San Onofre Paddle Fish Adventure
by Jason "jas" Morton
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 Doheny State Beach Launch

Ah yes...another Paddle Fish Adventure.  I always look forward to these.  A group of kayak anglers sharing a small stretch of coastline along with a huge amount of camaraderie, respect and good vibes. 

A predetermined route is selected and agreed upon by some of the veteran PFA'ers of the group.  An open invitation is always extended well in advance though always qualified with sense and words of caution.  The selected routes vary in range between 10-17 miles.  Some routes may offer several bail out points along the way while others have been more limited with most of the coastline along the route lending itself to exposed reefs, jagged rocks, large surf and towering bluffs.  We try our best to schedule these around fair weather days, only launching if the most current report calls for relatively mild conditions. 

These paddles test our strengths, stamina and sometimes patience. By no means are they intended to push the envelope of the extremes. With that being said you just never know. There's plenty of time in a 15 mile paddle for good conditions to turn bad.

Ready to launch

For this last PFA we agreed upon a route which would cover about an 11 mile straight shot from Dana Point to San Onofre.  I say straight shot because we usually paddle a few miles more than the exact distance from launching to landing, scouting around looking for solid bites along the way.  You could be fishing in one area which might not be as productive as another.  A call comes across the handheld radio that the fish are biting better where they are. This is one of the angler beauties and benefits of being part of group of several kayak anglers.  We fan out and cover a larger area, sharing our finds and successes with the rest of the group.  This same dynamic also shines in the area of safety. It might sound like a cliché, but there really is "safety in numbers".  

We knew the air would be cold with some breeze.  But no one could have predicted the head and cross winds we were to battle for most of the day.  I normally look at a 1-2 mile paddle against the wind as a rough day on the water.  I think the group would all agree that on this day we all pushed the envelope of our personal limits.

Everyone met up at Doheny State Beach to drop off the kayaks and gear.  I elected to stay at the launch and oversee the equipment while everyone caravanned back to the San Onofre landing zone.  The sunrise was incredible!  I did see some clouds on the horizon but the water was calm and the breeze was blowing just slightly offshore.  At this point I thought we were going to have a calm, even glassy paddle for most of the trip.

Calm launch, offshore breeze and clouds looming on the horizon

As usual the launch from Doheny was uneventful.  We fanned out around the area with some of us fishing shallow as some of the others went deeper.  First time PFA'er and the winner of last years Jackpot Shootout Bing Blaydes was quick to locate a decent calico bass bite.  I promptly moved in to give it a whirl.  I tossed the trusty swimbait along the kelp line and got smacked by about a 3lbr on my 2nd drop.  A few more casts and nothing.  On another cast I was picked up by something with pretty good size.  I felt the tail quickly fluttering which usually translates to a bonito. Since the bones canwreak havoc on plastic baits I soon switched over to a steel lure commonly referred to as a spoon..  

Although a slow bite, it seemed that most of the group got into some action whether it was a few bass, bonito or a combination of the two.  I followed Kevin into the soft sand shallows to try our luck with halibut.  I tried several casts to no avail but did manage a short halibut.  Normally that's pretty slow fishing but with varrying weather patterns moving in and out of the area, I was pretty content on finding any action at all.  Soon after the halibut I caught and released an 18-20" white seabass.  These aren't big fish but still a fun fight on the light tackle.

 Short halibut chewing on a swim bait/leadhead combo

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