Descending Black Seabass and Rockfish



3/27/18-Revisiting the Safe Release of Fish

On the heels of rockfish season opening soon and snapper and other coastal species seeing their seasons with size and retention limits, the successful release of traumatized fish is crucial to conscientious fishing.  Here on the California coast, anglers are too accustomed to releasing traumatized no-take, under and oversized species for the ospreys and crabs to eat, the case in many similar fisheries.  In the time since this was first published, “release tools” have become readily available on tackle shelves

Kayak Fishing

Canary Rockfish-CA Daily and Bag Limit, One Fish

 Getting a feel for a good hookset and SLOOOOOWWWWWLLLLLY moving the fish up the water columns on the lightest drag possible will keep its eyes in its head, the bladder in its belly and a long sporting fight to effect a healthy release.


Releasing ocean fish with inflated bladders is a necessary angler skill and . With so many restrictions in today’s fishery, from rockfish to snappers and groupers plus the depths we can fish and more, possessing a release rig has become a matter of angler consciousness.  We advise guided guests fishing shallow water rockfish not to “horse in” smaller fish and retrieve them slowly to avoid inflating bladders and killing the fish.  Shallow water returns are less successful.   This link to Sportfishing Association of California details barotrauma and several release methods.  Release tools are effective but not necessary, most kayak fishers have what they need onboard.

From Captain Jerry Barber:

Black seabass are making a rebound from near exticnction and are being hooked and landed by more and more fishermen every day. The first problem when landing one of these giants is to identify it as a black seabass. Too often I hear, “What the hell is THAT?” when one is brought to the boat. If you are fishing on or near the bottom and bring up a large, usually spotted, grouper-like fish, you probably have caught a black seabass. Now you have a problem. These fish are fully protected by law and MUST be released. The problem is how?  These fish are usually caught in deep water and their now-inflated gas bladder stops them from swimming back to the bottom.

Most sportfishers carry long hypodermic needles which are inserted into the side of the fish behind the pectoral fin. This deflates the bladder and allows the fishSafe_Release to return to the seabed. There are two dangers in doing this. First, it must be done correctly or the fish could be killed instantly. Secondly, when the needle is inserted through the skin, it picks up slime which is then deposited deep inside the fish. This can cause an infection which results in a long, slow death. I use a device that safely and efficiently returns the fish to the sea and I offer it to you for your consideration.  We do not recommend this invasive technique.

The device consists of a 5# rock cod weight, a 24″ piece of braided stainless leader and a 10/0 stainless hook modified to be barbless. Simply attach the hook to the weight with the wire leader and keep the device permanently on your boat. When a seabass is caught, tie a line from any convenient rod to the bend of the hook. (Use at least 25 pound test so the line doesn’t break) The hook is then inserted DOWNWARD through the UPPER lip of the fish and the weight is slipped gently into the ocean, followed by the fish. With the reel in freespool, the weight pulls the fish to the bottom where its swim bladder deflates naturally. If it doesn’t swim away by itself, a sharp upward pull on the line will pull the hook out and release the fish.

This “Safe Release”, as I call it, costs only a few dollars to build and is the easiest, and safest, device I have ever found. Take the time to build one and keep it in a convenient spot on your boat.


PVC Kayak Cart


*You need to add “T’s” to the top of this design to cradle the hull.  Pad the top of the T bars with a pool noodle or similar foam wrap.  Based on kayak manufacturers recommendations, we do not recommend supporting your kayak through the scupper holes.



What should I look for in a used kayak?


A summary of important considerations from Judge

Brittleness – if any of the plastic feels brittle (from being in the sun or just plain old) do not buy – and maybe don’t even take as
a gift – it’s up to you on that one. You need to know what a new kayak feels like before you start checking old ones.

Structure – look for modifications, holes and visibly deep scrapes in the hull. If you are concerned – ask the seller if you can fill it up with water. By doing this on dry sidewalk, you should be able to tell if it leaks (and there will probably be a lot more pressure on the hull when it’s full of water than it will be when you are on it in the water). Modifications – any holes put into the hull are a possible source of leaks. Check them out. Real small holes (like for pop rivets) can be filled with plastic and a heat gun (from Home depot), hot glue or even some shoe goo. Look it over top and bottom -particularly to see how the wear is around the supper holes on the bottom – a place of particular wear as you land on the beach.

Form – The plastic boat can be misshapen as a result of being tied to a car or truck in hot weather. They say in the OK book, that they will regain their old shape if allowed to heat and cool on a level surface with no tie downs. If you find a boat that seems to have cooled to the wrong shape, you may or may not be able to get it right again. Also, the booklet says that hanging them by their handles can make them warp. Again, I don’t know if they will “right” themselves if allowed to heat and cool on a flat surface – Maybe this is a question for a dealer or manufacturer.

How do I install FLUSH MOUNT ROD HOLDERS on my kayak?


Thanks to Wali for his excerpt from the Idiot’s Guide.

How? Poke large hole(s) in your perfectly good Kayak and set it in place with some stick-um and screws. Seriously though, it really is about that simple. A 2 1/4″ hole saw works real well to poke the hole and I like 3m 4200 as a sealant. Don’t drill the screw holes until you put the holder in place and rotate it to the position you want your rod to point in and it fits inside your hull (I shortened mine some). Be careful and don’t over tighten the screws (just enough to pull it almost flush and make the sealant ooze (wipe clean) Make sure you use stainless steel hardware. Most come without a bottom and you need to cap it. I sanded mine down some and fit an abs cap (2″ I think) on it and sealed it   I have three. Hope that helps

Can I install the CKF Paddle Clips on kayaks with rounded sides like The Ride, Prowler and Malibu Kayaks?


Yes…..You can install the CKF Paddle Clips on the Prowler and other “rounded” kayaks by flexing the base to conform to the hull. Stainless nuts and bolts are recommended when access to the interior is afforded. Snug the paddle clip base down gradually alternating back and forth between each fastener. Stainless sheet metal screws or rivets will work when a “blind” fastener is needed. The Paddle Clips should be installed at room temperature or warmer for an easy application.

How do I get tar off my kayak?


“Years ago I suggested on this web site, orange hand cleaner for removal of oil/tar. Spike emailed me asking that I keep an eye on the cleaned area for signs of “reactions”. I still have the OK Scrambler. The area cleaned looks the same as the rest of the kayak. I do store the kayak
indoors and use “303” protectant about once per month. Perhaps the extra care has been helpful.” 

Thanks to Bill Hartman, Oxnard California.

How do I avoid backlash when I cast?


Thanks to Ed Whited  for providing an easy primer on casting an open face reel.  The information applies to Shimano Corsair & Calcutta, Daiwa Millionaire, Abu Abu Garcia Ambassador and similar reels.

I have two Corsairs, both of them are the new versions. I have caught yellowtail, bass and barracuda with them.
They cast great and the drag system is the same as the Calcutta’s.

Always watch your jig when you cast, If you do not stop the spool with your thumb when the jig hits the water, you will get a backlash. To help with your casting, and/or minimize your backlashes, make sure that your spool adjustment is correct. This is the knurled cap on the right hand side plate. The purpose of the adjustment is to take the play out of the side to side movement of the spool. I like to tighten the knob until I can no longer here a “Click” or sound as I try to move the spool side to side with my thumb. Too tight and you will limit your casting distance. Always watch your jig when you cast, If you do not stop the spool with your thumb when the jig hits the water, you will get a backlash.

The next item is the proper adjustment of the “Weights” on the left-hand side of the spool. These weights are located on the left-hand side of the spool. You have to disassemble the reel to access them. Unscrew the two slotted knobs holding the right hand side plate to the frame and remove the spool from the reel. Look at the left-hand side of the spool. There is a series of 5 (as I recall) weights on the left side of the spool arranged in a circular or star pattern. The weights can be pushed toward the center of the spool’s shaft to turn off the weight or pushed outward toward the spool’s rim to turn them on. Be careful not to damage the weights. I would turn them all on until your thumb becomes more educated and you can then start turning some of the weights off to lengthen your casting distance. When you re-assembly your reel, make sure the release (free-spool) button is in the up position or it will not engage the release mechanism properly. This will be apparent by the button remaining in the down or disengaged position and not engaging when the reel handle is turned. The easiest way for me to prevent this is to turn the reel upside down so gravity pulls the release button into the proper position as I reassemble the reel.

The issue of the line being caught between the spool and frame is a function of the line diameter, spool looseness (see second paragraph) and backlashes. Everyone, no matter how experienced, has backlashes at times. Experience and proper adjustments will minimize the backlash frequency. Try not to use line of a diameter smaller than what the reel is designed for. With smaller diameter line the frequency of catching the line between the spool and the frame increases and the line’s tolerance to damage decreases.          Ed Whited

How to ID (red) California rockfish


Canary and Vermilion and Yelloweye…oh my!
by Jayna Schaaf-DaSilva, Marine Biologist (article harvested from CDFG Bulletin)

One of the most diverse and successful groups of fishes in the eastern Pacific is the rockfishes (genus Sebastes), represented by more than 60 species in California waters. All rockfishes have a set of characteristics that distinguish them from other fishes, most notably the prominent head spines. Rockfishes have five spines on the rear cheek area, a continuous dorsal fin with 12–15 spines and 9–16 soft rays, and an anal fin with three spines and 5–9 soft rays. Rockfishes are generally long-lived, slow growing, late maturing, and mostly residential fishes.This combination of characteristics makes rockfishes extremely vulnerable to overfishing.

In addition to these life history characteristics, increased fishing pressure and unfavorable oceanic conditions have combined to reduce some populations of rockfish to extremely low levels. Two examples of important species under pressure are the canary (Sebastes pinniger) and the yelloweye (Sebastes ruberrimus) rockfishes. Canary rockfish have a potential lifespan of 60 years or more, while the yelloweye rockfish can live to be at least 118 years old. They mature relatively late in life. NOAA Fisheries has designated these species as “overfished” and the federal Groundfish Fishery Management Plan mandates actions to rebuild their stocks to a healthy condition in the shortest time possible. In order to allow these stocks to rebuild, it is illegal to keep individuals of these species. Stocks are not expected to be rebuilt until 2017 and 2074, respectively. Unintentionally caught canary or yelloweye rockfishes should be returned to the water immediately to increase their chances of survival.

It can be challenging to identify any rockfish species, including prohibited species, when many of them are the reddish-colored and look very similar. In the past, anglers have typically misidentified canary (a prohibited fish) as vermilion rockfish (a permissible fish). The best way to distinguish a canary rockfish is by the bright orange coloration. The color can be compared to that of a road construction cone, a soda can of orange Crush®, or a bowl of Cheetos®. In northern California, the orange color pattern may be more reddish. However, all canary rockfish have a broad white or light grey band along the lateral line of the body that extends from the head to the tail. Canary rockfish also have a white belly, a slanted triangular-shaped anal fin, and a slightly forked tail fin. In smaller individuals, a dark grey or black spot can often be found at the base of the dorsal fin, about halfway down the body. When all else fails, rubbing the thumb against the chin of the fish will give a clue; canary rockfish have a smooth jaw.

Vermilion rockfish are actually quite distinct from canary rockfish, once one knows what to look for. Vermilion rockfish possess a much deeper red color: envision the red of a very ripe tomato. Vermilion rockfish lack the broad white or grey band on the body, but may have a partial band, and the belly is never bright white. The anal fin is rounded in vermilion rockfish, and the tail fin is straight. Many individuals have black borders on the fins. The upper (dorsal) part of the body is mottled with dark grey to black speckles, especially in younger fish. Again, rubbing the chin of the fish can help distinguish it; vermilion rockfish have a sandpaper-like roughness to the chin.

Some anglers misidentify yelloweye (a prohibited fish) as vermilion rockfish (a permissible fish). Yelloweye rockfish reach a larger maximum size than either canary or vermilion rockfishes, and they have very big, strong head spines. The yelloweye rockfish goes though a rather dramatic color change with growth. Juveniles are reddish-orange with two solid white lines running the length of the body, one along the lateral line and one below it. During transition, the body is red with only one white stripe (the bottom stripe disappears first). Large, mature individuals lack the white stripes completely, and are more orange-colored with pinkish fins. The fins are tipped with black throughout growth. The yelloweye rockfish, not surprisingly, has prominent golden-yellow eyes. There is a rasp-like ridge of spines above the eyes of large individuals. Like the canary rockfish, the chin of the yelloweye rockfish is smooth.

With practice and patience, identifying the characteristics of canary, vermilion, and yelloweye rockfishes can become a straightforward task. A combination of characteristics such as the coloration of the lateral line, shape of the fins, chin texture, and body color can be used to identify each species of these three “red” rockfishes. Proper identification is the key to reducing the accidental harvest and ultimately rebuilding the California stocks of overfished species in a minimum amount of time.

For more information about canary, vermilion and yelloweye rockfishes, visit the following Web sites:

For full-color illustrations of these rockfishes, click here.

What’s the cheapest and easiest way to get a Mexican fishing license and kayak (boat) permit?



Mexican Department of Fisheries
2550 Fifth Ave.
Suite #15
San Diego, CA 92103-6622.

PHONE:  (619) 233-4324
FAX: (619)233-0344

Give a call, then send in your application fees with money order only. Thanks to “Mr. Limpet” for originally providing this update.

Fish Finder Installation 101 By Mark “Sea Wolf” Hall


In response to the many inquiries about fishfinder installation I decided to document the installation of my unit on my Scupper Pro and publish it here for all to see.

Finder and battery selection

I am not endorsing any specific finder! As matter of fact, I don’t know JACK S#*$ about how they work or which is better than the other. I will, however, tell you why I chose the particular finder and battery that I did. I bought the Humminbird 200 DX. I based my fishfinder decision on three simple points:

  1. Price.
  2. Power requirements. Only 250 mA.
  3. I think the yellow accents look good with my blue Scupper Pro!

The battery I used is the Yuasa NP7-12. It is a 12 volt battery with 7 Amp hours of power. I am sure they are available at most any electronics store. I based my battery choice on two simple points:

  1. Size / weight. It fits inside the hull easily and weighs about 5 ¾ lbs.
  2. The guy at the electronics shop said it would run my unit for about 28 hours! I know it’s overkill but what the heck.
  3. Don’t forget to buy a charger when you get your battery.

Read this before you start!

This is usually where the manufacturers tell you about the things that can go wrong and how you may possibly injure yourself or your family if you don’t follow directions. I only have on thing to say: “It is EASY!” If it seems to be difficult, then you are doing it wrong. I finished this install in twenty minutes with nothing more than a screwdriver, a box wrench, and a cheapo cordless drill that was having problems with the trigger.

Start here

OK, I lied. There is another element that I took into consideration as I looked at the different brands. This unit has a “shoot through the hull” transducer. That means that it can be mounted inside the hull and it will take reading through the hull. No holes to cut! By the way, less (holes) is more (better).

The “Puck”

The first thing that I did was I located where I wanted to install the transducer and I installed it. I positioned it inside the hull directly below where to compass mounts. Why? It seemed like a good place (no rocket science here) and the cables would reach the place I had in mind for the finder unit. The installation was simple:

  1. Rough the inside of the hull with 80-grit sandpaper.
  2. Goop a load of 3M marine adhesive sealant / Fast Cure 4200 in to the center of the roughed spot. Be sure to make the puddle of adhesive about ½ inch larger than the transducer unit and also make sure that there aren’t any air bubbles in the mix.
  3. Push the transducer “puck” into the blob of glue with a slight twisting motion to squish out any possible air bubbles. Too easy, isn’t it? You may want to set something heavy on top of the whole thing until the glue is completely cured. Mine cured in about 24 hours.

A note on adhesives: Although the manufacturer recommends a 2-part epoxy to mount the transducer, I chose to go with the fast curing polyurethane instead. It seems to be a little more flexible, easier to use and not as messy as the epoxy. As far as performance, I have been getting clean readings down to 350 feet.

The Battery

Since you did such a fine job installing the transducer, it sure would be a shame if your battery got loose in heavy seas and bashed it and the cables to oblivion. My battery weighs 5 ¾ lbs. And if you think the outside of a plastic Ocean Kayak is slick, you should see the inside. I made a cradle / holder out of some plastic foam that I received as shipping material with my computer. It is pretty solid stuff and it won’t soak up water. It is similar to the foam that they make Boogie boards out of. This part is easy too.

  1. Cut a box or brackets out of the foam to fit your battery.
  2. Find a convenient place within the hull to hold the battery. Depending on the weight of your particular battery, you may want to improve the balance of your kayak with the placement. I just tried to get it right at the center point. It is almost under my butt.
  3. Rough up the area with the 80 grit sandpaper. (No, not your butt!)
  4. I tried the silicon glue for this part but it didn’t stick to the foam so I opted for the spray-on contact cement. 3M makes some good stuff. Spray it on both the roughed up area inside the hull and on the bottom of your battery box. Wait till both sides are almost dry and then carefully attach it to the hull. I say carefully because once this stuff is down, it is down for good.
  5. Lastly, set the battery in place and use one of those tiny bungee cords to secure it.

The Fishfinder

There are a variety of mounting products that are suitable for kayaks. (edit-The Johnny Bar) Another option is the various mounts that are at all the marine hardware stores. Whatever your choice, place the fishfinder screen in a place where it will be visible, secure, and out of the way. I chose to mount mine directly to the forward hatch without any after market mounting devices. It is out of the way. It is visible. It is a lot cheaper to replace a screwed up hatch than to replace a screwed up hull! Mine comes off very easily and by putting the stainless bolts back through the holes and bolting them down, the hatch is watertight. So far my access to the hatch has been fine but I haven’t hauled in any giant threshers or anything.

The only thing left to do is to attach the cables as shown in the instruction booklet that came with your fishfinder. I didn’t bother making holes for the cables to run through. The seals on the Scupper Pro are loose enough to allow the cables to pass without much leakage at all.

Now it’s time to go fishing!