ON THE SPOT: Trinidad Bay rockcod charters are providing easy limits
BY PAT YOUNG/WON Staff Writer Published: Aug 13, 2009
TRINIDAD—The rugged, but beautiful coastline of upper Northern California is home to some of the best saltwater fishing in the state. The big crowds familiar to San Francisco Bay partyboat anglers are unknown here and rockcod charters out of Trinidad easily make two trips a day with a high degree of success. A 10-day ocean salmon season will open here on Aug. 29 and run to Sept. 7.
This writer headed over to the coast last week with a couple of neighbors and had a great afternoon trip on the Jumpin’ Jack that resulted in full limits of black rockcod and a nice lingcod for the five anglers on board.
I had been thinking of going to the coast from my place near Redding for some time, and when I mentioned the trip, a couple of friends quickly volunteered to go along. I checked the Internet for sportfishing boats in the Eureka area and came up with Trinidad Bay Charters. A phone call to Annette Lesher, wife of skipper Tom Lesher, put us on an afternoon trip.
We met at my house at 6 a.m. and made it to Eureka by 10:30. I stopped at Pro Sports Center to pick up a fishing license for my buddy Glenn and headed north to the harbor at Trinidad. Tom Lesher, owner of the Jumpin’ Jack, was waiting on board and said we’d leave as soon as the other two anglers showed up. We went back up on the pier to check out the restaurant and I was pleasantly surprised to see my good friend Mike Bogue and his son Garrett walk up. We were all happy to be fishing together and headed to the boat for an early start. Lesher pulled out of the bay, headed north and took the time to explain the gear and technique we would be using.
Lesher specializes in shallow-water rock coding with light action spinning gear and provides all the tackle needed for the trip. The 36-foot boat was equipped with rods rigged with hand-poured 2-ounce lead diamond jigs and a single shrimp fly on 17-pound-test Stren line. The key area was about eight miles North of Trinidad and only 10 to 50 feet deep. Numerous big rocks jutting out of the water gave an idea of how the bottom looked and Lesher warned of rocks coming up close to the surface.
On our first stop, I dropped a white striper jig down to the bottom and reeled in slowly. It didn’t take more than a few seconds for a big black cod to inhale the bait and start the morning off right. Soon everyone was battling the feisty blacks on the light gear and fish were filling the plastic tubs that Lesher uses to hold the catch.
As the bite slowed, we moved around looking for bigger fish. Lesher said that his morning trip that day had limited out in an hour, but the afternoon bite was a little slower. Mike Bogue and son were doing very well and on one drop Mike hooked into a big fish. Taking it easy with the light gear, he cranked a nice 12-pound ling up to the net. Lesher said that he hadn’t had a keeper ling landed in over a week, so this fish was a real bonus. By 3 p.m., we limited out on nice blacks running 2 to 5 pounds and headed back to the pier to clean fish.
Lesher cleans the fish as a part of the cost of the trip, so there’s no extra expense involved with the charter. Free use of all tackle, fish cleaning, and good fishing make this a great bargain in the sportfishing market. 6-pack operators in Trinidad don’t use a deckhand or need a second skipper and have lower overhead costs that keep prices down.
Trinidad Bay is home to a least five 6-pack boats that offer rockcod/crab combo trips during the crab season (May –July), shallow water rockcod trips and salmon fishing. This year an ocean salmon season will run from Aug. 29 to Sept. 7 with a two king salmon limit. Rockcod trips are booked from Memorial Day to Labor Day on all these boats, and then most of the skippers switch over to commercial crabbing after the sportfishing season is over.
For more information on fishing out of Trinidad, check out www.trinidadbaycharters.net or call Tom Lesher at 707-499-8878
A Trip Out on the Jumpin' Jack by Jeff Peters
On Sunday, Aug.1 at 6:15 a.m., we boarded the Jumpin’ Jack, a nice 36 ft. fishing boat out of Trinidad. I surveyed the gear which was light tackle ocean spinning rigs tied up with jigs and rubber worm-type lures. McKinleyville resident Tom Lesher, the captain who runs a first class operation, told the party that we would be taking a 25-minute ride up to the Patricks Point area. The party consisted of six anglers including myself. On board was a guy named John, Charles and three ladies – Susan, Caren and another lady named Susan. So we motored along enjoying a beautiful morning with calm seas. Tom is one of the nicest people, very helpful and his charters are great for the beginner and advanced fishermen alike. As soon as we stopped Tom instructed us on what to do. It was not long before we started hooking fish. The action was steady most of the day and got a little hectic for a spell as Tom was running around the boat unhooking fish and placing them in our containers. I caught three fish in three casts at one point in the day. Caren and her friend Sue were killing the fish with a vertical retrieve method. We moved to several locations throughout the day as we told fish stories and had a great time. Charles shared some wonderful smoked albacore with us. It was really tasty. Then Charles caught a good-sized green lingcod. Then Susan caught a lingcod. John, who was doing well, hooked into a big lingcod. I am sure it made his day. We saw seals, a few porpoises and many birds. As with all things fun it had to come to an end, as Tom had to pick up another charter at 12:15 p.m. for a salmon expedition. So we reeled up and headed for shore. We docked, got our things together and commenced watching Tom fillet all our fish. The man is an expert with a knife. The total number of fish for the day was 70 rockcod, three lingcod and one cabazone. Not bad for five hours of fishing. We all had a great time and I’m sure we will all return for some more good action. To all of you that fished with me, thank you. It was definitely a pleasant experience. If you would like to book a ride with Tom on the Jumpin’ Jack, call (707) 499-8878 Have a good week. Good luck. Stop wishing. Go fishing!
Northcoast Light Tackle Rockfish Paradise by David Schachter
Mention the word "Rockfish" to most anglers, and an image of "broomstick" rods, large reels and 1-3 lb. weights usually comes to mind. It sounds more like work than fun, something to do after Salmon fishing or if you need to "fill the freezer". My quest to make Rock and Ling Cod fishing more fun started when I first took my fly rod and caught a limit of rockfish in shallow water almost as fast as if I'd been fishing with conventional tackle. It was soon apparent that all you had to do was fish in shallow enough water to get the lure or fly to the fish. The tackle could be much lighter as long as it had the line capacity for the depth of water we were fishing. The tackle we use today is really manufactured for Bass and Walleye; rods 6'-7' in length with light tips and heavy butts are preferred. The reels take a lot of abuse so even though they're small we have realized that a high quality reel will more than pay for itself in the long run. Line should be good quality 12 - 15 lb. and a 12" - 20" piece of 40 or 50 lb. line at the end will handle most all the "chaff" the fish or the rocks can dish out. We use 1/2 - 1 oz. lead headed jigs (3/4 oz. is the most popular). A plastic lure called a "Twin Tail" is then added to the jig head to attract a fish. We're very fortunate to have a small boat paradise in our back yard. Trinidad (Luffenholtz Beach to Patrick's Point) with all its rocks and coves offers some of the best opportunities for light tackle Rock cod fishing on the north coast. Weather depths vary a lot around Trinidad even very close to shore. A good average depth to fish this light tackle technique is about 30- 40 feet of water. If the weather has been good for a while it's not unusual to have up to 20 foot visibility throughout the water. It's a great thrill to see a big Ling Cod coming up chasing the 3 l. Rock fish you have hooked. If you have your own boat but have never fished light tackle in the Trinidad area, a really good way to sample the fishing and the territory is to take a trip on Trinidad Bay Charter's "Jumpin' Jack"
(707-499-8878). Skipper Tom Lesher has really refined the light tackle technique.Tom has been fishing the area for 14 years and can really help a small boat owner identify likely spots to fish, and the best way to catch these fish is on light tackle.
Yes, we still Fly fish for Rock and Ling Cod. That world record Ling Cod is still swimming around out there with my fly it its mouth. The lines we use are fast sinking, and heavy. The flies are tied on strong hooks and the most popular colors are red & white, red & yellow, and black. Standard saltwater streamer patterns like a "lefty's deceiver' work well. With our salmon season being restricted so severely the last few years, there has never been a better time to give light tackle a try.
Second Biggest Cabezone Ever by Jarrett Wing
Here is a photo taken on a trip I took to Trinidad with my dad near the end of August this year. We went out on a Saturday afternoon trip with Jumpin' Jack Charter, which is a light tackle, rockcod fishing service out ofTrinidad Harbor. The seas were fairly rough with swells to 8 feet. The fishing started slow with a few nice 24-inch black snappers being caught. Later, the boat captain, Tom Lesher, caught a 16- to 18-pound lingcod. We had 45 minutes of fishing left when I caught this 11-pound cabezone. My fish was the 2nd largest cabezone ever caught on Tom's boat. The largest was a 13-pound beauty caught by my stepmom, Janet Wing, on a previous trip. Together the six of us fishing that day caught over 40 black snappers and other assorted fish such as Tom's and my own. Gotta love good fishing, even in rough seas!
Janet Thompson & David Wing, both of Redding, were wed at 1:00 p.m. June 17th, 1995 aboard the "Jumpin' Jack" charter fishing boat, Trinidad, CA. Ship's captain, Tom Lesher, officiated. Maid of honor was Kathleen Warren & best man was Bernie Albers. Bride presently works for Kratofill Chiropractic, Redding. Groom is self-employed as a custom home builderdba Blue Sky Construction. Congratulations!
Subject: Our Fishing Trip
Date: Sat, 28 May 2007
I can't pass up the opportunity to tell you how tickled Sam was to go on his first chartered fishing trip.
He comes over to the house every day now just grinning and talking about all the fish he has in his freezer.
He loved the trip. I also enjoyed my trip.
Tom was so helpful and basically all I had to do was just sit there and reel in the fish.
Tom even cleaned the fish for us! I invited friends over and we had a big fish feast.
What a way to end a day of fishing!
Please relay to Tom that the trip was a big hit.
We will be seeing you again.
Subject: July Chartering Trip...Kudos Date: Wed, 9 Jul 2003
Dear Trinidad Bay Charters:
I am writing this e-mail in response to a most positive experience with your business. On Tuesday, July 8, 2003, my father and I participated
in your AM charter. The weather was phenomenal, the waters calm, and we were the only two passengers. While these factors all contributed to a successful trip, I must say they were only icing on the cake.
From booking this trip through execution,Trinidad Bay Charters was a delight. The phone reservation was easy, painless, and most sincerely courteous.
The trip itself was extremely enjoyable. This was a gift from myself and my sister to my father for Father’s Day. He is a Florida boy who now lives in Arizona and does not get to the ocean nearly enough, if ever, to fish.
I just plain don’t get to the ocean enough. My father loves to fish, and I am a novice at best, but we both thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. In fact, Dad is still talking about it, which in and of itself says a lot.
Chris made for a remarkable captain. He is the picture of patience, grace, and professionalism. His knowledge of the waters, the fish, and area were impressive and entertaining. His attitude and good humor really made the trip.
My only regret is that I’m not still over there. My sincerest thanks. I’ll be sure to tell all of my friends about the Jumpin' Jack and Trinidad bay Charters. I just had such a good time and was so impressed by your operation, it seemed only fair to let you know.
Sincerely, Holly, Redding, Ca
Subject: Awesome Trip From: Jim D. Date: Sun, 14 Jul 2002
Thank you, Captain Tom for a very, very good day at sea. Even though you didn't seem to think that the fishing was great, we did. We are looking forward to doing this again in the future. I took care of the crabs and packaged the fish as soon as I got home. My wife was pleased by the amount of meat we had. I cooked some of the black bottom (just kidding) rock fish and it was super. My wife thought it tasted like Halibut. Thanks again for a fantastic trip. I think anyone who would no - show a trip is crazy. Jim
May 11, 2002 From: Mike R., Eureka, CA Tom, My friends and family really consider ourselves fortunate to have discovered your charter service last year. We had a great time Rock Cod fishing last August and have been enjoying eating the fish we caught for many months afterward.
We love to fish but unfortunately only get to go out a few times a year, so we need to make it as productive as possible. Trinidad Bay Charters provided the most productive and, consequently, the most fun we have had in the three years we have lived in this area.
Subject: Wonderful Trip Date: Sat, 18 Aug 2001 21:58:20 EDT From: Rick and Cheryl T.
You know you can catch fish off any old boat, but what makes the trip fun is the people. My husband, Rick and myself, went out on a bottom fish trip the morning of the 13th, the fishing was great and it got better for me when I caught a 35 inch, 16 1/2 pound ling cod. But where we had fun and what will keep us coming back were the people....Chris was the best, he kept us in fish, kept us informed and chuckling. Then there was a gal named Kathy, now what a delight, our kind of people..
Then there was Joan, we called her the rookie, she was so fun to watch, a real sweety, but the best was yet to come, Greta, she makes you feel welcome and involved,
You have a whole bunch of Keepers, thanks for the great day.
By Ashley Hastings
We went on a fishing trip to the Trinidad Bay on the Northern California coast last summer. We met our captain, his name was Captain Chris.
While we were waiting for Captain Chris to finish cleaning the boat, we saw otters and two seals.
When we got on the boat Captsin Chris went over the safsty rules, told us where the life jackets were, and told us how the poles worked. Then we headed out to sea. On the way to sea Captain Chris poured chum into the water for the sea gulls.
When we started fishing, we heard sea lions and saw porpoised in the water. My brother, Christopher, was too little so Captain Chris helped him fish. Captain Chris threw rthe line into the water and when there was a fish on it, Christopher would reel the fish in. Captain Chris also took the fish off our lines. When we got back to shore, we got off the boat. Captain Chris gutted and cleand our fish. We caught 50 fish in total. Captain Chris put all our fish in bags to take home. Before we left all took a picture with Captain Chris and thanked him for a great day.