Monday, September 22, 2008

local Tuna 2008

On September 18, 2008, Isaac, Lizzy and my buddy Brian snuck out to chase tuna. I pulled the kids out of school because the yellowfin are around right now like they haven't been in ten years, so who knows how often we are going to get a shot like this. We left Dana about 6 am on our 24 foot Robalo, "Fish finder" and got three perfect scoops of sardines. We went out in calm conditions and nosed around the 279 on our way to the 209. We found some dolphin that were not above tuna, as well as stopping on some paddies that were not holding anything that we could chum up. We went slow to keep our bait alive and well. We trolled for a while and were outside the 209 when the fish came up around 11:30 am. There were several large pods of swift moving dolphin running up from the 209 towards the 277 and we were able to get in on the action.

The water was about 71 degrees and tuna and dolphin seemed to turn on at midday, when the wind started to come up a little. We were among a smaller group of boats that grew larger as the bite got solid and the radio chatter heated up. Everyone in the area seemed to be cooperative and courteous on the radio, which was nice to hear.

The method we employed was to run around the pods of dolphin and try to set up about 300 yards in the path of what we interpreted as the tightly packed vanguard of the pod, which was usually marked by a fluttering bird pile of white terns, with gulls ranging more on the periphery. We keyed off the terns and if the pod held course and came through the spot where we were, there was a real good shot at multiple hookups as the dolphins blew through us.

We had enough bait that we were able to chum, but it did seem like you either got in their path and got bit, or you had to reel up and give chase to reset your point of interception. We were using 2 oz. rubber core sinkers to get the bait down, 30# line (fluorocarbon at first, but as we lost fish, we just direct tied and still got bit). There were several large pods that seemed to be converging in the same direction and sometimes when we lost one pod of mammals, another one would pop up closer to where we were than where the dolphins we had been chasing had moved. We farmed more than we caught. When we either caught or lost one after a long fight, we had to hustle back up swell and into the wind to get in front of the terns and dolphins and get baits in the lanes they were filling. The fish were closer to the 277 than the 209 by the time we decided we had to go home at 4 pm. We hooked fresh ones at four and then took close to forty minutes to get our last three fish aboard.

By then, the pods of dolphin were 5 miles upwind to the west in increasingly brisk conditions, so we wheeled for Dana from about 31 miles out and left them biting. By then and we had six fat yellowfin in the fish box, so we hardnosed our way back through the windy spray in time to catch a great sunset in front of Doheny, while I cleaned the fish in the lee of the Dana headlands.

I am just too tired and lazy to finish this story, so I will tell you how we sank the boat and had to paddle to shore in a raft made from dead monkeys some other time.

These are the days.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Avalon Tuna and MONKEYS

I took three of my kids - Isaac Sarah, and Lizzy, out to spend a few days at Avalon on our 24 foot Robalo - "Fishfinder." On the way out from Dana Point, we trolled for tuna.  We started tracking a big pod of very active dolphin about three miles past the 279 and worked our way slowly to the front right edge of the most densely packed part of the group.  Several times we got in there and got bit by yellowfin tuna on a natural cedar plug behind an in-line chain of purple and black hex-heads. Lizzy also hung a baitfish. The kids got pretty stoked pulling on these fish, which ranged from 24 to 28 pounds.

When we pulled into Avalon we were able to side tie with our friends and have plenty of sushi and ahi steaks for everyone.

During our stay in Avalon, we noted a trend with respect to the dazzling built-in light shows that are wired into the stern of some of the fancier vessels.  These light systems are multi-colored and give off a psychedelic show below the water line just off the transoms of these imposing dreadnoughts of the ruling class.

Late at night, after we went ashore in our rubber raft to plunder Olaf's for ice-cream, we paddled out to check out the lights on these behemoths.

As we approached from the stern of an 80 footer, we were able to clearly see the Olympics televised on the big screen the occupants were watching from the salon.

After they got drunk and sleepy, they retired to their staterooms.  We then silently boarded their ship from the swim step and raided their leftovers while we watched the gymnasts and Greco-Roman wrestling on their TV for a couple of hours.  It was very relaxing. We loaded up on ice from their bitchen icemaker before we left to get back to our boat.

We didn't realize that they had a pet monkey on board.  This creature stowed away on our raft as we made our escape.  When we realized that it had joined us, we tried to paddle back to return it, but it started to freak and hopped out.  We lost it in the darkness.  By the time we deployed our flashlights to find it, it was floating face down near marker #225.  There was nothing we could do except to drag his sorry little carcass onto the raft and take it back to our little boat.

The kids were a little upset, but they kept their cool.  We stuffed it into the crushed ice with the tuna, slipped our mooring, and headed back to Dana Point under cover of darkness.

We left Avalon at about 4 am and came across a finning mako at the 14 mile bank just at gray light.  We baited the shark by slow trolling the dead monkey behind a "Mean Joe Green" pattern marlin skirt. The shark hit that primate like a freight train and peeled 200 yards of line before we got the boat turned toward it.  The kids took turns pulling on the rig as we chased our prey southeast.

It was a lively battle, but the shark finally spit the monkey after taking us on a Nantucket sleigh ride and jumping clean out of the water three times.  After the head shaking delivered by that mako, there wasn't much left of the monkey, so we just cut it loose and headed home early.

It just goes to show you that some people have everything - even monkeys on boats.  Well, maybe not now.

These are the days.