I think that it’s time to come to grips with the fact that the schools of big bluefin in our local waters just aren’t going to cooperate and bite for boats the way bluefin have in the past. So, if you’re expecting to go out, pull up on a sonar mark, throw some chum and have the fish come up biting in the corner, I’m pretty sure you’re going to have to wait until next year or maybe longer. That being said, the bluefin are biting really well for the guys trolling the kite with a gummy flyer.
As you can see from the photo above the sport boats have been getting in on the action when they have groups that are interested in rolling the dice and fishing the kite. This two day trip aboard the Outer Limits out of Seaforth Landing yielded 13 big bluefin for 23 passengers. Private boaters and 4-pack charter boats have been getting the most consistent scores and having shots at multiple fish per day.
Billy Kelleman has been on the fish all year long and managed three earlier this week with two of them being over 200 and the largest almost breaking the 300-pound mark. I’m not sure how many big fish he’s caught this year but it’s got to close to twenty. But not all private boaters are having success, in fact, most aren’t. So if you’re reading this and scratching your head as to how these guys are catching them when you’re not, don’t worry you aren’t alone. Reading over some of the reports of unsuccessful trips and talking to some of the guys that have been catching fish, it’s pretty clear that this “new to us fishing style” has a lot of guys struggling to figure out how to do it right. The good news is that it’s not all that hard if you just stick to the offshore fishing basics.
The first thing you’ll need to do is to learn how to properly fly your kite and how far back you’ll want it from the boat to properly present your bait. I was out earlier this year and saw all kinds of inappropriate kite placement. One boat had the thing flying 20 feet off the transom and another had it so far up that I thought it was a UFO when I saw it through the binoculars. The right distance seems to be far enough back that your lure is skipping in clean water well past or outside the prop wash but not so far back that you need binoculars to see your indicator.
Also, the lure should be skipping on the water as much as possible as a bait that only touches the water every two minutes is unlikely to get a bite. You will need to have someone constantly monitoring that bait and adjusting the amount of line that’s out to keep the bait fishing properly. A friend of mine, who will remain nameless, complained to me the other day that he spent all day looking for the fish and when he finally found them he had his friend deploy the flyer while he drove from the tower. Five minutes later he saw fish blowing out behind the boat and looked for the flyer only to find it dangling 10-feet out of the water. That was the only shot they had that day and an inattentive guy in the cockpit blew it.
Speaking of finding fish, you’ll need to do that if you want to catch something.
Earlier this week I read a report about someone who trolled the flyer for hours and ran from one bank to the next without catching anything. No surprise there. The ocean is a huge and mostly empty place and the odds of you randomly encountering a biting fish are so slight they’re almost non-existent. You need to go to where the fish are on that day if you want to catch one. When you read a report that the tuna are biting at the 182 or the 43 that doesn’t mean you just run to your GPS coordinates for the spot and deploy the flyer. Before you start trolling around you need to go and find some signs of fish. Just like with any other type of offshore fishing you’ll want to look for birds, bait, meter marks or any of the normal indicators before you start trolling. If you troll your way out of the fishy looking zone, turn around and make another pass. Just make sure that your lure is still fishing right when you do because turning the boat is going to affect how the kite flies.
Finally, get away from the crowds. The offshore grounds being as vast and empty as they are it’s understandable that people want to drive over to where other boats are fishing because they assume there must be fish biting for all of those boats to group up like that. The thing is that very few of those boats are actually looking for fish, the rest are looking for other boats. Here’s a scenario that I saw play out in person. A couple years ago I was fishing bluefin off Dana Point. I found a school that had some anchovies balled up and caught a couple fish off it. As we were fighting those fish a couple other boats ran up because they saw us bending in their binoculars. Both of those boats started fishing, but the bite had already ended. I left the spot and went looking for another spot of fish. As I did I watched two more boats pull up to where the first two weren’t catching anything and start fishing as well. Within a half hour there were a dozen boats all drifting together and catching nothing in an area the tuna had vacated over an hour ago. I know it’s hard to drive away from the fleet when the fishing is tough but I can assure you that the guys who are catching fish are doing that very thing every single trip.