One difference between having a full time job again vs. not is you have a regular schedule 5 days a week.  No more, “Oooh there’s a hot bite in (fill in the blank).  I think I’ll go tomorrow!”  Nope.  My free weekends are planned ahead now.  Schedule is set solid into June.  

I’ve been talking to Capt. Jeffrey Markland of the Thunderbird at Davey’s Locker Sportfishing for at least a year now.  He is a very well regarded captain amongst his peers.  Capt. Jeff works primarily the islands of San Clemente and Catalina…fertile fishing grounds for a variety of species.  During last summer’s El Loco warm water, the boat posted 100+ tuna days right next to Clemente.  Lately, the boat has been on a steady yellowtail bite with occasional 100 fish days of brilliance.  I didn’t want to wait to give the boat and crew their due, so I sent a correspondent to fish the Tbird on Monday, April 6th.  Tell me what you think about the post.  

IMG_7172Basics: 65ft vessel.  Sleeps 32, with a max fishing load of 48.  Overnight trips (9pm – 7pm daily) to the islands with a current ticket price of $129.  Galley seats 12-14.

Parking: There isn’t any at the landing.  Best bet is to show up with a partner and drop off your gear at the landing, while the other person parks.  Free street parking can be found, but beware of street cleaning days Monday and Tuesday.  As you’re coming down Balboa, turn right on Palm to use the $15 overnight pier parking.

Check-in and Boarding: After checking in for the trip in the office, everyone waits on the side of the office to board.  There isn’t a line per se, so jockey for a spot next to the ramp.  Once on the boat, I found a spot for my gear first, then grabbed a bunk.

Crew: Capt. Markland, 2nd Capt. Bob, Brian and Kevin on deck, and Jake in the galley.

The Trip: Left the dock with 27 anglers.  Shortly after leaving, we stopped at the bait receiver and loaded up with nice, live sardines.  There was also frozen squid.  Once underway, Capt. Jeff told us we’d be going to Clemente.  We’d be on the hunt for yellowtail primarily.  Because of where they were holding, deep on the rockfish grounds, anglers had the option to rockfish at any time if they chose to do so.  We would arrive at Pyramid Cove in the dark, but best to stay in bed until it was light out when we’d commence hunting for yellows.

pyramid sunrise_cropped

Sunrise in the Cove

We rolled into the cove around 3:30am.  I know this because few heeded Capt. Jeff’s advice and stayed in bed.  Most rushed to go on deck.  I stayed in bed and managed another hour of sleep before deciding to get up.  I found a seat in the galley and had some coffee and breakfast.  As I ate inside, I watched exactly zero happen outside in the cold, pre-dawn conditions on deck.

Once the sun came up, we pulled anchor and started hunting.  We went outside and located a school in roughly 180 feet of water.  As we started the first drift, everyone I observed was fishing a heavy jig.  The action was immediate.  The boat went 1 for 2 bites.  A guy fishing just to my left on the bow was one of the ones who got bit, but the fish was lost to a sea lion.  The boated fish was a nice grade though, call it upper teens.  It was encouraging, and it kicked off a plunker bite that ended up lasting all morning…find a school, drop in, get a fish or two in the boat, and move on.  During the morning, I didn’t get bit, by a yellow at least, just a Johnny bass and a bocaccio to show for the effort.

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Deckhand Brian Kelly holds my fish

I got bumped once fishing the jig in the morning.  We were advised that rockfishing was available at any point if we so desired, but encouraged to use the squid as dropper loop sardines would only attract salmon grouper.  At this point, I had abandoned the bow and was hanging out on the stern, casting my jig against the drift.  It was just after noon when I noticed one angler on the stern deploying a dropper loop sardine.  He got bit and got his fish.  Then he did it again and got another.  Other anglers followed suit, me included, kicking off a mini-run that ended up being the high point of the day’s fishing.  I got bit and converted my opportunity during that run.  I also managed a couple nice chuckies fishing the dropper loop ‘dine.

IMG_7187We had another hour and a half or so of fishing left in the day after that run.  I got bit again but wasn’t able to get it.  Immediately I could tell it was a nicer fish.  I was on the stern when it happened.  It took me across the stern and up the starboard rail.  I was about midship when the line popped and the fish was gone.  Busted me off on 40 just after the splice 🙁

Not a bonanza, but a very solid day of fishing in less than ideal conditions (pretty cold and windy).  Final boat count was 29 yellowtail for 27, plus assorted bottom grabbers. Capt. Jeff and his crew were a pleasure the fish with.  The boat was very clean and comfortable.  Food was the standard breakfast burritos and burgers, but good.  Considering the cost and quality of the experience, I’d go again.  Thanks guys for a nice day on the water.




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