It May Never End
Last week I mentioned that we were getting late in the season, so I was putting together my last off shore trip for tuna. After the events of this week, I am not sure that the season will ever end!
Our tuna trip was planned on short notice by sending out a text to see who had an interest in and the time to go. Within 24 hours we had a crew of six confirmed for a trip to the tuna grounds.
This was to be a short trip. We left at 4am in the hopes of being on the grounds at first light and planned to return by 6pm with some tuna in our coolers. The weather was favorable; a big plus.
The desire to return to the tuna grounds south of San Clemente Island was driven by the amount of fish we had found only two days before, with miles of dolphin, birds and tuna crashing in the late afternoon.
It is always amazing how much an ocean can change in such a short period of time. I always have to smile when I get a customer on board who says “Can we go to where we caught the yellowtail two years ago?”
For those with only slight experience on the ocean there seems to be an assumption that the critters live at particular addresses and will be there waiting for the next fishing trip to arrive. This notion is erased pretty quickly.
Two days can generate a lot of change on the ocean as we found when we arrived at the tuna grounds. The water was calm, the dolphin were sparse, spread out and milling about and the birds were just bobbing.
These are not good signs. Fishing the dolphin for tuna below works best when there is a leading edge with birds dipping, dolphin racing about and occasionally tuna crashing a bait ball.
None of these signs were present. Oddly, there were very few boats in the area as compared to a few days before. We wrote these omens off as oddities rather than predictors of the day ahead.
“Maybe the fish will show in the afternoon when we get a wind up,” we posited as we dodged the Navy ships firing on San Clemente Island. “Maybe the fish have moved down?”
My sonar suggested that we still had fish in the area though not nearly as thick as we had seen on the last trip. We chose to work the area rather than run to some unknown zone.
We picked up and tracked a small school of dolphin that had somewhat of a leading edge. Nothing came up in the jigs, but we had a boil on the chum so we dropped back some live sardines.
Bob got bit on very light line dropped early on the slide as the boat was decelerating. This gave us encouragement and a strategy. The fish were boat shy and in small schools, but there were still fish and they showed an interest in eating.
A few hours passed and we could not generate another bite. We got escorted out of a zone by a Navy helicopter who reported back that “No sir, I have not seen schools of breaking fish but I will be sure to let you know. Please turn 180 degrees off your current course.”
The Navy had made us flip a Uey. This turned out to be good. We turned down swell and found some dolphin, but no fish. Then we spotted a decent sized school of moving dolphin and picked up the jigs to make a move.
We slid in to a very good looking set up and dropped back some chum. The tuna came up boiling and the boys got more serious about fishing. Jamie and Charlie were soon rewarded with a double hook-up. As you can see from the pic, Catallac has plenty of room for multiple anglers.
Jamie’s fish appeared to be the stronger fish as he pulled drag and moved further away from us. Charlie had his fish turned around and was working it toward the boat. Charlie can pull, hard.
You might remember a previous story when we had an angler on a very big fish for over 7 hours…that was Charlie on the rod. He can generate an amazing amount of energy when fighting a fish. His fish came to gaff and the bent hook literally dropped out of the fish when it hit the deck. A minute or two more and this fish would have earned his freedom.
Jamie’s fish must have noticed this as he seemed to raise his intensity and soon broke free from Jamie’s line. Disheartening!
Bob snagged another fish on this same school of dolphin, but he was on light line and the length of battle took us out of this productive school. Still, we had a good load of fish in the box and a long run back to Avalon.
As we returned to the island we noticed massive bird schools following bonito and heard of a few marlin being caught near the East End and out front of Avalon. Definitely not over!
By Capt. John
Capt John runs Afishinados Charters and Catallac Tours – 888-613-7770 – firstname.lastname@example.org