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By Zach Cavanagh

Vincent Unzueta with a combo of cod caught aboard the Sum Fun. Photo Courtesy of Dana Wharf Sportfishing & Whale Watching

Despite recent bouts with weather and a fall disrupted by the oil spill, fishing is as strong as ever at Dana Wharf Sportfishing & Whale Watching.

In his weekly report, Captain Brian Woolley said the water temperatures held at 60 degrees after the wind and rain had subsided early last week. The half-day trips are seeing a mix of catches, as the regular anglers are using multiple techniques to find success. Woolley said the sinker rigs for bottom fishing or sliding sinker setups worked the best for anglers. The trips pulled in sand bass and calico bass on live baits, while some sheephead, trigger fish and sculpin were taken in on the bottom setups.

The three-quarter-day trips have also been successful as usual for this time of year, with plenty of rockfish catches off the Camp Pendleton coast. Some trips have been drifts over the rocks that have reeled in some vermilion rockfish and grouper with live bait lines. On other days with rougher surface water, the trips have anchored and racked up some nice numbers of ocean whitefish and sculpin along with the rockfish varieties. Woolley said the “hot ticket” for the week was taking mackerel bait and stripping it up, which brought in some higher quality rockfish catches.

It’s also a good time to check in on the 14th annual Halibut Derby, as the competition nears its midpoint in January. The Derby began on Nov. 1 and runs through March 31, 2022. Aspiring winners of the derby have two ways to enter, either through the specific halibut drift trips on Fridays and Sundays or registering ahead of any open half- or three-quarter-day trip.

So far, there is only one entry on the Halibut Derby leaderboard: Jonathan Skelly’s 6-pound, 1-ounce catch on Nov. 7. There are 20 spots on the leaderboard to qualify for the free Fish Off on April 3, where the top angler can win $500. The top five spots on the leaderboard also cash in, with first place taking $1,500. Also, if an angler can break the current Dana Wharf halibut record of 43.1 pounds caught by Peggy Stein in 2012, there is a bonus $500 prize.

For more information on the Halibut Derby and drift trips, go to

Woolley also said for all anglers to keep tabs on the Dana Wharf social media channels for deals throughout the holiday season and that kids fish free in December.

For information on all trips at Dana Wharf, go to or call 888.224.0603.

Here are the latest fish counts at Dana Wharf Sportfishing & Whale Watching:

Dec. 22—3 boats, 65 anglers: 90 whitefish, 75 sculpin, 67 rockfish, 15 vermilion rockfish, 5 bocaccio, 4 blue perch, 2 calico bass, 2 sand bass, 14 bass released.

Dec. 21—3 boats, 119 anglers: 122 rockfish, 79 whitefish, 62 sculpin, 27 vermilion rockfish, 9 sand bass, 7 Spanish jack, 1 treefish.

Dec. 20—2 boats, 37 anglers: 36 sculpin, 31 whitefish, 30 rockfish, 8 vermilion rockfish, 2 sand bass, 12 bass released.

Dec. 19—3 boats, 77 anglers: 76 sculpin, 60 whitefish, 30 rockfish, 17 vermilion rockfish, 17 sand bass, 3 treefish, 1 calico bass, 1 bocaccio, 2 halibut released.

Dec. 18—3 boats, 45 anglers: 77 rockfish, 59 whitefish, 49 sculpin, 12 vermilion rockfish, 5 sanddab, 5 sand bass, 4 bocaccio, 1 calico bass, 1 lingcod, 35 bass released.

Dec. 17—2 boats, 28 anglers: 7 sculpin, 3 calico bass, 10 sand bass, 6 treefish.

Dec. 16—2 boats, 22 anglers: 66 whitefish, 35 rockfish, 16 sheephead, 14 sculpin, 14 vermilion rockfish, 1 calico bass, 1 sand bass, 1 bocaccio, 1 triggerfish, 8 bass released.

Zach Cavanagh

Zach Cavanagh is the sports editor for Picket Fence Media. Zach is multiple California Journalism Award winner and has covered sports in Orange County since 2013. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @ZachCav and follow our sports coverage on Twitter @SouthOCSports. Email at

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