| Gear |
The thinking for sand dab gear is generally the lighter the better due to the frequent, repetitive reeling involved. I see people using all kinds of reels; Shimano TLD's, Penn Jigmasters, large Calcuttas, Tiagras, Sealine 50H's, Penn 3/0's, large spinning reels, etc. The reel size generally ranged from a Penn Long Beach to Penn 6/0 Senators. I prefer using anything that will not break your knuckles after a day of fishing. My first trip's Jigmaster ringed my knuckles. It's not really the size of the reel because these fish even with 10 on do not weigh more than 5 lbs. What matters is the reel handle size: the smaller reel handles will painfully tweak the knuckles. I had no problems using a Daiwa 910 Rockcod Special Sealine reel with it's special handle. A Penn 4/0 with a 6/0 handle is good enough. A sensitive-tipped rod is recommended since these fish are small biters.
A Daiwa 910 Rockcod Special Sealine Reel fitted on a Calstar Codstick. Notice the big handle.
|Gangnion Styles: |
The type of gangnion really did not matter: anglers using beads did just as well as any other types, including anglers using shrimp flies. It's not so important the style but how close you have the hooks together. I suggest you place your hooks very close to one another at no more, no less than 3 inches apart. This closeness allows you to pack more hooks onto one gangnion. The gangnion can only go a certain length before they become too long to handle and a tangling nuisance. Remember there are no regulations regarding how many hooks you can use to fish for sand dabs. The anglers using several hooks caught more than others did with fewer hooks. The shorter the gangnion and the more the hooks, the better. The loops for the hooks are just dropper loops. If you do not know how to tie a dropper loop, then ask the deckhands - it's one of the easiest loops to tie. These loops will then hold the hooks, which are just looped on and not knot tied.
Hooks and Weights:
Sinkers should be no less than 1 lb. I always used 2 lb sinkers and had no problems with my line sliding to the sides on the drop. The hooks can be of any type. People using live bait hooks did just as good.
A sand dab rig. Place your hooks about 2.5 to 3 inches apart. Place one or two beads in between hooks. Some days these beads seem to make a difference. The jury is undecided.
You donít have to knot tie any hooks just loop them as you see here. The loop is just a dropper loop on a 30-50 lb mono-filament.
I did notice three things that brought in bigger dabs: Baitmate scent in the saltwater version(blue colored), plastics such as AA's Curly Tails, and squid head/ tentacles part. These three whether all used together brought in larger dabs.
You private boaters may find it more convenient and economical to go on the sport boats if fishing alone. The price is only $30-35, including bait. Your own boat's fuel plus launching and bait fees will cost more and you have to drive.
One last note, although it's not the prime focus of this section but I cannot stress enough after witnessing it much too often. Please, watch your language when children are present. On my third trip, I saw an old guy next to me just yell out heinous profanities right when there was a little 4-6 year old girl walking by him. She was very frightened with a bewilderd look on her face when the old guy blurted out just because a guy next him[not me] slightly had his line tangled with his just by a hook. I was looking at her pass by when the old guy blurted out his hideous way of communicating his displeasure with what happened. People go fishing to get away from people with attitudes like that old guy in their jobs, etc. and to find some relaxing activity to do. Let's keep it a fun family outting.
The differences between the sportfishing boats:
Sea Angler $35 slated to fish sand dabs everyday after Jan. 1, 2001. (310) 832-8304, 22nd St. Landing. Usually bigger crowds on this boat and is a larger boat. Service is good. Free parking.
| Pierpoint $30 Wed., Fri. & Sat. only 7am-4pm. (562) 983-9300: Service is good, boat is the smaller of the two. The crowds lately have been smaller on this boat. It's home at Pierpoint Landing is closer to Orange County cities, however, both landings are freeway close from LA county cities. Free parking. |
Pierpoint Landing in Long Beach
Night: The sand dab's excellent table fare is the biggest prize for fishing these fish, not it's repetitive, lack of adrenaline fishing. After you have tried one of these tasty little fishes, you will want more than one like my friends did. The dab's flavor is somewhere with halibut and rockfish.
| I get my fish cleaned on the boat. The price is a bargain compared to other species. The Sea Angler charges a dime for cleaning each sand dab; the Pierpoint's rate is $5 for every 30 sand dabs. Either boat is quite a bargain. Be sure to tip the deckhands after fish cleaning since they worked hard all the way home for pennies a fish. |
Sacks full of sand dabs lining up for cleaning.
| A regular bucket almost filled to the top after a day of solid sand dab fishing. This is an average catch meaning there are catches larger and smaller than this. The starry eye was caught elsewhere at the end when the captain of the Pierpoint tried for salmon groupers. These side trips will not occur when the rock cod closure is mandated. Also, only three hooks are allowed for these rockfish, however, one hook is more effective when fishing for these shallow water salmon groupers. I got one salmon grouper using three hooks but those using one got more. I tried for the other rockfish and got the starry eye- the largest rockfish of the day. |
Cooking: Each of my friends cooked them differently but all claim to have eaten very delicious fish. Restaurants consider sand dabs as a delicacy. I agree with all the positive ratings and I rate their taste somewhere up there with halibut and rock cod. The best way I found for cooking sand dabs is the simplest: pan fry them hard with garlic, soy sauce, a pinch of salt & of MSG until their edges are crispy. When pan fried hard to crispy edges the smaller bones of the fish become crispy and brittle, breaking up when chewed and the flavor of the fish is brought out fully. Do not eat the large bones they are still inedible and dangerous. With any fish regardless of how bony one should always consume with caution.
Concluding Notes Although sand dabs are not endangered and have no regulatory limits placed on them, I like to see more studies done to find out facts like when they mate, what's their average size when they first spawn. This way, we may prevent them from being a modern day catastrophe like many other species that were over caught. Right now fishing for sand dab is like fishing in the old days, many caught and no limits on size or on quantity. Let's keep this fish from becoming another modern day tragedy. In the mean time, enjoy this fishing because the good old days are here.