This report covers a 3 day trip on the Searcher. The boat left on Friday 8/31 at about 11 AM and returned at 6 AM Monday 9/3. We fished all 3 days. We fished San Clemente Island and approx.. 20 – 30 miles NW to SW of Ensenada, like most of the fleet. ******************** *** Summary *** ******************** Left at 11 AM Friday with a load of 27 people. Many similar faces from last year. No surprise there since the fishing was so good Labor Day weekend last year. There didn’t seem a lot to think about in terms of where we’d fish. The YFT down south were running on the smaller size and the area is infested with skipjack and not much of a report of dorado. So, the main game in town was SCI and we headed out there on the first day for the evening bite on the BFT running from 60 – 200+ lbs. There was a tentative plan to hit Cortes Bank on Saturday or Sunday, but the BFT action was too good to pass up on.. In the end, the boat landed about 15 BFT, many just a bit over 200 lbs, marking the third year in a row of incredible SCI Labor Day fishing. The smallest BFT was around 60 lbs, most were well over 100 and a several over 200 lbs. We didn’t catch any super giants that pushed 250 – 300 lbs. And, I didn’t catch a single BFT, but it was fun watching then come over the rail – and not so fun watching the casualties of fish lost at color, bite offs, etc… Left Friday and topped of the wells with the small 4” sized sardines. Slammer also had some cured, larger, sardines but they didn’t come in all that useful. We also spend 2 hours at the bait receiver making mackerell. The sardines we had were good quality, but they proved useless for catching BFT. We spent Friday traveling to SCI and it was pretty sloppy out there. We had a swell with a short wave period and it was coming from multiple directions. The conditions weren’t that bad, but they also weren’t that good. A few of us turned green. Fishing Friday night was tough and bumpy but a few fish were landed – all on 200 – 250 g flat falls. The SCI area is full of BFT. It was just a matter of getting a school on sonar, stopping the boat and dropping jigs. Work up Saturday morning to much calmer seas with some guys up at 3 AM that started dropping flat falls. Bite died off as the sun came up. The bite has been very poor during daylight hours so we worked our way over to SCI to fish yellowtail before making a move back to the BFT grounds Saturday evening. The move to SCI to fish YT was a smart one since, other than the kite (which produced some strikes and one fish landed), there wasn’t much of a BFT bite during the day. Never fished SCI myself for YT. Hooked a couple and lost both as they darted to the bottom or whatever outcrop of rock they call home – got rubbed off. There were a couple of YT landed – both on a surface iron. This brings us to Saturday night where we bot back to the BFT area around 6 PM or so. Than plan was to eat dinner and make a move down south to the YFT area. But, guys started dropping flat falls just after dark and we had a steady picking of 100 – 200+ lb. BFT from about 7:00 – 10:00 PM. So, we stayed in the area longer than expected and got down south later in the morning. Was totally worth it though. All it took was a 200 – 250 g flat fall (some were the glow variety but I saw a couple that weren’t the glow type) and the recommended Owner 9/0 assist hook (2 of them), 130 lb. fluorocarbon to the jig, a swivel and at least 100 lb. main line. Anything less than 100/130 lb. upped your chances of NOT landing a BFT. Don’t bother with 80 lb. This is night fishing. Go heavy. Anyway, we had a steady pick of these fish as the school just stayed under the boat for about 3 hours. We had a few losses along the way to. If you don’t have the proper gear for these fish, borrow from someone or get a loaner unit from the boat / landing. It worth the money you’ll pay for it. All in all, it was another epic bite, but totally different from last year as it happened at night. There’s probably a few bruised knees and sore arms from Sunday’s fishing. Anyone that hooked and landed one of these beasts would say it was worth it. It was pretty simple…put your reel into freespool and drop down 100 – 200 feet – where ever the fish are being marked. Then, reel back in. Several fish were caught on the retrieve (normal pace retrieve – not like yo-yoing up a YT) so not all fish are caught on the drop down. The BFT at SCI are not taking hooked baits, though we stumbled on a large school of foamers, dumped a couple of scoops of sardines on them and got them to at least boil on the baits. I guess you could call that progress, but they didn’t take any hooked baits. Maybe it will change in a few weeks? If you can run a kite with a yummee flyer, you should have a good shot of catching something during daylight hours. By the way, the BFT were not taking hooked baits on sinker rigs either. Seems to just be a reaction bite at night and they want to hit a moving jig. When the bite died down Saturday we turned south to an area off Ensenada to fill the wells with whatever dorado and YFT the ocean was offering up. Got to the area around 7 AM and started to fish, having steady action until about 6 PM, even passing off our school to a couple of other boats during the day that weren’t as lucky. The YFT were small, typically 7 – 13 lbs. I’d estimate, but fun on light line. Some areas were infested with skipjack and some school were mostly YFT. Just pull out a 20 – 25 lb. setup and a size 1 hook and you’ll be all set. I found no need for fluorocarbon. I used my Trini 14A with 30 lb spectra tied to 20 lb mone and a size 4 hook. I didn’t need to go that small, but I like fishing light line / small reel when the sardines are small. You would have been fine with 25 lb line and a size 1 hook though. It was pretty much wide open action on skipjack, YFT and a couple of dorado for the better part of 9 hours. Getting bored of catching them on hooked baits, I (and another guy) broke out the poppers. Actually, I hooked and landed a YFT on a surface iron (as did another guy) before moving on to my popper. The YFT were happy to hit the popper and the action up on the bow was a lot less chaotic. It was also a good way to avoid skipjack – they didn’t take to the popper but the YFT would slam it. Was fun watching. If you don’t have a popper / don’t like fishing one on a conventional reel, just throw a surface iron – they were happy to bite that as well. As for the weather Sunday, it was great. A huge change from the sloppiness we had to deal with on Friday. Crew did A+ job chumming Sunday and keeping the school with our boat. There was the typical cluster of tangles (love it when a skipjack decides to run sideways along the boat and take our the lines of 6 other people) but not a big deal. Just retie. You had all the fish you wanted to catch on Sunday. A couple of things… #1) Buy 130 lb. fluorocarbon, a strong swivel and get your line crimped to your flat fall. And, replace the stock hooks with approx.. 9/0 assist hooks. #2) If you’re thinking of using 80 lb, think about renting a setup that can land these fish more easily. I think one guy landed his fish on 80 lb, so it can be done but the crew recommended going heavier. #3) Come prepared with everything, and a least two of those flat fall setups. I’d also come prepared with 1/0 – 4/0 ringed circle hooks in case the fish start biting baits and 40, 50 and 80 lb setups. *** Bait *** 4” sardines (good for YFT) 8” sardines (YFT / skipjack didn’t want them) Mackerel (didn’t really have a need for them) *** Weather *** Friday: Windy. Partly to mostly cloudy. Confused seas. Swell with tight period. Approx 70 degrees. About half got sea sick. Saturday and Sunday: Partly to mostly cloudy. Approx 70 degrees. Waves approx. 2-3 feet coming from the West and subsiding to about 2 feet later Saturday and through Sunday. *** Grade of Fish *** 7 – 13 lb YFT and skipjack. 60 – 200+ lb. BFT (I think the biggest BFT was just shy of 220 lbs.) -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- ----- OTHER NOTES ------------------------------------------------------------------ -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- The Crew, Captain and Passengers - Worked hard and worked together - Heroic efforts by the crew to undo tangles with good success. Most of the lost fish were due to the size of the fish, bitten through lines, etc…One of our younger anglers silently went about landing 100 – 200 lb. BFT without much help from the crew until gaff time. - Food was good, crew and deckhands were helpful and had good attitudes. Sean (captaining in place of Art this year) fished hard and adapted the plans when the fishing facts changed. I think our time on the water was very well managed and everyone left satisfied with the trip. ******************* *** My Gear *** ******************* - 20 lb: Super Seeker 270H + Trinidad 14A (30 lb spectra + 20 lb. Izor XXX mono) - 25 lb: Calstar GFGF800ML + Seagate 30H (40 lb spectra, 30 lb Izor XXX + Seaguar fluoro) - 30 lb: CalStar 800ML + Seagate 30H (40 lb spectra + 30 lb Izor XXX mono) - 30 lb: Phenix PSW808MH + Shimano Saragosa 5000 spinner (30 lb. spiderwire invisibraid + 50 lb fluoro leader) - 80 lb: Seeker Hercules SHS70H-7 + Accurate DPX2-500 (65 lb spectra + 80 lb JAK wind-on) - 100 lb: super seeker CTSF 63XXH, Penn Int. 20T 2 speed Cal Sheets converted (100 lb JB hollow + 130 lb JAK Associates fluoro wind-on – used for 300 g flat falls) *************** *** Knots *** *************** - Bimini to worm knot for all spectra-to-mono connections. - Loop-to-loop connection for all bimini / wind-on connections. - Spangler or palomar knot for all hook connections. I like the Spangler if I want a “stealth” know but I mainly tied a quick and palomar – we’re only talking about 10 lb. YFT here… - Double San Diego Jam to flat fall - would have been nicer to have had a crimped connection with a chafing spring though. An epic trip, for sure. Enjoy it while it lasts this season.