Up until this past year, my experience fishing aboard a party boat was limited… Though I had gone on a number of half-day trips, I hadn’t experienced longer range boats like 3/4 and overnight trips to fish in Mexican waters for pelagic species. At the start of the summer of 2017 decided that I really wanted to invest time, money and effort targeting dorado, yellowtail, yellow fin tuna and blue fin tuna. Not knowing much about fishing for these species, it isn’t surprising that I didn’t have much success. As the season started to wind down, I knew my opportunities were dwindling. Thankfully before the season ended, the stars aligned and I managed three offshore fishing firsts…
1. First yellow fin tuna.
2. First fish on a Flat Fall jig.
3. First saltwater fish over 10 lbs.
I have to admit, I didn’t actually like my chances. With 54 anglers on this 3/4 day boat joining me on the water, I envisioned a frustrating afternoon attempting to stay out of the typical tangled mess that arises on cattle boats in these situations. Despite my misgivings and the high number of novice fishermen aboard (even more so than myself), the party brought in 115 Yellow Fin Tuna and 22 Skip Jack Tuna.
The first stop after reaching the fishing grounds near the Coronado Islands yielded just a handful of yellow fin tuna… perhaps 5 or 6 were brought over the rail in 40 minutes. After the bite died down, the captain made the call to look elsewhere for a bigger school. We motored around looking for kelp paddies for about four hours without much luck. Finally, another boat invited us to poach their spot and the bite was fast and furious for about 2 hours.
I pinned on a fresh sardine on my light rig (Diawa Saltist with 60# braid and 20# topshot paired with a Shimano Tevala rod) and was hit almost the instant the bait hit the water. With the lighter line and drag setting, I played the fish in probably longer than necessary, but I didn’t want to lose my first ever yellow fin. After about 15 minutes, I was able to bring it up to the surface, allowing a deckhand to gaff my fish.
First fish in my bag, I quickly decided to size up my rig and grabbed my medium rig (Avet SX 5.3 with 60# braid and 30# topshot on a Shimano Trevala rod) and pinned another sardine on the hook. I threw my bait into a boil and was rewarded with a strong take. This fish was slightly bigger as it peeled off line deep into my braided spool. It took me another 10 minutes to put this yellow fin on the deck but it was an exciting fight (these fish fight hard and makes me wonder how much harder blue fin struggle once hooked).
Over the next hour, the bite had slowed and as other fishermen became desperate, they seemed to forget the basics. I saw the crowds at the back of the boat and decided I wanted no part of the scrum and moved off toward the front where there was more room and less likely chances of being sidelined for a time as the deckhands tried to untangle the inevitable mess that was common in the back of the boat. After a few more fruitless casts, I grabbed my heavy set up (Penn Fathom Single-Speed Lever Drag with 65# braid and 40# topshot on a Trevala rod) and tied on a Shimano Buterffly flat fall jig (80g) in Black Anchovy. I dropped straight down and reeled up quickly through the water column. I did this maybe three times when I felt weight pulling back. Despite the fish taking off under the boat I managed to pull back and to the surface, though it did take me 15 minutes.
Third fish on the deck, I went back to my light rig and continued to toss out sardines until the captain called it after about 2 hours. We began the process of finding fish again, but nothing stuck and we motored around for another 2 hours without success until we headed back toward home. So in the 13 hour trip… 10.5 hours were spent either traveling to, around, or back from the fishing grounds… and only 2.5 hours were spent actually fishing.
I assume this is normal, but I can’t say i wasn’t disappointed. All the more reason to get my own boat.