IMG_5340Earlier this year, I started doing some writing for the CISCO’s blog on their website.  In the course of doing that job, I’ve had the opportunity to spend some time chatting with some of the captains up there.  With each of them, we talked about the potential of 2014 being an El Nino year.  I asked them about their experiences with past El Ninos.  Capt. Bobby Valney of the Seabiscuit told me about catching yellowfin and striped marlin within sight of Santa Cruz island.  Capt. Frank Ursitti told me about catching dorado by the Anacapa Arch.  As this year has progressed and we saw exotics march up the line, the potential of being able to tell those kinds of stories myself has been an opportunity I’ve been dying to have.  This week I got my opportunity.

Sunday night (Sept. 14), I boarded the Pacific Islander for an offshore trip.  The Mirage broke the dam open at the landing scoring tuna, yellowtail and a dorado on an overnight trip fishing on Sunday, Sept. 7th.  The PI followed suit on their inaugural offshore trip on Sept. 9th.  It wasn’t a big hit, but respectable (20 yft, 3 skipjack, 7 yt).  The big hit came the next day on the 10th…132 yellowfin!  In the immediate days prior to my trip, the weather kicked up, forcing the boat to stay home and rockfish.  Anxiety…what would this trip have in store?

IMG_5347I boarded with 23 other anglers.  It was good to see some familiar faces.  There was a tank of sardines and the rest of the bait tanks were filled with nice sized anchovies.  While everyone was getting settled in, 2nd Capt. Dan Russell was rigging trolling setups…definitely a different vibe for this trip than the rockfishing trips that I’ve enjoyed aboard this boat.  Capt. Steve Virtue gave the trip briefing, confirming we were headed offshore.  “Let’s kill some fish!”

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The next morning we started trolling at first light.  I asked Capt. Steve later where we were and he said we were about 65 miles southwest of home port.  Wow!  That’s a lot of miles.  I already had 2 bait setups rigged – a 40 fluoro and a 20 fluoro.  I figured I’d go heavy to start and drop down once the sun was up.  I took time to have some breakfast and waited.  We came up on a paddy and gave it a go.  Nothing and we moved on.  Came up on another one soon after and it was game on immediately.  We were right up on it and the initial yield was small yellowtail.  I got one that barely put a bend in my rod and didn’t pull drag.  I reeled it in, shook it off the hook, and got back in.

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Photo credit Laura Hohensee

As we drifted further away from the kelp, we started getting into some yellowfin.  The bite was strong and there were some nicer size fish in the mix.  Problem was I wasn’t getting bit.  I changed out my setup to the 20 lb. rig that I had used effectively the last time out on the Spitfire trip.  It was the right call.  I immediately got bit.  It took awhile to bring it in because there were several lines tangled on mine.  I was patient though and let the crew sort it out.  When the smoke cleared, it was a nice 20+ lb. fish that Capt. Steve stuck a gaff in.

At this point, we had drifted a ways off the kelp.  The bite had slowed, but it was enough of a plunker to keep at it for awhile.  With a fish in the sack, I decided to try my luck with the new popper setup I brought…a Seeker 909, Abu Revo Toro 50, spooled with 65lb. braid and tipped with a 50 lb. leader.  Ron Briggs joined me on the bow while the other anglers were on the long soak.  I liked the extra distance I was getting with the new rod, but I didn’t get any love.  After about 30 minutes, I could sense Steve was ready to move back on the kelp and try it again.  I was putting away my rod when I noticed Ron behind me.  He was bent!  Then just that quickly it was gone.  What happened Ron?  “It was a nice fish that was hooked on the middle treble, but the ring pulled out.”  Heartache 🙁

Steve moved back on the kelp, but it was only small yellows this time around.  The tuna had moved on.  We had a couple more stops before heading back in, but just more small yellows.  Final tally, 15 yellowfin and a bunch of small yellows for 24 anglers.  It was a bummer that we didn’t find them again, but I was happy to get the one.  I can now say I scored a tuna on my favorite rockfishing boat.  Thanks to Capt. Steve and his excellent crew for providing that opportunity.  Tight lines!

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