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2017 AOTY/DOTY Entry

Topic: Hole Hunting 101  (Read 4128 times)

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BigJim

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I was pretty hesitant to post this since there are so many better/more experienced divers than me out there...but I put together a little vid/write up for my JK blog and thought some of you guys might be interested as well.

I should put a disclaimer right at the beginning:

I am no expert. I often make stupid mistakes. My handle should be BigDummy instead of BigJim. I have lost fish in holes. I have gotten shafts stuck and lost. Anything I "know" is courtesy of advice and guidance from other (much better) divers, and just what I have learned through trial and error...a lot of error.   

Anyway, take whatever I say with a grain of salt and if it helps you...awesome! If you think it is garbage or doesn't work for you, no worries at all...everybody is different and has different strengths, weaknesses and ways of doing things.

So...now that you know that I know nothing, here goes:

I love hunting in underwater holes, caves, cracks and ledges.

You never know what may be lurking in the darkness…Lingcod, Cabezon and all kinds of Rockfish love hiding in deep, dark spaces….

A quality dive light is mandatory, the UK SL4 eLED L1 has long been the standard up here in NorCal, but I encourage folks to check out the SubCraft/DarkWaters 1000 lumen.

This workhorse of a light is bright enough to light up the deepest holes, has a rechargeable battery, and is easy to turn on and off with one hand while dropping down to the bottom.

https://www.redtrianglespearfishing.com/products/subcraft-1000-lumen-dive-light

A gun that you can angle and line up shots with in tight awkward holes is also very nice to have. I have had good luck over the past couple of years with both the Pathos Laser Open Pro 75 and the Rob Allen 70. I am currently using the Pathos and am really digging the short overhang of the spear which makes it very easy to maneuver in and around holes and cracks.

Hole hunting is super fun because you don’t have to dive really deep to find nice fish (a huge bonus for divers like me that only have average breath hold and bottom time!!!), and it is addictive once you get going….just one more hole…I know there will be a monster in the next hole! 

The more time you spend hole hunting, the more you will start to recognize potentially productive features…but will also realize that almost ANY hole, crack, ledge or overhang can be holding a nice fish…the only way to know for sure is to dive down and look!!

 :smt003

Shooting fish in holes is USUALLY pretty simple, but you still often need to consider shot angle and be prepared for the fish or shaft to take some wiggling to remove.

If you have a solid shot into the head of the fish (where the most bones are) you should have enough holding power to simply pull on the line and shaft and get the fish out…if it feels stuck, go back to the surface if you need to take a breath and then follow your reel line or float line back down and take your time getting the fish out.

After you have taken the fish, try and mark the hole with your GPS or at the very least take some visual landmarks so that you can find it again in the future. A good hole or crack will produce over and over…sometimes even later on in the same day!!

 :smt007

I've been too poor/cheap to invest in a "real" GPS so have just downloaded a Navionics app onto my iPhone, and bring my phone out there in a Lifeproof or Otterbox Armor case.

Couple comments on this method for anyone who decides to try it...

-The Navionics app works surprisingly well and I have often been able to get right on top of my target spot. When I am "off" I think it is more user error...either when I marked the hole or if I did a crappy job of dropping my marker when I went to find it again.

-The Navionics app also shows some really cool depth contours AND where the SMR/SMCA etc boundaries are (I attached a few screen shots). If you see an interesting looking area within your comfort range...go check it out!!! I found one of my most productive spots last year by looking at my app the night before and thinking..."man it comes up pretty shallow right there...I should go check it out!!" Paddled over there and 15 minutes later I had found my PB male sheep in a killer crack at the base of a ridge!!   

http://doty.norcalkayakanglers.com/catches/1091

-STOW YOUR PHONE FOR LAUNCH AND LANDING!!    Not worth the extra 15-30 seconds to take it out from inside your yak/hatch/whatever to risk losing it on a bonehead move at the beach...Been there, done that!!   

-Bring a little towel out in a sealed ziploc bag...the phone screen often won't recognize my wet fingers, so dry hands are the way to go.

-Make yourself a designated marker line...a 50-75 float line with a weight on the bottom (any old extra dive weight will do). When you go to mark your spot, have the weight right in front of the feature and the line vertical up to where you are sitting on your kayak with your GPS.

-When you navigate back to your spot in the future, zoom in as much as possible, paddle nice and slow until your GPS shows you right on top of the spot, then drop the marker weight with the float line already uncoiled so it drops straight down. Then, you can paddle away and clip up on the nearest kelp stalk.

-Go ahead and mark pinnacles and reefs and areas etc where you see nice fish/killer structure, even if you don't have an actual hole or crack there. It will still help save you time/energy the next time you are out by getting you right on top of the good area, and then if you find a hole/crack within that area you can mark it as well.

-Either back up your GPS spots, or save them by writing them down...somewhere...anywhere...if you lose your phone you could lose all your spots...like I did recently...LOL!! If that happens, its not the end of the world though...good excuse to keep on exploring and finding the old ones again and seeing what new ones you can discover!! 

-I have been pretty happy with the RAM X-Grip mount (have it on one of my center hatch rails), except for the fact that the little rubber knobs on the end fell off after a few times being thrown in my dive bag.  I have now put little cut off pieces of speargun band rubber on the ends and it looks ghetto as heck but works! 

http://www.rammount.com/products/xgrip/phone

If you get one a dab of super glue or goop to keep the ends in place may be the way to go.

-Before the X-grip I tried out the RAM Aquabox...very cool...BUT the screen protector thingy ripped on like my first dive??  They sent me a new screen, but that ripped too.   :smt013   

So I personally wouldn't recommend the AquaBox.

http://www.rammount.com/products/aquabox/pro20

Here are a few more things that I have found helpful when hole hunting:

-If you find a killer looking hole that looks and feels like it should be holding a fish, take your time and really scan it. If this means you need to go up to catch a breath, shove your gun in the crack to mark it and follow your floatline back down again after you have breathed up. If you are using a reel instead of a floatline you can use a nearby kelp stalk to find it again, but really this is where floatlines come in super handy.

I have looked in PLENTY of cracks and not seen anything and then had fuzz or someone else say there was a nice fish in there that I missed. Especially Cabs...big Cabs can hide REALLY well back in cracks so it can pay off to spend a little extra time scanning your light slowly in all the nooks and crannies.

Nelson Kwok added:
Quote
One of Jim's points I want to hammer home is taking ones time when working a spot. Don't be afraid to make multiple drops on the same hole if it feels fishy or if it is part of a bigger network of caves, making sure to illuminated each crack and crevice and even changing positions so that different viewing angles are covered. By doing so not only do you have a better chance of finding fish otherwise partially  hidden, but as you get more experienced you will find yourself being able to spot hidden fish with just a small patch of exposed skin, or a part of their fin, etc. 

My largest cab for DOTY last year was taken during a December dive where I had just completed an initial sweep of a hole. I didn't THINK I saw anything, but as I was surfacing something in the back of my mind registered something that told me to go back. Making a second dive, I still saw nothing, but on the third dive I shifted positions and caught the view of two perfectly camouflaged spines of a particularly large dorsal fin, tucked away in the corner of the cave beneath a small ledge. The only visual give-away was an ever so slight  flicker of the fin every few seconds.

Another tip is to be methodical with your shot. Sometimes it can be tempting to rush a shot on a big fish out of excitement which can result in either losing the fish or losing a shaft. There is no need to rush. Take your time finding the best angle to place the shot. Sometimes depending on the fish or the cave, if I have two bands nocked, I will surface and undo the second band so I'm not blasting a shaft into reef and possibly getting it stuck.

-Lings generally prefer holes/crack that face away from the predominant swell direction...but not all the time...for sure if you see a cool looking crack on the "inside" (protected side) of a boulder you should check it out, but just because it is on the "outside" (exposed) side of the boulder doesn't mean it won't be holding...and Cabs don't seem to care at all so totally worth checking out a good looking crack regardless of its orientation.

-Monkeys can hide in almost any size hole. They are usually not very deep and I have rarely found them past 25-30 feet. They eat kelp/seaweeds so don't be afraid to bury yourself into the eel grass and vegetation to look around for their hiding holes. For shooting monkeys...it's usually smart to use the least amount of power possible and if they are looking right at you, shoot em in the mouth or straight in the face at a slightly downward angle so the shaft goes in and down and through their belly and the flopper should deploy. If you shoot one and the flopper doesn't deploy and you pull out an empty shaft (happens to all guys sometimes   :smt002 ), let the dust settle and go down and look again...they are often still right there and you can shoot em again.   

-When coming back up from checking out a hole, don't forget to scan the top of the boulder or pinnacle...Lings and cabs will often perch right on top and hide there in plain sight waiting for a meal.

-I also find hole hunting is a great way to finish off a day of diving...you may be too tired for deeper drops, but can almost always find some shallower structure to explore and poke around in the hopes of finding that Hail Mary fish!!

Like I said above, these are just things that have helped me when looking for fish...everybody is different, so get out there and find what works for you and have some fun! 

Anyway, here is a little vid showing some nice fish that I have been lucky enough to be able to find in some beautiful holes and cracks over the last few years.



Thanks for looking!

 :smt006

Sincerely,

Jim
« Last Edit: March 30, 2017, 11:42:10 AM by BigJim »

~GS 4  2010-1st~DOTY 2012-5th~DOTY 2013-1st~DOTY 2014-5th~T2B2 2015-1st~DOTY 2015-4th~DOTY 2016-7th~


lorikay2

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Thanks for the great write up! Can't put a price on free knowledge like that!!! Still looking for my first goat. And I've looked all over. Quite an inspiration.

Steve
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RBark

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Great read, Jim. Thanks!
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Benny

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Great post and an awesome compilation. Thanks for sharing that. Is there a GPS you recomend? I've been himming and hawing over getting one, and last few trips out I've come up on some nice holes I'd like to mark.


smilee

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Thanks for the write up. Great info.


FISHADOW

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Cool of u to share your knowledge of hunting the underwater holes bro. I'm not a diver but I can relate to what your saying about checking different spots and holding out hope. Thanks for the porn and the dialogue  :smt002
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Mienboy

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Dude because of your vids im always looking at cracks.[emoji1]I mean in cracks.its just im not as quick as you so alot of times all I see is the tail fin swimming off
My biggest worry is that my wife(when I'm dead)will sell my fishing gear for what I said I paid for it


andyboy92

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Perfect advice bro just what I was looking for I never really look into holes next time I will for sure I've been missing out on all the good fish! Maybe that's why I haven't gotten any lings or cabs thanks bro  :smt006


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Thanks for the tips Jim.  How do you "guest" the Lingcod length if you can't see the whole fish? Is it come with experience?
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More motivation for me this year. Thanks.
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BigJim

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Thanks for the nice feedback guys!

I threw the video and stuff together for a post on my Jackson Kayak blog but thought some of you guys might be interested as well.

I should have put a disclaimer right at the beginning:

I am no expert. I often make stupid mistakes. I have lost fish in holes. I have gotten shaft stucks and lost. Anything I "know" is courtesy of advice and guidance from other (much better) divers, and just what I have learned through trial and error...a lot of error.  :smt005

Anyway, take whatever I say with a grain of salt and if it helps you...awesome! If you think it is garbage or doesn't work for you, no worries at all...everybody is different and has different strengths, weaknesses and ways of doing things.

 :smt008

Thanks for the great write up! Can't put a price on free knowledge like that!!! Still looking for my first goat. And I've looked all over. Quite an inspiration.

Steve

Steve, I'm looking forward to diving with you this year and would be happy to show you some cracks and areas around here where I have found sheep...I don't have them totally dialed like some guys up here do, but love shooting and eating them.  :smt003

Great post and an awesome compilation. Thanks for sharing that. Is there a GPS you recomend? I've been himming and hawing over getting one, and last few trips out I've come up on some nice holes I'd like to mark.

Benny, I've been too poor/cheap to invest in a "real" GPS so have just downloaded a Navionics app onto my iPhone, and bring my phone out there in a Lifeproof or Otterbox Armor case.

Couple comments on this method for anyone who decides to try it...

-The Navionics app works surprisingly well and I have often been able to get right on top of my target spot. When I am "off" I think it is more user error...either when I marked the hole or if I did a crappy job of dropping my marker when I went to find it again.

-The Navionics app also shows some really cool depth contours AND where the SMR/SMCA etc boundaries are. If you see an interesting looking area within your comfort range...go check it out!!! I found one of my most productive spots last year by looking at my app the night before and thinking..."man it comes up pretty shallow right there...I should go check it out!!" Paddled over there and 15 minutes later I had found my PB male sheep in a killer crack at the base of a ridge!!  :smt007

http://doty.norcalkayakanglers.com/catches/1091

-STOW YOUR PHONE FOR LAUNCH AND LANDING!!  :smt005  Not worth the extra 15-30 seconds to take it out from inside your yak/hatch/whatever to risk losing it on a bonehead move at the beach...Been there, done that!!  :smt010 :smt044

-Bring a little towel out in a sealed ziploc bag...the phone screen often won't recognize my wet fingers, so dry hands are the way to go.

-Make yourself a designated marker line...a 50-75 float line with a weight on the bottom (any old extra dive weight will do). When you go to mark your spot, have the weight right in front of the feature and the line vertical up to where you are sitting on your kayak with your GPS.

-When you navigate back to your spot in the future, zoom in as much as possible, paddle nice and slow until your GPS shows you right on top of the spot, then drop the marker weight with the float line already uncoiled so it drops straight down. Then, you can paddle away and clip up on the nearest kelp stalk.

-Go ahead and mark pinnacles and reefs and areas etc where you see nice fish/killer structure, even if you don't have an actual hole or crack there. It will still help save you time/energy the next time you are out by getting you right on top of the good area, and then if you find a hole/crack within that area you can mark it as well.

-Either back up your GPS spots, or save them by writing them down...somewhere...anywhere...if you lose your phone you could lose all your spots...like I did recently...LOL!! If that happens, its not the end of the world though...good excuse to keep on exploring and finding the old ones again and seeing what new ones you can discover!!  :smt001

Cool of u to share your knowledge of hunting the underwater holes bro. I'm not a diver but I can relate to what your saying about checking different spots and holding out hope. Thanks for the porn and the dialogue  :smt002

Reading Nate's recent writeup of hunting with you and the LS crew made me realize how similar underwater hunting and "regular" hunting can be...obviously there are differences but it sounds like a ton of similarities as well!!

Thanks for the tips Jim.  How do you "guest" the Lingcod length if you can't see the whole fish? Is it come with experience?

Sonny, yeah head size can be a real telling factor, and the more Lings you see underwater the better you will get at estimating length just by looking at the head back in a crack...22 inches is a pretty forgiving minimum size limit...the head of a 22 inch Ling will usually look a lot smaller than that of a 24 inch and up one....golden rule is that if you are not sure, don't shoot.  :smt001

Here are a few more things that I have found helpful when hole hunting:

-If you find a killer looking hole that looks and feels like it should be holding a fish, take your time and really scan it. If this means you need to go up to catch a breath, shove your gun in the crack to mark it and follow your floatline back down again after you have breathed up. If you are using a reel instead of a floatline you can use a nearby kelp stalk to find it again, but really this is where floatlines come in super handy.

I have looked in PLENTY of cracks and not seen anything and then had fuzz or someone else say there was a nice fish in there that I missed. Especially cabs...big cabs can hide REALLY well back in cracks so it can pay off to spend a little extra time scanning your light slowly in all the nooks and crannies.

-Lings generally prefer holes/crack that face away from the predominant swell direction...but not all the time...for sure if you see a cool looking crack on the "inside" (protected side) of a boulder you should check it out, but just because it is on the "outside" (exposed) side of the boulder doesn't mean it won't be holding...and Cabs don't seem to care at all so totally worth checking out a good looking crack regardless of its orientation.

-Monkeys can hide in almost any size hole. They are usually not very deep and I have rarely found them past 25-30 feet. They eat kelp/seaweeds so don't be afraid to bury yourself into the eel grass and vegetation to look around for their hiding holes. For shooting monkeys...it's usually smart to use the least amount of power possible and if they are looking right at you, shoot em in the mouth or straight in the face at a slightly downward angle so the shaft goes in and down and through their belly and the flopper should deploy. If you shoot one and the flopper doesn't deploy and you pull out an empty shaft (happens to all guys sometimes :smt002), let the dust settle and go down and look again...they are often still right there and you can shoot em again.  :smt003

-When coming back up from checking out a hole, don't forget to scan the top of the boulder or pinnacle...Lings and cabs will often perch right on top and hide there in plain sight waiting for a meal.

Anyway, like I said above, these are just things that have helped me when looking for fish...everybody is different, so get out there and find what works for you and have some fun!

 :smt006

Sincerely,

Jim
« Last Edit: February 12, 2015, 08:36:04 AM by BigJim »

~GS 4  2010-1st~DOTY 2012-5th~DOTY 2013-1st~DOTY 2014-5th~T2B2 2015-1st~DOTY 2015-4th~DOTY 2016-7th~


RBark

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Not a diver(yet), but that Navonics tip is handy for me. Navonics chips are crazy expensive. That app looks like the way to go.
Thresher in avatar and Soupfin Shark in signature both caught and pic taken by me.
3rd place Kayak Connection Derby, 2014
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30th place / 1132.25 pts / 7 Species - AOTY 2015 (moving up a little!)

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BigJim

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Not a diver(yet), but that Navonics tip is handy for me. Navonics chips are crazy expensive. That app looks like the way to go.

It's pretty nifty Ryan!  :smt005

I've attached some screenshots showing how it looks...I made up a mark on top of one of the Carmel Pinnacles in the SMR so you can see what the mark looks like (can change icon lol), how you can see the GPS coordinates, the contour lines, the boundary lines of the SMR, and how you can switch views if you want a cleaner looking screen without contour lines but still showing your marks and the SMR boundaries.

Also...I have been pretty happy with the RAM X-Grip mount (have it on one of my center hatch rails), except for the fact that the little rubber knobs on the end fell off after a few times being thrown in my dive bag.  :smt005 I have now put little cut off pieces of speargun band rubber on the ends and it looks ghetto as heck but works!  :smt044

http://www.rammount.com/products/xgrip/phone

If you get one a dab of super glue or goop to keep the ends in place may be the way to go.

Before the X-grip I tried out the RAM Aquabox...very cool...BUT the screen protector thingy ripped on like my first dive??  :smt010 They sent me a new screen, but that ripped too.  :smt011

So I personally wouldn't recommend the AquaBox.

http://www.rammount.com/products/aquabox/pro20

 :smt006

Sincerely,

Jim

~GS 4  2010-1st~DOTY 2012-5th~DOTY 2013-1st~DOTY 2014-5th~T2B2 2015-1st~DOTY 2015-4th~DOTY 2016-7th~


FishingForTheCure

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Those RAM x-Grips are really cool.  I'll +1 on that product.  I use one in my truck & one on my motorcycle.  You do have to watch out for the rubber things falling off  :smt009


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Good write up.  I started with a generic light and now have the same light as Jim.  It works pretty good but depends on how shallow you are and if there is a lot of sun reflection.  The deeper holes seem to be easier to see with that light.  I am thinking of getting another brighter light that will be more of a spot light for those deeper holes.  It may be just me but I need more light. 

I only recently started really looking into holes and cracks as my diving improved and I could spend more time down there.  In areas with a lot of surge it took me awhile to really understand when and how to safely look into holes without being pushed into them. 

Most of my learning has been from guys posting their videos and figuring out underwater features where the fish are. 

Keep up the good work Jim it helps many expand on their knowledge and become better divers. 
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