Capt. Woody Woods

After fishing with Brandon, it occurred to me, “I haven’t done a lot of fishing on smaller boats.”  Growing up, I’d occasionally get the opportunity on a buddy’s dad’s boat, but mostly I fished off the pier or a little rowboat.  Back then, I didn’t get opportunities to fish on sportboats either.  I scored a 26 lb. silver salmon on my first sportboat trip back home in Washington at age 10.  I didn’t do it again until I was already an adult.  That memory stuck with me, which probably explains why the sportboat fleet holds such allure for me now.

Despite my personal focus on the big sportboats, I don’t want to exclude private boaters and six pack anglers here on the blog.  Which brings us to Capt. Michael “Woody” Woods.  Woody is the captain for Guardian Charters.   Woody is a 50 ton USCG licensed captain from the San Diego area operating a Parker 2520 slsc out of Marina Cortez in Harbor Island.  Woody’s been a lifelong Southern California fisherman…first fishing local boats in 1978, then working on half day boats in San Pedro in the early 80s.  From there, he worked long range fishing, as well as, commercial fishing from Alaska to New Jersey.

Woody’s really enjoying working 4 pack trips on the Parker.  I thought it’d be great to get the small boat perspective from him on a topic that we all have on our collective minds on now…BLUEFIN TUNA!

It seems like you were one of the early ones in on this bite.  How long have you been seeing these fish this year?


April Fools! No joke!

It started for me anyway, on the 1st of April. We had a 3/4 day islands trip scheduled, but I decided to just take a look right out front on the inside of the upper 9 mile bank.  I had a hunch, with all the warm water, and tuna crab, that there may be some tuna in the deep.  As we were motoring along,  I saw 2 birds, then 6, then what seemed like 1000!  Meter marks were heavy and rising, then KABOOM!  It blew up big time!  Fifty to 100 pound fish all around the boat, spread out as big as football fields.

2. It seems from the reports and my own observations on the water, that tons of fish are out there, yet just a few are hooked and landed.  What is it about bluefin that makes them so tough to catch?

Bluefin are one of the hardest tuna to figure out.  They’re a lot like women, lol.  One day they’re biting dead anchovies on 4/0 gorilla hooks, and 80 pound mono…the next they won’t touch a pristine, hard sardine on 10 pound fluoro and a size 4 invisible hook!

A lot of the time when they are being moody, it’s because they are so keyed in on the bait schools, that they won’t eat anything else.  They might be eating tiny, near invisible anchovies, and that’s all they’re looking for.  A sardine or mackerel just looks to hard to catch or something…well that’s my theory anyway.

A full moon will make them extremely spooky for a couple days after, I don’t know why, but it does. If you go out, you’ll see fish crashing, jumping, and eating, but it’s like every boat has a forcefield around it, get within 50 yards and they sink or move. It’s frustrating, but a lot of fun if that makes sense, lol. The other thing, is they have VERY good vision. Before the days of fluoro, we used to use 12 or 15 pound mono, and size 4 hooks, anchovy days. Rods were 965s, 220s, 196-8s etc., blue printed Newells, and Penn squidder jrs. Fly lining a 5 inch anchovy is a lost art, but should be learned again, just saying. Roy Rose (Captain of the Royal Polaris) is a close friend that I grew up with, and he is one of the best fisherman I know. He’s taught me a few super secret long range tricks that work on those non biters, but you’ll just have to book a trip to see!  Lol

3. Given the above, are there advantages that a small boat offers vs. the bigger boats?

There are pros and cons to a small boat…the pros are we’re a LOT faster than the big boys.  We can offer the same time fishing on the water that they need overnight to do. Small boats get offshore in 1 to 2 hours, where the big guys take anywhere from 3 to 4 hours. We have more time to fish and not drive. Most of the time, on small boats, you’re with 3 other people, and those are almost always your friends, or will be by the end of the day. It’s a more personal experience.  You get to work hand in hand with the captain, rather than 3 or 4 crew per 30 people.  We can also run and gun to kelps and bird schools a lot faster.  The cons are it’s a bit rougher.  We usually don’t have galleys.  On the 4 pack boats, like Guardian Charters’ Parker, we’re limited a little by our electronics.  Our big brothers have $20,000.00 side scanning sonar, and we just can’t justify the cost or sacrifice the space, (computer, boom, etc).  We’re lucky though, I’ve got some really great friends that run the bigger boats, and they call me in to let us fish when they find them.  The reason that is, is because I give those guys a lot of respect.  I don’t trail them, ask for permission to slide in, and share my info with them.  Remember,  I worked on bigger boats too.  I know how frustrating it is to have 30 private skiffs 30 feet from you, jamming your electronics, scaring fish, tangling lines, and destroying a well established chum line.  That’s the other thing, big boats have chum capacity.  Their tanks are anywhere from 30 scoop on the smaller boats, to 700 scoop slammers on the long range boats. We carry 1.5 max. When you can braille 3 or 4 scoops on a stop, you have the power to keep the fish with you. Again, thanks to my buddies that own and run bigger boats, I can get up swell and they’ll share. Not mentioning any names, but, TROPHY!

4. What does a “typical” trip look like right now?

A typical trip with Guardian Charters starts by meeting at the dock at 4:45, loading the boat, then leaving no later than 5.  We’ll load bait, drive 45 minutes to 2 hours, then put the trollers out and start looking for kelps, birds, jumpers, etc.  From there, it’s what we call, “limits or bust”, fishing.  We fish until we have limits, or ’til we have to head back.  Our offshore full days are 12 hours from the time we pull out, to the time we tie up.  Last year there were many days where we were back at the dock by 11 am, and I was home by 3 pm.  Now that’s fishing!

5. How do you see things playing out for the rest of the summer?

In my opinion,  this is gonna be an epic El Nino season.  We’re going to see a lot of huge fish local, (stuff you usually see way south on long range trips), and some oddball catches.  I remember the El Nino of the early 80s, when there were dorado and hammerhead sharks off the IB pier, albacore at the islands, and a short billed spearfish caught in the surf.  This is looking like it’s going to be just like that or better. Remember last July?  3/4 day boats getting 50 pound class wahoo at the islands?  The Royal Polaris getting one 6 miles off IB? This year BFT on April fools day in the 50 to 100 pound range? And now we’re seeing a lot of 100 pound plus fish 12 miles out, and a few fish pushing 200 less than 5 miles from shore?!?!? In all probability,  if you don’t get out and experience this now, you never will in your lifetime. 35 years of doing this, and this is a first for me. Tight lines and straight shots, I’m out!  Captain Michael “Woody” Wood, Guardian Charters.

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