Sunday, February 18, 2018

Rumors at El Capitan

Fishing Time:  7:30 AM to 2:30 PM
Weather:  Sunny, calm morning, 10-20 mph afternoon winds
Moon Phase:  8% Moon
Location:  El Capitan Reservoir
Best Bait:  Live shiner fished off bottom in 20 ft of water
Who Went:  Dunc

The weather has been a bit funky this past week.  Mostly sunny days, but the temperature has stayed cool in the low 60’s.  I wasn’t sure how it would affect the fish, but I’ve heard rumors of fish beginning to move shallow and stage for the spawn, so that had me excited.

Santa Ana winds were forecasted to arrive around 1 PM today, so I made it an early start in case I had to end the day early.  I was on the water at 7:30 and it was chilly until the sun finally peaked over the mountain around 8:00.  I started fishing shallow water hoping the rumors were true.  I was casting two rods today.  One set up with a live shiner, and another with a jig/trailer.  First fish of the day was the smallest bass since I have been here and wasn’t worthy of a photo.  It was caught on a live shiner in approximately 3 ft of water.  From there it was tough fishing.  I continued fishing shallow, but by 11:00 AM it seemed like no life was living from 0-10 ft.  It was time to change it up.

I moved into deeper water (15-30 ft) and set my slip bobber to keep the live shiner hovering near bottom.  Then I rigged up a Ned rig on my other rod and started casting deep.  Finally, my bobber disappeared and I had a nice fish on. A good bass in the 2-3 pound range.  
Rigged up another shiner and sent it back down then continued casting my other rod.  It didn’t take long and the bobber was down again.  This bass put on quite a fight and was just under 4 pounds.  Yeah baby!
I didn’t get any more bites for quite a while and the wind started to pick up right on schedule.  Of course, it was right against me, and the direction I had to kick back to my car.  I began kicking and kept a shiner out as I slowly made progress against the strong wind.  I was rewarded with a few more bites and one more bass.
It was a struggle getting to the shoreline and at some points I was kicking as hard as I could making no progress.  It showed me how easy it would be to get in trouble on a float tube.  After over an hour of continuous kicking, I finally made it to shore.  I ended the day with 3 fish and was hoping for better action with all the rumors of shallow bass, but maybe the funky weather had something to do with it.  Either way I caught a 4-pound bass and that’s enough to keep me happy!

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

New Area at Lower Otay Lake

Fishing Time:  2:00 PM to 5:00 PM
Weather: Sunny, calm, T-78
Moon Phase: 59% Moon
Location:  Back of Otay Arm in Lower Otay Lake
Best Bait:  Live shiner under a slip bobber, fished near reed line in 3-5 ft of water
Who Went:  Dunc
Work finished early today, so I headed straight to the tackle shop to pick up some live shiners.  After that, it was off to Lower Otay Lake for some afternoon fishing in my float tube.  The area I fished today was new to me, and it looked like a largemouth oasis.  It was in the back bay of the Otay arm of Lower Otay Lake.  There were large trees coming out of the water and tullies everywhere.  I was excited to try it out. 

I worked the underwater tree stumps and along the tully lines trying to get my bait as far into the reeds as possible without letting the shiner snag me up.  Not much was happening, but after an hour or so, my bobber finally went down.  It was a small bass, but got me out of a skunk.  
I continued down the shoreline casting to every tree stump and close to the reeds.  I landed two more small bass, but that is all I could entice with the live shiners before running out. 
I changed to a Ned rig, but received no bites.  For such a great looking area, it didn’t produce like I had hoped.  Either way, it was fun to try some new water.  While kicking back in to shore I saw a big soft shelled turtle.  Took this photo, and you can see his little head popped up next to his large soft flat shell...

Sunday, February 4, 2018

El Capitan on Super Bowl Sunday

Fishing Time:  10:00 AM to 5:00 PM
Weather: Sunny, calm, T-75
Moon Phase: 79% Moon
Location:  El Capitan Reservoir
Best Bait:  Live shiner fished shallow (3-6 ft)
Who Went:  Dunc
Work has kept me very busy this week and more family visited last weekend, so I haven’t had any time to fish.  I was itching to go this Sunday, and couldn’t resist the idea of El Capitan.  I have fished other lakes here in San Diego and drove by others to scope them out, but unfortunately most of them are surrounded by tullies and not accessible with a float tube or by walking the shoreline.  El cap just provides the best option for a float tube, and besides, I like it the best.  It’s further away from people, has good structure, and it produces!

I got a late start on Super Bowl Sunday.  I spent the morning contemplating whether I should bag fishing and watch the pre-game shows, or go fishing and then come back to watch the game.  I finally told myself, you won’t get the chance to fish these lakes much longer, and then jumped up and walked out the door.

Once I started kicking my way out onto the lake I knew I made the right decision.  The temperature was in the high 70’s, very little wind, and an absolutely beautiful day to be on the water.  Less crowded on Super Bowl Sunday to.

I started out with a Ned rig and then a jig/trailer, working it from shallow water all the way out to 25 ft deep, watching my fish finder and trying to see what depth the fish were holding.  I saw the most fish between 10-15 ft, so I worked thoroughly worked that zone with the plastics only to get one bite on the jig.  I turned over to the live shiner and set it at a depth of approx. 10-12 ft and on the first cast I landed the biggest fish of the day at 3.5 pounds.  Thought I had it dialed in, but went another hour or two with no bites. 
I moved to deeper water and tried depths from 15-25 ft, but still no bites.  It was time to go shallow.  Again, on the first cast in shallower water my bobber immediately disappeared and I caught my second fish of the day.  However, this time it wasn’t a fluke and fishing shallow was the ticket.  I continued to catch fish, casting near brush in 3-6 ft of water.  
Towards evening the bite really turned on and something fun happened…  I saw a few fish surface, so I casted towards them.  I started having bass chasing my minnow up to the surface and hitting them like I was fishing a topwater bait.  I would see an explosion near my bobber on the surface and then my bobber would disappear.  It was a blast and lasted for about 20 minutes.
I landed around 10-12 bass today and couldn’t get myself to leave the lake until I was out of shiners.  I missed the first half of the Super Bowl, but whatever.  Just another year with the New England, Patriots defending their title.  However, there luck finally ran out and the Philadelphia, Eagles stole it from them when they stripped Tom Brady in the final two minutes to win the game.  It’s about time the Patriots lose!

Monday, January 22, 2018

Heartbreak at El Capitan

Fishing Time: 2:30 PM to 5:20 PM
Weather:  Sunny, calm, T-68
Moon Phase: 27% Moon
Location: El Capitan Reservoir (near dam)
Best Bait:  Live shiner fished shallow 3-5 ft of water
Who Went:  Dunc

I start work at 4:30 AM every day at Naval Base San Diego, so most days I’m off by early afternoon.  I’m usually pretty beat and go straight home, but today I decided to head up to El Capitan to enjoy the solitude and sunset.  I left the float tube in the trunk and hiked down to a spot where there are submerged boulders and trees.
I was casting a live shiner underneath a slip bobber and varied the depth from 3 to 15 ft.  Nothing was doing and I didn’t get a bite for over an hour.  It was still nice to sit (not in a float tube) and enjoy the time alone.  Worst part about California is all the people.  There is nowhere to hide, but tonight I didn’t see another soul.  Amazing how beautiful California is, but it kind of goes unnoticed with all the people buzzing around.  Can’t focus on its beauty.  I even had a coyote across the lake talking to me most the night.  Very cool.
I tried another point with more submerged boulders and trees and started casting the shiner in shallower water (3-5 ft), and a funny thing happened.  Many times, while fishing in the past I have been lucky enough to experience the hot bite that happens just before a storm moves in.  Usually it only lasts a short while and for whatever reason it’s when I’ve caught many of my biggest fish.  There were no storms tonight, but for some reason, as soon as the sun went down over the mountainside, the bite was on.  It started with me landing a nice 3.5-pound bass.
Shortly after I had another good take and set the hook on what felt like another good bass, but it only lasted a second as the hook and shiner flew back at my face.  Dang it.  Another quick cast and the bobber was down again.  I set the hook and knew I had a good fish on.  I weaved it through the sunken trees and was lucky enough to land this nice 5-pound bass.  Finally, a real Cali Bass!
It didn’t end there either, and this is where the story goes from awesome to heartbreaking.  I casted again and watched as my shiner floated through the trees following the shiners movements as it swam toward an underwater boulder right in front of me.  The shiner was only 3 ft below the bobber and just out of my sight.  Suddenly out from the rock came a bruiser largemouth in the 6-8-pound class (best guess).  It grabbed the shiner, and rolled about a foot below the water showing me a perfect side profile of all her glory.  She was huge!  Immediately she headed towards the base of a submerged tree.  My heart pounding, I pulled back and set the hook, then realized I was in trouble if she made it to the tree.  I leaned on her to try and change her direction and pop, off she came.  What the #@&%!

I sat in disbelief over what had just happened.  This was my chance at a wall hanger and blew it.  Hind sight is 20/20 so I sat to think… I should have re-tied my line, there were probably abrasions from previous fishing.  My drag was too tight.  I should have let her go to the tree and taken my chances.  Ugh.  Doesn’t matter now.  She’s gone.  

I kept casting, but the moment had passed.  I didn’t get another bite.  In total, the hot bite lasted about 20 minutes.  No bites before, and no bites after.  Those are moments to cherish in fishing, and sometimes you have to let the past go and move on.  With any luck I can catch another big fish to help me forget.  This one will live long in the memory bank, but still an epic evening of fishing, solitude, and sunset at El Capitan.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Post Cold Front Blues

Fishing Time: 8:30 AM to 1:00 PM
Weather:  Cool, slight breeze, T-60
Moon Phase: 12% Moon
Location:  Lower Otay Reservoir
Best Bait: The Ned Rig, green pumpkin
Who Went: Dunc
You get used to the same beautiful weather here in San Diego and when a storm front moves through it makes you think, oh yeah, the weather can change here.  The last couple days have been windy and cold, so I was a bit worried about my fishing this week.  But, with only one day off a week, it doesn’t leave any options of when I can fish.  Today was post storm conditions.  Cold with clear skies after the storm had passed through.  In my opinion, the worst day to fish.
My hunch proved to be right and I had a tough day on the water.  Not only did I struggle to get bites, but even when I got them, they kept spitting the hook back in my face halfway to the tube.  Frustrating.  I managed a few small bass like the one below, but that was it for the day.
It was interesting dropping live shiners below my float tube where I could watch the bait on my fish finder.  I could see fish come up from the bottom to look at it all day, but couldn’t get them to bite.  I didn’t land one fish on a shiner today.  All fish were caught on the Ned Rig in 10-15 ft of water.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

New Bait and Techniques Produce at El Cap

Fishing Time: 9:30 AM to 5:00 PM
Weather:  Partly cloudy, slight breeze, T-70
Moon Phase: New Moon
Location: El Capitan Reservoir
Best Bait: Ned Rig (green pumpkin)
Who Went: Dunc
I had family in town last weekend, so no fishing, but I also had a random day off this week on Tuesday, and fished El Cap all day.  I have been doing some research on what winter baits work here in Cali, and came across one that peaked my interest.  It’s a fairly new plastic bait called the Ned Rig.  It’s made by Z-man, however there have been other companies making knock offs for a while now, so it must not be all that new to the scene.  Either way it’s new to me, and I hit the tackle shop before arriving to El Cap to give it a try.  It’s basically a shaky style jig head joined with what looks like a half of a senko.  The plastic is only 3-inches long, and the hook is exposed.  The flat jig head makes the bait stand straight up and gives the profile appearance of a small baitfish nose down on the lake bottom.
I also talked to a guy fishing on a float tube last week at El Capitan that gave me some good intel.  I asked him how he was doing and he said, “really good, all the fish are shallow within 1-5 ft of water”.  This caught me by surprise as I expected all the bass to be deep during winter.  I have focused on 15-40 ft of water, and it’s not to say that some are not deep.  I have done well fishing these depths, but when the guy told me he also caught a 4 pounder in 2 ft of water it got me thinking…
With all my new knowledge, I was excited to try out the Ned Rig and put it to work in some shallower water.  On my 3rd or 4th cast it proved itself with a tiny little bass.  Not the size I was looking for, but it gave me confidence in the new bait.  
I continued fishing the Ned Rig and it continued to produce, including one nice bass a shade over 3 pounds. 
I’m sold on the new rig and amazed at how aggressively the bass inhale this bait…
I started wondering if I took some live shiners and put them to the test in shallow water what would happen.  Turns out it was gang busters.  I found a point with some submerged brush and would toss the shiner 3 ft below a slip bobber up near the brush.  I landed a lot of fish using this method and some good ones too.  Some very fat 2 pounders with good fight. 
I also caught a black crappie using the shallow shiner method and it was a bruiser.  I didn’t have a scale or tape, but it was all of 15 inches and probably around 2 pounds.  A fun addition to the bass bonanza.
The fishing was so good, I ran out of shiners for the first time since being here in Cali.  Not a bad problem to have and when they ran out, I just turned back to the Ned Rig and it continued to produce.  I even caught one last 2-pound bass right at the boat ramp before calling it a day. 
I was the last one off the lake and was thrilled with my day.  I must have caught around 15 bass plus the bruiser crappie.  The size of bass was better today with most of the bass in the 2-3-pound range.  Still waiting for that wall hanger, but a great day on the water to say the least.