Species identification and knowledge of behavior and preferred habitat is
another part of the equation in determining where to fish. For this
information, choose a fish guide. One of my favorites is "Probably More Than
You Want to Know About the Fishes of the Pacific Coast," by Dr. Milton Love.
Fortunately for the lay reader, Dr. Love has a bizarre sense of humor, which
makes the normally dry scientific information spark to life a little. The
book covers most, if not all, of the saltwater gamefish species you will
encounter on the west coast. ($20 from Really Big Press, POB 60123 Santa
Barbara, CA 93160.) This guide covers where the fish live (and therefor,
where to fish for them), spawning habits and seasons, growth rates, and
geographic distribution. It also gives the proper name for each species,
which can be useful since there are so many local names for different
One of the first things you will learn about rockfish from this book is that
they are "residential" - that is, they don't move around much and specific
areas can be fished out easily. That's especially true of the bottom-hugging
species like "red" rockfish.
The best rockfish spots are the hardest to reach. Launching a large,
sea-worthy fiberglass boat into the ocean at Pt. Arena, Albion, and Shelter
Cove can be tough. At Pt. Arena, you have to provide your own sling for the
hoist that lowers your boat down 30 feet into the cove. Albion has become so
silted that a shallow sand bar prevents crossing much of the day. Shelter
Cove's launch consists of a tractor ride through the surf. The launch at
Trinidad Head threads you through the rocks on a railroad trolley. The
rockfishing is and diving is outstanding at all these locations. Small
aluminum skiffs, kayaks, and rigid inflatables are ideal for these
launchpoints. Bankfishing spots abound along Highway One north of Point
North of Cape Mendocino, there is a whole different set of regulations,
mostly for the better. There is very little pressure up there, no party
boats in Crescent City, for example.
Rockfish-Crab Combos on party boats (or sport boats, as they call them down
in Southern California) have already begun out of San Francisco and Bodega.
Up north, the season has now been opened as well. You need to plan a trip
early in the season, because once the commercial season opens, legal-size
crabs get scarce in a few weeks, depending on the weather.
Part One: Changing Regulations
Part Two: Rockfishing Techniques and Tackle
Part Three: Where to Catch Nearshore Rockfish