Shogun Finds Sizzling Bluefin Tuna Fishing On Penn Fishing University Adventure
The 26 anglers who ventured south for an 8-day long-range adventure onboard Captain Aaron Barnhill’s 90-foot Shogun out of Fisherman’s Landing in San Diego knew that they had a good chance to catch some bluefin tuna; but they had no idea just how good this Penn Fishing University excursion would really be for the often-elusive bluefin.
The passengers included Northern California anglers Bob Conaly of Granite Bay, Tina Crow and Curtis Hayes of Napa, Jan Hester of Rodeo, Stacy Enns of Bakersfield, Gregg Harris of West Sacramento, and also Reno residents Robert Dupont and John Oakes. Other anglers journeyed from Oregon, Washington, and even Texas.
The area from 190 to 225 miles SSW of San Diego was loaded with activity; long range boats, tuna seiners, spotter planes and even helicopters were all congregating in the pursuit of large schools of bluefin tuna.
Although some bluefin were caught trolling, it was Captain Barnhill’s skill that really got the fish for the group, as he expertly spun the Shogun on school after school of bluefin that he spotted on the electronics, exhorting the deckhand on the bait tank to chum heavily; “Brail it! Brail it! This is a big school!”
As usual with bluefin tuna, proper bait selection was most important; successful anglers carefully chose the liveliest, most active sardine possible, hooked it gently in the nose or belly, and quickly got it into the water.
The schools of tuna were three different grades; 25-30 pounds; 35-40 pounds; and 45-55 pounds. Favored tackle for all-around use was a Penn 2-speed Torque TRQ25NLD2 reel with a 25-yard topshot of 40-pound mono over 65-pound braid backing, with a 4-foot leader of 40-pound fluorocarbon.
When the bigger fish were in evidence, switching to a Penn Torque TRQ40NLD2 with a 50-pound mono topshot and 50-pound fluorocarbon leader made short work of even the big boys. Best hook was an Owner Ringed Mutu circle hook, size 2/0 for 40-pound tackle, and size 3/0 for 50-pound tackle.
A handful of yellowtail, dorado, and yellowfin tuna were caught in the “offshore zone” where the bluefin tuna were roaming. During a two-day period where the offshore weather was unfavorable, the Shogun headed inside to calmer waters and first tried at San Benitos and Cedros Islands. Those areas yielded just a half-dozen 25-pound class yellowtail, along with a handful of halibut in the 20-pound range.
The next day the group moved even further inside to Chester’s Rocks, right on the Baja coastline, and were surprised by an unprecedented bite on good-grade halibut while anchored up. The 5 to 25-pound flatties were ravenous, and the anglers managed about 51 of them before smoothound sharks and guitarfish moved in and shut the action down.
After a short move, the yellowtail that Chester’s Rocks are famous for made a moderate showing. The group managed about 75 nice yellowtail over several hours, including a few oversize specimens to 39 pounds.
Most yellowtail were caught on yo-yo jigs, with a blue/white Sumo JR jig among the top choices, although some “surface iron” yellows were also caught on sardine color Sumo 7X jigs or blue/white Tady 45 surface jigs.
Surprising and pleasing everyone, the “icing on the cake” was the 31-pound white seabass that was also landed at Chester’s on a dropper-loop rigged live sardine by first-time long-ranger Tina Crow of Napa.
Typical of the anglers was Gregg Harris of West Sacramento, who was on his first-ever long-range trip. “I caught 14 bluefin tuna up to 50 pounds, along with 2 yellowtail, 4 halibut, and some assorted bottom fish. I definitely caught what I wanted! The most exciting moment was that first bluefin hookup; it pulled like a freight train. I learned how to hook a live sardine, and was amazed at how far some people can cast. My goal for the next trip will be to catch a 50-pound yellowtail.”
Harris added, “The crew of the Shogun works very hard, and is very observant of angler’s needs. I would definitely fish with them again.”
Another long-range rookie was Tina Crow of Napa, who caught 9 bluefin tuna up to 45 pounds, 3 calico bass, and the aforementioned 31-pound white seabass. “I learned how to thumb a reel and level-wind, and also how to hook a sardine”, observed Crow. “The crew of the Shogun was great; always there and totally helpful. The food was constant and always excellent!”
Skipper Aaron Barnhill noted, “When we first got down to the bluefin zone, the water temperature was 65.7 degrees. Those fish were biting well for us, but after two days the weather came up. When we went to Cedros Island there were plenty of yellowtail, but they were stuffed with tuna crabs and lizardfish, and so would not bite. While we were there, the RP went out to Alijos Rocks, but no tuna were present.
“When we got to Chester’s Rocks, the water temperature was 69 degrees, and that halibut bite was a complete freak occurrence. When we got back offshore, the fish were sliding southeast to about 220-225 miles, and the good water area shrank, and dropped to 65 degrees.
“On the way home, we did well at Colonett on the rockfish and lingcod, but there were also yellowtail there that did not bite. There is still a chance for albacore, but if we are going to see them, it will be no later than the full moon in July.”
In the end, the Shogun spent four fishing days total in the offshore zone chasing bluefin, two days near shore when the weather came up, and one day on the northern Baja coast going for bottom fish. When the dust had settled, the tally was 376 bluefin tuna, 6 yellowfin tuna, over 100 yellowtail, 56 halibut, 11 dorado, 1 white seabass, plus numerous calico bass, sheephead, whitefish, and even some beautiful lingcod and red rockfish on the final day.
The jackpot fish was the 56.2 pound bluefin caught by veteran long-ranger Craig Drummond of Corona, who took home a Penn International 12VSX reel and a nice tuna plaque. Drummond also caught a 39-pound yellowtail, but the Penn 113HN Baja Special reel prize for the biggest yellowtail went to Paul Pangan of San Diego. The Penn Fathom FTH25N reel awarded for the biggest fish on a demo outfit went to Scott Horton of Forks, WA, and the Penn Squall SQL25N for the biggest albacore or white seabass went to Tina Crow.
The Shogun [619-226-8030] runs a year-round schedule of trips ranging from 2 to 15 days in length from Fisherman’s Landing in San Diego. Next year’s Penn Fishing University 8-day adventure aboard the Shogun will take place in late June 2014, with space currently still available.Back To Reports