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October 08, 2009

SoCal Offshore

Light crowds, good weather and great fishing await Southern California anglers.

The fall months offer Southern California anglers some of the best offshore fishing of the year. The water is usually at its warmest, with surface temperatures in the low to mid-70s. The weather is often beautiful, with crisp mornings and warm, greasy-calm afternoons. And it's not unusual for anglers to have legitimate shots at yellowfin tuna, dorado or yellowtail, or even all three on the same day. Occasionally, bigeye tuna approaching 100 pounds jump on trolled lures and add an extra bit of excitement.

It's also not unusual for crowds at launch ramps and landings to be surprisingly low even though popular game fish can be prowling relatively close to the coast. For fishermen in the know, however, fall is time to hit the water and mix it up with hard-fighting offshore fish.

One of the most effective and popular ways for private boaters to target these fall visitors is to focus on offshore kelp paddies. These floating mats of kelp - which vary from the diameter of a trash-can lid to the size of a garage door - break loose from coastal and island kelp beds and drift with winds and currents. As they do, they often attract a movable feast. Small baitfish gather under and around the kelp stringers for shelter, and predatory game fish are drawn to these food stops like humans are to 7-Elevens in the desert.

Even with the absence of summer crowds, fish-laden paddies quickly become popular places, especially on weekends. If paddies are plentiful, try to find one of your own. If you've put in the time and feel it's now or never, approach slowly from downwind and hail the other boat on the VHF to ask if you can take a drift. Showing courtesy - rather than just crashing the party - often elicits a positive response. Set your drift a good distance from the paddy so that both boats can fish effectively.