Two weeks ago, I was in Louisiana fishing for redfish. This last week, I fished for white seabass and bluefin. Red, white and blue…here’s how it went.
Bluefin On The New Lo-An
Tuesday (June 1st), I boarded the New Lo An for a 1.5-day trip.
I used to do a lot of charters on the Eclipse (now the Tomahawk) back in the day. At the height of those trips, they had assembled a great young crew. One of those crewmembers was Capt. Adam Williams, who is now the main captain on the New Lo An out of Point Loma Sportfishing. Sean Gingery, who was also on the Eclipse works deck. My buddy, Nick Lam, invited me on this trip. He brought his buddy Alan Pera (foreground, right with Nick behind him) with him. You may remember these two guys from my Urban Halibut Hunt in San Francisco last year. Nick also invited Anthony Cannulli aka Billy who is also ex-Eclipse and now manages Sav-On Tackle in Santa Fe Springs. Sav-On was my home tackle shop until I moved to Rosarito recently. Mr. Hai Li, a former Eclipse regular, who now wraps rods at Sav-On also came out. So it was a nice little reunion trip of sorts.
The NLA was a little late in starting their season this year. If you look closely at the picture above, you might notice the perforated grate in the deck to the left of the bait tank. It is a floor bait tank, that can double as a refrigerated saltwater (RSW) hold when the bait gets used up. There is a matching tank on the right side. We had great bait for our entire trip, so it worked splendidly. The upgrade took some major work on the part of the crew to install, but now that it is done, Adam said they can comfortably hold enough bait for a 3-day trip no problem…something to keep in mind as you book the rest of your season.
I’ve got a lot of ground to cover this week, so I’m going to keep it somewhat brief. This trip was a little unusual as the bluefin bit over the course of the entire fishing day. We started at 4 am in the pre-dawn dark and fished until about 10 pm. In the dark, they bit the jigs pretty well. Most people used glow flat falls, but these 200-gram knife jigs (right) that Nick brought were absolutely deadly. Billy had 3 fish before first light on them. The nice thing about them is that a steady retrieve (in the dark) works best. When the sun came up, the bite seemed to transition to a sinker rig bite. In the afternoon, the fish came up and a flylined bait was working great. Then it transitioned back to a jig bite at dusk. What was really unusual was that despite some spectacular blow-ups, no kite fish were caught on this trip.
I brought 4 setups and they effectively covered all the scenarios we encountered. I brought 40# and 60# flyline setups, an 80# sinker rig, and a 100# vertical jig setup. Looking back, the only thing I might change is swapping the 60# flyline for something to cast a colt sniper or popper, although that scenario barely presented itself. My setups were a Fishing Syndicate FSC 800M with a Shimano Talica 12II as my 40# flyline setup. I used the FS Offshore 760XH and a Penn Fathom 40NLD2 for my 60#, FS Offshore 760XXH with an Okuma Makaira 16II for my 80# sinker rig, and the FS Offshore 760XXXH with a Makaira 30II for my 100# setup.
These fish were big and mean.
The average fish was 40-60-pounds, but we had several fish over 100-pounds for the trip. I personally went 1 for 4 on the bluefin (plus a paddy yellow). I really don’t enjoy bluefin fishing, but I learned some things on this trip that I’m eager to put to use on another trip soon. One fish that I lost was on the sinker rig. I switched up at first light because frankly I was tired of jigging and wanted to be lazy. Mr. Li saw me being lazy and told me I needed to be more active and move the bait up and down through the water column. I found a compromise by dropping my bait down to the top of the spread where Adam said he was marking fish, then ever so slightly engage the lever drag so that the bait slowly fell through the fish zone. It worked! Unfortunately, I straightened out the hook. Fixable…get stronger hooks (this was a 3x so…) and back off the drag a little.
Lost another fish on the flyline in the afternoon after it took me around the boat a couple of times and I got it to my mono topshot 3x. It was a bigger fish, that I hooked on the light gear. Nothing went wrong per se, just unlucky that it came unbuttoned. Then I got bit again in the dark on one of those knife jigs. The fish swallowed it so deep that it went past the heavy pre-rigged leader and sliced through my 100# mainline. Another luck-of-the-draw thing, but maybe I can rig the heavy leader a little longer next time.
Nick, Alan and Billy did well. The boat finished just shy of limits, plus a handful of yellows. Thanks to Adam and the crew for a great trip. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that their new cook Raoul was fantastic. Chilaquiles with eggs, Philly cheesesteaks, and rigatoni with Bolognese sauce was his menu and it was all prepared really well. Til next time.
White Seabass On The Graylight
Friday (June 4th), I was on the Graylight out of Channel Islands Sportfishing for the second of my 3 charters with them. As opposed to the last time I was up in the 805 when the bite was centered more around Santa Rosa (outer islands), this time around the fish have been real close at Anacapa (above). It’s been going on for almost 2 weeks now, so it was kind of a sh*tshow in terms of all the boats out there. On top of the boat pressure, Shawn said the squid was more spread out, so instead of anchoring on a squid nest and waiting for the fish to come through, it was more of a run and gun type of scenario.
The weapon of choice is still the high dropper loop. I kept it simple in terms of the setups I brought. I had my 30# setup (FSC 800M/Trinidad 16A) for the high dropper. And then I brought something to throw the leadhead or slider rig, the FSG 900L with a Tranx 400. I brought an extra reel with only braid on it to use with the 800M if we rockfished.
The morning went a lot like it does when you are on a yo-yo yellow trip. We cruised around and Shawn used his electronics to locate fish. When he found a school, he would try to get ahead of it and then tell us to drop in quickly.
Hopefully the fish would bite.
We went through several schools over the course of our morning before we found one that wanted to go. Three of us (myself, Ryan Kruskamp, and Court Young) were on the bow. Ian Carson, Nick Mosaquites, and Randy Palicte (right) fished in the stern. Shawn told us to drop in, and 4 of us got bit (Ryan and I didn’t). Shawn stopped the boat and my line was way back behind the boat. I wanted to reel up, so my line wouldn’t be in the way of everyone else that got bit. All I could hear was deckhand Kenny Balkom yelling, “Don’t pull! Don’t pull!” When I got to the back, the 4 lines looked like a spider web. Shawn and Kenny pulled off an amazing feat getting them all untangled. Only 1 fish was lost in the process (Court’s).
After that school, we couldn’t find more biters in the area with the rest of the fleet. Shawn went looking. It probably doesn’t make a difference now, but Shawn asked me not to divulge where we found fish…but we found them far away from where everyone else was. It was pretty nice because we had it mostly to ourselves for the time we were there. It took a few stops, but we eventually got the rest of our fish (8 = 6 passengers + crew). All of the fish on the trip were caught on the high dropper, except for Shawn. So passe to catch on squid. Shawn got his on plastic.
After we got our limits, I figured we’d go rockfishing, but Shawn said he talked to one of the outer island captains on the radio who said they only had 4-5 fish per angler. Crazy to think that rockfishing would ever be slow up there. Shawn said there was a lot of krill in the water, so I guess the fish were fat and lazy eating that forage vs. biting fin bait or squid.
We finished out our day drifting for halibut. Nick was the hot stick for that portion of the day. I got bit 3x, but none of them found the hook. Nick on the other hand hooked and landed 3 fish, 2 of which were keepers. Nice job Nick!
That was essentially our day. White seabass is one of those fish where I feel a smaller boat really makes a difference. It was definitely a difference-maker in our day. Being faster, more agile, and quieter than the big boats was a huge advantage and the impression we had on how that made a difference for us as we fished, was even more evident when looking at the fish counts post-trip. Thanks again to Shawn and Kenny for a great day. See you guys next month.
Really good fishing going on right now folks. Get out and fish! Good luck when you get out there.