Capt. Bill Cavanaugh

Capt. Bill Cavanaugh

I have to travel for work on Sunday, so I took a midweek day off to get in a fix.  Wednesday night, I left work in Santa Monica and headed north to Ventura.  I arrived just after 8pm to check in for an overnight ride on the Amigo, out of Ventura Sportfishing.  The boat has been doing well since owner Greg Ewart acquired the boat and moved it up from Newport Landing in March.  They were on the seabass and yellowtail, and then about a week ago, they scored the first tuna from a boat based in the 805.  Since then, they’ve steadily posted consistent tuna catches.  The counts haven’t been huge, but the quality has been outstanding…50, 60, 70 lb. fish.  It was enough to make me want to check it out firsthand.

As I was checking in, I met Capt. Bill Cavanaugh.  For the trip, I would be joined by 19 other anglers looking offshore to get on the pelagics.  The boat was already tanked with live sardines and anchovies.  Good looking ‘dines, 3-6 inches.  Much nicer looking than the huge horse baits I’ve been seeing further south.

Once underway, Bill gathered us in the galley.  He introduced the crew: 2nd capt. Sean, Larry and Nick on deck, and Lacie handling galley duties.  It was good to see a familiar face in Larry, who I’ve previously fished with numerous times on the Pacific Islander.  After the intros and safety briefing, Bill went over the fishing plans.  We’d start fishing right around first light.  Recommended rig was a 2/0 hook, on 40, with a rubber band sinker rig using 4 oz. of weight.  After rigging up, I settled into my bunk.


First fish!

Around 4:30am, the boat stopped.  We were just south of Santa Barbara Island.  Bill said he was marking fish.  I let everyone else rush out to the rail.  I needed to gather myself.  It was still dark.  The almost full moon was still out.  I paused.  I noticed a big, fat greenback in one of the handwells.  Hmmm it’s still dark, I’m going to go big…60, 6/0 ringed hook, and the big mack.

And now we wait.  It was quiet.  I could see the lights of another boat 100 yards or so off our stern.  I watched the moon drop into the ocean.  After 5, the sky slowly started to light up.  My mack was still healthy and swimming.  Suddenly, he started getting real active.  Oh…death shudder.  Fresh one!  I was the first one to get bit, but I watched each rod on the stern with me get bent immediately after.  Fishing the big string, I made quick work of the fish.  It was a nice one.

And then that quickly it was over.  We did well as a group…10 landed for 12 hookups.  Nice grade of fish too, call it 30-55 lbs.

We got on the move and proceeded to do the normal offshore thing.  What was different though is the boat didn’t have trolling gear.  It was open trolling though if you brought your own.  Note to self – bring trolling setup.  A few guys brought some gear and I hung by the rail ready to deploy a jig or a bait on the slide if they connected.  Most of the morning was a bust.  Empty kelps.  Sonar stops with no biters.  We finally happened on a paddy that was holding.  Two of the guys trolling connected with dodos as we trolled by.  I casted a bait and placed it about 10 feet from the paddy.  I’m bit.  Fresh!  I made short work of an about 8 lb. yellow and bounced it.  Another angler connected with a dodo on bait.

It was starting to get late in the day.  With about an hour and a half left of fishing time, Capt. Bill made a call to go work in close to Santa Barbara Island and see if we couldn’t fill some sacks.  He said we’d drift in search of yellows, but there would also be bonito.  We could also work the bottom if we so desired.


That damn fish on a tuna trip?

First couple of drifts, I decided to see if I could score on surface iron.  Nothing doing.  At this point, I wasn’t interested in getting another yellow if it didn’t want to eat the plug.  Getting a ling though, on a day I caught tuna…now that would be cool.  I tied a longish loop (18 inches?) on my 30 lb. setup using a Spider Hitch.  I didn’t want to get caught with my pants down if I got picked up by a yellow.  It ended up being a good call.

I dropped in to the bottom, while most of the rest of the boat was flylining sardines…focused on catching yellows.  If that didn’t work out, they were catching bonito.  The bait was getting pretty low at this point, not many sardines…mostly chove.  It’s a good thing my buddy Larry was working the bait tank and looking out for me.  “Joe.  Here you go.”  It was a nice little mint green sardine.  Underhand flip opposite the drift and I worked it back to the boat.  Whack.  Nice bendo.  Not a tail, but something good.  Turned out to be about an 8 lb. sheephead.  It wasn’t a ling, but a good bottomfish score to go with the tuna.

IMG_8277I continued working the bottom.  More anglers followed suit.  At this point though, we were fishing chovies almost exclusively.  Larry called me over again  Another nice dine.  I’ll put you to good use.  Flipped it out and worked it back to the boat.  I’m bit.  This time it was heavy.  Really heavy.

The day was almost over and had gone slow.  Bill had started up the engines and was ready to go.  Hold fire, I’m working on something over here 😉  I couldn’t tell what it was.  It kept nosing down and we pretty much were at a stalemate.  Short pump, get in a turn of the reel.  He’d take it right back.  I don’t know how long it lasted this way, but it wasn’t going to go easy.  After awhile though of just pulling hard and keeping the pressure on, it started to tire and I gained line.  I’ve got you now.  Larry was next to me, gaff at the ready.  The fish started circling up and I laid him out.  Larry stuck him.  Fatty.  Larry pegged it at 35 lbs.

That was the day.  I’ve never been on a ride before with a count like this: 1 Lingcod, 10 Yellowfin Tuna, 3 Dorado, 2 Cabezon, 21 Rockfish, 32 Pacific Bonito, 4 California Yellowtail, 2 California Sheephead, 1 California Barracuda, 2 California Scorpionfish.  It was a really fun experience.  My yellowfin ended up taking JP and I gave it to the crew.  Thanks to Capt. Bill Cavanaugh and the crew of Amigo Sportfishing.  I really enjoyed the ride.  I’ll definitely be back.  Tight lines!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.





Tags: , , , , , , , , ,