IMG_5485This trip has been on the calendar for a long time.  It started back in early June when I was asked to host a 2 day charter for Western Outdoor News aboard the Ranger 85.  Great time!  I loved the boat and enjoyed meeting the crew and anglers fishing aboard the boat.  The Ranger was getting ready to wrap up their northern season and head south to San Diego for the offshore portion of their year.  I knew I wanted to experience offshore fishing on this boat and put together a deal with the owner/operator, Frank Ursitti.  I enlisted the help of my buddy Mike Abenoja of USA Sportfishing – Trip Finder to promote the trip.  I secured a top flight group of sponsors: AFTCO, Costa Sunglasses, Shimano Fishing, Get Some Lubricants, One Cool Tuna Line Labels, and Megabait Lures.  Together, we sold it out months in advance.

In the ensuing months, I went about fishing up and down the coast – focusing mainly on the offshore bite.  All the trips were shorter, but memorable…half day on the New Seaforth, 3/4 day on the Spitfire, overnight on the Pacific Islander.  Considering how much time we’d have on the Ranger trip, who knows what sort of exotics we might find.  As it turned out, we needed every bit of time scheduled for the trip, but not in the way I had anticipated…

Day 1

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Capt. Alex holds the lone Day 1 dodo

Rough seas…according to our buddy Chris Dunn, The Fishing Weatherman, Friday was supposed to be the windy day and Saturday was supposed to be the transition day that the sea settled out.  As it turned out, Chris’ prediction was off one day.  The ride out Friday night was rough and it continued into Saturday.  When Capt. Alex Edwards gave the trip briefing Friday night, he still didn’t know where we were headed.  Reports were spotty.  Some boats went north and caught near San Clemente Island.  Others went southwest and had mild success.  He was going to get on the radio after the briefing, check some buoy information and make the final call.

When we started trolling the next morning in grey light, we were somewhere SW of the 302…due west from the Coronado Islands, just over 60 miles out from San Diego.  The sea was pretty angry.  Big groundswell and whitecaps everywhere.  Despite the conditions though, we had an early jig stop.  I was just getting into a Chef Paul breakfast burrito when the first rotation yelled “Hookup!”  I ran out, put a bait in the water and was immediately bit.  Only a skippy, but a decent way to start the day with 14 yellowfin and my skipjack.  Unfortunately, that stop ended up being the bulk of action for the day.  The only other action was a single rat yellow “jig strike” (if you can call it that) and then a paddy stop as the sun was getting ready to set.  Two dorado were hooked and one was lost.  My buddy Glenn hooked a small yellowtail that he released.  Thankfully though, the ocean settled out over the course of the day and we had sponsor prizes to raffle off and keep everyone engaged.  Patrick Lewis of Fresno battled it out with Ranger regular Chris Griffin to win the Day 1 AFTCO sponsored prize package.  Chris ended up taking it with the biggest yellowfin from the morning stop.

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Day 2

Found one, nothing on it

Found one, nothing on it

Day 2 started off better in terms of the conditions.  The ocean was pleasant and after some morning clouds, the sun came out.  Being a 2.5 day trip, it meant we’d have the entire day to fish, returning home the following morning.  We’d need it.  We started out by where we had the previous day’s morning jig stop.  Alex thought about heading up to Clemente, but the boats fishing there didn’t have much luck either.  There were 3 boats fishing the same general area as we did on Saturday.  Only one of them (the Daiwa Pacific) found any fish.  They got 90 yellowfin and 80 of them came on one jig stop.  Because the conditions were better, spotting kelps (or birds etc.) was easier.  Only problem, none of them were holding.  We literally drove all day, occasionally stopping on a kelp or just trolling by.  One kelp yielded one small dodo.  It was frustrating.

Finally, very late in the day, Alex got called in by another boat.  They needed to get home and were leaving biting fish on a paddy.  We rolled up on it and immediately dodos could be seen below the water’s surface.  Mayhem ensued.  After almost 2 days with little actual fishing time, protocol went out the door.  People were casting at random to just try and put a bait in play.  The fish didn’t cooperate either, swimming in every direction when hooked.  A tangled mess was the inevitable result.  For the 10 minutes or so that they stayed with the boat, I casted 3 baits, hooked 3 fish, and landed zero.  Each fish was lost to either my line getting sawed off or my line getting cut in the midst of a tangle.  It was brutal.  The boat fared well though getting 37.  All I really wanted out of this trip was a dodo…FML 🙁

Kill box after the dodo stop

Kill box after the dodo stop

After that fiasco, I decided that I would not be the victim of getting my line sawed off if I had another opportunity.  I had just gotten a Seeker 909 to use as a popper rod.  I paired it with my Abu Revo Toro 50 loaded with 65lb. Power Pro, and topped it with a short topshot of 50 mono.  I snipped off the topshot, replaced it with 50 lb. fluoro and tied on a 3/0 circle hook.  I also cut off the Flat Fall jig I borrowed from Mike and put a hook on my 40 lb. rig as a backup.

Sunlight was fading fast.  I could feel the door closing on the trip quickly.  With the sun low on the horizon though, we got one more break.  A large pod of jumping dolpins was spotted.  We sped up to catch up to them.  Once we got on them it was clear they were feeding.  Hopefully, a school of tuna was below them pushing up the bait they were feeding upon.  We trolled through them as everyone waited by the bait tanks, rods in hand, ready.  HOOKUP!!!  All 4 lines went off.  I might have been the first in the water with a bait.  I threw off the starboard corner and was bit immediately.  I followed my fish up the rail.  People were trying to drop in, in front of me.  “Please don’t!  I’m on a fish!”  The combo handled the fish easily.  I had it up circling by the time I was midway to the bow.  I was so intent on the fish, I don’t even remember who stuck it, but when it hit the deck I exhaled.  It was a nice grade of fish…20+ easily.  The back deck was chaos, so I took the fish up myself to the bow to tag it and drop it in the kill box.   When I returned to bait up, some semblance of order had been restored.  People were dropping in at the starboard/stern corner and shuffling across the stern and up the port side.  I casted next to my buddy Glenn Allen.  We were shuffling along when he got bit and our lines crossed.  I didn’t want to saw him off, so I was trying to untangle our lines when the lady angler to his right grabbed his rod and proceeded to macrame all 3 lines into a tangled mess with 2 fish pulling on it.  I didn’t want to do her any favors, but to help save Glenn’s fish I cut my line and with it about a 1/3 of the braid on my spool.  Grrrr.  It was a good thing I had the 40 lb. rig ready.  I baited it up and got back in the water.  I got bit and quickly landed a smaller yellowfin.

When the dust settled, we caught up with the school again for one last round.  At this point, with the 2 yellowfin (and the skippy) in the hold, I relaxed and decided to play a bit.  Instead of messing with the mayhem on the back deck, I stayed on the bow and threw the bigger popper I had on my 9ft Teramar jig stick.  No love and that was it for the trip.  Final count: 66 yellowfin and 39 dorado for 31 anglers.  Not a great trip, but I was very appreciative of the crew’s work to get the fish that we got.  In comparison to the other boats fishing the same weekend, we scratched together a very respectable count.

Thanks again to Frank Ursitti and his excellent crew on the Ranger 85.  Capts. Alex and Ricky worked tirelessly to find us fish.  Chef Paul kept us well fed in the galley (the reuben sandwiches were bomb.com!).  Deckhands Nick, Steve and Ryan worked hard to make sure we got as many fish as possible into the boat.  Thanks again to all our great sponsors: AFTCO, Costa Sunglasses, Shimano Fishing, Get Some lubricants, One Cool Tuna line labels, and Megabait Lures.  Thanks to my buddy Mike of USA Sportfishing – Trip Finder for all his help in putting this trip together.  Thank you to all the salties who came out to fish with us on this trip.  Despite the tough fishing, I hope you all had a good time and will join us again.  Tight lines!

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