Tips For Catching Opaleye

Date: May 3, 2004
To: Pier Fishing In California Message Board
From: bigworm
Subject: Green peas for opaleye

While I was fishing at the Jetty, I spoke to a guy who had caught very nice looking opaleye. He said he was using green peas and green moss from the rocks as bait. Has anyone ever tried this? He showed me the peas he was using, but I just couldn’t believe it.

Posted by giflet

Those two types of bait have landed me many, many, many opaleye over the years, all of which were caught at Wind and Sea Beach in La Jolla. The green peas produced 75% of the total catch. “You better wear a life jacket when joining this board, cause you can drown in information.”

Minnow Magnet and an opaleye from the Cabrillo Mole

Posted by Kbron2000

Are those canned green peas??? or just fresh green peas????

Posted by giflet

I always used frozen peas.

Opaleye from the Cabrillo Mole

Posted by dompfa ben

Believe it or not, I have completed an extensive study (won 1st place in my high school science fair) on which baits Opaleye prefer. Opaleye are in the nibbler family, and they are omnivorous.

My “research” (high school, albeit, but good nonetheless) found that during the Spring and Summer months, opaleye prefer green peas to all other baits. Their mouths are lightning quick, and they can easily remove the meaty contents of a pea, and leave the skin on the hook.

Tips I have learned: (1) Use frozen peas, not canned peas. (2) Use peas whose skin is intact and void of holes or tears (yeah, it makes a difference!). (3) Use small hooks: size 8 to 12 baitholder hooks. I use Owner Mosquito hooks for these little darlings, and they stick pretty good. (4) Use a casting bobber and LOOONG leader setup. Pinch of shot 6 inches above the hook. (5) Chum! Throw a handful of peas in the water where you’re fishing. I’ve seen opaleye boil off PV using a little chum. (6) Use lighter line–8 or 10 lb. maximum. These guys (especially the bigger models) can be line shy!

Moss, mussel, ghost shrimp, and red shrimp round out the top five baits in my study. All will work, but none are so economical, easy to use, and leave your hands smelling clean and gardeney Smile Plus, if you’re a real sport, you can slam a handful of bait in your mouth and it won’t turn your stomach! It goes without saying, but don’t forget to pick up that plastic bag your peas came in. In high-traffic opaleye areas… pick up one more than you brought.

Happy fishing, Ben

KJ and an opaleye from the Cabrillo Mole

Posted by fishingrod

Thanks for the tips. I always enjoy fishing for opaleye. I might head out to OB Pier this weekend with some peas. Opaleye are beautiful fish.

Posted by bigworm

Cool, thanks for the tips. Yeah, that’s exactly the rig the guy was using. I say the leader was about maybe 4 feet. Also, when using moss is there a preference to which moss to use and how do you bait it? Very good research project you had. Hope you got a good grade.

Amanda and an opaleye from the Cabrillo Mole

Posted by shorepounder

Can’t disagree with Ben’s conclusions on fishing for Opaleye, but read on only if you enjoy light line fishing for smaller game.

Definitely in the Spring and Summer peas work well, but in the cooler times of the year other baits yield better results.

Frozen peas are the only way to go and don’t let them defrost, keep them in a cooler so they stay firm and aren’t as easy for the fish to take off the hook. It may not seem like a big deal, but that extra little time that it takes for them to nibble it off the hook can be the difference between a hook up and a missed fish. Also pick the best peas, no tears or imperfections, use the intact ones and toss the others in the water as chum.

Small hooks are the deal. I believe that a hook with a single pea out fishes a hook with multiple peas on it. I use Eagle Claw circle hooks model l702 in sizes 14 and 16. These hooks work really well and the difference in using a circle versus a normal hook is night and day in Opaleye fishing. My hook-up rates increased greatly once I switched to using circle hooks, and since I release all my opaleye these hooks have prevented the fish from being hooked deep, making releasing a snap. I use to use the Owner mosquitos before and if I didn’t have my Eagle circles I’d be using those instead, very sticky hooks and penetrate the fishies mouth easily.

I always use slip bobbers in the smallest sizes I can depending on fishing conditions and adjust the depth according to what the fish want using just enough weight to balance the float with the smallest split shot from 4-6 inches away from the hook and the other shot a foot above that.

Chumming matters, do it.

Light line is a must, so use the lightest line you can get away with, bigger opaleye are for sure line shy most of the time.

And don’t be shocked if you should happen to catch other fish besides opaleye while using frozen peas for bait. Besides opaleye I regularly catch juvenile and occasionally legal calico and sand bass, black perch, sargo, senoritas, rock wrasse, and garibaldi. Along with those I have caught on a lesser degree, halfmoon, mackeral, smelt, giant kelpfish, sheephead, spotted bay bass, sculpin, kelp perch, and blacksmith perch.

That’s what’s great about fishing saltwater, you never know what will bite your offering and never underestimate the power of frozen peas

Happy fishing! Shorepounder <”))){

Posted by bigworm

Hey Shorepounder, Fantastic tips, I can’t wait to try them out. Do you know of any good spots around Ventura or Santa Barbara area? And if possible maybe we can hook up and go opaleye fishing sometime? Just a thought. Regards

Posted by shorepounder

Hi bigworm, sorry, but I don’t know of any spots up by you. I’m south of you and fish the Redondo, Hermosa, and Manhattan area.

Opaleye hang around rocks, kelp, and other structure like pilings, so that’s what you want to target whether it’s off of jetties, shorelines, or in harbors. One good way to find them is to wear polarized sunglasses so you can see down into the water and then just chum a bunch of peas and wait to see if any opaleye come around. Keep moving if nothings happening and repeat till you find some. Not all areas hold them so moving around is key, opaleye school up and usually when you find one there’s more, so covering a lot of water and different areas till you find them is the deal. Also I’m impatient when it comes to opaleye, if I’m not getting bit within 10-15 minutes at most I move on. Finally once you find a good spot that has opaleye, that spot will usually always hold opaleye.

Forgot to mention tides. I have always had my best luck on the two hours before and after an incoming tide. At slack tide action always slows, but if I know it’s a spot that holds fish I’ll wait them out until the tide starts to move again.

Hope this helps ya out and good luck. Shorepounder <”))){

Opaleye caught by Mahigeer (Hashem Nahid) at the Green Pleasure Pier in Avalon

Posted by dompfapops

Opaleye are a lot of fun to catch. I’ve spent many happy times with my six sons targeting the beautiful blue eyed nibblers. And pound for pound they are smarter and scrappier than most fish that size. And they do get surprisingly larger than you’d think. The big ones have a large forehead and seem to have a personality that says “I’m older than you, toss me back in.” And I always do throw them back because, frankly, I just don’t like the taste of Opaleye. The way to catch them is, use a very small hook #14 or smaller so the frozen green pea completely hides the hook. Use a bobber and a 2 or 4 lb. leader 3 feet long. Now here’s the secret, WATCH THE BOBBER, it won’t move much. Set the hook at the slightest hint of a movement or all you will get back on the hook is the hollow skin of the pea.

That’s right, in a split second, they can suck the meat out of the pea and leave the empty shell hanging on the hook and not even hardly move the bobber! Have fun.

I forgot to mention: put a small split shot about 8 inches above the hook so the leader hangs down in the water below your bobber.

Posted by squidder

When I was a kid long ago (1970′s) on Redondo Beach Pier, I saw an unusual method one guy used to catch opaleye. He would cut open a mussel and insert four small hooks into the meat without cutting the meat out of the shell. Picture four quadrants with hooks in each. Then he would lower the entire thing near one of the pilings where the opaleye tend to feed. Worked really well at the time. I’m sure techniques like this withstand the test of time.

Opaleye from the Palos Verde Peninsula

Posted by dompfapops

Yeah you probably were not near any opaleye. But when you do find a good spot for them take a big bag of frozen peas (they are cheap) and chum a lot. And use a much smaller hook than a #8; they have real small nibbler mouths; use a #12 or 14 hook. As for good spots in the SD area I can’t help you. If my life depended on me finding opaleye in my neck of the woods (LA) I would try the Marineland area of Palos Verdes or the Mole in Avalon.

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2 Responses to Tips For Catching Opaleye

  1. Larry says:

    I’m 62 now but I remember as a kid surfing the south jetty in Oceanside. One day a friend of mine saw some guy’s on the jetty with a bunch of huge Opal Eye. They said they used the moss from the nearby lagoon as bait. At the time I thought they might be joking but I guess they weren’t.

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