Who knows what’s going to happen a month from now, or next week, or even tomorrow for that matter, but I will say that right now is the best shot you’ll probably ever get at the bluefin of a lifetime. Will you land one? I doubt it. Will you hook one? Probably not. Will you even see one? Maybe. While those odds don’t seem to be stacked in the anglers favor, when you consider that we’re talking about catching a 200+ pound tuna within 40-miles of the dock in Orange County, it would be silly not to at least try.
Speaking of trying, my friend Frank Wong has been trying his ass off this season and until Tuesday all he had to show for it was $2K worth of popping gear and multiple long and fruitless days of burning through a tank of gas while not seeing any fish that were willing to cooperate. Frank really worked his ass off and kept going long after other guys would have thrown in the towel.
On Wednesday morning, that hard work finally paid off.
Frank found some fish, got bit on the popper and used that expensive gear to put max pressure on it, bringing the fish 200 plus-pound fish to the boat in less than 30 minutes. I’m really happy for Frank and I know that all the work he put in before catching this fish makes it all the sweeter. It also shows the importance of having top of the line gear that’s completely dialed in. If you’re lucky enough to hook one of these things it would be a shame to lose it because you cut corners on tackle.
Speaking of luck, it tends to favor the prepared. You might remember Seth Dubois and his friends from the 240-pound bluefin they landed after an almost 9-hour battle that I wrote about in last week’s column. Well, the guys were at it again this week and managed another 200+ pound fish. This one taking around ten minutes to get boat side. They credited the quick time on hammering the drag and pulling on the fish like they didn’t care if they lost it. Proving that if you do hook one of these big fish, the best thing you can do is pull as hard as you can from the moment you hook it. These fish will often act erratically at the beginning of the fight before they get a chance to settle in and if you keep the pressure on them sometimes you can kill them early.
Don’t be afraid to trust your gut and drive away from the fleet. Some of the best scores are being reported by guys who are finding fish on their own. My friend John Curry fished bluefin on Sunday and drove away from the fleet while following similar temp breaks that were holding fish in the crowded areas. He was rewarded with finding a big area of fish that he had all to himself. He hooked one of the big ones and had the hook pull during the fight but he and his fishing buddy got the consolation of hooking and landing a double on 140-pound tuna. I know that it’s easier for me to tell you to drive away from the fleet than it is for you to actually do it, but I assure you it works.
If you don’t have a boat of your own, your best bet is to hope to get an invite from someone who does. Sometimes you’ll get lucky like my friend Danny Mun who got the invite to fish aboard the Bad Company. The fish killing boat and crew lived up to their reputation and brought a couple of 200-pound bluefin to the dock; including Danny’s 221-pounder.
You do have a shot at getting one of these jumbos on a sport boat. But if you think your odds were bad on a private boat, they become staggering on a sport boat.
If the stars align perfectly you just might get a shot, but if you’re serious about catching one you’re going to need to spend the money to charter a boat.
There are lots of charter options, covering everything from a guide who will take you alone to a four or six pack boat that will accommodate you and your friends. Whatever you pick, choose the one with the least amount of other people you can afford to go with. I used to travel to Puerto Vallarta to fish the big yellowfin down there and I’d pony up the $1200 a day to just have the boat to my wife and myself. Sure it would have been cheaper to do a shared charter, but I wanted to make sure that if we found the fish I’d be the one catching them. On that same token, I’d never go all that way just to fish for one day because the odds of missing were too high. Instead I’d book two or three days in a row. Sure, paying close to $4000 for three days of fishing is a lot of money, but big game fishing is an expensive proposition.
It’s really no different with these big bluefin. It might take you two or three trips before you get your shot. So if you’re serious about trying to catch one you should plan on booking multiple trips with whichever boat you charter as odds are that you won’t catch one your first trip. Yeah, it’s going to cost you, but 20 years from now when you’re still thinking back on that fish of a lifetime, it will all be worth it.