Catalina Island News

Sometimes the Magic Works

Afishinados Charters

I have a pat answer when asked; “When is the best date to go fishing?”  My answer is always the same; “

When you can!” 

After a brief chuckle, the question fades into the conversation as folks generally understand that you can plan around the moon and stars, but weather is as weather does, and fish do as fish do.

Case in point:  I had a customer call months ago to charter a boat.  Naturally he was looking to maximize his vacation plans by building in a fishing trip at the perfect moment for fishing.  I gave him my stock answer, but he wanted more.

“September” I said.  “September is the best all-around month for fishing Catalina Island.  The crowds are gone, the weather is still great and, with luck the warm water fish will be close to the island.”  We set his charter to start at 7a.m. on September 6th.

Once a charter is in the books I generally forget about it until the date rolls around and I have a chance to look at the reservation notes.  Summer happened and September is now here.  I looked at the notes for this charter ‘Customer wants trophy fish, off shore preferred’.

This is not an unusual message to find in the reservation notes.  People want to fish for big fish.  I get it.  But I am pretty sure that almost none of them understand what it takes (see last week’s column).

We try to get a sense for the make-up of a group when we book charters.  The really tricky ones are those that note ‘family group of 5, one 3 year-old…wants trophy fish for his 11 year-old.’  What we really should put in these notes would be something more like; ‘Expectations completely out of whack with reality.’

I am a strong advocate of getting kids into fishing early in life.  Many take to it readily.  Some could not care less.  But all are fascinated by such things as bait and netted fish.  None are fascinated by hours of trolling on an open sea in a pitching boat.

Kids do not care what they catch.  They want action.  I always advise my family groups to stay close to the island and allow us to target high probability fish that will give the kids a thrill.  The kids will want to fish with Dad year after year and will soon enough be ready for trophy hunting.

On the evening of September 5th I was checking my booking notes and I had to chuckle, remembering the conversation with this customer and thinking about how high his expectations would be having months-ago booked the perfect date for a fishing trip.

The notes indicated that it would be just one customer.  Now that is a profile that is suited to going off-shore and trophy hunting.  We picked him up at 6:30 off the Green Pier.

“What’s our target, Captain?” he asked.  “Tuna” I responded.  “Cool.”

As we motored out of the harbor he mentioned “I thought you said that the tuna rarely come close enough to the island for a half day trip?” 

“Yep, sounds like something I would say.  But in the last couple days we have seen the fish come in and there is a good chance we can get into them today.” I responded.

Within 30 minutes of leaving Avalon Harbor we found the wind howling around the back side with a mixed swell that was going to make it difficult to fish.  Still, I had slowed to a troll, had the jigs set up behind the boat and a new set of batteries in my gyros (binoculars).

Although there are exceptions, it seems that tuna fishing and bad weather go together like a cold beer and salty chips.  I tried to stay positive as I struggled to steady my gyros in a heaving sea.  Doing so is like the circus performer who balances on top of a bunch of teetering chairs.

There is nothing quite so satisfying as seeing fish within seconds of raising the gyros to your eyes, “Breaking tuna!” I yelled to the crew, “Right on our bow, maybe half a mile.”

Exciting stuff to be sure.  We approached the foaming mass and did not get a strike.  Not one.  Not a sniff.  Still, we pressed on with our search.  Soon we found another foaming mass of fish and nothing.  Then again.

Tuna can be finicky, but these fish were not acting finicky.  They were on the chew and we could not get them to sample our baits.  When this happens it is time to improvise and consider all the tricks that have worked in the past.

I went through the inventory of tactics and lures, ‘Cedar plugs?  Feathers?  Plastics?  Live bait?’.  I called me deckhand to the bridge.  I opened with a suggestion, “We have to start changing it up until we figure out what these fish want.  Let’s get a cedar plug long down the middle.”

As he was leaving to make the change the first rod sang out with its signature clicker being ripped at high speed…”We are bit!” came the call from the cockpit.  The second rod went off, “Double!”, then the third and the fourth, “We have a quad!”

Sometimes the magic works.  The time to chase tuna is right now.  Let’s go get em.

By Capt. John King
Capt. John runs Afishinados Charters and Catallac Tours – 888-613-7770 –