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Written By: Cal Kellogg, February 27, 2014
Location: San Diego,
Autumn 8-day trips out of San Diego are usually referred to as “variety”, and the 24 anglers aboard Captain Sam Patella’s 90-foot American Angler out of Point Loma Sportfishing in San Diego found an excellent assortment of game fish during a late-fall 8-day Penn Fishing University excursion.
Onboard for the adventure were several anglers from Northern California, including Shaun Chang of Sacramento and Brent Torcellini of San Jose, along with anglers from Southern California, Oregon, and even Florida.
Fishing Day 1 was mostly spent traveling, although a handful of small yellowfin tuna were caught. However, on Day 4, around 25 yellowfin were caught while looking diligently for wahoo [more about that later!]. Day 6 was spent scouting at the Ranger Bank, and the group managed to boat about 40 nice school-size yellowfin tuna.
Flylined sardines on 30-pound tackle was the standard approach, although a modest number of tuna were caught on small lures like blue/chrome Tady 9 jigs.
The group got two solid whacks at the large yellowtail population off Turtle Bay; once on the way down on Day 2, and again on the way back on Day 5. The yellows were solid fish in the 20 to 25-pound range, and were primarily fooled by yo-yo jigs.
As usual, the favored tackle for yellowtail was a yo-yo jig like a blue/white Sumo JR jig cranked back at full speed on 40 or 50 pound tackle and a Penn Baja Special reel.
To say that the floating kelp paddies above Magdalena Bay were holding tonnage of dorado on Day 3 is an understatement. Massive hordes of 15 to 20-pound dorado swarmed the boat, eagerly eating virtually every bait tossed their way.
For safety reasons, weightless live sardines flylined on a size 2/0 Owner Gorilla J-hook are the preferred way to catch dorado, as a wildly thrashing and jumping fish that throws a jig can cause a lot of damage. Standard 25 or 30-pound live bait tackle like a Penn Fathom FTH15 was just fine to subdue these athletic leapers.
Captain Patella spent Day 4 prospecting along popular spots at The Ridge, just outside of Magdalena Bay, like the 13 Fathom Spot and the 23 Fathom Spot with only about two dozen school-size yellowfin tuna to show for it. A mid-afternoon try at the 38-Fathom Spot had a pack of wahoo savagely attack, and they definitely lived up to their image by slashing at baits and lures, and zooming around the boat at warp speed when hooked.
Some of the wahoo hit trolled orange/black marauders, but the majority of the 24 speedsters the group landed hit on either gold/pink jigs or live sardines presented on wire leaders. Best reel for this jigging task was the Penn Torque TRQ40NLD2 with its blazing 42 inch per turn speed, and filled with 65 or 80 pound superbraid line.
On the final day before returning to San Diego, Captain Patella dropped anchor in 200 feet of water off Punta Colonett, right over a school of 18 to 25-pound bluefin tuna. The bluefin were feeding somewhat selectively, and anglers had to downsize their tackle to fool them.
An extremely lively sardine fished on 25-pound fluorocarbon and a size 1/0 Owner Gorilla Light J-hook was the ticket. The group managed 97 bluefin before literally using up the very last live sardine in the tank.
Besides the abundant above listed species, the group also caught calico bass, barracuda, bonito, whitefish, two kinds of skipjack, and even a couple of mako sharks. One striped marlin was hooked and battled, but managed to escape, and this writer caught a “mystery fish” of about 4 pounds that is going to take some research to identify. Many anglers managed to reach their aggregate Mexican limits.
Great experiences: Shaun Chang of Sacramento was a long-range rookie, but reported, “I caught 8 yellowtail, 7 yellowfin tuna, 5 bluefin tuna, 3 dorado, and even a wahoo. The most exciting thing was the bluefin tuna bite on the last day, where I was able to do everything myself. I learned how to tie the San Diego Knot and how to yo-yo jigs for yellowtail. My goal for the next trip will be to get more wahoo! The crew of the American Angler are great guys and always helpful.”
Also a long-range rookie was Brent Torcellini of San Jose. “I mainly fish in small ponds around the San Jose area, and I caught 7 yellowtail, 1 yellowtail, 1 bluefin tuna, 1 yellowfin tuna, and a wahoo. The highlight of the trip for me was learning about all the different fishing techniques. My goal for the next time is to have my own tackle and be more aware of everything that was happening. The crew was awesome.”
Al Pang of Portland, OR is a long-range veteran, with more than 20 trips under his belt. “I usually fish for salmon and steelhead on the Columbia River, but I caught 11 yellowtail, 11 yellowfin tuna, 3 bluefin tuna, 1 dorado, and 1 wahoo. The highlight of the trip was catching my first-ever bluefin tuna. I learned the Surgeon’s Knot and how to really pick out a live bait. The American Angler has an excellent crew, and the food is also very good.”
Skipper Sam Patella observed, “Our timing was on point. We were fortunate that the bluefin stayed up for us, and the dorado were around just about everywhere we looked for them to be. Our wahoo catch was amazing considering what was available, and the wide-open yellowtail fishing is always a crowd pleaser. Prospects for the future are good; there is a huge biomass of squid, and large numbers of yellowfin tuna in the Eastern Pacific.”
After being landed, the fish are quickly dropped below decks into an RSW hold that is kept at 29.5 degrees. At the end of the trip, they are in absolutely pristine “sashimi-grade” condition. Several companies like Fishermans Processing meet the boat, and give the choice of fillet and freezer wrap, sushi cut, smoked, or even jerky. Donating part of your catch to several different charities can also be arranged. Same-day processing or shipping is available.
Jackpot winners: Overall jackpot-winning fish was the 42-pound wahoo caught by Derrick Araki of San Diego, although Paul Kodama of San Diego had a 50.4 pounder caught trolling. The Yellowtail Jackpot went to the 26.6 pounder caught by Frank Ochoa of Oxnard, and the Dorado Jackpot was topped by the 20.2 pounder boated by Mark Lozano of San Pedro.
The Owner Hooks “First Fish” Awards went to Jeff Smith [yellowtail], Ignacio Carmona [tuna], and Paul Kodama [wahoo]. The “Flying Fisherman Master Jig Caster” Award went to Derrick Araki of San Diego. The Flambeau “Hero Fish” went to Ron Hughes or Moorpark for his 37-pound bluefin tuna, and the coveted “Flambeau True Sportsman Award” went to Chong Chang of Portland.
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