The Chief

The Chief

Last Sunday (Sept. 15) I made record time getting down to San Diego.  I had the kids for the weekend and dropped them off with their mom at 6pm.  Just after 7:30, I was at H&M Landing to board The Chief for 2 days of offshore fishing on a 976-Tuna charter.  I met my buddies Vance and Randy at the landing.  They’d been in San Diego all day planning to get in some dock/jetty fishing prior to our trip.  Instead they got sidetracked at Club Anjard (my buddy John’s garage).  John outfitted them with some gear to fill the holes in their lineup.  Everyone was pumped and ready to get onboard and kill some fish.

Always cool to see a captain oversee the bait

Always cool to see a captain oversee the bait

We boarded the boat and signed in with 28 other anglers.  After a stop at the bait receiver, we gathered in the galley for a trip briefing with 2nd captain Scooter.  First he introduced the crew, Capt Chris Randel, deckhands – Jeff, Tommy and Jake, and Ian & Armand running the galley.  I’d fished before with Capt. Chris on his old boat, The Indian.  It was a good trip for me (won jackpot), so I was looking forward to fishing with him again.  After introducing the crew, Scooter previewed the trip.  He said we’d be going long, 120-130 miles south, by San Martin Island.  They had just come in from another trip and had success in that zone.  Scooter said these fish weren’t line shy.  He recommended fishing 40 and using 3/0 hooks.  Prior to the trip, my buddy John had just come off a trip on the El Capitan as second captain and told me the same thing.  Fishing 40 was my plan going in, but it was good to get confirmation based on this crew’s experience as well.  This information made rigging up easy.  Prior to the trip I put fresh line on my reels.  I dumped my spools, reeled them back tight and tied on a hook on my 30 and 40lb rigs.  Done.

I was up around 5:30 the next morning.  Still dark.  No one was on deck.  I poured myself a cup of coffee and finished rigging up.  I tied a Tady 4/0 on the 50 rig.  I’d keep that ready if Chris said there were marks deep below the boat.  On the trolling rig, I tied on the flying fish looking setup that John made.  I went to brush my teeth.  By the time I came back out, Vance was on deck.  He tied on another trolling rig that John made and when the sun came out, we put them in the water.  We managed over an hour trolling before they started the regular rotation, but no takers.

After 11, we made the first stop of the day and setup a drift on a kelp.  I was able to get a hot bait in the water quickly and was immediately rewarded.  Fresh one!  Not a big pull.  Yellowtail.  Bounced it and jumped back in line, but it was over fairly quickly.  Not a bad first stop though…12 fish.  Vance was lucky and got one of the 2 yellowfin picked up on the initial stop.

As the day progressed, we continued to find kelps and get nice little stops out of them.  There was one that we drifted 3 times and it produced some nice fish.  A few dodos entered the mix, including a necktie size one that I picked up.  Juj really wanted me to get at least one of her favorite fish to eat, so I sheepishly kept it.

Deckhand Tommy with one of the nicer dodos

Deckhand Tommy with one of the nicer dodos (Photo courtesy of 976-Tuna)

It was getting later in the afternoon…maybe 3 or 4 when on a drift I got picked up by what was clearly a larger model fish.  Finally, the right kind.  I was fishing off the stern when it hit me and the usual crowd was to my right stacked up at the corner.  I tried to keep my fish away from it as long as I could, but it eventually took me into the middle of it.  Deckhand Jeff was next to me at this point and helped me navigate through it all.  Whew.  I eventually ended up on the bow when I got it to the surface and Jeff gaffed it.  Nice model yellowfin!  I quickly got back in the water and got picked up again.  Felt like the right kind.  Same deal.  Took me up the rail and ended up on the bow.  Got it to color and this time Jake stuck it.  Slightly bigger bluefin!

My yellowfin

My yellowfin (Photo courtesy 976-Tuna)


Vance’s YFT (Photo courtesy 976-Tuna)

As I was bringing my blue back to the killbox, I noticed Vance was hooked up.  I lost track of him as the fish took him up the rail, but shortly he came back holding his fish.  Nicer yellowfin.  It ended up being the most productive tuna stop of the trip.  Unfortunately after that stop, the weather kicked up.  When a big wave hit, you had to hold one hand on the rail.  At one point, it was so bad that waves were coming over the rail!  Well, it killed the bite.  We got one more troll fish as it was getting dark to bring the Day 1 total to exactly 100 mixed fish.

Day 2

As we ate dinner, we made our way back up the line.  We’d be fishing the second day at 70-80 mile  range in order to maximize time on the water.  Thankfully, we left the bad weather behind us.  The next morning, I was slow getting going.  It was already 8am, and I was still below deck.  The boat stopped on a jig strike.  Great!  I rushed upstairs.  Randy had spent pretty much the entire Day 1 sick.  I was pleased to see him on deck and hooked up.  He told me later that he had thrown a bait quickly on the slide.  The guy immediately to his right got hooked up and he got bent right after.  It was his first ever tuna of any kind.  Nice job Randy!

Inexplicably, now that we had left the bad weather behind us, we had difficulty finding kelps.  We were also really low on bait at this point.  During the big swells, a lot of it rolled.  As a result, when we did find a kelp, if it didn’t immediately kick out, we quickly moved on.  If you didn’t get bit on one bait, you rarely had an opportunity to fish another one 🙁

Still, we found some quality fish.  The eventual jackpot winner was a Day 2 casualty…a bigger yellowfin maybe north of 40 lbs.  Eventually we ran out of time, but not before the final total was over 200 fish.  All in all, a solid outing.  It was great to fish offshore with Vance and Randy.  Randy got his first tuna.  Finally got to meet one of my facebook friends, Big Gabe and his wife Betty, who were the 976 chartermasters.  Thank you to the crew of the Chief.  I never fished the boat when it was the Big Game 90, but it’s a nice platform.  Very wide beam, so lots of room to fish.  Nicely remodeled.  Lots of storage space.  Full showers! (wish I brought a towel)  Thanks to Captain Chris Randel and his crew, and to 976-Tuna for a good trip.  Tight lines!



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