From the Half Moon Bay Jetties to the Mirror Waters of Capitola

super calm day at capitola, ca with seals
capitola water & seals in the background

The weather these past two weekends has been amazing.  It finally calmed down after that initial spring – fall change.  Had a few weeks of rather high speed winds, but boy, when it calms down, it really calms down!  And that black patch is a bunch of seals!  Tons of seals, dolphin, and whales, but more on that later.

Half Moon Bay – South Jetty

So had some friends from work that wanted me to take them out fishing.  Settled on the hmb south jetty, and we arranged to head out there 9/28, Saturday.  Started our way on the jetty around 1pm, was amazingly calm.  Could’ve fished the sea side of the jetty without getting wet, even if you were standing by the water’s edge.  No wind, and no swell.
Having no experience on that side though, I stuck with the harbor side.  We ran out past the 30 marker and hit up a few spots I knew would hold eel & maybe fish.  I don’t really remember which spots we found fish at…I think the first spot we didn’t find any, and had to move further?  I think it was the second spot where we found many of the eels.  Taught my partners in crime the general idea, put them both on some eels and pulled up 3-4 crabs.  Only 2 were keeper size, but one got away >.<

Was pretty amusing.  Had to help one of them unsnag at one point.  I could’ve sworn there were taps every now and then, but it was so sporadic I figured I had to be imagining it.  As I tugged and tugged (40lb line) I began to feel the line sliding out slowly…then finally, felt unsnagged!  Pulled it all the way out, and lo and behold, it was an eel!  And a giant mess of old fishing line that she had apparently gotten caught in.  But eel!

2 others showed up later in the day, unfortunately I couldn’t find a good enough hole to put either one of them on an eel or a fish :  Managed to score 1 small rock cod near the end, and that was it for the day.

I managed to lose an eel too…  Dropped a large 5.5″ crab into the bucket, and one of the livelier eels used the back of it to jump out of the bucket.  Right under one guy sitting next to the bucket.  Probably the most hilarious thing that’s happened for me on the jetty, because it started slapping him in the butt too d=
Anyhow, I managed to grab it and drop it back into the bucket, only to have it jump right back out seconds later…Yea, I might just be next in line for a darwin award on that one…  I did nearly pick it up a few times, but it kept squirming and eventually managed to fall off the edge of the rock and into the water.  Darn things are pretty smart & quick.

Also of note, did not see DFG/DFW for the 5-6 hours I was out there.  What I did see was 3-4 people across the jetty keeping 10-15 dungeness crabs…yea, season doesn’t open until November fellas, what the hell are you doing.  They weren’t measuring either.  They had no gauges. Tsk tsk.  This is why the rest of us are stuck with limits.  God damn poachers.  Moving along though…

Here’s a few of the fish, photo credits to one of the guys for taking it (I forgot to take any while I was out).

eel and crab from half moon bay
eel and crab from half moon bay
grassy rock cod and eel from half moon bay
grassy rock cod and eel from half moon bay

Oh and before I forget, here’s the summary of bait/gear/tactics:

  • Bait: squid & peeled white shrimp
  • Rigs: carolina rig on fishing poles (1/2-1oz sliding egg sinker + 2/0 barbless octopus hooks)
    • Why barbless?  Because its a pain trying to unhook eels with barbed hooks.  Also decreases damage when doing catch & release
  • Line: 20-40lb test mono

Tactics used were the same from this video:

Capitola – Skiff Rental – 9/29/2013 Sunday

The very next day I headed over to Capitola with some other friends!

Capitola rock cod fishing
Capitola – Flat waters 😀

Just look at how nice that water is.  Like 1ft swells at 12sec intervals or something.  And almost no wind.  We literally were not drifting for the majority of the day.  Had to resort to casting out just to cover ground!  Amazing weather.

We went around all over the place too:

Capitola Kelp Maps
Capitola Kelp Maps

Our path that day was the middle set of pink squiggles.  We hit up mile & surfers reef for quite a few rock fish & king fish.  Majority of our rock fish came up from here. At one point we heard what sounded like a giant belly flopping…and we all looked around wondering wtf was going on.  Until someone saw it (don’t remember who). There was a whale way off in the distance (cement ship direction) that was jumping up into the air, and landing back down.  Must’ve been more than one based on the rapid succession of jumping whales.  But this went on for like 5 minutes.  It was AMAZING.  Sorry, no video.  Was too far for any of my cameras/phone to capture properly, but boy was that one of the coolest whale moments of my life!

After that, we decided to head out and try both boomers & adam’s reef.  The easiest way to find these two is to head out to the sc-3 buoy, and navigate with some kind of gps (you can get an app for your phone).  We drifted around boomers for 1-2 large rock cod, but overall it seemed pretty slow.  I did get the feeling we drifted over the section that held fish quite quick, since I hooked up in more or less the same spot both drifts, and we were over it quick.  One of the fish was the biggest fattest brown of the day, the other was a canary…so disappointing when you reel one of these up:

canary rock fish released at capitola
canary rock fish released at capitola

You can’t keep these.  There’s a heeefffttyy fine if you do.  Honestly when these guys are around it becomes very hard to catch anything but them.  They’re aggressive for a protected fish :  Guess the systems working.  I wonder when they’ll let anglers start keeping these again?  I’ve heard people who’ve tried them before they were off limits rank them pretty high as far as rock cod meat goes.

Moving along, we also didn’t find many rock fish out at adam’s reef, but it seemed like it was quite expansive…and we must’ve been drifting over sand quite a bit.  This is where we hit the motherlode of sand dabs.

Or as one of my friends called them, half fish!

sand dab
sand dab

He pulled this up, and instantly went “WHOAH! Is that half a fish?” and he had this dead serious expression on his face.  He literally thought he caught half a fish!  The other two of us in the boat burst out laughing when we realized he was serious.  Was laughing so hard it took me 3 tries to get a picture that wasn’t blurry.  Bahahaha!  I talked to him about it later, and he told me the reason he was so surprised was because he thought it was amazing how a fish managed to bite it perfectly in half in that direction….lulz.

Anyhow, had to phone this one in and talk to Ed with Capitola Boat & Bait to double check it wasn’t a halibut.  For the record, the lateral line on halibut makes a half circle near the fin instead of remaining straight.  Also the brown spots indicate sand dab.  This first guy was a pretty good size, came up on shrimp flies!

sand dab from capitola
sand dab from capitola

Anywho, we decided to stick around and catch a lot more sand dabs, heard they were quite tasty and are more or less a delicacy.  We tossed a lot of smaller ones back, and only kept the larger palm size or larger ones.

Does this image look familiar? d=

rock fish, king fish, and sand dabs from capitola
rock fish, king fish, and sand dabs from capitola

Not too shabby.  I think it was about 12 rock fish, 4 king fish, and 8 sand dabs for 3 of us.  Not including the countless small kingfish and sand dabs we sent back down :]

Summary of rigs/bait/etc:

  • Rigs: sabiki’s for kingfish, shrimp flies/dropper loops for the rest.
  • Weight: 4-10oz.  Though 10oz was a desperate attempt to hold bottom when the wind finally picked up.  6-8oz is going to be the max you’ll need, if that doesn’t hold bottom, there’s probably too much drift
  • Line: 20-40lb mono
  • Bait: tiger shrimp & squid

Capitola – Skiff Rental – 10/6/2013 Sunday

Finally caught up on reports again!  This was the most recent outing, and where I did the worst…but the group did damned well 😀  Which honestly, at the end of the day, makes it a much more enjoyable experience.  I feel bad when I catch tons of fish, and noone else does.

So I was up at 4am.  Got my stuff together, ran out the door to pick up one guy, then headed south for the other two.  We all piled into the car, headed down the street to the breakfast place…and then realized it wasn’t open yet because it was 530am.  Damn.  So straight to Capitola we went.  Arrived around 6:30, unloaded the car and I ran off to go park.  Looked like some sort of triathalon was being set up.  There was a big floaty “START” sign at the entrance of the pier, there were people setting up buoys in the water for swimmers, and part of the road was coned off for runners or bikers?  Turns out it was over before we got back in.

But uhh yea.  Winter is indeed here.  Around 6:45am, here’s what Capitola Pier looked like…

Capitola Pier
Capitola Pier

Sun was just about to start peeking out.  Man.  I really felt it on Sunday, being on time is painful in the sleep area.

Anyhow, ran down to the pier, and it was nice.  Last week we had to wait around awhile since we didn’t get there until 715 or so.  Had to wait like 30 minutes since everyone showed up at the same time that day.  But we were the only ones behind a private boat that was launching (as far as I know at least).  I was brilliant that morning and managed to misplace my pliers…so I had to pick up a pair from the shop.  Then after I got them and walked outside, I realized they were in plastic, and …I had no scissors, and only a fillet knife.  How was that going to work out…
Luckily I managed to just leverage the metal tip of the pliers and created a small tear in the plastic to work with.  As someone in my party put it, “that’s made in China for you”.  Thanks guys d=

Speaking of things I can’t seem to find…my gopro appears to be lost in my trunk somewhere.  Didn’t have it these last 2 skiff rental trips.  What a shame :  Before I forget, I was so excited and pumped to try live kingfish as bait for lingcod.  Why? Head on over to:, and you’ll see why.  My mom and I fished with her before and we’ve been uber jealous of all her lings.

Anyhow, it turns out the little dock near the end of the pier is gone now.  Not sure if its because the summer months are over, they’re doing repairs/getting a new one or what?  But its not there, and the ramp that led down to it is now secured in an upright position.  It never occurred to me it could do that.  Pretty nifty.

But uhh. That meant we had to man up and get in the boat the normal way.  By taking some stairs down halfway to the water, then climbing a fire escape type ladder down to the water & hop in the boat from there.  Its both better and worse than you think.  Better in that they got a new ladder since I’d last used that way, and its free of slimy gunk.  Worse in that we learned the swell can and will get your feet wet if you’re not careful d=

Not too bad though. Water looked like this all day:

Capitola, California
Capitola, California

I think this was Kara’s pic.

So we all hopped into the boat and set off.  I went to go set up my fish finder while Kara drove…and found my battery was hot.  I should note I saw flashes of light earlier when I was unloading the car.  I thought it was just someone’s flash light going on and off in the bucket…turns out I had my descaler lined up touching both terminals…
Yeeaaaaa.  That’s not good.  Let the battery cool off for awhile and tried plugging into the fish finder.  Batteries were more or less dead, we got maybe 10 minutes out of them, if that.  So we reverted to using out phones for gps (yea, you get 4g more than a mile out from Capitola :D) and using the map coordinates.  Didn’t have adam’s reef coordinates on me at the time though.  Was saved in my fish finder only :

We headed out and tried around surfer/mile reef for awhile.  Wound up finding some rock cod and king fish.  I loaded up on kingfish to use as live bait.  Next stop we headed out and tried to blindly find boomers.  Later found out we were not far off coast enough.  Not even close.  Even so one guy managed to land a fatty brown.  I was thinking about switching out to some dropper loop rigs because I wasn’t getting many bites, and as I was spacing out deciding the change I saw my rod tip start dancing.
I just kept staring at it wondering what was going on, it hadn’t clicked yet…the kingfish/white croaker I had on was panicking.  Why?  Not really sure, but suddenly my rod doubled over and I grabbed it; FISH ON!  It fought me the whole way up, even taking drag a few times.  Finally got it up to the surface and ooooo, a nice blue/green color.  Struggled trying to gaff it for maybe 20 seconds before it took a run.  Gave up on it and just swung it into the boat risking snapping the line.

Lingcod at Capitola
Ling cod at Capitola

Thanks to Kara for the photo.  Turns out it was a good thing I failed at gaffing it.  Was 1″ short of the 22″ minimum size limit.  With great sorrow, we got a pic and let it go.  So now I was up to like four 2″ or less rock cod, and an underling…not a great start for me.  Kara’s husband had caught multiple decent fish already D:  No fair!

For those of you wondering what I was using, here’s a short explanation:

halibut rig
3 way rig

The hook line can be anywhere from 6″ to 21″, the longer the better the presentation.  However, the longer it is, the more likely it is the line will get tangled.  Your call on that trade off.  Hooks were 2/0 needlepoint  Eagle Claw Lazer Sharp hooks.  Just happened that that particular brand was the one with the bulk box option to purchase when I stopped by Fisherman’s Warehouse.  Don’t really have a preference for hooks as of yet.
Weight that day was 6oz, held bottom in up to 70-80ft of water just fine.  Length of line between the dropper loop & weight should be about 10″-18″

After the ling I swapped to using a squid lure thing on it.  Looks like this:

squid lure for rock cod
lure for rock cod

As you can see it also has a trailer hook.  We drifted around aimlessly for awhile trying to find fish, and finally decided to leave the sc3 buoy area.  As one guy was reeling up, he hooked up about half way up!  Wondering what it could be we all eagerly looked over, and it was a blue rock cod!  I immediately told everyone to drop back down and slowly wind back up until they started getting bit.  Since blues and blacks are schooling fish, if you catch one, there’s more around!  Everyone else instantly started hooking up!  Another guy pulled up 2 fatty blues at once, what a haul!

I got a bite, and I think a fish on, but was too busy helping two other guys unhook fish to reel it up.  I was holding the pole between my legs, then suddenly I felt the weight disappear…my line had snapped :  By the time I retied we had lost the school.  Damn it!  But at least everyone else had hooked into the fish while we were there.

We couldn’t find the school after that and headed back towards mile reef.  Unfortunately all we found there was nothing but octopi.  We were pulling up 6-10 at a time, it was awful.  What I don’t understand is why there aren’t tons of lings & rock cod just pigging out on them.  My understanding is lingcod tend to spit those small octopi up all the time.  And using one that a ling has spat up is one of the best baits you can find!

Anyhow, we pulled up and headed to the north east a bit in search of surfers reef.  Not sure if we ever wound up over it, but we were eventually rewarded with another school of blues, but we eventually lost track of that school as well.  Bite finally went completely dead, and we decided to make one final run to Spongebob.

We motored for awhile and couldn’t see the buoy.  Odd, given that buoy is bright yellow and fluffy.  Hard to miss it really.  We knew generally where it should be and couldn’t locate it.  So we just estimated based on memory and dropped down.  And found shallow rocky structure that was quite snaggy.  Seemed about right for spongebob from the last time we went there d=

No luck there though, so we called it and headed back in.  On the way we saw more seals than we could count.  Anyone know why they just float on their backs and stick a fin or two in the air?

Seals chillin' at Capitola
Seals chillin’ at Capitola

I’ve seen them doing this before.  Saw like 5 groups of seals like this.  Is this like their version of when otters hold onto each other’s hands when sleeping so they don’t drift apart?

We also saw pods of whales and dolphins all day.  Also saw some idiot rowers trying to row right on top of whales.  Freaking stupid.  Yelling the whole time, so annoying.  I doubt they would even comprehend the problem of a whale surfacing below them, lifting them into the air…well.  Whatever.

Was nice seeing so much wild life, no whales jumping this time though d=

Summary of rigs/tackle/etc:

  • Rigs: dropper loops, sabiki (kingfish/white croaker), 3 way rigs, shrimp flies
  • Weight: 4-6oz
  • Bait: shrimp & squid, shrimp was the winner today
  • Line: 20-40lb test mono

All fish ate both squid and shrimp, but shrimp did better in both size and quantity.  Only lingcod was caught on a live kingfish.

I was going to finish on a pic of our overall catch…but I realize I forgot who took it.  Can’t seem to find it, so maybe that will follow later.Rest of the pictures can be found in this album:

We may be out there again this Sunday!  Hope you all have a good week :]


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