Catalina Island News

Weights and Measures

Afishinados Charters

We all like to keep score on some level.  It seems to add a sense of meaning to a moment and probably helps to etch the memory of the event more indelibly into our grey matter. 

Fisherfolk have their own system of weights and measures for recording events although it is commonly known that to exaggerate is simply part of the tradition.  “It was a monster!”

I have always held the belief that the biggest fish are “the ones that got away.”  I cannot count the number of fish that have made the phantom record books in this manner.

While it is most likely true that the bigger fish do find more ways to escape; after all that is how they have become bigger.  It is equally likely that such an event is prone to excite the exaggeration gene in fisherman.

The mighty Tuna has an allure all their own.  I doubt that there is another species of fish that has had as much effort expended in its pursuit by recreational anglers the world over.  We even have the Tuna Club in town that has the distinction of having set the stage for recreational angling as a gentleman’s sport.

This club was founded in the good old days to develop some basic ethics to level the playing field for the taking of fish after Dr. Frederick Holder found such a massacre of the ‘leaping tuna’ in our local waters.

That history has left a reputation for Catalina Island as a place where any old Joe can come to catch their first or a personal best tuna.  If I counted the times when a potential charter caller asks me if the tuna are running, I am sure it would be into the hundreds.

These callers are simply responding to the historic reputation of Catalina and to the internet postings.  They generally have no idea the amount of effort that has been expended in making these pics a reality.  I do.  And the number is astounding.

It is safe to say that on any given day one in 30 boats return to the dock with their precious tuna.  HOWEVER, it is also safe to say that there are days when 29 of them return to the dock with fish.

That is the allure of it all.  In a nutshell, that dynamic defines sport fishing and makes it unique for all other sports.  The random, moderately capable angler can in fact score with the pros in fishing.  It is not true in any other sport; golf, baseball, tennis, jai alai?  No way.

Yes, the tuna do sometimes come close enough to Catalina for a short duration (half day) charter.  But we no longer catch them from our shores and stack them along the beaches like cordwood.  In fact, catching a single fish is considered pretty darn good.

So, when I get a caller asking if the ‘tuna are running’ my first question is; “How long would you like to charter the boat?”  If the answer is 4 hours, I know I have a caller that is disillusioned and needs some educating.

It would be similar to a caller asking a golf pro to set him up for an outing with a good chance for a hole-in-one.  It can, and does, happen, so the pro is not lying when he responds that it is possible.  Just not probable.

We run our charters based on probabilities.  The probability of catching fish on one of our four hour charters is close to 90% for in-shore (coastal) fishing.  That probability drops dramatically when we go off-shore and drops even more when we target a specific fish.

Those probabilities decrease even further when a customer shares that he has never caught a tuna…”I have always wanted to catch one.”

I share this information to highlight a recent success.  Capt. Jamie Hmielak has been helping out at Afishinados this summer by running some charters on board GUSTO.  Jamie is a prince of a guy.  I do not believe I have met a soul who has a negative word to say about him, so we were thrilled to have him.

Jamie has recently bought a boat and has really been working the island to develop his skills.  I have had him join Capt. Charlie and I on a few trips to help him get the hang of the charter biz, where it is a bit more pressing to succeed.

On his first solo run he did not have much luck.  Granted, it was a 3 hour charter in the afternoon with newbies.  Still, bat rays are not considered a target in the charter biz. 

So, I was a bit surprised to hear that Capt. Jamie opted to run off-shore in search of tuna on his second solo charter aboard a boat better suited and geared up for in shore action. 

I was even more surprised to see the picture of a happy customer with his first tuna and a personal best sized fish of any category.  Congrats Capt. Jamie, welcome to the brotherhood.  Can you run another off-shore trip this week?

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