Four nights of skunk, followed by two nights that were OK. They could have been amazing, if I hadn't made some mistakes, and had known what I know now. Read on to find out-
OK. Big weekend. New moon, good tides, good weather. What I would have assumed would be in the top 4 weekends of the year, well- I hope that's not true.
I decided I really wanted to enter a fish in the SCJ tournament. So I started off scouting 2 nights at my biggest fish potential spot. I fished it hard to get a feel of what was going on.
The answer was nothing. I fished it with eels and plugs, for a total of 10 hours before Friday without a fish.
Friday- yikes. The waves were big. The wind was strong. Couldn't fish it. Bounced to a spot that was dynamite in 2015 but was mostly empty in 2016. Had to dodge home owners, college kids with a huge fire, and then, due to both the former and latter, the police. All was well that ends well. That is, I just hid. By the time it was all over, I was into a good tide stage. I had one very serious hit on an eel, dropped the rod, and hauled back to set the hook- wiff. Damn. Eel came back. So I fished another two hours there for no more hits.
The next night, Saturday, the waves were still big. But I had a go at it. On my rock, twice the rollers blocked out the horizon and rolled through on me knocking me off. They were chest high when I was in ankle deep water. It was insane. No time for tossing eels. I threw mostly darters and needles. No hits. I wasn't surprised. I would have been last year. The season, the fishery, is in jeopardy. I've almost moved on to September at this point. 4 late, or all night, trips in big fish territory for 1 hit.
So I bail on it. Back to the "new high potential" spot. I took Monday off, set it aside 3 months ago for the new moon. So I had two nights.
First night, I didn't bring eels. In fact, I think I'm done with them for the year (as of writing this) unless something compelling tells me otherwise. I fished a boulder field for 6 hours. I had at least 10 hits before I finally landed a 11lber on a redfin. A bit later, I had a slightly nicer fish at about 13lbs (pictured above). A small fish, but I'll take it at this point- actually I started thinking- if I could catch 10 or 15 of these I'd be very happy. I had a bunch of hits too- I guess small fish? They were only interested in needle/redfin. I think there's sand eels around. I then had 2 more fish spread through the night, one was another 2011 keeper size fish and one was smaller 23-24"er. I really didn't move much, basically stayed in one spot as the tide rose I just kept moving back.
The next night the wind was stronger, but totally fine. I was optimistic, it felt even more fishy, and I did bring a few eels (again..fuck eels). I was exhausted at this point though. It was hard to focus. I was on night 6. I started in the fading light with eels so I could see how far I was getting them out into the rocks. After not casting off one for years, I cast off 3 in a row. I was FURIOUS at myself. And then I drove my hook through my eel bag, and I couldn't get it out. And that's when I realized I didn't have my headlamp. I was fuming and so distracted. I ended up just leaving the hook stuck in the bag. Finally got my last of two eels on a new hook. In about 5 casts, at the tide switch from ebb to flood, I had a very serious knock. Without thinking, I tried to set the hook. There was weight, and then nothing- I didn't drop the rod. Eel gone. That was a big fish. I was absolutely losing my mind. I stormed out of the water. I just dropped my stuff and walked back to the car- 20 minutes. Which was stupid.
But I'm honest on this blog, and this is part of surf fishing, and who I am.
I get back calm and with my headlamp. I have one eel left, so I save it.
I start casting with Mikes custom fat needle. I have two hits. I can't hook up!!! I'm LOSING MY MIND.
Then a guy shows up- wades out, sets up no more than 40ft from me. I was not surprised but pretty annoyed. Long story short, he lands two fish, one a keeper, in the next 15 minutes. After I'd been there for almost two hours.
This was not helping my mood.
However, he also almost died. I thought I was going to have to go into lifeguard mode. He waited too long to move, and he had waders on, and when he got off his rock, it was up to his shoulders. He was trying to run through the water. I was honestly scared. I don't think he was that experienced, and I don't think he knew I had a wetsuit on. He's lucky.
Anyways, it was time for me to move too. I didn't have to swim back but it was close (which would have been fine). He headed off down the way, the way I was going to go. Oh well. I'm going anyways.
So I walk the 10 minutes, and arrive in more boulders. I start with my final eel. Nothing. Then I casted with a SS needle. Nothing. Put on redfin. First cast hit. Second, hit. Third, hook up with decent fish, lose it in the wash! UGH! Next cast I think I had 3 or 4 hits! Next cast hook up and lose small fish. Finally, I land a 2011 fish. Then, over the next 10 or so casts, I get hit literally every cast but don't hook up!!!
So I switch to mag darter- are they small fish? I cast 5 times with no hits!!! Try needle. No hits. Put back on the redfin. First cast, 10lber. OK, so that's how it's going to be.
PS- the guy has no idea any of this is happening. He wanders off.
I catch three or four fish more between 8 and 10lbs- 2011 class? But I'm getting hit every cast. It was that way for almost two hours. I think had I been there about an hour earlier, it would have been the same, and I could have had 20 or more.
Anyways, so I'm picking away at fish having fun. Guy comes back. Right when he does, I hook into the best fish of the night by far. I'm trying to horse it so he won't see. Rod low. I get it in after a nice fight, and it's probably 15lbs if not a touch more. I want to weigh it but I'm nervous he'll see. I decide to let it go. Next cast I have another 2011 fish. Then a smaller fish.
Dude leaves again. I just keep catching. I can't remember how many I eventually had but I think it was roughly 10 or so actually landed, with a bunch of small fish hooked and lost- because they were all getting foul hooked for some reason. See below. It was actually great. I didn't have to deal with catching small schoolies, but was being entertained. I also lost a couple better fish in the wash.
As the tide died (note I fished more than the full tide- about 8 hours!) the bite died. I left thinking, if things had been just a littler different, I could have had 20 or 30 fish that night, mostly keepers, and maybe a few good ones (re: fuck eels). I had just made too many mistakes- and wouldn't have thought the fish were where they were. It's been a bad year for mistakes.
It's just been a bad year in general.