Saturday, August 30, 2014

Tunado - fish report for August 26, 2014

Tunado August 26, 2014

We got a chance to get out with Tom Patierno on the Limitless on Tuesday, August 26th. 
 Our crew consisted of Erik, John, Marlon, Rob and your reporter.  Conditions had been excellent, with lots of yellowfin along the border in 74 degree water.  We left Dana Landing at ten, headed over to the bait barge where Tom carefully selected and the crew gently handled our premium sardines.

We motored out beneath a waxing new moon, with forecasts of encountering the leading edge of a hurricane swell on the outside.  Conditions were pretty choppy on the way out. We strung gear and bunked down in our restless anticipation.  We bounced along toward our destiny for the next few hours amidst the twinkling of the outbound fleet.

We got out on deck and started fishing in the darkness, with fly lined sardines, deep jig drops and groggy dreams of nocturnal bluefin and opah.  Assisted by caffeine, we gradually gained our senses as the shadows of gray light became discernible.

We got no love at this spot amidst the loitering fleet in what were foreboding conditions, with more windchop than you want to see before sunrise.  As the gray gave way to dawn, the fleet started firing up and trolling away, like searching spokes growing from a lumpy hub.

We put out our rigs and it was not that long before Tom called out to bring them in as we caught up with some fluttering white terns.  Tom gave us the go sign to toss out fly lined baits as we slid up to the marks he had on sonar.

It was pretty instant.  I got the first hookup on the spinning reel I was committed to trying out.  It is an Okuma Cedros, packed with 65 # spectra and slung beneath a Calstar 20-40 spinning rod.  It is easy to cast, has big drags and is geared up to really put big pressure on fish.  I was seeing what I could do with it while trying to make sure I did not lose the first hook up.  I did not have to worry as everyone else hooked up in the next three minutes.  We all caught fish and I was able to make short work of two 15 to 20 pound yellowfin on my new grinder.  We also saw a hammerhead in this zone, which though normally a rare occurrence, has become more common in this area over the past couple weeks.

The fish left and we were soon on the troll as we chased down another bird pile.  We had a short stop during which the grinder bagged one of two more tuna before we stroked out to another bird pile in the distance.  We stopped, threw bait and all got a good flurry of a smaller grade of yellowfin in the 12 to 15 pound range.  After we each bagged a couple of these fish, we drove away to look for a bigger fish, as we each had several and it was barely 7 am.  We had not gone far enough to do anything except re-rig some of the broken off outfits we had been rotating through on the first few stops before we hit the jackpot.

 Deckhand Christian spotted a distant tornado of furious terns working above what turned out to be another hammerhead.  Tom let us know that the sonar picture looked promising and we made ready at the rail as our dangerous machine closed in on the spot. 

The bite was instantly stupid.  We had fish blow up on our baits while we were still sliding in.  Several times, all of us were hooked up and you had to stall your fish to avoid getting tangled in colliding orbits of circle-of-death tuna flashing color at the corners.
We pulled on a bigger grade of 18 to 25 pound fish on a fish-per-cast bite.  The lifespan for each bait was seconds from splashdown.  Early pandemonium gave way to a sublime hilarity as we realized these fish wanted to stay, which they did until we left them.  They bit straight 50 and I caught fish on every rig I brought, mostly settling on my favorite old Trueline, with fluoro tipped 20 pound Ande above 65 pound spectra on a Trinidad 16 reel.  Several times I slipped up the rail to take my time on fatiguing these pretty fish from the serene solitude of the bow pulpit.

At nine am, we had 40 fish in the 34 degree salt water chiller and were releasing any  fish that did not seem worthy or damaged  The wind and chop had died off, leaving us with a building and determined swell from the south that started to give us a cadenced change in elevation as sets passed under the boat. Tom suggested we might want to leave some room on our dance cards for a shot at the bluefin that had been reported in the area of the 43.  We needed a break anyway.

We put out the marlin jigs and dragged toward the 43, which gave us time to re-string, heat up some machaca burritos Erik scored, and head slap each others’ helmets for the lucky morning we were experiencing.

We passed over a few empty paddies on way to the 43, where one sport boat was on the anchor.  We saw a couple of bird piles and headed toward the biggest one.  Tom yelled down that the meter was showing up and down fish.  John strung up with a rubber banded torpedo sinker to drop down 150 feet on what we hoped were bluefin. The rest of us tossed out fly lines on Tom’s signal.  Right away we came under attack.  John almost got pulled to the bottom as what turned out to be a big yellowfin slammed his suspended bait while the reel was in gear. 
 We all got picked up in turn on another spot of fish that would not leave us.  These fish were marginally, but consistently larger than what we had been catching earlier.  We plugged our 50 fish limit and then spent the next several hours catching and releasing fish we wished we could keep.  I found myself wishing I could just warehouse these easy hookups to disburse on more desperate days.  We spread out, took our time reeling and brought them up to flutter along as Christian backed out the hooks in the corner of their mouths.

The bite was steady, with few spells where we did not have at least one hooked up.  People began to take food and beverage breaks, but we always kept an angler or two on duty.  The fish would not leave us, so we left them to put out marlin jigs and look for paddies on the way in.  The swell was mounting and fun, as it pushed us back toward home like we were in a baby carriage.  After catching up on our neglected beer consumption quota, we all snuck below for transcendental naps. 

We picked up the jigs and roared the last few miles into Mission Bay in perfect weather and swells that would prove to be the vanguard of the most epic surf to hit our beaches in years.  The crew did a great job (as always) in cutting up and bagging our fish, which remained chilling at 34 degrees from within minutes of coming over the rail to the transfer to our ice chests.  The treatment of the catch is an art on this boat, ensuring that your dining experience, whether of the raw or cooked, will be as close to perfect as possible.  Ours was, and we are still in the midst of neighbor and friend banzai sushi sessions and BBQs.

We rolled up to the fuel dock before 5 pm, happy, sober and well rested.  I noticed a barge occupied by a surly group of cigarette smoking chimps was tied up to an adjacent finger of the dock, but I was too ecstatic about our good fortune to really evaluate them. We took turns taking loads in carts up to the parking lot and buying more ice to pack up the catch we divided up into the ice chests we each had in our trucks

The only downer about this trip, of which I was unaware as I cheerfully drove home from a perfect trip, was that my wallet, which had been in the outer pocket of my back pack, ended up in the hands of criminals.  I was sure I had misplaced it, but many hours of frantically searching everywhere turned up nothing.  I called in my card companies.  Most showed no activities, except one, which had multiple fraud purchases from service stations in Downey and Bellflower, which meant that I could stop looking and blaming early dementia for this loss.

This is a major hassle, obviously, and I wanted to avoid it.  I began recreating the scenario at the fuel dock and trying to place the faces that might seem retrospectively suspicious.  I got a call from the MasterCard people that a very hairy man had used my driver’s license to successfully pass himself off as me at a fruit stand, but had “scampered” away when a an animal control vehicle pulled into the adjacent lot.  It hit me like a thunderbolt – It was those barge monkeys!

I called one of my friends at the FBI to report my suspicions.  They were way ahead of me.  “Your cash is gone” he said matter-of-factly, “but we have a pretty good idea that those apes (they are not technically monkeys, but I tend to lump them all together when I run into extremists) are part of a splinter faction attending the Dinner to Honor Hamas being hosted by  former president Jimmy Carter at the Montage.”

 The dead giveaway was that the name of his “Habitat for Humanity” sponsorship hats had been subtly altered to “Pads for Primates”.  They claimed that they were just trying to be more inclusive and suggested that primates included humans, so it was cool.  It definitely was not cool and both the FBI and Homeland security agreed with me. They humored me by letting me come with them on the raid.  Even as Carter took to the podium to suggest to the Arab-costumed crowd that these hairy reasoners be given their own habitat, the feds closed in. 

The apes knew the jig was up and they came out swinging.  There were dressed in the flowing robes of Arab Gorilla garb, so it was hard to tell them from the rest of the crowd until they started to take up defensive positions in that peculiar knuckle-dragging gate.  They all reached for cell phones (which could have been detonators) and that was all the provocation our boys needed to hose them down with the belt fed machine guns that all federal agents carry under their coats.  None of the 12 monkeys that were discovered lived more than 5 more seconds.  This was a bummer for me, as I was hoping that some would be taken alive and water boarded, so they could be coerced into saying what they did with my wallet.  When I expressed this to the agent, he disdainfully blew into the locked-open chamber of his warm gun to clear out the smoke. Then he slowly looked out of the side of his face at me and said “You can never talk or negotiate with them no matter what you try-- They’re not human.”

Now I know to keep a tight grip on my gear around sea monkeys and throw bait on hammerheads, but now that those apes are dead, I have to go stand in line at the DMV.

Thanks Obama.

These are the Days

Dodos on the Ridge August 22nd, 2014

On August 22, 2014, I had what is turning out to be an ever more precious opportunity to get out on the water with all of my kids, as the oldest three are all in college now. One of the nine-year old boys, David, decided to stay inland to concentrate on chasing the Chinese language.  We grabbed the kids’ friend Jameson Johnson, who was leaving us for college back east in a couple of days, to round out a six person crew that included Isaac, Lizzy, Sarah, and Tommy.
We had been out a few times chasing the pelagics this season, with not much to show for our hours of trying to find biting fish in the warm water, but we know they were out there and that we had been among them.
We had the Finder in an overnight wet slip at the Embarcadero, so we were able to get on board by 5 am and present ourselves at the Everingham Bait barge, where we got a good scoop of the right sized sardines.  We pulled out into the darkness and medium chop and set a course for the northwest part of the 209, as fast as radar travel and bait preservation would allow.
                We arrived at dawn and put out the jigs in mostly 73 degree water.  We saw a lot of krill petrels, but few terns or breaking fish.  We dragged around the 209, stopped to fish a paddy that was holding a few fish that proved unwilling to take our bait.  We spotted some drifting freighters about 7 miles to the northwest and trolled our way around them.  There were several small whales moving rapidly around us for some of that time, but not much else.  Tommy mostly enjoyed one of the several long naps he took in the v-berth during our long bouts of trolling

                The water temp varied a lot on that long detour.  We started heading back across the bottom of the 209 toward the 181.  We found a bunch of terns packed over a very acrobatic dolphin pod that we stayed and played with for a while, edging in from every possible angle with our jigs.  We hated to say goodbye to them, but they were not giving up any tuna.


                We dragged down past the 181 and stopped on a few dry paddies.  The water kept getting warmer and made the high 74’s. The wind, which had blown noticeably in the early morning, began dying off with the morning.  We got down by the 182 and took a turn out toward the 43.  We saw many whales, at least 20, and several of them came up pretty close.  The water was very lively.  When we were about 5 miles from the 43, it was clear that we would be a long way from home in the middle of the afternoon, although conditions were so nice it was tempting to keep heading out.  We changed our course back toward the middle of the ridge, where we hit 75 degree water and continued to see whales.

                When we hit the ridge, we stayed on the outside and ran toward the 181.  We stopped on a large hammerhead shark that was under some pin wheeling terns.  We dragged the jigs past that spot, but nothing hit.  In retrospect, we should have thrown bait, as it may have been following tuna.  We did not get a picture of that fascinating shark, nor did we get a shot of the ridiculously golden sea turtle we circled around to make sure we could believe our eyes.  We also saw several military copters and ships on maneuvers to the south.  A gentle, but noticeable swell was steadily building as the wind died to nothing and the sun beamed down on us.
                While we were in that rich area on the way to the 181, we saw a promising paddy and dragged our jigs past it.  One of the light trollers rigged to an anchovy pattern hex head went bendo as the spectra peeled off the Torsa 20 reel.  Isaac seized the hooked-up stick while we cleared the other lines and fly lined a couple of reddish ‘dines that still survived at that point. Isaac jacked that Dodo in so quick it was very green at the gaff, but we managed to get it into the box after a bit of fumbling around.
We got no takers on the bait, so we set up to drag by again.

                We made another pass in the same direction and were rewarded with another strike on the same jig. 
 This time, Jameson was in charge of the catching and we had two in the box. 
 We saw another dorado near the paddy and set up for another run.  We were heading back on our track when this naval vessel rapidly approached us on a collision course for the paddy.  We tried to maintain our angle of attack, but ultimately had to throttle back and change course as he steamed within putting distance from the paddy and left us wallowing in his considerable wake.

                We made one more pass without success and then reeled in the jigs, as it was now after 4 pm and we found ourselves exactly 40 miles south from the Dana breakwater.  We set our course for zero and came in at between 22 to 28 knots with a following sea and lots of whale spouts to pull us off course from time to time.  We made it back to port in less than two hours, rinsed off the gear and were home by 6:30 pm.  We cut the fish up at home.  The Johnson family fed off of Jameson’s catch and we were able to get Isaac’s fish to feed a dozen people we invited to join our kill.

The boat ran like a champ and I rewarded it with an oil change the next day.  We traveled about 140 miles, mostly trolling, and saw the kind of abundant life that often gives up more than two fish. Two dorado is what we got, along with very user friendly sea conditions amidst the best company I get to keep.  It was another day that made me feel lucky.

These are the Days.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

You'll Get nothing and Like it report for July 3rd, 2014

One of my favorite lines in Caddy shack is “You’ll get nothing and like it.”
That sums up our tuna chasing adventure on the 4th of July weekend.  Lizzy, Isaac, Giana, Kyle, and I left Dana with two tanks of solid anchovies at 4 am with visions of pelagics and holiday BBQ.
Two weeks ago we had wide open “fish per cast” calico fishing in 69 degree water both Saturday and Sunday at Pendleton.  The boys and I spent the last week of June catching all kinds of fun fish in the kelp at Catalina in 69 degree water, so perhaps we were due for a letdown.
  During the week there had been reports of yellowfin and bluefin inside San Clemente Island, as well as paddy yellowtail. I was hoping to put my kids and their friends on some big fish.  Rather than take the sure bet of local fishing on the beach, we figured to swing for the fences off shore  by  hitting the high spots early and getting off the water mid-day.
 We were on the 209 with jigs out by 5:30 am for the morning gray light in 69.8 degree water.  We headed toward the ridge, striped the 181 and zigzagged our way to the 182.  There were few other boats out there with us, but by 7 am the San Diego radio chatter had begun.  We found steadily decreasing water temps as we headed south.  There was little life – no working birds or mammals to key on and few kelps to stop on.  From the 68 degree water on the ridge, we travelled toward the 43, but the temp gauge dropped incrementally down to 67 the further out we went.  We started to reset for the 289, but decided to hit the warmer water at the 181 again.  We stopped on a couple of paddies, one of which had terns and yellowtail, but we could not get them to eat the ‘chovy, despite heavy chumming.  As we got closer to that paddy, we saw that it was swarming with anchovies who welcomed the ones we had just set free.  We dropped iron, dragged Rapalas, tried fly-lining and big sinkers without any love.  We were off the 181 by 10:15 heading into warmer northern water and chasing dolphin that were not on tuna at the 209.  We trolled up to the sides of this rather small, birdless  pod, tried running ahead and throwing bait “run-n-gun” style as they headed toward the 277.  We did enjoy their company as they surfed along with us, but parted ways after about 30 minutes.  We hit a few paddies along the way back to the 209.  We picked up the jigs after we left the 209, put them back out at the 267 in 71 degree water for nothing.  We brailed bait at a few more paddies before coming  home as the afternoon whitecaps began their march.  The water was beautiful everywhere we went.
We heard the ocean woke and came to life behind us at the 181 and 43, at least for some of the anglers who remained on the grounds, but we were already heading back to port.  It was a beautiful day, conditions look very promising and scouting blue water was a good way to start our holiday celebration.  We had everything cleaned up in time to enjoy the rest of the day ashore and a night of fireworks.
Nothing broke, we had great company and were lucky in all respects except for the catching part. I guess we got nothing and still liked it.  Next time, I hope we like it more.  Enjoy the weekend!
These are the Days.

fish report for July 28, 2014

      Isaac, Sarah and our old family friend Mark Latimer took a spin on Fishfinder on July 28th to chase the tuna. Mark's previous identity was as the pain-in-the-ass younger brother of my friend Whit.  Mark is now too old to responsibly fill that job description.

       We got on the water at 4 am and loaded up three tanks full of sardines and mackerel (what they had at the Dana Bait barge) before heading out into the darkness to cover the 24 miles to our rendezvous with a spot I had in mind outside the 209.
     The water temp was 68 degrees when we left Dana harbor and quickly got over 71 as we made our way into the dark confusion of radar navigation.  We put out the jigs in the gray and were on the spot before the sun started to splinter the horizon.  If I could have scripted a better entrance, I don't know how.
     As soon as we could see anything, we saw breaking tuna - right where I had made arrangements to meet them. The water was 74 degrees and there were foaming spots of tuna popping up in multiple locations.  I felt like a hero for bringing my crew to this wonderland of pelagia. This was going to be dog-slaughter, I thought. We dragged our spread among the foaming spots as the terns wheeled and dipped above them... No takers.  We switched out the jigs to Rapalas and marauders.  We dragged daisy chains right past them.  We threw iron.  We chummed and threw 'dine's and mackerel and the few anchovies in our tank.  We chopped and chunked.  No takers.  Other boats started to appear, including big sporties with enormous bait capacity and bristling with anglers.  Nobody was getting picked up, even as the fish stayed up and boiled for two hours.  The radio was a symphony of howling frustration.  We hit the outside, inside, left side and right side of the 209.  The tuna were everywhere and we got nowhere with them.
      I hated to leave so many fish to find some that wanted to die, but we reluctantly put the jigs back out and motored away toward the ridge and the 181.  The water temp kept increasing as we headed south and got up to 74.9 near the 181.
      Mark had brought just enough beverages and snacks to fuel a bulimia convention and we had the rock and roll going to lift our spirits. We looked for paddies that remained invisible to us. We got no love down south, though the sea temp was even higher in that direction.  After the morning had evaporated along with the glassy conditions, we headed back up the line to see if our friends at the 209 would come out to play.  We striped the entire bank again and rotated our jig collection through the wake, all to no avail.  We decided to head back, as we had to be out of the water at 5pm to meet the hours at the Embarcadero sling. 
      We turned toward the 267, since we had so much bait and that spot is usually more paddy infested. By this time the wind was heavy out of the west and the ocean swells were throwing popcorn.  When we were about 17 miles out, the flat-line short corner troller started screaming as we snapped out of our doldrums.  Isaac and Mark cleared the lines, we threw chum and Sarah began grinding on a fish she felt major pressure to make sure she killed. It pinned her rod to the rail and she started losing steam.  It came in on the down swell side and circled dangerously under the boat as it came to leader.  Mark helped Sarah get that fish through the last few circles of death, as she was burned down by the excitement and the angle the fish had on her.   I put the steel into it and Isaac snapped this rather whimsical photo of that moment that we had it safely over the deck..  The fish hit a dorado colored jet head and had no other companions for us to slay. It got us fired up and we briefly loitered in the zone to see if we could coax some more lightning from the area before time forced us toward shore.
       We got to the 267, about 12 miles out, with little time on our hands.  We found some big paddies that were holding dorado and had some more foamers come up in an incredibly fishy spot that was loaded with krill and whales.  We hated to leave, but we were flat out of time.  We made it in by ten minutes to five and got the boat out of the water before the Embarcadero closed.  Mark, in addition to feeding and baiting us for the trip, also gassed up the boat when we towed it home, so his status as honored guest is cemented in our future choices for first string crew, on what we hope will be more productive outings. 
    We enjoyed a great tuna dinner with our neighbors that night and at least got the tuna skunk off our souls for what we hope will be a great season of local exotics.  We checked the reports and it seems that the counts were way down the day we got out there.   The day before we went the counts were much better, and they were even higher the day after we went, so timing is everything.  I am in work lockdown for the next couple of weeks, but this bite has every indication of getting stronger, as this El Nino seems like the real deal, complete with humidity and sudden rain squalls.
If I had to do it all over again, I would.
These are the Days