Saturday, September 20, 2014

Carnage off Clemente - fish report for September 17, 2014

On September 16, 2014, your reporter was once again a lucky guest on board Tom Patierno’s 44 Pacifica “Limitless.”
Our charter master, who is of Spanish Basque extraction and a long time family friend, was Soy Latte.  Soy’s parents grew up in Spain and moved across the street from us in Long Beach when they first immigrated.  They had the foresight to name him for a beverage that has now been vocalized by millions of baristas across the left coast.  The literal translation of his name is “I am an expensive caffeinated drink invariably ordered by pretentiously health conscious women.”
                Soy, who normally fishes using brightly colored hand tied zippers from the land of his ancestors, brought three of his children, as well as his salmon fishing buddy, Monte Crisco. Monte insisted on being called “MC” because of his instinctive sense of rhythm and tendency to break into a frenzied, baggy-pants dance routine whenever he hooked a fish, or thought he was about to.

                Soy has tried for years to get people to nickname him “Swifty” without any real success.  To humor Soy and thank him for including me on this day on the water, I will call him by that name for the duration of this report.

              The last time I saw Swifty’s daughter Pantera, she was a little kid.  Pantera is not only a capable angler, but has grown into a beautiful young graduate student living in San Diego.  Swifty gave her this exotic name because he was at the San Diego Zoo, looking at the “Big Cat” exhibit, when he decided to call his wife, who was at the hospital giving birth to their daughter.  Swifty only had enough change for a short conversation, and his young bride was exhausted from a long labor – “Good job, Babe – Let’s name her Pantera, because I know she’ll be a wildcat just like you.”

             Swifty’s other two sons are half twins, born on the same  day to different mothers.  Swifty was home watching a re-run of “Battle of the Bulge”, which features a star-studded cast in a classic movie about the German counter-offensive in the Ardennes during World War ll.  Swifty did not have to use a pay phone this time.  He called the hospitals with congratulations and to telephonically name his newborn sons.

                Luger, who is a bit taller and does not look much like his half-twin Mauser, went to college in Boulder before becoming a CPA and opening a highly successful business manufacturing and telemarketing a high protein beverage used to feed captive, or rescued marine mammals, especially sea monkeys.

                Mauser, who is a mechanical engineer, has turned an abandoned warehouse in San Bernardino into a humming factory that mass-produces air sickness bags for most of the national market, as well as making custom six and a half foot black plastic zipper bags for some of the Asian airline companies.

                 We were chased down to San Diego by weather generated by the edge of a Mexican hurricane, with scattered cells of thunder, lightning and little rainbows.  We all rendezvoused at the Dana Landing Marina right at the end of a tropical downpour, complete with heavy thunder and lightning strikes to the flag pole near the ramp.

                We were greeted and helped aboard at 8 pm by Tom, his deckhand Christian and second skipper Paul Nosferatu, who runs the boat at night and then retreats into his coffin once daylight breaks.

                We baited up with many gentle passes of perfect sardines and headed up swell toward the rumors-behind-the-news at a spot just inside of the U.S. Navy’s private parcel of maritime warfare, San Clemente island.   The water temperature on the way out was 74 in the harbor and 75 plus once we got outside. We were tight on the front side near Pyramid Head.

                After rigging up for tuna with 20# fluorocarbon leaders, rubber core sinkers and 2/0 hooks, I downed a few beers with our team.  It was then time to retire to a bouncy spot in the upper bunk in the bow cabin, where my primary goal was to remain in place and avoid pitching out when the bow and bunk dropped out from under me every once in a while.   

                As I struggled to sleep amidst fitful dreams of hammerheads and atomic backlashes, Swifty and MC guzzled moonshine on the deck.  Eventually naked except for the lifejackets skipper Paul made them put on in the pitching darkness; they sang and danced like prancing goat boys to the Bee Gees until almost 3 am, when they finally put their clothes back on and passed out in the salon.

                After we arrived on station and began a steady drift in the current I woke up for good, grabbed some coffee and took a look around,  Every boat in the southern California fishing fleet, including some long range boats, seemed to be drifting with us, as witnessed by acres of bobbing lights.

                I climbed the ladder to check in with Paul, looked down and saw a big hammerhead make a pass through the lights.  This was a sure sign we were in the zone, so I put out a bait, even though it was at least an hour before gray light would begin.

                I got picked up and set the hook.  After a hard initial run, the hook pulled in a series of violent shakes.  Hammerhead?  I tossed out a fresh one and was picked up again.  This time it was the hammerhead and he made short work of my gear before flashing away from the boat.  I grabbed another rod from the rack, twisted on a sinker, and tossed out.  I was bit again within seconds and this time it stuck, as line peeled off against the drag.

                I yelled for all the sleepers to get up on deck and get at it.  One by one, our sleepy band staggered out on the deck and blinked in the lights.  The rods they were issued went bendo as soon as the baits hit the water.

                All six of us were hooked up in the confusion created by a combination of darkness and recently interrupted slumber.  Lines crossed and fish were burned off, but were quickly replaced by new rigs and singing reels as the tuna swarmed the boat.  Everyone boated at least one before total darkness gave way to gray and we drifted off the fish.

                As the first colors of the morning became detectable, we saw the fleet begin to mill around .  We joined them in a slow search for sonar fish, with one cedar plug dragging behind us to keep the fish honest.

                Tom found a huge spot of tuna and we put out the baits as we slid over them.  It was instant hysteria as fish hit our sinkered baits immediately.  All six of us were solidly wired again as the rising sun creased the horizon.  Everybody was screaming like confederate soldiers.

                Then the radio crackled out a message from the U. S. Navy to all vessels fishing the area – “Get out now.”  When the Navy says now, they don’t mean later, because they need to blow up stuff on a very specific timetable.  Helicopters buzzed the angling fleet, along with red launches full of sailors armed with bullhorns.  “Reel in and get out” was what they thought they were saying.  I thought I heard them say “grab your 40 pound outfit and jack down your drag for another one,” which is what I did.  Twice.  The bite was so hot they bit straight 40 eight feet from the swim step.  I just had to bulldog two more before we fled as solid a bite as I have seen in what has been a very good season.

                We had 21 tuna in the hold as we popped our breakfast beers and started to re-tie all the rigs we broke off in the melee. The fleet, dazed by the gut punch of this abrupt termination of a white hot bite, scattered in all directions way from the island.  Thanks Obama.

                We put out a marlin jig and a cedar plug and began searching for kelp paddies.  As we fueled up on breakfast sandwiches, we drove past boats in the distance that were stopped on paddies.  We stopped on a couple we found and drew non-stop action from small yellowtail that we hoped would give way to dorado or yellowfin.  After spending bait on catch-and-release yellowtail that did not mutate into something greater, we would motor far enough away to put out the trolling rigs without drawing strikes from firecracker yellows.
Christian gives the all good sign after finding the magic paddy
                We headed toward the 289 and were in that general area when Christian found a paddy from the crow’s nest.  We began our drift and pulled a couple of yellows off the upswell side.  As we slid away from the kelp, we got sonar marks and the tuna charged the boat, just like they did at Pyramid head before the Navy obliterated our bite.  Tuna exploded on bait dropped with feet of the boat and you could see them flashing about.  They bit the 40.  For about half an hour they probably would have bit a lariat, as what had been mere slaughter became total carnage.  It was that stupid. 

 Pantera gazes upon her most terrible kill to date

                The pandemonium gradually petered down into a plunker bite and  we were back down to  fishing 20 pound line, but  we put 58 tuna  into the  raw salt water chiller below deck and had a building wind and swell to push us home.  The crew broke out the cutting boards and delivered a heavy dose of butchery as we pointed down swell for Mission Bay.

Swifty and Pantera celebrate some father-daughter carnage on the high seas
          We consumed copious quantities of tri-tip sandwiches prepared by Swifty's first wife and washed it down with the rest of the 90 beers that proved to be the right amount for our voyage.  We traded high fives and played "Name that Tune" to Swifty's classic rock collection.  We were tied up and off loaded by 5 pm.

              I am transforming my home into a cannery this weekend.  I have two cases canned and am waiting on the last batch of the evening as I type this report.

                The fish killing machine that is Limitless, along with its savage crew, delivered once again.  This bite sure seems like it might be durable enough to drive some combo lobster and tuna trips right into Halloween. Get out there and kill something good to eat, because Brothers and Sisters, it is right here, right now.

These are the Days.


Monday, September 15, 2014

Fiji Girl trip September 13,2014

On September 12, your reporter joined Isaac, Kim, Kevin and Matt Sage on board the Fiji Girl for a trip into Mexican waters in search of exotics.  The weather Friday night in San Diego was hot and windy, which caused us concern about what conditions would be like on the outside.

            Our crew beat me down to San Diego and loaded up a scoop of green sardines and a five gallon bucket of mackerel for chopped chum.  After a late dinner at Volares and a single malt for good Karma, we bunked down in anticipation of a 3 am departure.

We headed out toward the 425 and the Hidden Bank in the choppy darkness with a very close interval swell that put us in the ditch all the way out and all the way home.

The water was 74 plus in the harbor.  We hit a band of 69 degree water a few miles out and then it went right back up to the 74 plus range everywhere else.

As gray light started emerging, we were greeted by white caps and wind that seemed to increase as we left the mainland further in our wake.  The trolling jigs went out as we approached the north side of the Coronados.  We picked up a few bonito just past North Island.

 We droned on with the crew scouring the hazy horizon for birds.  Sea conditions made spotting signs of breaking fish difficult and we did not see the right kind of birds with all of our glassing from the fly bridge.
We got a blind jig strike from two Dorado short of the 425 and Isaac nabbed a baitfish.  We managed to boat all three, despite a Chinese fire drill that left Kim bleeding from a wound on the back of his leg, which Isaac patched up with his life guard bandaging skills.

Isaac and Matt with two nice hen dorado

I got to turn the handle on this bull dorado, which briefly escaped the gaff and the kill sack for five more minutes of pandemonium

The weather worsened as we went further toward the Hidden Bank.  Water temp was 73 to 74.5 almost everywhere we went. We found several parties where you could catch a few small Dorado and all the small yellow tail that you wanted, on bait, trolled jigs, and cast and retrieve jigs.  We could not find tuna, as the wind and chop worked against us  We saw no  tern piles or breaking fish, although we knew they were out there somewhere.  The fish we were not keeping were eager to take our jigs, so we had plenty to do before we ate ourselves into a stupor with the enormous carnitas breakfast burritos we picked up from Aurora’s Taqueria in Dana Point. That fare put us into a swaying set of doldrums as we banged around the Hidden Bank for several hours without finding the tuna.  Sea conditions at the Hidden seemed worse than elsewhere and we decided to work our way back in the early afternoon.

. On the way in, with sea conditions much improved, we glassed bird piles near the spot where we had picked up the bonito west of the Coronados.  We metered tuna within 600 yards of North Island in an area that became very fishy. We got a trolled bluefin on the cedar, chummed out a bucket of chopped bait, and drew boils.  The petrels swarmed us and took our fly-lined dines before we could get bit.


            We put the jigs back and proceeded to get non-stop hookups on big bonito.  We eventually pulled the trollers, as we were pretty beat up from the bang around at the Hidden.

            We had to earn our fish this time.  Hottest jig was the blue/green cedar, but other cedars worked, as did rapalas, catchees, and other traditional silver headed skirts.

These are the Days



Monday, September 1, 2014

Labor Day Local - Yellowfin Off Dana 8/31/14

 August 31 Fish report: Dana Yellowfin for Forrest’s Birthday.


 With barely time to recover from our successful trip on the Limitless, I was fortunate enough to be included on Forrest Werner’s annual birthday fishing trip.  One of his regular crew was in jail this time, so I got to go at the last minute when he could not make bail.

The crew on the Werner’s 41 foot Egg Harbor sportfisher included Forrest, his brother Frank, Moe, Gary, Jim and your reporter.  Fishing for local yellowfin had been productive for many this summer, although we have certainly logged some hours of looking/trolling without being interrupted by hooked fish.  The abundance of exotic piscatorial opportunity had also been well reported, but we decided to brave the crowds on Sunday of the Labor Day weekend to take another shot and celebrate Forrest’s birthday.

Conditions were a bit choppy and windy, as they have been in the mornings lately.  There was just a trace of the swell that had rolled through  earlier this week.  The water temp was 70 degrees in Dana Point Harbor, as we pulled out at 4:15 am to get two absolutely beautiful scoops of sardines at the bait barge.  There was a line of a dozen or so boats ahead of us, but it was great to get this kind of bait in the middle of such a big weekend.

We headed mostly south at about 8 knots with sea temps ranging between 72 and 73 degrees.  Many boats peeled off  in the darkness for the 267, where the action had been as hot as the water, including a report of a wahoo being caught.  We decided to look for signs of fish in between the high spots along an s-curving 180 heading.

As has recently been the case, the ocean gave us long sleeve weather in the darkness, but gradually gave way to scattered sunshine and flattening conditions as the morning matured. 

The Werner’s boat, which I had never fished on before, is perfectly equipped for fishing tuna, with a two sided bait tank, outriggers, and most of all, a great system that Forrest and Frank have for trolling orchestrated and frequently changed-out patterns of jigs.  We trolled five rigs and often had deep diving Rapalas or Marauders on the flat-lined corners.  Forrest changed the pattern every 30 minutes, and we washed, coiled and dried the feathers as they came off their shift. Despite this disciplined and scientific approach, trolling proved ineffective, as has frequently been the case this season, as fish breaking water on the surface get shy around the jigs.

We started seeing a few terns among the gulls and shearwaters, but nothing came into our pattern.  There were small bits of kelp that were holding small bait, but nothing holding visible game fish.  There were all kinds of questionable radio fish, as well as radio combat, as boats competed for big paddies that were producing fish.  The tuna would come up briefly and foam on the bits of bait on the small kelps, but would sink out as we either dragged past the spot or hauled in the trollers and slid in with bait.  We stopped on several promising bird piles and threw bait, but got no takers, even with the chum cadence we laid down in drifts among the agitated white birds.

We saw many of the local landings’ sport boats striping the water from time to time as we fished the area inside the line between the 209 and the 181.  We were not fishing the high spots as much as we were chasing bird schools.

We got into an area about 13 to 15 miles south of Dana when the fish started coming up seriously.  We found a few spots to drift and throw chum in a fairly large area with a few floating kelps. We were fishing a kelp that was also spotted by the Enterprise, San Mateo and Dana Pride, all of which came on station and started spending sardines.  The addition of their chum lines brought more fish up in a fairly wide patch of blue water. The tuna kept popping up under the terns circulating in an area that was several acres. A hammerhead slashed its way into the edge of this zone of activity.  The appearance of this fish, as much as anything else, has been a consistent harbinger of biting yellowfin for us recently. 

We started getting plunker bites on the long soak when they came through our zone. The fish did not want to bite our heavier line, but we did get bit on the 20 pound fluro. We managed to boat 5, all but one of which were in the 22 to 30 pound range.  This grade of fish gave us some great action on a late afternoon bite that made the trip.  We busted off more that we should have, but the fish were pretty feisty.

Forrest was on the gaff for all five fish

Frank with yellowfin

 We had planned to come in early, but had to stay a bit later when we finally got the bite we had been searching for on a nice, but manageable, grade of fish. 

 We left the area with the fish biting, put out the marlin jigs and cut up the fish on the gentle ride home. Autopsies revealed that these fish were stuffed with sardines from the chum that kept them around the fleet. 

 Forrest makes ready to cut fish under the watchful supervision of Gary.
We were back and cleaned up in to Dana by sunset.


These fish are all over the place right now.  Sportboats bristling rent rods like porcupines are boating big scores of 20 to 30 pound yellowfin tuna close enough to shore to make out  the metallic flashes of cars on the freeway near Oceanside, so it is about as good as it gets for us south county anglers right now.  This bite looks pretty strong in conditions that may last through October, but I am getting in as many licks as I can right now, because, as you may know,

These are the Days.