More Pacific Bluefin/Offshore Tips
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. Fishing Kelps
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!Final Casts
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.
It's a banner season, go on out and get you some!