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Home / Fishing / Articles

ArticlesFeatured Columnist : Georges Corner


Tons of junk litter the Los Angeles ocean bottom creating a variety of fishing spots. The very best of these junk piles are those rusty shipwrecks that are stuck forever to the bottom. Submarines, destroyers, tugs, pleasure boats, and other sunken crafts are truly automatic fish habitats even though most of them are planted in lifeless mud.

Agile small boat anglers have an opportunity to exploit these "oasis's" of the sea. Four things are necessary though to have success. (1) You have to know where they are by use of land bearings and/or LORAN. (2) Locate the position of the "life" cloud by proper use of your depth finder. (3) Anchor your boat in proper position over the wreck. (4) Utilize a good chumming technique.

Finding the wrecks can be a problem. Some are listed on ocean charts but they usually lack the pin point accuracy needed for their location. Others are listed by LORAN bearings in publications which you can purchase in tackle stores. The best way of course is by word of mouth from one fisherman to another. Obviously you have to be very good friends to extract valuable information like this. Most would rather give up their wives than divulge their "spots." Over the years some anglers have simply stumbled onto them by countless hours of running their depth finders in random search runs.

"Life" is pictured on the depth finder as a cloud and it's found around or over the wreck. The cloud is small marine fishes positioned to face the upwelling current caused by the deflection of the wreck. The "life" cloud contains forage fish like, blacksmiths, half-moons or Catalina blues, johnny bass, anchovies, sardines, and jacksmelt. If you haven't found the wreck "life" tells you that it's close. But most importantly, if you don't find the "life" don't bother to stop.

The really "big ones" live directly in the shipwreck so you should position your boat directly over the mass. Use your depth finder and circle the hard spot until it meters at its highest point. Then head into the wind or current at least 100 feet and drop the hook. Allow the boat to slip back until the depth finders second echo starts to appear. If you executed correctly the spot in 70 feet of water will be about a rods length behind the boat. Anchoring isnŐt difficult with a light to moderate wind, but it's very difficult in the absence of a breeze or with a strong current. For this reason always take note of the compass headings of anchored boats and freighters as you are on the way out.

Chumming can save the day. Southern California anglers are finding that chum slicks work as well as live anchovies and it's less expensive. "Bongo" buckets are containers of ground mackerel, anchovies and other fishes that are used to produce a slick. You can purchase them in a one gallon size and a five gallon size. The five gallon size will last all day. Cut a 2 inch wide flap in the top of the bucket and float it tied off the stern of the your boat. Small bits of fish and oil float in a continual tantalizing slick down the current and wake up the "life". When the "life" starts darting around the slick the big ones wake up. Now you're ready to catch em". The year round residents are giant sheephead, sand bass, calico bass and halibut. During the summer and fall barracuda, bonita and yellowtail join the group. Sheephead of record size live in the wreck but are virtually impossible to land. Calico bass reside mostly in the wreck or slightly over it. Sand bass actually recline on the bottom as does their neighbor the halibut. Mackerel are so thick sometimes you can't get a bait down. Also surrounding the wreck, living in the mud or sand, are the tom cods and lizard fishes. These are important to you for two reasons. If they bite inside the wreck the big ones are sleeping and probably wont bite. But they are excellent bait so keep them alive in the bait tank. Fishing methods vary but basically are designed with one purpose in mind that is to fish in such a way as not to lose all your tackle in the wreck on every single drop. Initially the bass come up to the surface seemingly drawn by the boat motor and the first two or three casts of your lure or bait is bit before it can sink a foot. Then after the first few initial casts they retreat back down and the real wreck type fishing begins. Basically, lead heads and rubber tails tipped with a piece of squid or fish flesh is the traditional way to fish. But plan to lose lots of them. In some spots every lead head will be lost unless you hook a fish and then it's 50/50 whether you can pull it out. One thing is certain, the big bass and sheephead invariably attack a lead head that has hung up and suddenly pops off. They inhale it as it drops back so it's imperative to maintain constant bottom feel to attract the big ones.

Another method is to use fish filets cut in narrow 6 inch strips on the end of a lead head, minus the rubber tail. Jack smelt, tom cod, and mackerel are best in that order. Another excellent method is called by some the "System". It is a torpedo sinker with a long shanked Kirby hook attached to one end. Kirby hook eyes can be opened and closed onto a sinker eye without breaking the hook eye. The hook flops around on the sinker and when it hangs on the bottom it can be shaken off the obstruction five out of six times where a regular lead head is history. You can put a variety of tails on the hook or use it with filets.

Another angling situation occurs in unusually strong currents. "Life" will position itself 50 to 100 yards downhill from the wreck. Surface grabbers like yellowtail. bonita and barracuda will also be lurking way down there. Never pass up the techniques of fly lining life bait or casting metal jigs as far downhill as you reasonably can. If necessary slide back on the anchor 30 yards The unique appeal of wreck fishing is the apprehension of not really knowing what's going to bite next and the most important thing of all is to get your boat directly over the spot. A difference of ten feet can make or break the trip. 


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