IMG_05391.5 Day Offshore  – Eclipse Sportfishing (Seaforth Landing)

Busy week last week.  Monday (July 15th), I was offshore on the Eclipse between 70-80 miles south of San Diego.  For awhile now, the boats going out at 2-3 day range had posted some good hits of bluefin tuna.  Some were coming back and saying they had scored within 1-1.5 day range.  For the boats actually fishing at 1.5 day range, the norm was a limit of yellows and maybe 1-5 bluefin.  It felt like any day, the 1.5 boats were due for a big score.

I boarded Sunday night.  The guys were coming in from a 2 day where they scratched 12 bluefin tuna.  The boat was loaded already with live sardines and anchovies.  When I saw the anchovies, I got anxious for a minute.  It reminded me of a conversation I had with Darin from Seeker Rods recently.  We were talking about how the cycle of baitfish was changing and we were cycling into a colder water phase with more anchovies.  Darin had made a comment, “You better be ready to cast a chovy to catch some albacore!”

I was soothed to find out from 2nd Capt. Neal Tuomi that only one tank had anchovies and they were mostly to chum.  The other 2 had sardines.  Whew!  (Note to self, get in some clothespin practice with that 196)  It was great to see familiar faces on the boat.  Capt. Steve Kugler was going to be running the trip.  Will, who was in the galley last summer, was on deck with Anthony and Ben.  Kairi would manage the galley.

Capt. Steve gives the trip briefing

Capt. Steve gives the trip briefing

Capt. Steve gave his trip briefing and said we’d be spending the following day in the 65-70 mile zone south of San Diego.  We’d look for kelps and other visual signs targeting yellowtail and bluefin tuna.  He recommended rigging up with 30-40 lb test and Size 2 (for anchovies) or 2/0 hooks (for sardines).  I brought 3 rigs…one with straight 30 mono, another with 40 lb braid to a 5 foot topshot of 30 lb. fluoro, and a 40 lb rig.  My plan was to fish the 30 lb mono rig, put a jig on the 40 lb. rig for the slide or if we marked fish deep (or if things got stupid), and have the 30 lb. fluoro setup ready if the mono wasn’t working.

The next morning I woke up around 5:30 and we were getting ready to start fishing.  We were around 70 miles out when we put out trolling rigs and it wasn’t long before we had the first stop of the day on a jig strike.  It was a bonita.  We threw on it and the stop yielded 5 more yellowtail.  Decent start to the day.

5 yellows and a bone in the kill box

5 yellows and a bone in the kill box

The second stop yielded 2 yellows and so the morning went…stop on a kelp or a jig strike, pick off a few fish, start over.  For whatever reason, I wasn’t feeling completely comfortable and I didn’t get bit.  It’d been awhile since the Mother’s Day Massacre, and a lot more squid than sardines I guess.  Finally, on the 3rd stop, I got bit.  We found a nice kelp and drifted on it.  I was one of the first guys out and got bit quickly.  My fish ran into the kelp though and eventually I had to break off my line.  Sucks for me, but it was a nice 10 fish stop for the boat.

We had one more stop that yielded a dorado, but nothing else.  At this point, it was my turn to get on the trolling rotation.  A lot of the time, I find myself looking back, watching the trolling lines, stick in hand and waiting to hear “Hook up!”  Since I was on the trolling rotation though, I found myself looking forward as I sat on the rail by my line and chatting with the other 3 anglers in the rotation.  I noticed far ahead of us a large boat that was not a sportboat.  As we neared the area, it was apparent that the boat was some sort of service vessel and it was watching over some tuna pens.  Yes!  While not a fan of the pens themselves, I observed 2 years ago that fishing the pens was a fruitful exercise.  Not literally casting within the pens, but drifting alongside them.  Apparently the free fish, are drawn to the penned fish.  Finding the pens made it easy to locate fish.  As we drew near though, we could see that they’d created a perimeter around the pens…buoys connected by thick cables to prevent boats from accessing the area.  To add insult to injury, there was a huge kelp within the perimeter as well.  Grrr!

IMG_0557We kept going.  You could almost feel the air deflate out of the collective boat bubble.  Then we noticed something swimming on the surface off the port bow.  I spotted it and thought it was 2 sharks, but as we got closer, you could see that the 2 fins belonged to one animal…it was a large swordfish.  The crew estimated it was at least 500 lbs. and maybe as big as 700 lbs.!  We were able to pull within 20 feet of it.  Ben rigged one of the trolling rods with a large hook and pinned on a big greenback mackerel that was mixed in with the sardines.  He threw on the big sword, but it wasn’t interested in our offering.  It was probably a good thing.  Had Ben been successful, we would’ve easily lost 2 hours fighting the gigantic beast.

We fished hard the rest of the afternoon and into the evening.  It was 8 before we finally called it quits, just 15 yellowtail short of a boat limit.  I personally boated 7, but lost several to tangles, and the one that got wrapped in the kelp.  I was appreciative of how hard the crew worked.  Steve pushed ’til we lost light.  The rest of the guys did amazing work untangling lines and gaffing fish.  Kairi’s food was top notch as usual.  Despite the lack of tuna, it was a good trip.  I ended up winning jackpot with the one fish that I thought was a tuna.  I paid out my tab and gave the rest to the crew.  Thanks to crew of the Eclipse for a good day on the water.  We got in early Tuesday morning and they turned right around for another 1.5 day trip.  When they returned on Thursday, they had gotten 91 bluefin!  Dang…I was right about the boat being due for a big tuna score, but I missed it by one trip.  I’ll be back.  Tight lines!

Adrian had his 14th birthday on the boat, and got his limit of 5 yellows.  No hook and hands!

Adrian had his 14th birthday on the boat, and got his limit of 5 yellows. No hook and hands!

 

 

 

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