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Event - California Coastal Rockcod Fishing Onboard The Tigerfish

Fishing for Rockcod Along the California Coast Onboard the Sportfishing Vessel Tigerfish! (continued)

Time to Head Out to Sea: The load for today’s trip was a total of nineteen anglers, Captain Al, his deckhand Darren, and one of the Tigerfish mascots, Ahi. We gathered at the dock a little after 6:00am to claim our spots on the boat, sign in, and get our numbers with an associated fish sack to store our catch. After everyone was on board and Captain Al gave us a run down on the dos and don’ts, it was time to push off of the dock and get under way.

Zander's got a good fish on while testing an Accurate reel!

The majority of anglers were using hand tied shrimp flies tipped with squid, but of course, the TT crew were outfitted with a few different artificial options most all of which were products in our possession for testing. An interesting note once underway and we were able to survey the rod and reel combos brought on board by each angler was that Daiwa reels seemed to outnumber other brands by quite a significant margin. Not that this tidbit means much, but as a tackle enthusiast, it was interesting to note.

Alright, where are the swimbaits? They make them this small in the ocean? Mark shows his catch with pride. Mark aka "Animal" is a Tigerfish regular and one heck of a saltwater angler and was one of the first to boat a quality limit

Captain Al runs the Tigerfish with surgical precision. Once on a spot, he announces over the loudspeaker where he’s marking fish, how far down the bottom is, and the probably best method to find those fish (e.g. drop all the way down to the bottom and turn about 10 cranks on your reel, the fish are on the bottom and up about twenty feet). If there’s little to no action within the first few minutes of our drift, he’ll instruct everyone it’s time to wind them up and either reposition or move onto to the next spot. He continued this cycle at each and every spot.

Mascot for the day, Ahi enjoying the sea breeze.


In a mad scurry, amidst a call by Captain Al to "wind them up", Cal calls for Zander to grab the camera, it's a big one! ... turned out to be a big snag!

On each drift, Darren could be seen constantly running from one side of the boat to the other keeping a watchful eye on all the rods and once one loaded up, either he or Captain Al was instantly at that angler’s side to handle the fish, unhook it, and slide it into your sack. During a hot drift, they seem to appear out of nowhere and then, disappear just as quickly once your catch is in your sack. It’s a sight to behold.

Captain JIP shows us how it's done.

On this day, Captain Al and Darren had to work particularly hard. The bites, while there, were nowhere near as frequent and plentiful as the last couple of days prior. Could it be the change in the weather, the full moon, or were the fish simply camera shy with us onboard? One thing was certain and that was the shrimp flies tipped with squid were easily outfishing artificials on this day, but we stuck to our guns needing to evaluate the effectiveness and durability of several different lures.

This young lady, Leanne, schooled everyone on board consistently bringing up doubles. Her proud Dad holds up this beautiful Vermillion that she had just caught!

In the final analysis, while it took longer than anticipated, Captain Al was able to put us on enough fish to once again limit out and keep his record intact, but it did go down to the very last drift of the day. The relief in Al’s voice was apparent and his satisfaction that another hard day’s work proved fruitful was even more evident.

Fish cleaning board loaded, Darren gets ready to clean a sack of fish...

The journey back is where the real show begins. Captain Al and Darren pull out the cleaning board that stretches from the bait tank at the middle of the back deck over to the starboard rail, then Al gets on the mike to announce the end of the trip and asks each angler to pull up their lines, cut off their rigs, and stow their rods and reels in one of the many areas provided for this convenience all over the boat. He then informs us that Darren is available to clean all our fish for a small fee of seven dollars ($7) per bag to gut, gill, and/or fillet all the fish, and an added five dollars ($5) per bag to also scale them. We jumped at the opportunity to have Darren help us with this less than glamorous task but to witness the speed and precision with which he worked through each successive bag of fish was astounding.

...but not before showing off this beautiful pair of California Coastal Rockcod.

Conclusion: Fishing for rockcod is quite a departure from black bass fishing no doubt. First, you have the sea to contend with and yes, there were some who got sick on this trip including one TackleTour editor who shall remain nameless. The sea today was relentless with good six to eight foot swells nine seconds apart. Secondly, the diversity in tackle is not as great. You pretty much just drop it to the bottom and jig around waiting for a bite. Third, it is still very much a meat haul as catch and release is pretty much moot considering the depths from which the fish are coming (we were fishing today in 120 – 160 feet of water) – they just cannot survive a release. Lastly, the variety of fish you can catch and see throughout the boat is astounding. There are more than seventy species of rockcod along the California coast each having their own unique coloration. Some reportedly taste better than others, many are now protected, but all of them are beautiful in their own right.

Well, it took a while, but Captain Al's record is intact with a healthy limit of fish for all on board. It takes a lot of skill and knowledge to overcome rough seas and camera shy fish, and Captain Al proves, he's got what it takes!

To find them, you have to know these waters, know what lies beneath, know how to position your boat, understand the drift, and of course, respect the sea – always respect the sea. These factors can be quite daunting to juggle unless of course you do what we did and hand off the majority of those responsibilities to Captain Al and his spacious boat, the Tigerfish. Captain Al works hard and is good at putting you on fish, and he doesn’t stick around in one spot if the fish are not being cooperative. Darren, his deckhand for today, is always on hand to help you rig, re-rig, bait up, and unhook fish – not to mention his fish cleaning skills are a sight to behold! While this was our first trip aboard the Tigerfish, you can be certain it will not be our last. We’re already setting aside our gear to experience other species with Captain Al, so who knows, maybe we’ll see you aboard on our next trip out on the Tigerfish!

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