The first trip of the decade was another Senor Tuna success story combining great weather, great fishing, great people, and a few great surprises. It almost goes without saying that fishing is a gamble and you never know what you are going to get, but this was another jackpot weekend of great well-rounded fishing memories. I met up with George, Kenji, and Mark T at the tailgate around 4:30 and very soon after we had a good group of excited anglers chowing down on an awesome spread of munchies and beer.
As usual, Captain Mark was ready to go early so we packed up and made our way onto the boat, but we were still waiting for our final groups of anglers to show up and we ended up leaving just a little bit behind schedule. No matter, everything was looking good and the weather window really looked promising for the whole weekend. With the big swells and storms both before and forecast for right after the weekend we were really hoping the weather held up the whole time. The game plan was as expected: Head south 150ish miles to Punta Colnett and yoyo for yellows at dawn then fill up on rockfish at the the high spots during day one, then head up the line and hit the shallows for lighter tackle rockfish, bass, sheepheads, etc. Everyone was pumped and many people hit the sack early to get ready for the morning. I myself was in the rack by 8:30, and got great sleep on a very smooth ride down the coast.
Dawn brought an incredible light show as we trained our sights on the horizon:
I did think the old "red in the morning" quote but this was just too cool, it couldn't possibly be a sign of anything bad:
Captain Mark metered around for yellowtail for a while, and we tried our luck on the yoyo but it was just not happening. No schools, no bites, no love on this day. No matter, we had flat calm seas and a very positive group ready to get started on the rock cod. We glided down the coast a few miles and set up on some deep drops to start the morning. 12 or 16 ounces of lead was the order to get down to 350 feet, but there was nearly no current and absolutely no wind so it was no problem. From the first drop everyone started to hook up and the fun began. It was an excellent grade of big reds, grouper, floridas, starries, and some lings. Once everyone got in the groove it was nearly automatic and everyone had a smile on their face. The doubles and triples started coming up before long, and there was hardly a small fish to be seen. Of course there were a lot of those salmon grouper mixed in, but when the quality reds came over the rail it was glorious.
We made a number of drifts through the morning and hit it hard every time. Many people had jigs on bottom and two shrimp flies above it and were hitting triples just by showing some patience and letting the fish load up. By lunch time everyone was satisfied and things were peaceful and relaxed, then out of nowhere I caught sight of a boat coming like a bat out of hell straight for us. I recognized it as a Mexican navy gunboat and watched it approach closer and closer.
The boat came right up to our starboard side and drifted up to within 10 yards of the boat. The captain popped out and signaled to Mark to pick up the radio on channel 16 and we just watched and waited. I was leaning up just outside the galley drinking a cold Pacifico watching and photographing the whole thing, and I am sure those guys had to be jealous of our obvious good time. The gunboat sat next to us for about 10 minutes and we fished the whole time without blinking an eye. Here is another quality double coming over the rail while the navy jefe tries to make sense of this situation.
In the end we never were boarded and we went on with out day ready for more surprises. On our next move we were moving in a few miles closer to the coast and we came upon a few humpback whales. I think it was a mother and a calf, possibly more, and we saw a number of full breaches and all sorts of spray trails. I tried my best to get a picture of the whale out of the water, and we ended up real close to the pod before they sunk out. Mark took us in for a close look and I did get this good pic of the whale saying hello.
We spent the afternoon in shallower water fishing at about 180 feet for whitefish, more reds, starries, and assorted other bottom critters. By sunset everyone had at least a full sack of fish and many had more than that, and the evening was capped off by a perfect New York steak dinner made by Chef Jeff. The fish came out of the hold that evening and the jackpot and Terry C took the win with this big ling cod in the center sticking its fat belly out to show off. Lots of great fish, and even some bonito for those who tried for them. There was a rumor going around that Kenji caught 55 fish on the first day...
We headed north during the night and had another very smooth ride despite some swell. There was nearly no wind and the temperature was just fine, and the swell was spaced out so well that it was really hard to feel it. I heard the anchor drop at 5:30 and I got up on deck to get ready. Sunrise found us just north of Salsipuedes. Once the light came in we could actually see the swells hitting the beach. There was a decent offshore wind that kicked up some awesome spray when the sets slammed the beaches. But we couldn't complain because the swell was so clean and well spaced that it was hardly detectable.
We fished the shallows for a few hours, and it was a little slow but there were brown rockfish and a few sheephead to be caught. After playing the waiting game for a while, we got slammed by three sheephead all at once. These were nice fish and I was lucky enough to get bit hard by a nice goat.
The rest of the morning was slow, many people were already satisfied by the catch yesterday, and we were slowly moving our way up the line. We had the playoffs on TV in the galley with a perfectly clear signal, relaxed fishing, and still more great weather on another sunny day. We made a move out from the shallows to the finger bank and tried a few drifts for mostly small starries, and kept moving north.
And then the last big surprise of the trip: Mark spotted a large group of birds on the surface and started to see bait. As we pulled up there were boils blowing up on the surface and it was on. A big school of bonito was all over us and it was instant chaos on the iron. Everyone who casted anything metal got hooked up and it was a full on red hot tuna bite. And these bonito were no joke, there were some hogs down there, lots of 10-12 pound rockets flying all around the boat and before long it was bloody decks in January.
I didn't have anything rigged for surface action when we pulled up on the school so I quickly tied on a purple mega bait and cast out for a quick hookup on the drop. The fish broke off after only 10 seconds and I lost my jig with it. No problem, I tied on a blue and chrome iron and sent it back out to get hooked up almost instantly again. I pulled this one in after a few minutes, kept on fishing, and it was just what we needed to get spirits up. All around the deck it was "FRESH ONE" "COMIN OUT" "FRRREESSHONNNE" "COMIN OUT" as everyone was casting iron and nailing them. We came out of that bite with more than enough bonito, and Brandon C ended up with 8 fish within a half hour.
The ride home was as smooth as glass and we all were very happy a very eventful and memorable weekend. We spend the afternoon eating, resting, and watching the playoffs all the way home. The only thing that could have made the weekend even more perfect would have been a Chargers win, but it was a choke job instead. Even that couldn't spoil my fun, and that says a lot. We got a little rain on the way in as the storm front started to creep on us, but still no wind and no problem.
Back at Seaforth the coolers were filled to the top as the fish were handed out, extra coolers were needed...no room for ice....what are we going to do with all this bonito....good problems to have. Thanks to all the Senor Tuna gang for making this another incredible experience, thanks to the Pacific Voyager crew as always, and a one of a kind thanks to George for being a one of a kind Chartermaster with mojo to spare.