Offshore 08/18 – La Jolla, N9, S. of the 209 – Big Dodo



I'm not superstitious... cuz it's bad luck.
  • Aug 6, 2016
    SoCal - Corona
    I know a couple guys...
    Short Story: Got lucky and learned a valuable lesson after forgetting to put in the plug. Once that alarm was handled, we launched out of Mission Bay, bought a half scoop of lively dines, made a bunch of macs, and hit La Jolla for no love. Decided to pick up and head off shore after an hour or so, water was warm (apprx. 72-73 degrees offshore), and the wind and waves were the glassiest we have experienced all year. Found a couple of paddies at the N9, and most were empty or had spearos on them, so picked up and headed north towards the 209. In the middle of the N9 and the 209 we got lucky and @Hismosa picked up the biggest Dorado (I have ever seen in person) on a fly-lined mac. After that we continued to head towards the 209, joined a really cool set of guys (waved us in) on a paddy with Dodos jumping. Had some real nice drifts and Hismosa picked up another smaller Dodo (10-12 lbs. or so). Jumped in and tried spearfishing for the first time, it was awesome, but no luck force feeding them. Headed back to La Jolla for an hour or so for nothing, back on the trailer at 8pm.

    Long, Long, Long Story: After fishing 2 weeks ago with @Benny Mora on his 20’ Triton cc, and picking up a few decent Dorado, we decided to give it another shot Saturday, 08/18/18. If you read my last report, you know we found the Dodos but had to work really hard to pick up two of them even though they were swimming and jumping all around us for most of the day. After experiencing a day with most fish having lock-jaw, we picked up a cheap spear gun from a friend, brought our bodyboarding fins, and a couple scuba masks to see what this whole spearfishing experience was all about. With the water being so warm, we figured it wouldn’t hurt to take a nice swim and to see if the spearfishing thing was even something we wanted to get serious about on future trips.

    As usual, we were glued to fishing reports, fish counts, temp breaks, chloro breaks, FishDope, and really any information possible to find the best plan leading up to the trip. It seemed like the options were to either go south to the Hidden bank for 10-20 lb. YFT, or stay closer and look for paddies to fish Dodos with the shot at an occasional YT. The night before, our good buddy who we fish with frequently, @tmitch760 called me and said that the 12-20 lb. YT were going off in La Jolla that morning. So after receiving that very reliable dope, we now had a 3rd option. When we fish, we always seem to make the final fishing plan decision the morning of, which also takes into consideration any last-minute dope, or weather conditions that need to be considered.

    We met up at Benny’s house in Corona at 2am, loaded the boat, performed a quick safety check of the truck and trailer, then took the roughly 2-hour trip down to Dana Landing in Mission Bay. When we get to the launch ramp @ 4am, we pull aside and start staging the boat. This is when we normally make sure the plug is in, take off the rod/reel covers, drop kids off at the pool, put up the antenna, and do all the little things to get ready to fish. That morning, when we were going through the routine, a fellow fisherman came up and asked what our game plan was for the day. We are not real secretive so we stopped for about 10 minutes and gave him the information we had as well as what we felt were the best options. After that, we wished each other good luck and proceeded to launch the boat.

    A few minutes after I park the truck and trailer, I get a call from Benny who is waiting just off the dock for Hismosa and I to walk down and jump aboard. I thought it was weird that Benny was calling me, but figured he might have left something in the truck, so I answered the phone. That’s when Benny (in a calm tone) said the four words no skipper wants to say… “I’m taking on water”. I almost think he is joking because I would have been freaking out, especially because we saw a skiff sunk and tied to the dock the last trip. He then said, “you put in the plug, right?” and we both realized that when we stopped our routine and spoke to the other fisherman, neither one of us put the plug in… Oh Shit!!

    Hismosa and I ran all the way back to the truck/trailer (of course we park at the very far end of the lot so that we have a nice spot) jump in, and haul ass back to the launch ramp. I imagine that the people getting ready to launch were thinking “what’s wrong with these idiots speeding across the parking lot”, but who cared because we were at risk of sinking the boat. Luckily, we all stayed calm, and immediately jumped into action. I backed the truck/trailer up, Hismosa was right there to clip the strap on and crank up, and Benny had the boat on the trailer within 20 seconds of it being at the right depth. We pulled it up about 20 feet, put the plug in, waited about 10 minutes for the bilge pump to drain all the water, then dropped her back in. We were really lucky that the bilge pump was up to the task, and that we didn’t sink the boat. Yes, we knew that Benny could have jumped in to put the plug in and would have done so if the bilge wasn’t kind of keeping up, but we wanted to inspect the skiff just to make sure the only thing allowing water in was the missing plug.

    The reason I am sharing this fiasco (even though we look stupid and made the #1 rookie mistake) is to hopefully help anyone reading this from doing the same thing. Here is what we put in place to prevent this from happening in the future. Number 1: We will make sure to check for the plug while performing the safety check on the truck/trailer before leaving Corona. Number 2: We will perform a secondary plug check before launching, and Number 3: we will not be interrupted by anyone while performing the pre-launch routine and will wait to chit chat with other fisherman once all safety measures are finished.

    Okay, excitement was over and we headed to get some bait. We motor up and buy a half scoop of mostly smaller dines (4-5 inches) with several horse dines mixed in (6-8 inches). We planned to give ourselves plenty of time to make some macks before being able to safely leave the harbor. Last trip, we tried to make some macks but were only able to make about 4 in a half hour. This time, we brought a couple of cans of cat food and oh my gosh, does that make a huge difference. Sadly, I can tell you that these were the only fish I was able to catch all day, but I can also tell you I was killing it, literally WFO on mini macks, and several horse macks in that time-frame. I just dropped the sabiki right in the cat food cloud and made probably 30 macks, 2 at a time in most cases. There were about 15 boats where we were (just north of the jetty) and nobody seemed to be making them like we were. We will ALWAYS have cans of cat food from now on.

    Just before grey light, we were ready to hit La Jolla for some of those YT we were hearing about the day before. The wind was almost non-existent, and the swell seemed to be less than 1 foot, with the temp at about 74 degrees as we approached the condos in La Jolla. We tied on a couple of rapalas with the intent to troll in 80-120 feet of water, until we get bit by YT, then chunk and chum like crazy while fly-lining macs. We planned for a nice and easy day inshore and optimistically hoped for putting a good number of good sized YT on ice. However, after no bites for an hour and the grease conditions calling us offshore, we decided to change the plan last minute and go look for Dorado. There is something to say about making a plan and sticking to it, but there is also a great argument for knowing when something is not working and adapting to the situation presented. Knowing that the reports were so good at LJ less than 24 hours before, and knowing that we had the right lures being trolled in the right area, with the right conditions and still nada, that told us the bite turned off and to adjust the plan. Off we go towards the N9.

    Boy oh boy is it nice when the conditions are grease and you are heading offshore. At one point we were at about 28 knots and even at that speed, we could see for what seemed to be miles on each side of us. I was spotting litter and tiny kelps soooo far away. We got to the N9 in no time, and focused on finding paddies. We found a handful of smaller, loose kelps, none of which appeared to be holding, so we continued on. At one point, we saw a couple of skiffs sitting close together offshore and knew they were on a kelp. As we rolled up, one of them left so we slid on in and fly-lined, and threw colt snipers, irons, and a few other jigs for nothing, so off we go again.

    After about 20 minutes, we find another (larger) kelp paddy with a couple of divers on them. We see one of them lift a nice Dodo up to their boat and decide to give this one a try. As mentioned above, we were prepared to jump in and give spear fishing a try, but we felt kinda poachy to jump in with other divers in the water, especially knowing that neither of us have spearfished before. Accepting that we were straight rookies, and because we were uncertain of the etiquette here, we kept our distance and did the normal routine of fly-lining, and throwing the usual irons/jigs. After 20 minutes or so, we decide that we need to get further away from the local traffic and go find our own fish like we know we should have in the first place. Instead of going south, we decide to head towards the 209 area with the plan of finding paddies hopefully holding Dorado. Plus, if we could find our own paddy, we could give spearfishing a try, and we wouldn’t look like such rookies because nobody should be there to see how badly we were doing it. LOL

    Off we go hauling ass, and even though we could see for miles on each side of us, we weren’t finding many of paddies. How ironic is it that on windy days I have told myself that I would be able to find them if the wind was down, and now that the wind was down, I couldn’t find a damn paddy? Anyways, we saw some ponies working a couple of times and trolled a couple of plugs through them for nothing. At one point we would have stopped to fish a paper plate if we could find it so it was no surprise when Benny pulled the throttle back because he saw one small fish jump. Only Benny saw it and when we asked what it was he said it could have been a big mackerel, a small YFT, or maybe even a small female Dorado. Either way, he was sure he saw something, so we stopped and gave it a try there.

    What was odd was that we were in the middle of the trench, no paddies to be seen anywhere, and the water was more than 1000’ feet deep. I was not sold that Benny saw a fish as I commonly hallucinate seeing non-existent paddies, or foamers that are just whitecaps when I am scanning the water looking for life. We again fly-lined and dropped some jigs, but this time no iron as there was no paddy. After about 25 minutes or so, we all figured that fish was a figment of Benny’s imagination, so we took an opportunity to take a swim. Benny puts on the snorkel mask and jumps in the water. The water was a deep blue that seemed to stretch further than outer space. It’s incredible how scary it can be diving down only to see more and more blue as you go deeper and deeper. It makes you feel like an ant in a lake and knowing that there is a whole food chain living down there is enough to make a courageous man pucker up when you’re out there.

    After Benny was in the water for a while, I joined him and felt the same feeling of being so small. After a 15-minute swim, we both are in the boat still wearing our masks when Hismosa is bent. At first, I thought he was snagged but then remembered the water depth and knew there was no way he was on the bottom. I recall feeling confused because he was really bent but barely said a word, I then thought he was wrapped around the prop, until… ZZZZZzzzzzzzz whatever he had on was taking line. It was taking so much line that Hismosa said he thought it was probably a shark being that we were in open water. Honestly, we were not really prepared for the bite after jumping in the water, swimming and what not, so the excitement grew as we tried to work together to bring in the other rods and clear the deck, and have the gaff ready.

    All of a sudden, there was a big splash and despite it being just 40 feet from the boat, neither of us saw what actually made the big splash. Again, we thought it was a shark, Hismosa kept on grinding until… We see the biggest ass Bull Dorado (initially estimated at 30 lbs.) I have ever seen in person come completely out of the water…Holy Moly, shit just got serious. Funny how you go from happy and calm to freaking the F’ out when you have a trophy fish on like that. It didn’t make us feel any better knowing that it’s pretty easy to rip a Dodo’s lip and pull the hook. It became somewhat of a stressful moment because I was really scared that the line was going to break or the hook was going to pull. In any event, we stumbled around the deck and shouted commands as Hismosa handled the situation perfectly, giving drag when needed, before bringing that beautiful fish to color. Benny was the gaff man, and while he could have put a perfect headshot in place, he opted to sink it in the Bull’s back to avoid any mishap with missing the headshot or gaffing the line for a break-off. After it was in the boat, pics taken, and bled, the Dodo weighed in on a digital and a spring scale at 25 lbs.

    I was able to capture the last minute of the fight on video and wondered who the little girl screaming with excitement was off screen as I watched the clip on the way home that evening. I knew that girly voice was me being so excited that this trophy Dorado was going home with us. I hope you find the video entertaining or at least comical because we sure did. I even had to apologize to Benny and Hismosa for being so bossy while bringing the fish in, I just didn’t want the fish to get away. What an amazing and incredible moment we had watching Hismosa catch that fish all because Benny stopped when he saw one small fish jumping out of the corner of his eye. Lesson Learned… Always go with your gut when you see life. If your gut says stop and fish, damnit stop and fish even if for only 10 minutes.

    After that, we kept heading north towards the 209 looking for paddies when we hear a skipper saying that he is south of the 209 (which is where we were), and he was on a wide open Dorado bite. When we looked around, we could only see one skiff about a mile away with a big tanker not too far away from them. We figured this had to be the guy (we later found it wasn’t) so we headed that direction and saw an apprx. 20’ Grady White CC with 2 guys drifting a nice size kelp paddy (6x12 or so). We hailed them on 72 and asked if we could join them and before we could get the full transmission completed, these guys were waiving us in. We made sure to swing around really far outside to slide in as calmly as possible as to not disrupt their bite. We stopped about 150 feet or so away and made a perfect drift and as we did, the 10-15 lb Dodo were doing acrobatic stunts right next to the boat. A few times, these things went apeshit and boiled on a bait ball. Despite dropping a few jigs on their heads, the still didn’t bite right then. I want to thank those guys for being super cool and considerate by waiving us in. We drifted that paddy several times and Hismosa pulled a 2nd Dodo (12 lbs apprx) off of it.

    After about 30-45 minutes another boat (apprx 20’ Bay Runner) arrives with two of the three guys wearing wetsuits. First, these guys came in really slow and stopped off the paddy about 100 yards, and stayed there until we were close enough to chat. Instead up crashing the paddy, one of the guys asked if we were going to dive in and I said that we would, but that we were going to wait until the first guys were finished fishing. I think they were fishing while waiting for the right time to jump in. I saw a few reports where some guys got pissed that divers came in on their paddies and I wasn’t going to do this to the guys in the Grady White, especially because they were so cool to us. That being said, the two guys on the Grady told us to go ahead and go for it, seriously a class act because they were still fishing. I don’t know who those guys were, but I want to thank them so much because we had a blast even though we only caught one fish there. Special recognition to the guys in the Bay Runner because they were a class act as well. All three boats worked well together and did what I consider the right thing to do when waived in on a paddy. Great experience there.

    So now that they told us to go in, Benny and I got our gear on and loaded the spear gun. Remember, this was our first-time spearfishing. I get in first with the gun and within 30 seconds a school of the same 10-15 lb. Dodo swim right up to me within 15 feet. Benny is not even all the way in the water before the lead Dodo is within 10 feet of me. I point the gun, pull the trigger and get my first shot off and hit the Dodo right behind the pectoral fin, but the spear doesn’t go through the fish. If I was 6 inches closer, it would have gone all the way through and I would have my first speared Dodo on ice. Instead, the Dodo freaks out as expected and I just know I scared them all away. Lesson Learned: We need a better spear gun and I need to be more patient. Those fish swim right up to you and if I would have waited, I am sure I would have had a successful shot. The 2 other divers were in by this point and already had 2 nice Dodos on their Bay Runner. We stayed in the water for another 30 or 45 minutes and saw the 25+ school of fish a couple more times but after the poor shot I had, and 2 of them being killed by the other divers, they only came within 15 feet or so which was out of my gun’s range. Still, what an awesome experience and I can’t wait to try it again.

    I think it was about 4pm by this time and the wind was picking up so we decided to head back to La Jolla to see if the YT were moving to an evening bite. Because we were moving down-hill, we got to La Jolla within 30 minutes or so without being wet. We fished La Jolla for a bunch of nothing for an hour before calling it a day. All in all, we didn’t catch much but the huge fish Hismosa caught felt like a win for all of us. I forgot to mention that Benny didn’t get the skunk like I did because he caught a small bonito (released) at La Jolla. Hismosa trying to be nice (and funny) said that I caught the most fish of anyone seeing how I was killing the macks that morning. We still had a good quantity of dines and macks (released) when we called it a day. Amazing how having grease conditions can help keep bait alive all day especially knowing that there have been days that more than half the bait died before we got to the offshore spot.

    Not really sorry about the super long report I wrote here because I could have written twice as much with all the details. I love fishing and could go on and on and on writing about it. In any event, I hope you enjoyed the write up and that you don’t make the same mistakes we made that day. We learned a few lessons and fortunately for us, we did not have to pay the consequences others have paid to learn them. We caught some good fish, enjoyed the ocean in a new and exciting way, and made it home safely. Good Luck and Tight Lines Fellers!!

    Bull Dodo.jpg
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    Feb 23, 2012
    la mesa, ca
    21 ft panga Sea Moan/17 ft gregor Pirasea II
    Domber Dorado!
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    jim isbell

    I Should Upgrade My Account
    Jun 25, 2015
    Anaheim, CA
    Jim Isbell
    19' Campion/115 4 stroke Yamaha
    Just one comment about the plug. I saw a guy recently--right after washing down his rig after fishing, he then drove back down to the ramp, backed his rig almost to the water's edge, put on the brake and went back there and unscrewed his plug, and a shit load of water came pouring out. He told me he does this because his boat does not sit on the trailer HIGH ENOUGH, to have the water drain out (with plug out) on the way home, or, after we washes the rig down. I checked my boat trailer and found the same thing. Even after adjusting the boat on the trailer to the highest position, the bottom slope of the hull still describes a small, but clearly downward path, from the back of the boat, to the front, not the other way around as it should. Makes me wonder how many guys have a hell of a lot of water in their below deck space as they launch, weight they don't need.
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    Love to fish!
  • Aug 7, 2012
    All over the 805
    Just one comment about the plug. I saw a guy recently--right after washing down his rig after fishing, he then drove back down to the ramp, backed his rig almost to the water's edge, put on the brake and went back there and unscrewed his plug, and a shit load of water came pouring out. He told me he does this because his boat does not sit on the trailer HIGH ENOUGH, to have the water drain out (with plug out) on the way home, or, after we washes the rig down. I checked my boat trailer and found the same thing. Even after adjusting the boat on the trailer to the highest position, the bottom slope of the hull still describes a small, but clearly downward path, from the back of the boat, to the front, not the other way around as it should. Makes me wonder how many guys have a hell of a lot of water in their below deck space as they launch, weight they don't need.
    I figure as I'm driving around on hills and stuff all the water sloshes to the back and out the hole. Depending on your route, this may or may not work, and each boat should be inspected differently....
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    Hecho en Estados Unidos
    Apr 27, 2006
    M Class Planet / Riverside
    Grady White 228 Seafarer "GOTTA GET'M"
    My plug stays on the bench next to the boat keys and gets put in only by me before I leave the house. I learned my lesson freshwater fishing 30 years ago. The area you were in is near where we caught a 27 lbr. about this time last year, good to know there's some bigger models showing up again.
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