I jumped on a charter a friend put together and we headed down to the tuna pens for epic bluefin tuna fishing.
My friend Deno chartered the Voyager out of Seaforth Landing for an overnight trip. We got going at 9pm with 18 people and the goal of getting tuna. He had done a similar charter two weeks earlier and they caught a ton of rat yellowtail. He made it clear the mantra was tuna for this trip and the captain and crew delivered.
The boat headed south toward the pens in somewhat snotty conditions. I didn’t sleep well that night because it was like Christmas eve for me. I ultimately woke up about 5:15 to hit the head and bacon was already going in the galley. I brushed my teeth, grabbed a coffee and went up to the bow. No one else was around and it was super nice; a small last-quarter moon in the west, full stars and I could see about 10 pen tenders. We were in the zone for sure. I pulled some dead sardines out of the tanks and noticed that water was a good temp, at least in the high 60’s. That was better than I expected with the wind that had been going on.
As grey light got us, we were going around a pen, but the skipper didn’t see anything on the sonar. As we came around the next one, he said there were scattered fish. I was thinking they might be down deep, so I dropped the deep metal. It may have been my second drop (maybe first, but that s usually bad luck) and the gaff was in my first fish a few minutes later. Fish fish for the boat on the day too. Next cast, same story, but that one ran a bit. Third and fourth casts were the same; four quick ones and I hadn’t gotten my breakfast burrito order in.
At this point, it was light out and the fish were oriented with the boat and all the baits we had out. I went to live bait. Cast, five-count and fish on. I lost count quickly, but I think I had 7 or 8 fish before 10am. 1 was a skipjack and had two break off. I was getting lazy retying leaders. I think for the day I used 4 hooks and 3 or 4 leader re-ties. Not bad on the wallet for tackle use.
It was pretty much the same story around the boat. It may have been 9am when the boat’s RSW (refrigerated salt water) was plugged. Guess what? There were still tuna boils all around us. I was cramping from pulling on fish.
I’m actually happy with how my back held out. Four and a half months since my surgery and it was a lumpy day. Add that to strong little bluefin and I was pushing myself. I did have a few upper back spasms, but they were just from tired muscles that are way out of shape protecting themselves. I’m not sure anyone on the boat new I was relatively fresh off surgery, and that is how it should be. Life is back to being fairly normal.
We were pretty far from the barn, so as the bite slowed (or did we all get tired?), the skipper pointed toward home to look for kelps. We saw a bunch and we pulled some rat yellows and micro-dorado off a few. I probably sounded like a jerk, but I wasn’t interested in that and did some relaxing instead. I think I said that I’d had enough baby yellowtail. The truth is I’ve had great yelowtail and mixed dorado fishing on my own, so I really just wanted the opportunity for tuna and we accomplished that in a big way.
It was a good group of guys so the haul home was nice. I took a big nap and missed a lot of the fish cleaning (including my final catch count), but got up in time to see a great sunset including a green flash.
The dock at Seaforth was a scene, a lot of boats pulled in just as plugged with tuna. There were about 200 guys standing around claiming their catch. It is good to see that for the landing. I had fun, but I’m not sure I’m sold on the cattle boat thing yet. But, I do look forward to maybe doing another trip like it in the future.
Basically, we caught a lot of bluefin. They started on the yo-yo and then associated with the boat and loved the live bait. Collar hooking the sardines early was the ticket, then when the soaks got longer, the nose hook worked better for me.
I was a passenger on this trip, so I don’t know all the details as I normally do.
It blew for the 36 hours before we went out. Since it was a weak front, it went from South to North to East. The water was lumpy and not comfortable. The San Clemente buoy was showing a 4′ wind chop Thursday afternoon, I’m glad that backed down a bit, but we never saw Lake Pacific.
I’m not sure what the temperature was, but it seemed to be in the high 60s, maybe 69. The skipper called out a cold section at 66.
A small front had gone thru the day before and we had the clearing breeze. It was a super clear, starting with a starry night that turned into an awesome sunny day.
I got to try our Fisherman’s Processing and I was thoroughly impressed. Clean, high quality product and super courteous. I should also point out that their customer service might just set the definition for customer service. I had two fish done and some loins from the boat cleaned up. If I make it back to the bay on time in the future, I’ll be dropping off at their dock for sure.