eclipse_drone_sternBack when we were still giddy this year about the monster bluefin that were around, Capt. Mark Gillette of Eclipse Sportfishing reached out to me.  “Joe, you should really think about putting a trip together for San Martin Island come Fall.”  Really…why?  “Big yellows that will test you like no other.  Just make sure you bring 50 and 60 lb. rigs.  No joke.  And there’s a good chance some of those high spots there or at Colonet will be holding wahoo.”

Intriguing.  I’d never gone to San Martin.  It’s over a 100 miles south of San Diego, just off the coast of Northern Baja Mexico.  I’ve fished every island in the Southern California bight.  They all have “that thing” that makes them special.  I’m always up for a new fishing experience.  My buddy Michael Abenoja of USA Sportfishing stepped up to help me promote the trip.  Mike and I lined up some awesome sponsors – AFTCO, Izorline, Fish Dope, United CompositesJRI Custom Lures, Damiki USA, and Get Some Products.

Ok Mark, game on.

A week and a half before the trip, we didn’t have enough people to get off the dock, but in the end we managed to get out with the full (limited) load of 24 anglers.

We had the all star crew for this trip…Capt. Mark Gillette leading the way, with Capts. Steve Kugler and Adam Williams sharing driving and deck duties; Chewie and Tyler on deck, and “replacement” chef Kenny Kato on loan from the Royal Polaris.  We left Thursday, Oct. 15th with full tanks of both sardines and anchovy.  Whatever we might run into out there, we’d have the right ammo.

To give you an idea of how this trip started, I had to remind everyone that the departure was at 4pm (vs. the normal 6-9pm).  The reason for the early start was we would start the trip targeting wahoo immediately upon leaving the marina.  The buzz of our endeavor grew even stronger when we learned the Legend scored 29 wahoo earlier in the day in the same zone we were headed to.

It was surreal to be preparing for wahoo fishing inside of 3/4 day range.  I brought a special wahoo trolling lure (island style “ono” rig from Gaji Lures, rigged with staggered hooks by my buddy John Anjard).  Seeing what the crew had prepared though, I put it away.  Mark had gone all out dragging a small fortune in wahoo lures behind the boat.  We gave it a few laps in the target zone before losing light, but ended up blanking on the effort.  We had to settle for the consolation prize of an Asian stirfry shrimp and noodle dinner from chef Kenny before settling in for the night.

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Friday, Oct 16th

eclipse_YFTThe next day I awoke to find us on the move.  There was an open troll happening on deck.  I opted for coffee and breakfast.  It was a bit sporty out, so I wasn’t in a hurry to get out there.  Chef Kenny prepared my favorite breakfast of fried rice and a couple over easy eggs, so it was an easy choice.

Fortified for the battle, I went out and finished rigging the rest of my gear (I only rigged a wahoo bomb the previous evening).  I brought 6 setups (and 2 extra reels).  I had 30 and 40 lb. bait setups, the bomb, a Flatfall setup, a popper setup and the trolling setup in reserve.

The trip down was mostly non-eventful.  We managed to get a couple nice yellowfin on blind jig strikes, but it was mostly empty paddies for the ride down.

We arrived in the Colonet area sometime mid-morning and briefly slowed down to take a look around.  Mark didn’t find what he was looking for and we quickly moved on toward San Martin.  It wasn’t until around lunchtime (and more of Kenny’s cuisine) before we arrived in our target area.  We settled into a drift in an area called the 6 Fathom Spot, a few miles off the island.  It is a shallow reef area and known yellowtail zone.  Mark warned to fish no less than 40 lb. and recommended going 50 or even 60 with a yoyo jig.  Wow, really?  I deployed one of the JRI 6T’s (similar to a 6x Jr) yoyo jigs in a white with mint sides pattern on my yoyo setup (65 braid to a short 50 mono topshot).  The current was ripping.  Mark said the fish were marking right on the bottom and I didn’t have a lot of confidence that I was getting down where I needed to be.  It was slow for the boat to start as well.  After one particular drop in, the angle of my line was far out from being vertical.  I reeled it all the way back.

 

eclipse_izor_YTEveryone was still yo-yo-ing, so I decided to change it up and go with a modified dropper setup (barrel knot) to account for these stronger fish.  It was a good call.  I put on 3 in quick succession.  The rest of the boat noticed and followed suit fishing the dropper.  We put on 40+ fish in what Mark later told me is usually a morning bite spot.  While fighting one fish, Mark was at my side with the gaff ready.  “If it’s biting like this now, we’ll put on 200 fish tomorrow.”

The fish were in the say 15-25 lb. class, but you could tell they were homeguard fish from the dark green coloring of their backs.  These fish could really fight.  At one point, I went with my heaviest (60 lb., my trolling combo) setup, almost full drag buttoned down, and still lost the fish to the reef below.  My line came back frayed.  Mark later told me his theory was these fish are constantly fighting the stiff current and adapt to it by getting stronger…similar to boiler rock calicos.  The trick was to get on them immediately and get their head turned or lose them in the rocks.

When the bite subsided, we made our way into a cove at San Martin to settle in for the night.  After dinner, some of us amused ourselves catching barracuda and bonito.  One sandbass found a hook.  We also were entertained watching flying fish escape the inevitable sea dog that found our resting spot.  We even saw some needlefish in the water.  Tomorrow would be a fun day…

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