Sep 20, 2018

What the Hake is That?

     I've been to the Oregon coast dozens of times as my family vacationed there at least once or twice per year ever since I was a wee tyke. However, I have not been to the Oregon coast many times in recent years, since I started life-listing in earnest, so there were a few easy ones that needed to be ticked off. And I'm always excited to fish in the ocean because you never know what you're going to pull up.
     I won't bore you with too many of my corny jokes or anything since there are quite a few pictures to fill the space. Long story short, it was an awesome trip and some pretty darn cool fish were caught, some new, some not.
     We decided to make a little side trip and spend the night in Seattle on the way down to Oregon. So while the wife and kids were sleeping, I picked out a new pier I hadn't been to before (Redondo Beach) and gave it a go! It was just the usual suspects though, nothing new that night.
Rock Sole:
Quillback Rockfish

Roughback Sculpin
     I thought this one might be something different at first, since I've never seen one with the whitish splotches on its head before, but I think it's just a regular old Pacific Staghorn Sculpin though.
These things are EVERYWHERE on the Pacific Northwest coast.
     The next day, we got to Oregon, and we decided to check out some tidepools, so I brought along some little hooks (duh..). Tidepool Sculpins were as easy as I assumed they would be. I've caught buckets of these over the years, but never actually bothered using a hook before. So with that bit of housekeeping done, we were free to move on to bigger and better things.
Not my first one of these, by a few hundred, but now it's officially on the list.
     That was until my wife said, "Ooh honey! What's that?". I didn't see it at first though. Can you see the fish in the picture below?
I know where it is, and I'm still not sure I see it.
     Anyway, long story short, it took some convincing, but I finally connected with three inches of steaming Speckled Sanddab fury. A new one! Brittany get the credit for this one!
Not a particularly dignified example of the species, but it counts! This was the first one of these I've seen in a tidepool, and I've looked in a LOT of tidepools.
     I also caught a bunch of these Mosshead Sculpins in the tidepools. Another new species!
Oreo Sculpin?
The kids had fun looking into the little aquariums
And here we see my parents in their natural habitat.
     The next day, I rock-hopped my way out onto the Newport Jetty hoping for a Striped Surfperch. I of course caught exactly 0 Striped Surfperch. But I did have a pretty entertaining evening with some familiar species.
And a few crabs:
I caught crabs. There's a joke in there somewhere I think...
     Kelp Greenling were also not shy about coming to see me:
Nice pecs on this one.
It's always cool to see the difference between males (top) and females (bottom).
I even caught a male and a female on the same cast
     When the tide stopped ripping so hard, I pulled out my jigs to try for some rockfish. And proceeded to have a very entertaining hour and half before dark.
Black Rockfish were all over the place.
     Then I hooked something that pulled a little harder. I knew what I hoped it was, but it was cool to see it when it actually popped up. My first dingaling from shore! I've caught lots (and certainly bigger) Lingcod from boats, but never from shore. But what really excited me was that upon closer inspection, it was my first ever blue Lingcod! Not the "bluest" one I've ever seen, but blue enough to count!
Note the bluish tint to its tongue.

     The next day, my dad and I headed out on a charter trip. We tried one that I hadn't done before. Last year Oregon had to close down their near-shore bottom fishing in late-summer, since they had already met their groundfish quota for the year for several species. This made people mad... So in an effort to provide additional harvest opportunities, they opened up what they call a "long leader fishery" outside of the 40 fathom line to access fish that were previously not very pressured (except, you know... the pressure of just living deeper than the 40 fathom line...) For this fishery, you have to use specific gear. Basically it's like a dropshot-type rig with 30 feet of line between the weight and the hooks. This is to avoid bottom dwelling critters like Yelloweye Rockfish which are protected, while still  having access to more sustainable (more mid-water) fish like Yellowtail Rockfish. See illustration below courtesy of ODFW:

     So anyway... A few of the potentially encountered species would be new to me so I wanted to give it a try:
Long leader gear lined up and ready to go
     We finally arrived, and we sent our odd rigs down 500 feet and began doing the fish dance. I was first to hook up on the boat (as it should be. Just kidding... Sort of...). 500 feet later, when it popped up to the surface, the captain and I simultaneously said "Aww, crap!", and "SWEEEET!!!". You can probably guess who said which. There was a little confusion, as to what the little beasty actually was for a couple minutes, as the deckhand hadn't ever seen one before, but I actually knew this one. It was a Pacific Hake!
He seems angry.
Gotta love those "non-target" fish!
     Then it was back to business of catching Yellowtail and Canary rockfish (and lots of them; 10 fish limit each...) for the rest of the trip, except for a brief bit of excitement when the guy next to me (it's always the guy next to me??) got bit off by a blue shark right at the surface.  I only barfed twice and got a new species out of the trip, so I called it a success!
"The Dude" working on 500 feet of line with a fish on the other end that doesn't want to.
Yellowtail Rockfish
Canary Rockfish
     The next day, the wind was howling, but I tried the jetty again anyway. The usual suspects were caught again, but I also tied into probably my favorite fish of the trip. Using a sabiki (with only 3 hooks as per the regs) tipped with squid to search for smaller species wasn't too productive, except for one good bite. I set the hook and could tell that the fish was big enough that I was in danger of losing it in the rocks or weeds. But somehow the little size 10 hook held, and it popped up to the surface. I saw that it was a rockfish, but it was a different color! Crap! Now what do I do? I was up on big rock 5 feet over the water, and there was literally no way to get down to it without going swimming. I weighed my options for a couple seconds, and couldn't come up with anything better than to hope the tiny hook stayed put and swing it up onto the rock. So I held my breath and gingerly swung it up. I didn't breathe until my thumb was firmly on his lip.
     Rockfish are a favorite family of fish of mine. I've always been fascinated with the variety of different ones. So I was excited that I didn't know what I had caught. Luckily, through the magic of Facebook, it was quickly identified (by some anglers with encyclopedic knowledge of fish ID... Thanks again!) as a Grass Rockfish. WOO! Apparently they're more common farther south, like in California. But not so much that far north. The ODFW website calls them an "unusual species" to catch. Either way, it was a new one for me, and one that I was definitely not expecting.
That's number 126 if you're counting along at home.
Interesting forehead structures. Kind of looked like laid back horns.
     That was it for new species. I got a little cocky and thought I had a shoe-in spot to catch a Warmouth in a nearby lake. So I tried that on the last day. But don't worry, no Warmouth were harmed in the making of this post. But I was pretty happy with the trip as it sat, with five new species, and some notable encounters with old friends as well. Nineteen species of fish were caught in total.
     Also, I guess I lied a little about not being too long-winded here. But hey, I didn't hold you down and make you read it all. That's on you!

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