EPIC 5 day Blue Fin Tuna Safari

Discussion in 'Outdoor World' started by JK47, Aug 21, 2020.

  1. JK47

    JK47 Guest

    I've spent a good portion of life fishing in rivers, streams, lakes, and the ocean. I've fished the ocean mainly from the beach, jetty, or pier, and the occasional boat rental, but one of my fishing friends finally got me on an offshore trip out of San Diego late last year, and I'm "hooked" pun intended. Blue fin are known to have keen eye sight, finicky eaters, and very elusive. They can literally be boiling all around the boat but not eating what you are throwing at them. It's quite the site to see them jumping 3' clear out of the water chasing their food, and this sometimes can be the size of a football field, hence the name boiling.

    This is Billy K, the Jude of fishing charters, but does a decent job showing a boil here in SoCal.


    After 3 trips so far this season I've only a single 30lb Blue fin to my name, but have caught Yellow tail, and Mahi Mahi which are both great eating and superb fighters, but it's not a blue fin tuna... My friend's quest in his own words is akin to Captain Ahab and his White whale. My friend WANTS a "cow" (200+ lbs tuna), and generally here the only way to catch them consistently is on what they call a kite, which is a kite with or without out a balloon to help it fly and a dead flying fish skipping across the water. I have personally seen a 250lb tuna hit this setup and it is an awesome display of power. I wasn't on the other end of the line though, it's usually a lottery system to fly the kite and their are only so many hours in a trip and lots of people on the boat, unless you want to spend $$$ and go on a small charter. The Blue like cooler water and the Yellow like warmer water, and the Blue usually show up again in October/November for a while then again in maybe Feb/March. I find them quite a noble creature and a worthy opponent, the first year or two of the Pacific Blue Fin's life is spent on the other side of the Pacific in and around the Philippines and Japan, then they come over here for 3-5 years before heading back to spawn.

    I decided my best bet was to stay out on the water to gain more experience, the longer the better, but also more $$$. I found a 5 day charter with a few openings which is really rare this time of year... It was the Los Angeles City Fire Department annual trip!!! I asked if it was OK to join and they said yes, many of their members have been stricken with Covid, and/or their spouses didn't want then to go during this pandemic. So off I went with them on the Shogun.
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    A fine fishing vessel with meals that rival a top tier restaurant. Look carefully the artificial lure that caught this 25lber is still in its mouth. Most on this trip were taken with live bait, mainly sardines.
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    That's as fresh as it gets, but for really nice sushi and sashimi it needs to be dead for a few days at least so enzymes can break down the tissue a little bit.

    The gear required to catch these missiles of the deep needs to be robust and sensitive at the same time, and that usually means multiple reel and rod combos, which is not cheap. Probably at least 3 setups to cover the basic requirements of a trip, with each one starting at roughly $300 and going up very quickly from there. Not uncommon for a single setup to be worth $1k. Show up with a Walmart spinning combo and your chances of landing even a small fish offshore are drastically reduced. The good news is that rental gear is available at the dock and the landing will set you up with the best setup for that day for a minimal fee. Also the Deckhands on the boat will take care of you catching the bait in the on boat tank (which actually is quite hard), pinning it on your hook and casting it into the water. Casting the favored conventional reel is an art in itself, and one wrong move can cause a tangle that will put you out of action for probably at least a few minutes, sometimes much much longer, and in that time your window of opportunity can disappear. The reward of catching a good bait, getting it into the water and to swim away from the boat (they like to come back to hide in the shadow when big scary predator fish are swarming all around), and the reel is in free spool so the sardine can swim... then all of a sudden the line starts getting peeled off fast, really fast!!! and you switch the reel into gear, and the drag which you set (or the deckhand set if you aren't experienced) literally starts screaming, and you see you line dwindling very very quickly, but you must resist the urge to tighten the drag too much or the hook will pull out, or the line will snap!!! Then hopefully the fish will tire enough for you to get it turned around and headed back towards the boat, then it will probably take off a few more times, with each successive time shorter than the last. when they are close you yell "color" and a deckhand will hang with you and gaff the fish and haul it aboard, spike it in the brain to finish it off, and bleed it so the meat stays fresher longer, and taste cleaner. No pics of this part because it is very graphic, and the Head-Fi forum of the SoCal fishing world is called "Bloody Decks" for a reason.

    I have become somewhat proficient in all the above skills and haven't needed a deckhand to help out since late last season. They will always still gaff the fish though. This trip was fantastic and I ended up with 5 Blue Fin Tuna (1 shy of the limit, and only half the boat got limits), 2 Mahi Mahi which is limits (Dorado), 5 Yellow tail (I caught maybe 20 Yellow tail and 15 Mahi but they were too small in my eyes, even though there is no size limit).
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    I missed out on the $1k jackpot by 1/2 a pound, but it was all good we gave the jackpot money to the crew, it's been a hard year and they truly deserved it. The crew's wage is not much and they make most money from tips (usually tips are 15-20% of the trip cost AND galley tab).

    A couple of fish and I could clean and vacuum pack them my self, but this was way too much. There are several fish processors that will meet you at the dock and haul your fish away to be processed same day or stored in a deep freeze for future pickup, or shipped, as well as smoking, jerky, and canned options. I got 3 Blue Fin cut to sushi size in 5 mil vacuum seeled bags, another smoked, and another jerky, and all the other fish filleted. I picked up my load 2 hours after they were loaded up on the truck dockside, although I have to wait a week or so for the jerky and smoked stuff. Hopefully we will have a nano meet soon and I can bring out some tuna goodies!!!

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    I will say the LA Firemen are world class people and I was honored to be allowed in their company. True heroes, that weren't above pranks and shenanigans, and overall just a joy to be around. It also turns out we are actually a part of the same union, IBBWD... The International Brotherhood of Beer and Whiskey Drinkers!!! Cheers Fellas!!!

    There's a strong possibility the Jeep will go up for sale and be replaced by a small fishing vessel...
     
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  2. purr1n

    purr1n Building Magnis part time because it's peaceful.

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    That looked epic. I taught my son to fish on our vacation to Michigan a few years ago. He's better at it than I am. I know he's expressed desire to catch uuna and yellowtail , mainly because he likes eating it. LOL, he asked me about how big tuna can get. I reminded him of the cows we saw at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

    I looked up some 3/4 day trips in Newport and more than a few look novice friendly. I wouldn't know where to start with the big fish like this in terms of gear. I figure I can call, ask questions, and rent out whatever is needed there.
     
  3. Pogo

    Pogo Friend

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    Excellent report and pix, congrats on a great trip!
    Are you over on Bloody Decks?
    If you ever find yourself in SoFla with a day to kill I would be happy to run you offshore to the gulf stream for mahi,blackfins ,sails and kings. Or to the 10k islands for snook,tarpon and reds. (My favorite place on earth)
    Before you buy a boat burn a $100 bill to ashes....if you can do that then you are ready for a boat.
     
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  4. JK47

    JK47 Guest

    Newport is tough to get tuna out of, SD is a much better bet or even Oceanside. Last week the tuna were biting on the backside of Catalina, then word got out and every little boat within 100 miles was out there and scared them away. Realistically you need to get on at least a day trip to get them form SD, better yet a 1.5 day, but the bite is always off and on. Some people try and fish the new and full moon, some don't care.

    Lots of excellent rock fishing out of Oxnard out to the Channel islands (much better size and quality than anything south of there). Rock fishing is easy, drop to the bottom and they bite and reel up 300', that's it.

    Don't worry about being new, just let the landing know, and then the deckhands when you're on the boat. They will take care of you, no sweat.
     
  5. purr1n

    purr1n Building Magnis part time because it's peaceful.

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    Awesome. As you are aware, I am close to Oxnard. Rock fishing sounds fun.

    I wasn't aware of the catch limits, but this seems totally sensible and it's reassuring to know that the fishermen abide by them when they could very easily cheat.

    It only comes to mind because of this article in the WSJ I read about a massive Chinese fishing fleet near the Galapagos Islands west of Ecuador, and how the Ecuadorians are quite disturbed at this.

    We are talking about decks full of hammerhead sharks, dolphins, sea lions, etc.

    Doesn't make sense why they are so far out. Fuel costs alone can't make this profitable.
     
  6. penguins

    penguins Friend, formerly known as fp627

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    Looks like an awesome trip. Wanted to get into fishing before I actually tried it. After trying it I realized that real / big boy ocean fishing isn't for me aside from the hanging out and drinking aspects. I do plan on revisiting other types of fishing in the future though.

    Cliched but I'm going to echo what (older) friends and contacts have said to me - happiest day with boat stuff = the day you buy it + the day you sell it. Possible exception is if you were inclined to turned the boat into a side business/rental.
     
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  7. Rustin Cohle

    Rustin Cohle Friend, FKA jazztherapist

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    Makes me nostalgic for those crisp, fall days on Martha's Vineyard as a teenager when I would chase bonito and false albacore before sunrise with my 8 weight in my tiny Boston Whaler. Afterward it was breakfast at the Dock Street Cafe where all the charter captains would inhale their breakfast before heading out for the day. Nothing since has managed to get me out of bed at 4:00 a.m. Fuck I miss that.
     
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  8. Cspirou

    Cspirou They call me Sparky

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    Goddamit @JK47 !

    Reminds me that I need to post pics of that tuna I bought from the Hawaii fish auction
     

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