A good time on the water and good eats for the table make a rockfish trip a rewarding proposition all the way around and whether you fish on the Queen of Hearts or on your own boat, Half Moon Bay Sportfishing has the right tackle to make sure you load up your sack with a tasty limit of cod.
Of course, rockfish, also known as rockcod, aren't the true cod, rather a multitude of species in the Sebastes family of fish. Vermillion rockfish, black rockfish, china cod, treefish, copper rockfish, canary rockfish, yellowtail rockfish, brown rockfish...the list goes on and on and there are just as many nicknames.
Rockfish all fall under the groundfish category as do lingcod and cabezon, a couple fish you are likely to encounter when fishing the ocean bottom along the West Coast. Again, neither is a cod. Rather, they belong to the greenling family. What they have in common is they are voracious eaters of octopus, squid, crabs and other fishes and get large, especially lingcod (the world record is 82.6 pounds, caught in Alaska). If you are engaged in friendly competition on your own boat or have some money riding in a big fish jackpot, a ling or a cabezon is likely to settle the matter. And even though their flesh is often a blue or greenish tinge, the fillets cook up to a bright white color and taste great.
Here are some tips on how to catch more rockfish and also catch a jackpot winner:
Start off right. Let us get you set up with the right rod, reel and line for fishing rockfish. All you need is a limber rod and a reel with enough room to pack on a few hundred yards of line. If you decide to use braided line, be sure to add a bit of mono as a topshot and you're set. There are several specialty reels and rods made specifically for rockfishing that we can show you. Sometimes the secret to more bites is a light outfit with 10 to 20 pound test, while other times you better be geared up for the chance at a monster. If you're new to the game and headed out on a sport boat, just plan on using one of our rental rods available onboard on the day of your trip. Before your trip, though, read the tips below, come in the shop and we'll have you ready to catch fish just like the old pros.
Know before you go. Always be aware of the regulations as far as how many lures and hooks you are allowed to use in combination and how deep you are allowed to fish. Know the limit for each species and the total number of fish you can keep. Note that there are often extra restrictions if you also plan to fish for salmon. We carry the regulation booklets and our experts will be glad to answer any questions.
Keep it simple. We recommend a basic two-hook rig, and since two hooks are all most areas allow, simple is also the legal way to go. If fishing during salmon season, you might have to use circle hooks, but you aren't losing anything, since commercial fishermen have used circle hooks for rockfish for many years. We have pre-tied rigs available in the store that make it easy to get set up. Just attach the right amount of weight for the depth and conditions (we'll set you up), bait the hooks with some squid and drop the rig to the bottom.
Tricks for big fish. While a strip of squid on a superfly rig can catch a big fish just as easily as a small fish, fishing with bigger baits can weed out the smaller fish and increase your chances of a jackpot ling. While it's hard to beat a whole squid when it's working for big reds (vermillion rockfish), lingcod, cabezon and the larger rockfish species all will all eat lures that resemble squid, crabs and smaller fish. We have all kinds of lures that catch cod. A great rig is a leadhead jig with a hook or "shrimp fly" tied above that which can be used for bait, a plastic grub or a swimbait. Your best chance at catching that big one you're looking for when you're onboard one of our charters is to simply listen to the crews. No one is on the water more than them and they know what has been or has not been working. Any advice they give is given only with the hopes that you hook into that monster fish that you'll be talking about for years!
There you have it. These tips should have you firing up the frying pan in no time!