The Ten Mile Platformsby: George Van Zant
Gamakatsu Octopus Hook
Seeker Black Steel Rod G 870-7 15-40 (Shallow Rock Cod)
Calstar Graphiter Rod, GFGR 800M 8' 20-40
Shimano TLD Star 20/40 Reel
Daiwa H50H Reel (Shallow Rock Cod)
Kicker 25 Heavy Jig (Shallow Rock Cod)
My memory is vivid about the time many years ago when I wrecked my boat. A Geophysical Testing Service was towing a paravane on a mile long cable. They made an evasive turn to escape a tanker conflict which caused the cable to surface to 3 feet deep. I ran over the cable at 30 knots and tore out the strut, shaft and totaled the prop of my Seaway. The testing vessel was the size of a destroyer and never did know they lassoed my 22 footer. I was pulled sideways about 50 yards before I broke loose. It was a tense situation but nobody was hurt. The testing service was looking for the best positions to place future drilling rigs for natural gas. I still have conflicting thoughts about off shore oil drilling to this day, even though insurance covered the whole thing, it still left a bitter taste in my mouth for the oil companies. How could they be allowed to tow a cable around the ocean on a Sunday directly between Catalina and the mainland? But after they found some prime locations the fishing got a lot more promising and helped to alleviate the memory.
So now three oil drilling platforms have been positioned off the Southern California coast for a number of years. They are located about 7 to 10 miles south east of the Long Beach breakwater light and approximately 12 miles from the Newport Jetty. They line up on a south east to north west direction and lay about one mile apart. They can easily be seen from shore and by now are a part of the sea scape.
The oil companies really knew what they were doing as far as we fishermen are concerned. These rigs are situated in an area that has long been one of the better shallow rock cod spots on the coast. Besides that they have created the perfect habitat for yellowtail, calico bass and barracuda. Party boats literally wear them out. At the crack of dawn in the summer time you will always find a sportboat anchored down on one of the platforms throwing massive amounts of bait attempting to draw the local pelagics out to fishable range. Small boaters have to get there very early to get a parking place.
The northern most platform is the shallowest. The bottom is about 150 feet deep and supports a variety of bottom fish including the tasty sculpin which isnıt normally caught around the other rigs. This rig has a history for housing the most yellowtail but other fish are also caught here using different techniques. Drifting away from this rig and dragging baits along the bottom is one of the best ways to fish it. You will need at least a 4 oz sinker but if itıs windy 8 ounces may not be enough. A stiff rod is required for the backbone necessary to set the hook at this great depth and a larger reel to handle the heavy running line. Place a 16 inch 12 LB test leader about a foot above the sinker and tie on a size #1 to #4 hook. Use cut mackerel, squid or anchovies for bait. Cut the bait in four inch strips and place the end of the strip on the hook. This allows the bait to flutter and it appears more attractive. A word of caution, sometimes the sand dabs are so aggressive itıs virtually impossible to catch other fish and thatıs why you tie the leader so far above the sinker. Sand dabs are members of the flounder family and wont swim too far from the bottom to grab a bait. But they are tops on the plate so always save room for some in your bag. To capture large dabs use 4/0 to 6/0 hooks, this method allows only the larger dabs to get hooked. The rule of thumb is to use lots of hooks because they will most certainly jump on every one of them.
This angling technique around the north rig allows you the best way to catch sculpin but you will also catch red rock cods, chuckle heads, sole and an occasional sand bass. You can fish this way around the other two rigs but the water is much deeper and calls for heavier tackle as that you would use for shallow water rock cod. The middle rig is 300 to 400 feet deep and the drop off is much steeper than the north rig. The sand dab bite is the best around this rig but the best technique is to back your boat into the rig and drop a rock cod leader down quickly between the legs of the platform using the same selection of baits that is used on the north rig. If you successfully reach the bottom youıll catch a red on every hook. Obviously you first have to test the direction of the current because the flow has to take your terminal tackle away from the rig. If the tackle is swept into and under the platform it will tangle in and around all kinds of bottom debris to make recovery impossible. When the gangion gets bit about 3 times, reel like crazy and pray. No matter how religious you are plan on losing two gangions out of every four drops. But it can be worth it, the largest "reds" in Southern California waters live under this platform. South east of this rig is a rock cod fishing area called the "South East Bank." The fishing area encompasses about 2 square miles of selected fishing spots known to the sportboat skippers. In the winter you can find many sportboats fishing the Bank so you might horn in on the action. PLEASE, if you fish around sportboats donıt get closer than 100 yards. The skippers are earning a living and do so by the angling success of their customers. The close proximity of your boat can shut off their bite and they wont be restrictive in their verbal abuse. A good rule of thumb is to record the GPS numbers and come back later when they are gone.
The southern island rests over 600 feet of water and itıs difficult to fish directly on the bottom. Their are two techniques that you might try though. Back into the platform legs and drop a sinker with one single leader 3 feet long with a live anchovy attached. Keep your thumb lightly on the reel as it free spools down. Many kinds of rock cod live at varying depths from 100 to 300 feet. When the line stops suddenly an slack falls off the tip of your rod, quickly throw the reel into gear and set the hook with lots of gusto. Usually your anchovy was intercepted by a rock cod called a chuckle head (copper rockfish or whitebelly) or maybe a large "red." The other way is to drop heavy rock cod jigs down quickly and repeat the original procedure. Again the threat of lost tackle is prevalent and those rock cod jigs arenıt cheap.
When you go for the "yellows" carry lots of anchovies, small mackerel, sardines, spanish mackerel or the most deadly of all baits ....live squid. Anchor at least 100 yards from the rig in such a position that the current carries your bait directionally toward the rig. If two boats already occupy one side of the rig move on to another rig. There isnıt room for two boats. Chum liberally with anchovies and cast your bait with at least 20 LB mono and the reel drag hammered down. If youıre lucky enough to have the" automatic hook-up" bait ..live squid, ignore the staccato bites of the pesky blue perch it wont be long until a yellow charges through the blues and try's to backlash your free spooled reel. Donıt wait too long for the hook set because they charge back to the protection of the platform. You must "horse" them in and plan on catching only 2 out of five hook-ups because some of them are over 30 lbs. and can run back to the rig in less than 5 seconds from a full 100 yards away.
Finally, the oil platforms are great fishing areas but they can be very dangerous if you are not alert to the ever changing winds, currents and swells. Anchor only as close as your boat is safe. Only you are the judge of that.
Added: Fri Oct 10 2008
Last Modified: Tue May 26 2009