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Fishermen's Journal


image13.jpg (50183 bytes)Santa Catalina Island Fishing Spots

The Front Side - Part I

by Yoshi K.



Santa Catalina Island Fishing Spots

The Front Side - Part I


I’ve enjoyed fishing Santa Catalina Island, or as most of the locals call it “Cat” or merely “the Island”, for a great number of years.  It really amazes me how it’s only a few miles away from the hustle and bustle of the Los Angeles metropolis but still has much of that natural unspoiled beauty, as when first visited by Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo back in 1542 and of course some really great fishing the Island has to offer.  Catalina Island is not always the easiest place to fish, so it really can become an adventure.  In this write-up I have listed areas I like to fish and for you to check-out, with general coordinates (use at your own risk), maps (do not use for navigation) and what species of fish you may encounter, depending on the time of year you go.  In general, my experience has been that Calico and Sand Bass, Bonito, Blue Perch, Sheephead, and Halibut can be caught year round, the catch improves as the water warms ups in the spring.  Barracuda begins to become active in the Spring-Summer months, Yellowtail Spring to Fall, and White Seabass March through May.  One word about conservation, please practice responsible fishing.  Only take what you can reasonably consume and leave something for next time.  We as sport fisherman don’t need to kill everything in sight.

Good luck and happy fishing.

First something about safety.

For some folks, crossing the San Pedro Channel is nothing more than jumping across a pond, for others it is a transoceanic crossing.  I like to think I can make this crossing in my sleep and I probably have a few time, but am regularly humbled by the seas.  If you are contemplating fishing Catalina by private boat for the first time, you need to prepare your boat as well as yourself.  Unless you have previous “ocean” boating experience, you should take a boating safety and basic navigation courses.  Make sure your boat is well equipped with the necessary safety equipment;  VHF radio and back-up VHF waterproof handheld in a ditch bag, flares, charts, etc.

A good and safe way to do the Island for the first time is to buddy boat the Island with someone who does it regularly.  There are a few of the CharkBaiter’s that regularly fish the island and often times you may be able to buddy boat over with them and help fish their spots.  The CharkBait Saltwater Anglers Club also has buddy boat trips organized thought out the year.  This will add some level of safety and self-assurance should you have any troubles, actual or imagined.

Remember be conservative, don’t take risk and most importantly, have fun and maybe catch some quality fish.


Fishing the Front Side, Part I


Getting there and Coming back

When fishing Catalina Island for the day, I like to leave as early as possible in the morning.  Basically, baited and on my way by 5:00AM or so, but no later than 7:00AM.  Any time later, you will not have enough time to fish the Island effectively.  Check the Southern California Swell model for the San Pedro Channel (http://cdip.ucsd.edu/models/spc.gif) and the San Pedro Basin Buoy (http://facs.scripps.edu/surf/sanpedro.html).  Of course CharkBait also has this information in a one stop format (http://charkbait.com/cb/ffishing.htm) .  Waves condition up to 4 feet and 10 second duration should be ok for most, depending on the size boat you have.  Usually the middle 7-10 miles or so out from the harbor seems to be the roughest. 

The area I plan on fishing really dictates which end of the island I’ll be headed.  But generally, from Huntington Harbor, I will head toward the East End (Avalon side) to get to the backside of the Island, heading for Church Rock and the Farnsworth Bank for Yellowtail for the early morning bite.  Then work my way along the coast toward the West End.  In this write up I’ll be doing the “front side” in two parts, and leave the backside for another day.  This installment is from Long Point to the West End.

Be mindful of the afternoon winds.  It can really churn up the ocean and make for a wet, bumpy ride back.  I will usually leave the island before 12:00 noon, but no later than 2:00 PM from the West End and head straight for Palos Verde to fish and/or check-out the conditions in the area.  This is the shortest distance between the mainland and Catalina Island.  It also provides some comfort that its only 20 miles between the Isthmus and Palos Verdes, instead of 30 or so miles of open ocean to Huntington/Alamitos Harbors.  Although, when the conditions are just right, “surfing” back to Huntington Harbor is not too bad either.  I like to duck in at LA Harbor or Queens gate and make my way back to the marina cruzing through the LA/LB Outer Harbor protected in the lee of the Federal breakwall.  Not the shortest way back to the harbor, but it allows me to look around.  I will drift fish the LB harbor for Halibut if the conditions are right.

Getting to Long Point from Huntington Harbor is a 27 mile boat ride across the San Pedro Channel on an approximate compass course of 200o magnetic and gets me there in a bit over an hour.  Your times may vary.


Long Point Area

When I fish the front side of Catalina, I like to start from the Long Point (33o 24’ 21” N / 118 o 21’ 56” W) area and work my way over to the West End Light, then go home via Palos Verde.  The ridge that extends out from the point eastward is an excellent area to begin fishing.  I will usually work the north side of the ridge in the small cove for Calico Bass and breezing Yellowtail.  The area produces the best when the current is coming up from the southeast (“uphill”).

The Hen Rock area (33o 24’ 00” N / 118o 21’ 50” W), just south of Long Point, in 14 to 20 Fathoms (80-120 feet) is good for Yellowtail, White Seabass and Barracuda.  When you move closer into shallower waters (33o 23’ 55” N / 118o 22’ 00” W), the Calico Bass (around structures/kelp) and Halibut (sandy bottom areas) begins to pick up.  Be careful around the boilers in close.  The offshore area is know as one of the most consistent areas on the front side for making squid during the spawn.

Moving north-westward, from Italian Gardens (33o 24’ 45’ N / 118o 23’ 00” W) to Empire Landing (33o 25’ 55” N / 118o 26’ 35” W).  In this area, I will usually drift the deeper water areas for Yellowtail, White Seabass (sometimes) and lager Barracuda.  Closer to shore in areas where the kelp is present, Calico Bass along the edge. 

About ½ mile north-west of Empire Landing is Yellowtail Point (33 o 26’ 00” N / 118 o 26’ 55” W).  Guess what you find here?  Well I never caught a Yellowtail at the point, but have a bunch of other fish.  Just off shore in 60 to 90 feet (10 to 15 Fathoms) when the current is moving “downhill” (coming from the north west) Yellowtail, Bonito and Barracuda have been caught.


Isthmus Cove Area

Isthmus Cove has moorings for boats, they also have fuel (call first during the off season) and other supplies.  If you wish to pick-up a mooring, they are assigned on a first come, first serve bases, no reservations.  You can give them a call on VHF 9 or 13 to get a hold of the harbor patrol boat.  If available they will assign you a mooring and will collect a fee based on your boats length and the number days you plan on staying.  When approaching the Isthmus, remember to be mindful of Harbor Reef (33o 26’ 55” N / 118o 29’ 25” W), the reef is marked with buoys, but it is barely exposed during low tides and is excellent for running aground.

Isthmus High Spot (33o 27’ 15” N / 118o 29’ 25” W) is a rocky area that goes from 6.5 ftm (south side) to 10 ftm (north side).  Just off the map is Ship Rock.  These areas produces Yellowtail, White Seabass, Calico Bass and Sheephead along either side of the ridge.  Because of the proximity to the Isthmus, the area is typically congested with divers during the summer months, so be careful transiting the area.  Just west towards Lion Head, on either side, is also well know squid spawning area.

A bit north westward is Eagle Reef (33o 27’ 40” N /  118o 30’ 30” W), not to be confused with Eagle Rock on the backside of the Island.  This reef is also submerged and marked with a buoy.  The usual suspect can be found there also.

West End Area

The area from Black Rock (33o 28’ 35” N / 118o 34’ 40” W) to Johnson’s Rock (33o 28’ 40” N / 118o 35’ 25” W) is a long stretch of hard bottom.  A warning about Johnson’s Rock: it is about a ¼ mile offshore, unmarked and is submerged most of the time.  This reef can do a great deal of damage to you with no one around to help if you do, be careful transiting the area.  The character of the area is the right kind (shallow Seabass beach, dirty green water) for the White Seabass.  Fish in 10 to 17 Fathoms (60-100 feet) for White Seabass (mid-day to evening has worked for me), Yellowtail and Barracuda.  Be careful in the vicinity of the boilers around Johnson’s Rock.

The “other side” of West End can be very treacherous because of the strong winds and  big swells that come rolling in from the west.  Boaters should use caution and good judgment when planning on fishing this area, it can be really rough at times.

Due west about 2-3 miles out from the West End is an area called 90 Turns Off (33o 28’ 19” N / 118o 39’ 11” W) which I am told is a good deepwater rock fish area the depth is 100 Fathoms (600 ft).  From the West End to Eagle Rock (33o 28’ 20” N / 118o 36’ 20” W) is good for Calico Bass, in tight along the kelp line.  Eagle Rock itself has produced some huge Sheephead for me.

Southerly of Eagle Rock is West Cove.  The cove is mainly know for its White Seabass, but also produces Yellowtail, log size Barracuda and Halibut.  If you fish tight along the shoreline Calico Bass abound, just watch out for boilers.


Ok that’s it for now.  Good luck and happy fishing.



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Last modified: 06/09/13.