Dave fishes mostly Long Range out of San Diego, California. Very fortunate to have become a product tester for many tackle companies, but he really enjoys helping others learn to enjoy this sport and improve their techniques.
If you've ever thought about fishing long range, but just weren't ready to take the plunge, these might be just the way to get your foot in the door and catch the fever I caught long ago. The fare to go on these early spring trips is probably one of the better values, for a few reasons. Sometimes the weather can play a factor, and you get a few days of wind and swell. Most of these trips are 7 to 8 days long, and that allows you to get fairly far south, with possible locations being Alijos Rocks, or the many areas that make up the spots that are called The Ridge!
Now typically you won't see the variety you might encounter on a fall trip of the same length. It's a bit early for Dorado, Wahoo, and it is hit and miss for Yellowfin Tuna. But it can be very good for Yellowtail, might luck into an Amberjack or two, always a chance of a White Sea Bass or Halibut, Calico Bass fishing on the ride back up, as well as a good shot at Albacore or Bluefin Tuna!
There have been some epic springtime Black Sea Bass bites, and Groupers are a possibility as well. But remember how old these fish are, and releasing them unharmed is highly recommended.
This time of year, the demand for live bait isn't as high as peak summer trips, which bears well for us. The sardines the Everingham Bros bait company catches for our use gets a chance to cure before we load them into the bait tanks or slammers! This is huge for us, having a good load of cured bait means we might make it through the whole trip without having to make bait. Or, even if we do have to catch some Mackerel to supplement our bait supply, we should have Sardines throughout the trip. Lord knows, fish love Sardines!
If you are a day or day and a half trip fisherman, you probably have the gear you need for one of these trips. Start off with a 30# outfit, a 6&1/2 foot rod up to an 8 or 9 foot rod if you like a longer rod. Seeker Black Steel 970, or 6465, or the 8480 if you want to get that 8 foot length covered. If you want to put a new reel in your quiver without dinging your wallet up too bad, you might look at the Okuma Cortez CZ-10CS. This outfit could be for flylining for yellows or albies, or might be the rod you tie your 4 hook Sabiki to in case you do need to catch bait.
Yoyo jigs is a technique that will be employed quite often on a spring trip. Not only for Yellows, but it's not a bad idea to try the Yoyo for Bluefin Tuna. My son Matt hooked the only Bluefin on an 8 day spring trip a few years ago, and that was grinding the jig. I like using 50# test and a relatively short rod for yoyo. Super Seeker 660H coupled with a Okuma Cedros 10LD is my rig of choice for fast winding the jig in.
I prefer jigs like Salas 6X JR, Salas 6X, Sea Strike 33 for my yoyo irons. Blue and white, scrambled egg, green and yellow, and I prefer treble hooks for yellows, single hooks for Bluefin.
I prefer jigs like Salas 6X JR, Salas 6X, Sea Strike 33 for my yoyo irons. Blue and white, scrambled egg, green and yellow, and I prefer treble hooks for yellows, single hooks for Bluefin.
A rod with 80# test, preferably a two speed reel, for dropper looping or trolling, and a long rod if you like to throw the surface iron for Yellows, perhaps a light rod for fishing Calico Bass, and you are fairly well set up to embark on a trip like this.
Make sure you have fresh line, recently serviced reels, and check your guides on your rods to make sure they are all good, no rough spots to damage the line.
Let's Go Fishing
After you stock the bait tanks and slammers with those wonderful sardines, the captain will decide to look for offshore fish like Bluefin Tuna or Albacore on the way down towards the southern fishing destinations, or to beeline it. Many different reasons play into this decision he needs to make. Just go with the flow, leave the driving to them, get your gear ready and enjoy the ride.
The crew will hold daily seminars to get you ready for the fishing ahead. Don't hesitate to ask for help or advice from them or the more experienced anglers on the trip. Most of us are more than willing to share techniques and rigging.
Seems to me we either start at Alijos or the ridge on these trips. I'm always hopeful of tuna when at the Stones, but my last couple of early trips there have resulted in straight Yellowtail. Nothing wrong with those, they were decent 15-20 pound fish.
You had to work at it while on the trip with my son Matt. Pick a good bait, and use a light weight hook like a Mustad Hoodlum 10827BLN, or the Owner Flyliner. Thanks to my buddy Birdsnest Bill for providing some of these hooks. Bill was hotter than a pistol, getting bit way better than anyone else. I asked him what he was doing different, and he gave Matt and I some lighter hooks. After that, we were on like Donkey Kong!
On our trips, from there, we ran across to the ridge. Specifically, the 23 Fathom spot. Want to know about WIDE OPEN yellows, springtime on the ridge can blow your mind. We started pulling all the weird stuff out of our tackle boxes we had never caught a fish on before. If they don't catch a yellow during a bite like that, chalk it up as a paperweight!
While on the ridge, not a bad idea to use that dropper loop rod. We had one trip where about 7 anglers were dropper looping, and all 7 caught White Sea Bass! Not a bad way to spice up your bag limit. I've also seen Bluefin Tuna caught while on the anchor on the ridge. And Pargo could be found as well.
After a couple or three days in that lower zone, it's time to start working your way up the line. They try and do the traveling at night to maximize our fishing time during daylight hours.
Next stop: Cedros or Benitos. Which is nice after running overnight. During a stop at either of these islands, Yellowtail are probably the target fish. But a dropper loop might get you a WSB, or a Halibut. You could end up with the Cedros Slam: Yellowtail, WSB, and Halibut!
While at Cedros, you might get a chance to enjoy some of that world class Calico Bass action. Bring some plastics, because you want to experience this fishery if given the chance.
After leaving Cedros or Benitos, more travel up the line. And here is another chance to chase the offshore Tuna.
These trips are a bit less than a midsummer or fall 8 day trip, and they are a bit more of a crapshoot. Three and four years ago, the Indy was having excellent CATCHING on these trips. The last couple of years, things have slowed a bit, but I still caught plenty of fish.
Give it a whirl, I think you'll find out what a good time these trips can be.
We are in the middle of another banner big fish season. Currently the Royal Star and American Angler are having trips we all dream of, not wide open by any stertch of the imagination, but literally every time you put a bait out, it could be a Super Cow, or bigger.
One of our prime methods of catching these big fish, is kite fishing for Giant Yellowfin Tuna. Since the line is basically kept out of the water, we can use heavier leader than we employ for fly lining sardines, or even while using chunks.
If you don't own a kite rig, you can actually put a good rig together for a fairly low amount of money if you shop around. Pick up a used 50W or 80 sized reel, making darn sure it is a two speed model. Pick up a used rod, don't need the latest and greatest. Roller guides are fine in this application. Just make sure it's rated for around 130# line, 5&1/2 through 6&1/2 foot length. eBay or any of the fishing message boards buy/sell boards would be a good place to look for these items. Garage sales, tackle swap meets. I would stick with good name brands: Penn, Okuma, Accurate, Avet or Shimano on the reels, Calstar or Seeker on the rods. JMO.
Depending on what reel you purchase will dictate what size spectra you buy. If you found a 80W reel, and went to fill it with 130# spectra, you'd have to take out a 30 year mortgage to pay for it!
My reel of choice is a Okuma Makaira 50WII, I have it filled with about 800 yards of 130# Tufline Guide's Choice hollow spectra, and I make my kite leaders out of either 200# or 300# Seaguar fluorocarbon. My kite rod of choice is a Super Seeker 6463XXXXH or a Super Seeker 3X5.
Whether it's a ride down trip, or a fly down trip, you will have time to make your kite leaders. Each boat has their preference on how they want you to make them, or, you can buy them pre-made by the crew.
If you did not bring your own kite rig, using the boat kite rig or borrowing a buddy's rod & reel works too.
It's good to have a few leaders of each type made up: Squid, Flying Fish(Salami works on this too), and Double Trouble. Have them ready, and you don't get to pick the bait style. The captain or crew will do this, and many different situations affect this decision. How much squid do they have, how many flyers, etc. Just roll with whatever they give you.
Most important thing is to be aware of when you are up on the kite rotation. Don't be "That Guy" that rolls up an hour later demanding your turn. When your turn approaches, take a few minutes to rest, use the restroom, clean your glasses, get a drink or a snack. You could be on the kite for hours, or for only a few minutes. You see, when a school gets on the boat, sometimes it's BAM, BAM, BAM! The kite is going off. We want to hook as many as we can while they are on it. Make the crew's job easier and be ready. Let's make sure we take full advantage of these times when the bite is full speed.
If you want to catch a cow, DO NOT TURN DOWN A KITE TURN! It is such a great way to get a big one, the reels are bigger, hooks are generally larger, leader is heavier. All leading up to making the playing field more level, at least we have a chance while using kite gear.
Some boats have their anglers on the deck level, which can make it tough to watch your bait. Some boats have the angler come upstairs and fish from the upper deck. Pros and cons on each method, but just go with the flow. Don't try to change the boat's agenda, just fish the way they fish.
If you are fishing from lower deck level, try to position yourself in such a way that you don't interfere with the bait fishermen. Keep your rod tip high so they don't cast over your line, maybe move up the rail a bit more forward so they can underhand lob their baits. Or perhaps moving to the middle of the stern. A lot of variables, with boat swing, current and wind all making things interesting.
Fishing from the upper deck is nice, you get to sit, you can see better. But, when you get a bite, after the crew member or captain takes your rod, walk calmly and slowly down the stairs. They will hand the rod to you when they walk it to the rail. Last thing they want it you twisting an ankle on your way down.
They put our baits out where they see the most big fish boiling. Sometimes that means it's hard to see your bait or balloon. If things are busy, try your best, keep an eye on it as best you can. Ideally, we want our baits right up on the surface, splashing around making a lot of commotion if it's a double trouble rig or a salami.
If it's a squid, try and make it so the squid lays down flat in the water, like it's swimming right on the surface. Don't have the pointy end sticking up, give it enough slack that it lays down completely on the surface.
Flying fish are a bit different. Live flyers act like they are dead, but they will take off when a tuna approaches them. And dead flyers work well too, they have ways to make them more attractive to the tuna. A dead flyer, (or jerky, as we call them), is still a valid kite bait.
One of those memories etched in my mind forever, was watching my live flyer getting nervous, zigging left, zagging right. A huge boil! Then, my flyer comes completely out of the water, and so does a THREE HUNDRED POUND YELLOWFIN TUNA, a huge splash, and waiting for that kite clip to come down and Dharyl to yell: "Wind, wind, wind!" That was my first 300 pounder, and what a sight that was.
Upon Getting A Bite
Try and tune all of us out, and listen to the captain and crew. Typically, they like us to wait until the fish pulls the kite clip down vertically, not just strt winding when you see the boil. Have the reel in high gear, drag properly set (I like about 25# at the start of the fight)and just turn the handle, wind, wind, wind.
Sometimes it all comes tight, then goes slack. Perhaps the fish missed the hook. That does happen. But more than likely, the line came out of the kite clip. So, wind faster, don't quit winding until the crew tells you to, or you can't wind anymore because it got tight to the fish. Stay in high gear, no need for low gear this early in the battle. Keep the line tight so they don't throw the hook.
Make Your Kite Turn Productive
Why is it some anglers will be on the kite for hours, whereas others are bit within minutes?
A few things come to mind. Presenting the bait properly as I stated earlier. Another trick I use (if there is enough wind and current), is to gradually let some line out, letting the bait get out away from underneath the kite clip. Slowly, a little at a time. Make sure you don't get too close to the other person's kite baits.
Then, put the reel in gear, and wind fast. Keep winding, and this should make your bait skip and splash across the surface! Or, if it's a squid, it will appear the be swimming. It doesn't work every time, but I've had a lot of success doing that maneuver.
By all means, listen to the crew, as conditions and trends are different every day. But this little primer will get you somewhat ready for one of the most exciting visual methods of long range fishing.
I have to thank Kerry for the idea for the blog this week, as he asked just a couple of great questions on the Long Range Board on Allcoast!
#1. Say you are at the hurricane bank and the sharks are a problem. How do you get your bait past the sharks in a condition that the tuna will still eat it?
You can run into this situation at almost all locations, although the lower Mag Bay banks tend to be "cleaner" fishing.
Sharks are actually a pretty decent sign. I've been on Shark Fest trips, and wake up one day to find the sharks are gone!
Bad thing is, so were the fish! They feed on the same stuff, so if the feed leaves, the sharks and tuna leave too.
As far as live bait goes, a lively bait will entice a tuna, and a lethargic bait is almost certain to end up a grinner. One trip I was on where I caught back to back cows, a friend of mine complained he had just caught 17 straight sharks! The key was to have a bait that is really swimming.
SALAMIS and Sharks
Salamis by nature, get fairly lethargic way too quickly. We locate them in deep water, put them in the tank, and they don't even last for the afternoon bite most the time. If I look in the insert tray, and see a bunch of salamis that are side stroking or belly up swimming, I know I'm going to test drive a shark soon if I pin that slow stroker on!
There is only so much bait we can put on each night, so you can't pin salami after salami on until you get a swimmer. I look in the tray, if I like what I see, I ask the crew member for the one I want, or get it myself if we can. Of course, that one WILL be the hardest one to catch. It'll be worth it, trust me. If I don't like what I see, I fish another method or type of bait.
SARDINES and sharks
Same trip I had the back to back cows, we had shark problems. That was Ralph Mikkelsen's Big Fish Special in 2008. I got one cow on Salami, but a couple more on sardines. I love fishing sardines, such a great bait. We had a cluster of sharks hanging off the stern, and I don't care if you had a great Olympic swimmer of a sardine, you got a shark when casting off the stern. So you had to find a way to avoid them.
One of those methods was to run to the bow, and cast your bait off the bow and hopefully you got a tuna bite before you get to the bad neighborhood. This worked well for my roommate Peter, who caught this 300 pounder in just that fashion.
Another method was the bobber balloon. For some reason, you could get a bait past those pesky sharks using the bobber balloon. Andy Marcum used just this method to catch this cow and a few other really good size tuna!
CHUNKS and sharks
There is a myth around long range that when sharks are around and abundant, you can't use chunks. I disagree. I don't even care if the crew has abandoned the chunk line to hopefully discourage the sharks, but I still feel a chunk bait is a valid option for a cow.
There are ways around the toothy critters.
The second long range trip I went on, I fished the chunk quite a bit of the time. I think I went through a whole box of 100 Mustad circle hooks, but I caught a cow, and many other large tuna. That is when I coined the phrase" You gotta kiss a lot of frogs before you get a princess!"
On that trip, which was in the early days of long range when we fished very long top shots of mono. Now, if sharks are bad but I want to fish the chunk, I'll fish a fairly long mono top shot, say 75-100 feet long. That way the crew can do a release on the sharks, and you aren't constantly changing top shots.
Another method I use when I feel conditions are right for the chunk, yet the sharks are thick, is counting the pulls, or timing the soak. Either one works, I normally count the pulls. I'll do 30 pulls, wind in, and next soak, 35 pulls. Still no sharks, 40 pulls. I want to soak the chunk as long as possible without getting a shark.
So, I get up to 55 pulls, and I get a shark- now I back it off 5 pulls and fish 50 pull soaks for a while.
Here's my biggest chunk fish, oh yeah, my biggest fish!
#2.How about you are at Clarion and the birds are thick as flies on a turd? What are some of the tricks to getting a bait to the tuna?
This whole idea of this blog came from the thread on Allcoast.com, and some great suggestions on dealing with these items are posted by some very good fishermen. Here is the link to that:
One of my favorite areas to fish for giant yellowfin tuna is the northeast corner of Clarion island. I remember sliding into that zone once, and thinking: Great, no birds to contend with!
Truth be told, there were no fish there either.
So, the birds are a great sign, they are our friends, and they are simply trying to earn their living. Don't get frustrated, don't hurt them. Frigates or boobies, they help us. Here's some methods to keep your trip from going to the birds.
One of my favorite methods is to run up to the bow, and fish that section of water that not as many anglers are angling in. But the birds get on to you pretty quick, and it does get maddening when you run all the way up there only to have a boobie bird swoop down and get your sardine as soon as it hits the water.
Remember, it's called angling, and that means you need an angle to increase your odds. So, I'll run up the port side of the boat, only to trick the birds and cast off the starboard side. Seems silly and simple, but I only need a few seconds for my bait to swim down and avoid the birds.
Dropping your bait right next to the boat while belly hooked is another great way to avoid the aerial attack, as is using a small sinker, say one to two ounces of lead, either a torpedo sinker rubber banded on two to two and a half feet up from the hook, or simply an egg sinker slid on the line.
Remember, when using a sinker you almost always want to nose hook your bait, as it will appear a lot more natural that way. If it gets to you, and it starts to affect your attitude, maybe take a break. The birds seem to have some sort of work schedule, really they do. Strange as it seems, as dark approaches, they birds head back out of the fishing zone to feed their young. Taking a break in the afternoon until the whistle blows and their shift is over might allow you to be cool headed and serene when that sundowner starts to occur!
It is big fish season already, with the Intrepid going on a long trip early October, and the Red Rooster 3 dodging Hurricane Paul and arriving in the lower zone tomorrow. As always, this time of year is a risk of tropical weather, and sad to say the Intrepid had to leave stellar fishing to avoid the spiraling cyclone.
And, in chatting with Captain Kevin Osborn about the trip, big bait played a major part in the good fishing for cows. Big bait is referring to Skipjack, Salamis, and Scads. I'm going to go over each type of bait in detail: how to catch them, where to hook them, and how to fish them.
First, Let's Load Up on Salamis
A Salami looks a lot like our Greenback Mackerel we catch locally in SoCal, but it is very different. It's like a mack on steroids! They are strong, and trying to use a four hook Sabiki rig is going to be an exercise in futility. Get the right rig, a two hook Sabiki, and usually bigger hooks, heavier main line and leader. Don't go too light on the sinker, they are deep quite often, plus the fact that their strength will pull your line one way or another and you'll be in lots of tangles. Most often we use 12-16 ounces of lead, sometimes you can get away with 8 ounces if the fish are shallow and maybe we are fishing bait in shifts.
Sometimes we catch big Scads while fishing for Salamis. I've seen boats that think they are junk baits, but one of my mentors told me Scads were his favorite bait. Given the choice of Scad or Salami, I'm a Scad chooser every time.
I generally use my wahoo gear to catch Salamis/ Scads. You should use at least 50# test, and having a lower gear is not a bad thing. Two speed reels are what I'm referring to. Get two of these 3-4 pound steroid induced monster baits on your line, and you will see low gear is not a bad feature to have. I like a 6- 7 foot rod, 7 being the max.
Ralph Mikkelsen gave me some rock cod shrimp flies to make my own Sabiki rigs with one trip, and last year one boat just had us tie up a double dropper loop with two Mustad 94150 3/0 hooks, and put a piece of kite streamer on each hook. Both of these rigs work well when they are really biting, but in a scratchy bite, the Sabiki type will out fish the ghetto rigs by a large margin.
Most times the bait bites the rig while it's sinking. Let it down a few feet, jig it up and down, if no bites, freespool a little more. The majority of the time, the bait will be very deep. It's hiding from the creatures that like to eat it.
Once the right depth is found, I like to make the first few winds on my reel and push the line way left, way right, way left, way right. This is known as marking the depth, and after I get my baits shook off in the tank, I freespool the reel until I reach that spot where the line zigzags back and forth. I know I'm at the depth I was just at.
Now we all want to fill the tanks up, and either start fishing, or go to bed to get some sleep before fishing. Do not be greedy and leave your rig at the same depth waiting for a second Salami to climb on. It will swim to and from, and your rig might be trashed from the bait's wanderings due to a lack of weight.
Also, fish hard for bait. Get the job done, work at it. I've seen anglers drop their rig to where the top swivel is just below the surface, or, you are sooooo important, you wander around the dark of the bow on your satellite phone while the rest of us catch YOUR bait. Don't be THAT GUY!
Fishing with Salamis and Scads
I find these to be best used in the dark, or early morning. We crank them up from fairly deep most the time, and they just don't live very long. If they aren't swimming fast, I feel you aren't going to get a bite. Although strong swimmers, I do not clip a tail fin fishing big bait. I want that bait swimming as fast as possible, all my bites have come that way. If it's lazily, my guess is a shark is going to eat it.
I am not a fan of casting the big baits out. Brian Kiyohara on my second long range trip, taught me to set the bait down on the surface of the water, and it circles around. When it reaches the point of the arc away from the boat, freespool it. Hopefully it swims away. If not, reel it back to the surface and repeat the procedure. Now, if you think you put a big bait in, it's swimming away, you can just stand there and fish in freespool and wait for a cow to inhale it, you are dead wrong. It's just like fighting a fish, you must follow your bait like you follow your fish. These things will embarrass you, make you look like a novice angler. You will swear your bait is well off the stern, and find out too late it has you wrapped on the anchor line! Really need to pay attention, follow that bait.
Hook placement for Salamis
My favorite is the breast hook. I like the bait to swim down, like it's trying to get back to it's safety zone. Also, when you retrieve it, although it looks very un-natural to me, many times you will get a bite winding and pumping a breast hooked bait in. Be aware. My son Matt, at Clipperton, was winding his big bait in, and a cow came and engulfed in right at the boat. He landed that 244, but the sight of the action was incredible.
I suppose my next favorite hook placement is anal hook. The bait will swim away fast, and go down. A close second to that placement is hooked in the same area, except on the top of the back, aft of the dorsal fin. Lastly, the shoulder hook placement, like they use for kite baits.
Fishing the Salamis and Scads
I like to get up early, 2:30-3 am, and usually they aren't putting the big baits out yet. Get your big hook rig ready, I like a 50 sized reel, 130# spectra, 150# fluorocarbon leader or LARGER (line size doesn't matter, use heavy, it's dark), and a big hook. Mustad 7691 10/0, or Mustad circle hook 39960 16/0-20/0. Have that rig close by, and get your bait catching rig, and catch yourself a bait. This is usually a "catch your own fish your own" proposition. Reel the bait up, hopefully a crew member can assist you with getting the bait off the Sabiki, and onto your big old hook!
Personally, I like to fish in the aura of light put out by the boat. Let it get way out there, usually a shark. I fish it, when I feel it's getting too far away, I reel it in and start over. If bait is fairly easy to catch, I'll dump that bait in the kill box for the crew to make chunks with, and go catch a fresh one. If bait is tough to catch, I evaluate the condition of y bait and if I feel it's lively enough to entice a bite, out it goes.
Pay attention on the wind back in, many bites occur during the retrieval. A motion of pumping is a good technique to use while winding the bait back in. Surprisingly enough, the salami being wound in upside down or any other direction does get it's share of bites. Doesn't appear natural, but it works.
Salamis don't live long. You catch them early in the morning, they are usually weak baits by lunchtime. Once in a while, when the bait bites near the surface, they'll live a little longer. But if you catch them deep, which is the norm, they are lazy baits by afternoon, which means they are shark magnets in my opinion.
My best bites using a salami or scad have been when the bait was racing towards the bottom, and it was difficult to distinguish my bait's run from the tuna's bite! The best way to determine that if you run into this situation, is to put your thumb on the spool. If you can stop it by thumb pressure, it's the bait running. If not, put it in gear, wind down tight and swing a major hookset if using a J hook, wind til you can't wind anymore if a circle hook!
The Ultimate Big Bait: SKIPJACK!
I almost always have a big rig ready for fishing a Skipjack. I like a big reel, 50 or 50W sized, stiff rod such as a Super Seeker 3X5, and a big ole hook, such as a Mustad 7691 DT 14/0! Often times, anglers will catch Skipjack as by catch, and some people are not into using a big bait such as that. I quickly ask if they aren't going to use it, if I may.
It is a good idea to inform the crew you are ready with a big hook and heavy rig, and allow them to help you get the hook in the bait and launch it properly. They want us to catch big fish, and will assist us with getting those bigger baits on the hook and into the water.
Make sure you follow your Skipjack, they can make you look really bad, wrapping on another anglers fish or the anchor line. It's a lot of work using a bait this large, but often times pays off in huge dividends.
Make Your Own Skipjack Jig
Using a plain 4 ounce torpedo sinker, a 4/0 Mustad 94150 bronze hook, you can easily make a jig that works great for catching Skipjack for bait. Here is a video illustrating how.
It is Indeed Cow Time!
The Cows are biting in Puerto Vallarta, Cabo San Lucas, Clarion, Hurricane Bank, and the Lower Banks off Mag Bay!The time to book a trip is now if you want to catch a big yellowfin tuna.
Yes indeed, sharpen those hooks, check those drags, fill those reels up to the top! It's that time of year where those toothy speedsters make their showing. Time to jump on a trip 6 days long or longer, and you too could be having some fish stories that be any one of the following: Exciting, frustrating, amazing, heartbreaking, expensive (in lost jigs), or even dangerous!
First things first, so much can go wrong while wahoo fishing. So, let's look at safety first. The first and foremost of these safety rules, is NO OPEN TOED SHOES! Yes, some of the sandals by Teva and Keen, and Crocs meet the needs. But seriously, if in doubt, err on the side of caution. Be safe, we are a long way from medical help.
We all get excited fishing these underwater missiles, but cool your jets. Winding in, stop your jig, bomb or trolling lure and wait a few seconds before lifting it out of the water. Many times, a wahoo will chase it to the boat, and an unwary angler lifts the offering out quickly, and a wahoo comes flying out of the water. This is scary, I've seen two near misses, one even hitting a friend of mine directly in the thigh. If that wahoo had it's mouth open (normal for them to jump with mouth wide open), bad things would have happened. STOP YOUR JIG!
Look behind you, call out your cast, slow down, take your time here. Granted, you see a wahoo hookup and we get all amped out. Chill brother, nice safe casting. Don't take out the deck light lenses, someone else's rod, or worse, someone's chin! I've seen this one, and it's not pretty. Call out your cast: Head's up, or Going Out, Low Bridge, etc.
When the crew yells out, "Watch the Wahoo", they aren't wanting other anglers to come over and see the wahoo. They really want us to clear out and give them some space. So, do exactly that- give them some space. Try to minimize the danger, lessen your chances of a flopping wahoo slithering into your leg or body. Stand clear please!
Do not attempt to retrieve your hook, jig, bomb or trolling lure from the wahoo. In fact, while you wait, just be patient. The crew might be busy, they will get around to you. Also, if the wahoo hasn't been hit with a bat yet, stay clear and warn others it hasn't been hit yet.
Even during the photo shoot, be aware. Don't pick the wahoo up by the head or gills. Perhaps with some crew assistance, you can have a shot like that. Same with shooting the pic prior to the wahoo being hit with the bat, to get the full color effect of the fish and the body all lit up. Get the crew to help. Even when we are back at the dock, be aware of the wahoo coming out of the dock cart. Those teeth are incredibly sharp, and can ruin a very exciting experience.
Trolling Up A Hoo
First, we have to locate a school of them. Once in awhile, we do stop on a meter mark, or on a kelp and get some wahoo. But trolling for them is the method we use most the time. Nowadays, most the boats have 4 designated trolling outfits. As I try to bring less and less gear, this is the perfect place to make cuts in the amount of stuff we bring. The crew put good trolling lures on, they want the boat to get stopped, they want us to catch fish.
I've been on all the long range boats, and every boat has it's own ideas on where to set the trolling lures. So, I let them.
When you get a bite on the trolling lures, I like to wait a few seconds before yelling hookup. I like the boat to set the hook for me. Now, if my troll team got bit, but I didn't, I get the rod out of the trolling straps, and let it out another 100 feet or so. Be careful you could get a bite as the lure goes back. At the magic mark of a hundred feet, I put the reel in gear, and wind it in as fast as I can. This is a good valid method of getting a strike, just keep winding when you do get a strike.
Fishing the Jigs or Bombs
Try and find out if the area you are fishing has been fished in the last few days, or has it been untouched for a week or so. If it's been vacant, wire up the jigs, or fish the bombs. Bombs have a much higher hook up percentage, so I highly recommend using them. Jigs get a lot of bites, but also have a much lower hook up percentage rate.
Now, if the area has been being fished day after day, the best bet is a jig straight tied to the mono. NO WIRE! Yeah, I'm not under contract from the jig companies to say that, as yes, you will lose some jigs. But you will get more bites for sure. I have found the short top shot doesn't work out here, I fish between 50 and a hundred feet of mono.
Ask or pay attention in the seminar about when to cast out after a troll strike. Some boats allow fishing the slide, some don't. Whatever you do, steer clear of the troll fish. Trolling lures are expensive, don't be "That Guy" that cuts the lure and fish off. It is simply not cool to do that, so, err on the side of caution.
Having made the cast, it's my opinion that you need to cover as much of the water column as possible. So I like to let my jig sink to a depth of where I'll be winding in with my angle of my line at a 45 degree angle. When I reach that depth, put the reel in gear, and wind like I'm yo-yoing. As fast as you possibly can wind it in.
Now, when you get a strike, it's not all that exciting. The jig or bomb just stops. At this critical point, you must keep turning the handle. Until line starts peeling off the reel, we are under the assumption the wahoo has the jig in it's mouth, but is not necessarily hooked. You must keep pressure on the line, thus the crew will cheer you on :"Wind, wind, wind!"
There is a new method I recently heard of, where you set the hook when you feel the bite. I'm not certain about this, but the news came from a very reputable source. So, my eyes and ears are open, but I'm not sure until I get a chance to try it out myself.
Rick Ozaki, who penned this new method.
Another method is the "cast once, but retrieve many times" method. Here, you cast out and let the jig or bomb sink out. When you see the lure, stop, and let it sink out to the depth you like, and do it again. Repeat until you get a bite, or the stop is over, or the boat drifts over your line.
Live Bait Fishing
I personally fish jigs while we are trolling, but sometimes it gets hard to wind the jig fast enough to get a bite. Then try bait fishing. Most times, a 12-18 inch single strand wire leader is the top choice. Multi strand wire works sometimes, but my experience shows single strand getting bit better. I have used the titainium wire from Knot2Kinky, tying the knots described on the package with very good results.
After that, it's just like bait fishing for any other species of fish, except for once hooked up! For whatever reason, when you hook a wahoo on a live bait outfit, they tend to really show off their speed. If it's headed up towards the anchor, let a crew member know, and go. If said crew member needs the rod, let them have it. In a matter of seconds, the light monofilament can cut through the anchor line in a matter of seconds. That is a thousand dollar problem for the boat, so, if they want the rod, give them the rod.
Also, on this same outfit, a small chunk of sardine or mackerel will work. I like to use 25-30# test on these outfits, and the wire is generally one line size up from your mono.
Surface Iron for Wahoo
This is one of fishing's little known pleasures, catching a wahoo on a surface iron. I fish light jigs, long rod like a Super Seeker Ulua, and I don't change the hooks to single hooks, stick with the treble hook. This is a nice break in the action, after winding the heavy jigs or bombs at high speed.
Just make a long cast, and wind in as though you are swimming the jig for yellowtail. What makes this so special is the way the wahoo attack the surface plug. Sometimes they launch 8 to 10 feet behind the jig, land on it with jig hanging out it's mouth, and crank a big giant broddeeee turn!
Heck, I don't even care if I get the fish, or lose the jig. The way they attack the surface plug is spectacular to say the least.
Depending on how long of a trip it is, sometimes the first couple of fishing days, they put the wahoo into the frozen well. If you are on that length of trip, you might think about donating the wahoo for a meal. There is nothing like fresh wahoo, and it allows you to learn a recipe or two from the chef. It will take one, two or even three wahoo to feed the entire boat, but hopefully you get a few more into the RSW well before the trip is over.
Think safety while angling for wahoo, and have fun with it. I probably have more fish stories concerning wahoo than any other type of fish. Go get you some stories of your own!
No doubt about it, we are having a wonderful offshore fishing year, without any longfin. The Bluefin tuna have been the staple, biting fairly well even when the weather kicks up a bit.
Since my last blog, some new developments have occurred on the offshore scene.
First, the kelp patties started holding nice quality sized yellowtail. I'm talking very nice, Cedros grade yellows, a solid 18-25 pound average with a few fish up to 30 pounds being landed.
Second, Dorado were next to filter in. Not the Pop-Tart sized tiny ones we see at times, but bonafide quality dorado that we would all be proud of wearing our numbered fish tag!
Last, the yellowfin tuna showed up, in numbers. At first, they were smaller grade than the Bluefin. However, since then, an exceptional grade of yellowfin has shown up, and these are almost Guadalupe grade tuna. In fact, the yellowfin are taking the top 3 jackpot places on most trips right now.
Often times, at this point of the season, we are seeing the long range boats fishing the same area as the local overnight fleet. That isn't good. Simply stated, when those fish migrate out of one day range to wherever they go, there aren't more fish coming in to pursue.
This season however, there are fish in the local one day zone. There is another zone that the day and a half boats can have there own area. Yet another batch of fish from 180-210 miles depending on temp breaks and changing conditions, and one more batch of fish being chased by the 3 to 5 day trips, 270-300 miles from Point Loma. Just my opinion, but it appears to be a long steady season.
Today's blog is going to be a few techniques to make some catches after the initial onslaught and switch to a plunker. Or, how to fish a kelp.
First, the Gear
As I've been working on a long range boat this summer, I've been getting more days than the average angler. These are observations from working these trips, and my motive here is to help the average angler get hooked up more often.
As stated in the last blog, bait selection and presentation are vastly important. For fishing the stern, a cast is a must. Sometimes if the downwind corner is open, you can get a great underhand lob cast. But bear in mind the boat is drifting stern first, so if you don't get a long cast, your bait WILL end up underneath the boat, or in a tangle, or worse yet, wrapped on another anglers fish.
DON'T BE THAT GUY ( or gal)! So, get that good cast. Nothing wrong with accepting a cast from a crewmember. We all love to pick out and cast a bait for the customers, it does not disqualify you from jackpot(as long as the bait doesn't get bit while we are holding the rod), or, learn to cast better yourselves.
Part of the problem I saw working this year, was gear that just did not cast well. Rods too short, reels with spools too heavy, poorly maintained reels, too long of a piece of fluorocarbon tied to the mono.
Now, I'm not saying you all need to go buy state of the art equipment to catch fish on a plunker. If the reel doesn't freespool well, or drag is sticky as a result from lack of maintenance, get it into a shop and make it right. There were some reels that the spools were just too heavy to ever make a decent cast, therefore non=effective in a plunker bite. I know of three tackle shops close by my house here that I could go pick up a very used reel off the consignment table or case, go through the reel or pay the shop to maintain it properly, and be in the game for very low cost!
Two newer models alongside an older reel that will perform just as well in a slow plunker.
If you do want the latest and greatest though, lots of reels fit the bill: Shimano Tallica, Okuma Makaira or Andros, Daiwa Saltiga, Avet, Accurate, Tiburon all have reels that spin very well, and ultra smooth drag.
More older sufficient reels alongside one of the top available.
I understand why a good portion of the anglers had too long of a piece of fluorocarbon tied to their mono, because their logic is they can catch a few fish on the same piece of fluorocarbon. However, being that the cast is so extremely important to get the bite, a knot traveling through the guides results in bad things: shorter casts, bait flying off, or worse yet, a backlash.
Here is a bad example I saw on several anglers rigs. The fluorocarbon is too long, and, the ends of the splice are cut way too long. That invites tangles on the retrieve of your hook. Those long tag ends love to grab onto loose spectra in the water.
All that is needed is a 2&1/2 to 3 foot piece of the leader material. Sometimes it's just to avoid a chew off by the fish, and sometimes the way the light refracts through the magic leader material is mandatory to getting that all important bite.
This is a much better example of a proper length splice and shorter tag ends on the splice.
As far as rods go, I felt pretty comfortable with three rods while working this year (I am working in the galley, I can come out and fish once in awhile). My personal choices were all Seeker (I am on their prostaff): A Hercules 80H, which I fished with 25#test up to 40# test, a Super Seeker 6475 for 40&50# test, and a Super Seeker 6470XH, in case the larger BFT showed up and I could fish either 60 or 80# test.
With the 80H and the 6475, I felt I could get a great cast with either one. I rarely drop down to 25# test, as I feel I can get a bite on 40# almost all the time. Both of those rods have excellent tip sections for casting, coupled with plenty of lifting power.
Shhhh, Don't Tell Anyone The Bow Is The Hotspot!
The late great Rollo Heyn used to give "Wise Angler Tips" during his seminars on our way to the fishing grounds. One of these tips, fish the bow, I was shocked when I ran up to the bow, and found it deserted. On my last couple of trips I worked, anglers are finally getting the message: The bow is a great place to fish!
But I have a couple of tips that might add to the great Rollo's WATs. First of which, starts with the fact that since we are drifting, most the anglers will be soaking baits with the wind in their face. So, the side with all of the fishing anglers isn't the side to race up to the bow on. When going from bow to stern (and vice versa), use the non-windy side.
You see, the more time your bait is out of the water, the weaker it becomes. This lessens your chances of a bite. So, travel the side with less people on it. Seems to simple to be brought up, but you cannot believe how many anglers I see try to make their way up and back on the crowded side.
Next, once your bait is on the hook, LET IT GO! I see anglers travel to the bow holding their bait the whole way there. That bait is useless now, you hustled all the way up there for nothing. If you feel the need, hold the line 6 inches above the hook, but do not grip the bait.
The free floating hunks of kelp that have broken free of their holdfasts and become a home to offshore fish, are an ecosystem. You do not need to always cast right at the kelp.
The captain tries to put the bulk of the fish on the stern. He's watching on the sonar, allow him time to set up on the best edge of fish. We recently had a bunch of overly excited anglers who would cast before the captain gave the word to cast. DON"T BE THAT GUY!
That being said, most the yellowtail and dorado will initially be hooked off the stern of the boat. However, you will see anglers like myself still running up to the bow. That is because you have a much better chance of hooking a tuna away from the bow.
I remember a trip on the Islander with my friend Jan Howard. We were the only two fishing the bow, and we had quite a streak of Bluefin tuna while the rest of the gang were catching marginal sized yellowtails.
Don't forget a kelp is a great location to bomb a bait down with a torpedo sinker to try for an Opah!
At nighttime, on the offshore grounds, it might be a good idea to try and catch a big squid, and put it out on a heavy rig. A few different species might bite: Broadbill Swordfish, Escolar, Oilfish, or a big tuna of either Bluefin, Yellowfin, or Bigeye persuasion!
Here is an Escolar.
I believe this is an Oilfish. Very similar to the Escolar, both are tasty and rich from what I've been told.
Again, I cannot stress this enough, it's ok to accept assistance in the form of a cast and bait selection/ presentation/hook placement. These guys do this day in, day out, all year long. They love to help us anglers out, they want us to catch fish.
And, really look at your gear. How much effort does it take to start the spool spinning? Working my last few trips, while we were in a plunker, anglers allowing me to give them a cast, yet I knew there was almost zero chance of a bite. The spool was just too heavy, and that poor sardine was huffing and puffing in short order.
Well, as of yet, those fish that are as rare as the fabled Unicorn haven't shown up yet to most of our dismay. Of course I'm referring to Albacore. Who knows when we'll see those long finned creatures next, but in the meantime, we are off to a good start with the shortfin models.
And Lord knows, I'm all about doing the next indicated thing. Seems to me, Bluefin are my next indicated thing on the offshore grounds. There have been some fabulous catches already this year, with some shots at that 70-100#+ grade of Bluefin.
Thought I'd write up some of my favorite topics and tips for catching these tasty tuna fish! Most of this is about the offshore variety of Bluefin Tuna fishing, not that anchored up at an island with 12# test, size 6 hook anchor fishing. But as I got prepared to write this up, I did see that El Gato sportfishing caught some shortfins on a ¾ day trip today! You don't have to book a multi-day trip to fish these bad boys.
First things first, these can be extremely frustrating fish to pursue, putting on a great show splashing around the boat, but getting a bite is very challenging at times. Don't think this doesn't bother the captain and crew- they want the fish to bite as much as you do, or more so.
The tuna get chased around by choppers, planes, speedboats, sportboats, seiners, and thus they get a little touchy and finicky. Joe Crisci of the Red Rooster 3 was telling me of his younger days working on a seiner, and there was one good school around. As his story unfolded, he said a group of about 7 seiners would get on this school, and it would sink out before they could get the net pursed up, and pop up just downswell of the net! He said the boats just kept playing hopscotch, trying to wrap that school to no avail.
KEEP AN OPEN MIND, OPEN EARS, OPEN EYES
Ok, you are on the grounds, weather is co-operating, fish are around, and the boat gets on a school. Don't automatically grab your 25 or 30# outfit because they are the wily Bluefin. Personally, I do not go and grab a bait and get in the water right away. In fact, I don't even know which rod I'm going to use yet.
I wait, watch for boils, listening to the captain over the PA system. If I see bigger boils, or if he shouts out some key phrases, now I can decide on which outfit to grab. Some of these key phrases might be something along this line: "Give it to them, give it to them heavy", or "Bigger fish here guys, 50# test or bigger, with a 2 speed reel". Sometimes just the tone in his voice tells me he thinks these are really going to bite.
My typical starting outfit is a 40# test rig. Two speed optional, but not absolutely necessary. A seven foot rod, something you can cast a little ways. Now if I get a bite on 40#, and while I'm fighting a fish, I see lots of boils, and lots of action in the stern, my next cast will probably be with a 50# outfit. If I get bit on 50#, go up to 60#! Using this method, a trip I was on last year, I caught quite a few on one stop, because they were really biting, and using the heavier gear, I was able to land them much faster.
When they are really biting, a nose hook on the sardine is a very good bet. Place the hook crossways through the nose, in that hard cartilage spot, so you can get a good cast. Also, the bait won't get knocked off quite as easily as a belly hook or shoulder hook. Save those hook placements for when the bite backs off into a plunker.
Every year, the Shogun has Barbara Block and the Monterey Bay Aquarium charter the boat to specifically chase Bluefin, and they catch, tag and release many, and also catch some smaller grade fish, which they transport up to the aquarium. I used to work on the Shogun, so I've been able to participate in this activity a few times.
I have learned a lot about Bluefin making these voyages, and here's a bit of what I see as pertinent information. We get on a school, but nobody casts out until they are eating right on the corner. Add to that, we all use heavy line, because we want to land these fish very quickly so they aren't harmed, or tired out. Due to this method, the school stays close and doesn't get all scattered out like it does when you have a few anglers with a light drag setting and the fish sprinting away from the point of the bite.
My point is this: In a perfect world, with the perfect load of anglers, who could all be patient, wait until the fish were chewing the paint off the boat, and then fish heavy line and tight drags, that school of fish would stay in the WFO mode a lot longer. I'm sure most of us have seen footage of the PEI giants eating every bait thrown in, and our Bluefin will act the same exact way given the chance.
Thing is, can you be patient and not throw in for a while until the captain gives the signal?
I didn't think so.
AH YES, THE PLUNKER
I love when the bite switches to plunk mode myself. Separates the men from the boys here, a little talent, a bit of finesse. Now it's time to pick out a good bait, using the lighter line, maybe a bit smaller hook, a 3/0 or 4/0 circle. I like the Mustad Demon circles, and the 3X strength will work fine in this application. Model # 39942, and I prefer the ringed hooks.
Make sure your hand is wet before you gently cradle the bait, gently place the hook in your favorite spot (my new favorite is the shoulder hook, with the belly hook a close second). Here, my least favorite hook spot is the nose.
Get that bait in the water as soon as you can, I prefer a gentle underhand lob but if you can land an overhead cast lightly, go for it.
And don't forget, in a plunker, sometimes the best place to fish is the bow. As the boat drifts, it moves stern first. Therefore the discarded baits and chum ends up trickling out from the bow, and thus it's a great spot to make your hook bait look just like a free swimming bait sprinting out from underneath the vessel.
Now is the time when that 25-30 lb outfit is the right choice, as long as the fish aren't too big. And I'll use up to a 9 foot rod if I do need to make a long cast to get that bite.
SECRET WEAPON- RUBBER BANDED TORPEDO SINKER
Again, listening to the captain over the PA, and he might say we are marking fish 100-150 feet below the boat. I always have a 4 ounce torpedo sinker with a rubber band looped through one of the eyes of the sinker in my pocket. If I choose to fish a sinker rig, it's as simple as a basic half hitch of the rubber band around my leader, nose hook the sardine (always nose hook with a weight), walk up the side a little ways, wind in your face, and drop it down.
Does not matter if it's a great show with fish blowing out all over the place. The sinker rig is a very valuable method, always worth a try. Watch your line angle around other fish circling while being fought, but it is worth a try.
Once, on the Royal Star, on a 5 day trip, we were all flylining. One 12 year old kid put a sinker on, and he was rewarded with a 176 pound BFT! You can bet from that point on, a lot of us were using sinkers.
USING JIGS FOR BLUEFIN
An extremely effective option, and it allows you fish the non-windy side of the boat, which is another plus. You'll have that side to yourself, or at the least wit the other jig casters. Still, practice safety, look behind you when you cast. And you can look like a much better caster, as the wind aids your cast!
Cast the jig downswell, doesn't matter if you choose bow or stern area. Let the jig sink about 100-150 feet. If it stops, put the reel in gear and start winding- a fish has the jig in it's mouth. You aren't going to hit the bottom out here, so if it stops more than likely a Bluefin has picked it up. If you just rear back and jerk on the rod, you won't set the hook, simply wind, wind wind. I prefer a single hook on fish bigger than 50 lbs, trebles are ok on school sized fish.
Surface iron, and poppers, and skipjig aren't reliable methods for Bluefin on a regular basis, on our coast anyways.
TO FLUOROCARBO, OR NOT TO FLUOROCARBON, THAT IS THE QUESTION
One trip, on the Royal Star, we are in plunker. I can't buy a bite. My buddy, Larry Robinson, has just landed his 3rd BFT. I watch as they gaff it, and I see a small knot about 3 feet above his hook.
I quickly grabbed some FC, tied it to my mono, and my net cast was a bite! I quickly caught three Bluefin to even the score.
Personally, I don't think it's an "always" thing, but there are times it helps, and Bluefin do have more pronounced teeth than other tunas, so the abrasion resistance makes it a win win situation. I like the Surgeon knot to connect my mono to my fluorocarbon.
FISHING THE PENS
I can remember many times where we picked off a school close by a tow pen of the seiners , and it became a go to plan for the local boats the last couple of years. For some reason, it seems a light line technique just like days of old, and so if you really want a Bluefin, it might behoove you to bring a light outfit, 20# fluorocarbon.
As I stated earlier, Bluefin don't really like skipjigs, poppers, but they certainly do seem to love the kite and helium balloon. So, if given the chance, and they offer it, say yes.
Keep an open mind, good attitude, and pray for flat weather. I hope we all get to catch some of the shortfins this year, they are a fun fish to catch!