DEEP WATER ROCKFISHING TRIPS BEGAN SEPTEMBER! - We ran our first deep water rockfishing trip on Friday, September 26. Check out the report below for September 26 for the results of the trip. The Queen of Hearts received an "exempted fishery permit" that allows us to take customers rockfishing under strick guidelines set forth in the permit in areas along the coast outside 900 feet deep. The next trip is scheduled for Friday, October 24. It will be limited to no more than 16 anglers, depart at 6:30 a.m., return around 4:00 to 5:00 p.m., and, due to the limited number of anglers, the cost is $125 per person. The plan is to target chilipepper rockfish, but we'll make it a "chili and squid" combo as long as we find more Humboldt squid like we did on our first trip.
Why is this permit and these trips so important? It is the first permit of its kind ever granted to the recreational fleet in the history of fishery management. If we can prove that we can target specific species of fish with no or minimal bycatch, it may just open up additional opportunties in the future which are desperately needed given the current restrictions we have been handcuffed with for the last several years.
The deep water rockfishing trips will more or less be just like any other rockfishing trip other than we have to fish where the ocean is at least 900 feet or deeper. Any and all rockfish landed must be kept until boat limits have been reached. The hope is to be able to target rockfish such as chilipepper rockfish that are suspended in the water column, hopefully far from the actual ocean bottom. There is still a 10 fish rockcod limit, and all customers take home their fish. This is not a research trip; it's an experiment to see if we can fish a different area without catching any of the "off limits" fish...canary, goldeneye or cowcod. As long as the boats conducting these trips don't catch those off limits fish, this experiment will continue as long as there is interest for an initial period of one year. An official paid government observer will be required onboard all trips to keep tabs on the catch. The key to the success of this permit will be avoiding the canary and yelloweye rockfish that are labeled overfished and have forced us into the current restrictions we've been dealt. If you'd like to be placed on an email list I've started to receive updates about deep water rockfishing trips as well as alerts when trips are scheduled, please let me know by sending me an email to email@example.com and asking to be added to our Deep Water Rockcod Trips email list.
Friday, September 26 Report: Capt. Bob makes history!!...he and the Queen of Hearts are the first charterboat operation to catch chilipepper rockfish under the recently issued Exempted Fishing Permit! With high hopes, everyone checked in this morning after dusting off fishing gear that hasn't seen the light of day in years...rods and reels completely foreign to the shallow waters we've been constrained to for what seems like the last umpteen years...9/0 reels and the like on big broomsticks with roller tips filled with over 1000 feet plus of dacron and spectra, cannon ball sinkers and special float rigs. They loaded down the boat with all their gear and headed off to see what they could find. By 2:00 p.m., I finally received a report that they had found Humboldt squid, landed six, probably could have caught as many as they wanted, but they were in search of chilipepper rockfish, not squid. So Capt. Bob was going to try one last drop, one last spot. At 2:30, he relayed in that they found them! Chilipepper rockfish, two at a time (we can still use no more than two hooks), absolutely clean fishery with no bycatch...exactly what we were hoping for! We landed a dozen chilipeppers but had several others stolen by a couple of huge sealions that decided they liked these fish just as much as we did. We tried another drop but the hungry duo wouldn't let us get a single fish in the boat. We probably hooked three times as many fish as were landed, but we were out of time to try it again.
So our first trip is done and in the books. We learned a lot. We know much more about the gear that works and the gear that doesn't work. We know the Humboldt squid are offshore once again; even without targeting the squid and using nothing but shrimp flies, six Humboldts were landed. And, most importantly, we caught chilipepper rockfish, and know we can catch more chilipepper rockfish, and it can be done with absolutely no bycatch. It took us until the last drop of the day to finally find some fish that wanted to bite, and we only landed a dozen of the fish we were hunting for, but there were probably three times as many hooked than landed that didn't make it into the boat because of a couple of huge hungry sealions. We now have a more defined destination to begin our hunt for our next trip. We did an enormous amount of preparation getting the first trip together, but the one thing I forgot was to give Bob our camera. So I've had to rely on the guys who went fishing for pictures, and I have included a few of them below that were forwarded to me.
As far as more details about the trip, let me share the info I received from some of the guys who joined us on our first trip. First, there was Seth, who put together an online diary of his trip:
"Just got home and showered. EXHAUSTED!!! I have never fished like that in my life, probably because for all of my life it has been off limits. I got one squid and 2 chili peppers. While the numbers were a little low, let's be honest about what happened today. This was the first Experimental Fishing Trip, and we had ZERO bycatch (other than squid). This is a good thing. While we didn't really know where we were going or what we were doing once it gets dialed in this could be an absolutely AWESOME fishery. I was super stoked to be part of history. I really want to offer a heartfelt thank you to Bob and James you guys really busted your humps to get us on the fish. My hat is off to you two. We all had to fish on one side of the boat, this makes for some tight quarters when there were 20 folks on the boat. The captain told us that there would be tangles, and yes there were but James and Bob were totally on it. Top notch crew, and while we were under difficult circumstances, you know an under the boat tangle with 1000+ feet of 65 lb spectra would have been an even bigger hassle. First drift we were on the squid. When the squid move in the fish move out, so did we but not before I hauled up this monster... Now my wife and I have calamari steaks for DAYS!!! Finally on the last drift we found them. YES! We tried another drift on the same spot, but the fur bags found us. I knew that I had two fish on, and I could feel the exact moment that those buggers broke me off (chili peppers do not take line 200' from the boat, only furbags do). All in all I had a ton of fun. I would recommend this trip to anyone. I also cooked the chilipeppers tonight for dinner. Simple preparation sauted in butter and olive oil. The taste was amazing. The flesh on these guys is a little darker than the inshore snow white fish. There is a little more oil in the meat than on the inshores. It tasted kind of like a cross between rockfish (80%) and salmon (20%). Out of this world. If the feds allow Bob or anyone else to do another trip, I would sign up if I were you. I had an absolute blast. The one thing I would say is PAY ATTENTION to the gear list. Get what the captain says to get. Each time I had a tangle it was because someone was using mono (or something else). THe spectra stays pretty straight up and down, and fishing in that close quarters we all need to have the required gear. Even if it costs 80 bucks to fill your reel with spectra, DO IT!!! If everyone was correctly outfitted I think we would have had a lot less tangle. Also I missed a drift because I thought it would be a good idea to use 40 lb test for my sinker dropper so that if I got snagged the sinker would break off, not my rig. Do not do this! Use 130 lb plus on the sinker dropper. It will make for a lot fewer tangles, and a lot easier to get in the water when the capt tells you to get in. I also burned through a pair (right and then a left worn backwards) of cotton gloves on only 4 descents be sure to bring many cheap pairs of gloves to save your fingers."
Next up some info from Rich:
"On the next-to-the last drift, we were able to land fish -- all chilipeppers. Bob has the official total, but my best guess is nine fish landed by five out of twenty anglers. Most people were pulling up two at a time, with the smallest fish about 12" and the largest about 18". On the final drift, we speculate that our catch was raided by marauding sea lions; no fish were landed. Finding the fish turned out to be quite a challenge; Bob spent over an hour hunting between the drift where we caught and the previous drift. For any future anglers, I would recommend cotton gloves or cloth tape to protect the fingers from the line. Also, it would be good to note that with the 9/0 reels, it takes about five minutes of cranking to bring the lines in from the bottom. As more trips are made, I'm sure Bob will develop a better idea of where the best fishing grounds are. Unfortunately, there's nothing we can do about the sea lions; they congregate where the chilipeppers are because they eat them. One of the highlights of the trip was seeing all of the dolphins. I believe these were white-sided dolphins. What I found remarkable was that several swam alongside the boat, one at a time. It seemed as though we piqued their curiosity."
And here's what Mike said:
"Great trip and excellent data. The rigging was a pain (with the 30 foot dropper), but I have never seen such a cleanly targeted catch. Proves that the key to avioding protected bottom fish is to fish off of the bottom (not necessarily to fish shallow). I believe I landed the biggest squid (my first!) at 28 pounds. I will send pictures along when I download them. Any good recipes? I have a lot of calimari. I think we could have loaded up on more chilipeppers, but recognize that the anglers were either naive or rusty. Once we were landing fish, folks started to figure it out. I think they weren't getting down deep enough at first and needed to find the bottom and come up 100 ft, as opposed to figuring how far down 800 ft from the surface was."
Next up is Guy and his picture:
I just wanted to brag about my 18 pound squid that I caught. Had a blast.
And here's what Jan had to say:
hi sherry & bob, thanks for putting together another grand adventure. what a trip. a little short on fish but if it was too easy we probably would'nt want to do it. when i asked about the possibility of fishing for squid and capt. bob answered " we're not going to fish for squid , if we catch our fish, maybe" was proper and ok. what was next surprised us all. at about 200 feet , my first drop with a shrimp fly , what did i hook up with? funny how things work out. we found what we were looking for. the trip definetly was not for beginners. i'm not sure how many times we un-raveled those 30 foot droppers . all in all i think everyone had a good time and all the effort you all put into the trip was very evident. THANKS AGAIN. when do we go again?
And, someone who wasn't on the trip, Brian Hoffman, one of the sportswriters with the San Francisco Examiner, had one of the quotes I like the best about the trip:
"Ingles is one of the best. If he thinks there are fish to be caught, he'll catch them. If there aren't, he won't go."
A few more things we learned: (1) Catching the Humboldts is a good bonus. Our target is chilipepper rockfish and any other species we are permitted to keep. But it looks like the Humboldts and the rockfish share the same territory, even though where there is one there is not the other (when Humboldts show up the fish take a hike). If it works out, we'd like to see if this can be a "chili and squid" combo next time around. (2) The expenses involved for us are outrageous, so we do need a full boat. We limited the first trip to 20 anglers. We'd like to decrease that limit to no more than 16 people, but that means we have to increase the cost from $100 to $125 per person. Given that we plan on offering a "combo" trip, can you guys handle the small increase so we can keep the total number of anglers down to 16? We really feel it would be a great asset to help us try to keep the tangles down. (3) No or very little mono on the reels...use spectra or spectra with dacron backing. We are working on getting more rental gear available, but we only have so much available at this time, so we need to know if you have your own gear when you make a reservation. (4) The gear Capt. Bob put together worked just like he thought. We were able to keep the cost down, and we're getting it dialed in on what we'd recommend. So, there you have it. Enough info? Maybe yes, maybe no. There are always things I forget. Last, but not least, thank you to all you who joined us on the first trip, and all those of you waiting in the wings. Without you, this would not be possible. With you, who knows what's possible....