Bottom Fishing Northern California, Tips from Amanda
Fishing Ladies Bottom Fishing Northern California
The subject of this article is bottom fishing northern California. The rugged coast line of California from San Francisco north offers anglers the opportunity to catch a wide variety of bottom fish. Know locally as “groundfish”, these are species such as rockfish and lingcod. They live and feed in the bottom structure.
The water in the Pacific Ocean gets deep fairly quickly off of the northern California coast. There is also quite a bit of rocky structure that holds fish. The best spots are underwater “humps” that rise up from deeper water to around 75 feet deep. The best area along the coast is from Bodega Bay to Crescent City. The most popular launches for kayakers are Fort Ross, Albion River and Shelter Cove.
Many anglers access this great fishing from shore using kayaks. Amanda Brannon is our Fishing Ladies correspondent who is familiar with this type of fishing. She is relatively new to this type of fishing, but quickly became enamored with it.
Bottom fishing northern California, tackle and baits
Most anglers opt for light to medium conventional tackle for this type of fishing. There are a couple of reasons for this. Casting is seldom required, most fishing is done vertically. Conventional tackle is also better for winching large, strong fish up off the bottom. Shimano Trevala 7 foot jigging rod, Shimano Calcutta 400B reel, and 25 pound P-Line Original co-polymer line.
Some anglers use braid to shock leader when bottom fishing northern California. Rockfish and lingcod have sharp teeth and the jagged bottom requires this. Most anglers use 50 pound braid to a 20 pound flourocarbon leader. Anglers can then fish with lures or bait. Jigs are the top artificial lure while squid and anchovies are the best natural baits.
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A jig and a swim bait is a great combination for this style of fishing. Amanda’s “go to” combo is a 4 oz Pitbull Tackle Shad Jig Head with a 6.5” Senorita Big Hammer Swimbait slathered in Pro-Cure Squid Super-Gel. She has caught a bunch of fishing using these and there is less mess and hassle with these versus live or cut bait when fishing from a kayak.
California bottom fish identification
Fish identification and current fishing regulations need to be taken into consideration. Many of these species are similar in shape, size, and sometimes color. Here are a couple of links that will help anglers identify the species caught and obey the current laws. RESOURCES and California Department of fish and wildlife.
Amanda was introduced to bottom fishing northern California just a few years ago. She found both the kayaking and fishing to be very exciting. She shares her story with other anglers here on the Fishing Ladies site.
Amanda’s introduction to bottom fishing northern California
“July 8 2016, it was before sunrise and the first time I had ever driven the famous tourist Highway 1 route. As we began our trek north along the Sonoma coastline, I felt my stomach begin to flutter with excitement in anticipation for what I could not see to the west of me just beyond the cliffs. As the sun began to rise and cast shadows on the heavy fog bank that was still lingering from the night before, I begin to start questioning my commitment to go rock fishing for the first time.
“My sights were fixed on waves crashing onto boulders just offshore from the beach, the ocean disappearing into the fog into no man’s land and then there was the thought of whales, sea lions, seals and the horror stories of the Great White sharks. If I was fishing from a boat, I knew I would have a chance to get back to shore safely. But, I wasn’t going to be in a boat, I was going to be in a 14-foot kayak!
Safety concerns when bottom fishing northern California
“After making it to our launch destination, Matthew, now my husband but at the time boyfriend, went over all safety precautions with me. The water temperatures in Northern California are cold year-round. A dry suit or wet suit is recommended for safety when fishing out of a kayak. On my first trip out I rented a wet suit from a local dive shop.
“A PFD (personal floatation device) is worn at all times. A whistle, light and flag for the kayak, marine radio and a first aid kit are all in our kayaks and more importantly we know how to use them. Don’t get yourself into an emergency situation and then not know how to use something.
“Matthew went over the launch technique with me several times; wait for the wave to come in, hop in the boat and then go. If you don’t, the waves will roll the kayak over. Once you are in you immediately start paddling to get out over the rolling beach waves. My first launch wasn’t perfect and to be honest, to this day I still feel more comfortable with him helping me launch.
“Once the paddle out began my stomach flutters started to settle and I was excited to get to our fishing spot. After paddling about half a mile off the shoreline we started using our depth finders to look for rocky bottoms in 75-100 feet of water. Once we found the structure we were looking for, we would drop our line, let it sink all the way to the bottom, reel it up a turn or two and wait.
Bottom fishing northern California for rockfish and lingcod
“Oh boy, when the first fish hit my line I squealed like a little kid in excitement! I had no clue what I was going to be reeling up, which turned out to be a decent lingcod. We caught a decent number of fish but the 7-foot swells ended up forcing us off the water.
“On each trip we took out I became more and more independent on the water and not
afraid to handle fishing. There are over 90 different species of rockfish that inhabit the Pacific coast of California. Of course, I only caught a handful or two of those species. My favorite species to catch are lingcod and vermillion rockfish.
“My first trip out led to my obsession for rockfishing along the coast of Northern California. I caught some amazing fish out there and captured even more amazing memories on the water with my husband. Our journey has taken us back to the east coast for now, where we are chasing redfish and continuing to fish for bass! Until we get back out there, I will have to reminisce and live vicariously through our west coast friends the Baumbach’s who now share the same obsession.”
In closing, this article on bottom fishing northern California will help anglers catch some of these delicious fish species.