad way to close out the year, and I'm glad I got to fish while I'm home.


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Where there is 1 pyrosome there are usually more. That is probably why the sheephead would not bite. They were probably full of them. I have been on rockfish trips where the bite was really slow. When we did bring a fish up they all were spitting those things up.


Senior Member
Thanks for the report.

I will be fishing there this coming Friday. Saturday should be raining, but I will try to fish as well, depending on the storm.


Well-Known Member
Great fishing! Nice job persisting through the frustration of those taunting Sheephead! Cool that you could see so many in the water and interesting that they wouldn't bite heavier line. Glad you got to Avalon on your winter break!