Sept. 28, 2012 The Albacore Trip Of A Lifetime
Written By: Kathie Morgan, October 1, 2012
Location: Santa Cruz,
It was August, tuna time in Moss Landing. The albacore have been as close as 10 miles from Santa Cruz so far this season. I have not fished for albacore very often and when Carol Jones, the owner of Kahuna Sportfishing, asked me if I wanted to go out with them on Wednesday, I blurted out “Heck yeah!”
Because the albacore were only 20 to 30 miles out, Carol said check-in would be at 3:00 am and the boat would leave at 3:30. We left the docks on time with 11 anglers.
We arrived at the tuna grounds just before daybreak. Mike woke up anyone sleeping and told us to get ready.
The first 5 anglers on the sign-up sheet would be the first to troll. I would be in the next group since I was number 9. Captain Donnie trolls at 7 knots, and when a troll rod hooks up, he will wait 2-3 seconds before putting the boat into neutral for the slide.
We started out with cedar plugs on both sides of the boat and rubber-skirted jigs “Tuna Clones” for the other three trolling poles and the meat lines along the back of the boat. Trolling uses a combination of the boat’s prop-wash and action created by the lines to simulate a commotion that albacore associate with feeding.
The albacore see the action and believe it is bait in the water or maybe other fish feeding on the bait. This will drive the albacore nuts and they will come to bite the lures skimming the surface. This is called “raising fish.” Once there is a hook-up on the troll the other anglers will drop their lines in an attempt to raise the rest of the school towards the boat.
It was not long before a couple of troll rods went off, and I dropped my Fish Trap in the water immediately. The deckhands started to toss chum to encourage the school to rise up to the boat.
An albacore slammed my lure, I counted to three, clicked my reel into gear and yelled, “Fish on!” As I looked at my reel my line was peeling off, and I remembered what the deckhands said as we were leaving the harbor, “Don’t horse the fish, make sure your drag is not too tight, let them run, and keep constant tension on your line.”
I was finally able to make some progress reeling him in when my line went slack. I started reeling as fast as I could with hopes that he had not got off but was swimming right for the boat.
Sure enough, when I caught up to him he was still there. After a few more runs, the real fun begins. Albacore will begin to slowly circle deep under the boat when they are hooked and done running. Because I was fishing with 25 pound line I had to slowly lift the rod up and reel down.
Finally, I could see the fish in the crystal clear water and yelled, “color.” When I had the fish up close to the boat, BJ said to stay by the rail and try to pull the fish in a sideways angle and lift so he could gaff him in the head.
Wow, my first albacore in 3 years and it was only 6:45. Albacore come in 3 basic sizes, but do come bigger. Fish from 5 to 10 pounds are called peanuts, those from 11 to 20 pounds are called footballs, and those from 21 to 35 pounds are called fat boys.
BJ said my fish weighed about 12-13 pounds. We landed 6 fish on that stop.
Captain Donnie yelled that the next 5 anglers were up to troll, which meant it was my turn. I grabbed a trolling rod that had a zucchini with broom bristles and handed it to the deckhand to let out the line. It was not long when Captain Donnie called out he saw marks on the fish finder and sure enough two rods went off and Mike yelled “Fish on. “
I was trying to get the safety lines off my reel to reel in the line when it got slammed. I don’t know if it was because of the trolling rod that the fish came in a lot easier or because it was an 8 pound peanut. But I had two fish in the box and it was only 7:00.
As the morning wore on, we picked up 2-5 fish a stop. We had one good stop in the latter part of the morning when we picked up at least 15 fish.
As the day proceeded, the albacore didn’t seem to want the Fish Trap. Carol and Donnie were killing them on iron, so I switched to an iron bar for the slide and started catching fish again.
In the early afternoon we were heading towards a small kelp batch and BJ said we were going to hook up a yellowtail when we went by it. Sure enough, Brian Ferreira was on the troll when his rod went off. Then a few minutes later Bobby Oliver had one on with a Fish Tap.
When Brian landed his fish everyone was excited: it was a 20 pound yellowtail. Bobbie landed a 20 pound yellowtail also.
Carol said it had been about 6 years since the boat landed yellowtail. Donnie worked the area for a while hoping we would get some more yellowtail, but no such luck.
It seemed that as the day got later the tuna just got bigger. By mid-afternoon we were getting a lot of 20-30 pounders.
It was late afternoon and when Donnie saw birds working or dolphins around, we would hook up all five trolling rods and the meat lines and would always get 3-6 fish on the slide right after.
It was total chaos for about 2 hours. Fred Worrell, Kendra Worrell, Ed Haddix, John Rabinowitz, John Tamagini, and John O’Brien started to catch albacore with squid on every stop.
It was my turn again on the troll, and we hooked up 4 rods and the meat lines. After a long battle I landed fish number 11, and it was a 30 pounder. Wow, now I had fish from 8 to 30 pounds.
It was a little after 7:00 p.m. when I dropped my squid overboard, quickly let out my line, and hooked up fish number 12.
I told BJ I couldn't stop the fish and my line was disappearing quickly. He said, “Don't worry, just try to budge the crank and maybe you can start reeling him back.”
After what seemed like eternity and 4 runs later I had the fish straight down at about 90' to 100'. BJ came back over to check on me, and I told him I could not move the fish.
I asked BJ to reel it in since I was tired. BJ finally budged it and was able to put the tuna, over 30 pounds, in the boat.
We had about a half hour before it would be dark, but most of the anglers were tired and wanted to head back home.
We ended up with 135 albacore and 2 yellowtail. Most of the anglers had at least 8 albacore a piece. Fred ended up with the most fish at 15 albacore, Bobby and Ed had 13 apiece, and I had 12.
What an epic day on the tuna grounds. If you want to go albacore fishing, call Kahuna Sportfishing out of Moss Landing at 831-633-2564. Carol Jones runs a first class operation!Back To Reports