Here on the North Coast we have by far the best rock fishing in California. We fish at Cape Mendocino which is about 25 miles South of Eureka! The Cape doesn’t get a lot of pressure because ocean conditions often keep smaller boat from getting down there. Our boat is substantial enough to make it down there a majority of the time!
Our rigs consist of plastic swim baits, shrimp flies, and some times trap rigs when we fish meat. The 6’6” Penn jig sticks are ideal for this fishery, and can even handle the occasional halibut! The reels I use are Penn Squall 20’s with a level wind outfitted with 65# Power Pro line. This allows the angler to feel the bottom better than straight mono filament line which has to much stretch. Jig head size depend on the wind and current of the day but most of the time I use 8oz heads with a six inch swim bait with a shrimp fly on top.
There is a lot of talk about the color of the swim bait, however, over the past 20 years of doing this the only thing I notice is that colors catch the fisherman more that the fish. You really just need a light medium and dark color for the different water clarity. Lighter colors for clearer water, medium shaded for medium clarity and dark for darker water.
We have a wide variety of rock fish at the Cape. Black, blue rock fish (RF), vermilion (reds), canary, quill back, copper, rosy, widow, tiger, boccaccio, lingcod, browns, cabazon, and others! Lots of different colors and impressive size are what make this place a treat to fish. Our bag limit is 10 rockfish plus 2 lingcod which makes for plenty of fish to take home. 9 times out of 10 we limit out but there is an occasional off day now and then. If you’ve fished long enough you understand this, that’s just fishing!
The adventure coupled with catching fish at the Cape makes lasting memories that you wont soon forget. It is a long way to travel but worth the effort! It is imperative to have release rigs or a weighted crate to descend fish so as to preserve our fish stocks! Also beware if you are taking your own boat down to the Cape there are closed area’s called Marine Protection Area’s (MPA’S). On some chart plotters such as mine you can see the boundary lines. You cannot fish in these areas!
I have been taking biologist from Humboldt State University down to these areas to fishing inside these closed areas for over ten years to catch and tag these fish and collect other data then release them back into the water. We also fish just outside the areas as the idea of the closed areas is to find out if the fish spawning down there are spilling over into legal areas. This is just another management strategy to boost our fish stock.
I believe in the science, and it will pay off in the long run, we are already seeing it happen! As of right now we have a depth restriction of 180 feet.
That means we cannot fish out side of the number, however, there is talk of letting us fish in what is currently called the Rock fish Conservation Area (RCA) because of the good management of our species! That’s a first in my tenure of fishing up here which has been 20 years! Lets keep having great fishing adventures, and as always take care of our ecosystems and they will take care of us,
Captain Matt Dallam