Offshore Ending the season with Polaris Supreme 1.5 Day 9/3

PENN

tommyc

Hacker
Jul 30, 2011
342
299
Livermore, CA
Name
Tom
Boat
Beatem N' Eatem
Fish Report - 30 Bluefin 34 - 44 lbs at San Clemente Island, (a few rat yellows, a Calico Bass and two perfect, "large bait sized", Bonito were also tagged).

Fishing methods: Shimano flat falls, Blue Sardine, Blue and Pink, White Glow Bug and Root Beer and white with all the paint chewed off accounted for ten or twelve of the fish. No other jig of any kind, in any presentation, with any angler fishing it, was ever touched. All other fish caught on bait.

The story and some thoughts from a wanna be journeyman, certainly no expert, (might ramble a lot so please move on if not interested):

I am a duck hunter with two beautiful labs that I train all year for their three months of glory at a central valley duck club. It's an expensive hobby that pretty much eliminates all thoughts of fishing later into the fall when many readers of this forum should be killing it on the local fishing grounds this year. So I wanted to get in one more trip if I possibly could before it was too late. Then the Polaris Supreme's Facebook page announced three short trips at the end of August, beginning of September and I decided this was it.

The thought was that some bigger fish were being caught in US waters and I wanted to try to test my gear and skills on the larger fish if possible. The fish in my avatar is a 70 lb Bluefin, that is my personal best, caught last year on the Supreme on a five day at the tuna pens, (wasn't it fun fishing where they dumped tons of tuna chow into the water every day?). So I booked the trip and booked the flight down from the Bay Area to sneak in one more trip for the year.

I was meeting my buddy Craig who was also flying in from Sacramento. Craig was hoping for a personal best too, having caught a 50 lb Halibut once. I told him that I thought the Supreme crew would be a good bet for us on a short trip. Since I have not fished any of the shorter range boats for a few years knowing what I could expect from Tommy Rothery’s operation was also a big factor in choosing this trip. So I cut loose from work, got my big suitcase packed with my tackle backpack and the SKB rod case to the Southwest check in counter and flew down to San Diego incident free. Then my suitcase didn't arrive, but my rod case did. I always carry my reels on to the plane so I had rods, reels and not much else for this trip. At check in the Fisherman's landing tackle shop was able to set me up with a new pair of Extra Tuffs, some hooks, some flouro and a new Seeker Black Steel rod for my second 40 lb reel on this trip. A small fortune later I was ready to board the boat.

I saw familiar crew faces as Mike, Gunny, Chef Mike and Gringo were busy and moving around the boat. Tommy Rothery was also there but he was very focused and not chatting. Susan Rothery was also hanging around for what seemed like a long time as we assembled our rods and it seemed the boat was in no hurry to leave. Then it was explained that 2nd Capt. Jed was down below working on replacing a salt water pump and that we wouldn't be leaving until he completed the work, (no toilets, no bait tank). So we sat down to a dinner of prime rib with all the fixings and we had the unexpected pleasure of Susan serving us as dinner, (first time ever for her). After the first dinner seating we went back out on the deck and Tommy emerged from the 120 degree engine room with a thumbs up. Drew fired up the engines 60 seconds later as Tommy and Susan jumped off the boat and we were on our way. During orientation Drew had told the 24 anglers that we would be fishing San Clemente Island because there had been Bluefin caught there Thursday. He said that he didn't want to kill the small yellowfins that most of the San Diego fleet was feasting on and that only if the Navy shut us down or he just couldn't find them, would we consider a plan B to fish kelp patties. I looked at Craig and smiled saying, "I told you, Drew will focus on getting the largest fish available, always". Craig smiled back saying that he had never caught a Bluefin. We watched as they baited up with a load of mini-macs with a couple of sardines mixed in and headed out to sea in the dark but with with plenty of time to spare.

The next day we were up looking at 4:30 AM. In the distance were no fewer than ten other party boats and perhaps four dozen privates. (I guess BD, fishdope or the local grapevine really works). About 5:30 AM Drew announced that he had a school under the boat, but they were 16 to 40 fathoms deep, (96 to 240 feet). Everyone pulled out their jigs and I borrowed a Shimano flat side jig exactly like the one that I caught my avatar Bluefin on last year and we started yo-yo jigging with high expectations. (Did I mention that there were probably 13 rookies on this trip?) We repeatedly set up and drifted over these fish until 9 or 10 AM with the only people getting bit being those that had flat fall, (not flat sided), jigs in one of the three acceptable patterns. I eventually borrowed a flat fall jig in a gold and purple pattern but that didn’t cut it, (one of the two experts along, Tom, was bit six times and bumped several others on his chewed up root beer and white pattern while our other expert Joey was bent much of the morning). But then, it being a flat fall jig bite, and these being jig fishermen with various degrees of experience, we only landed maybe 40% of the hookups. Foul hooked fish are a constant when jigging, but there were also many losses to breakoffs. TIP: LEARN TO TIE GOOD KNOTS. SEE "ROYAL POLARIS KNOT" FOR BRAID TO MONO OR FLOURO CONNECTIONS, IT IS THE EASIEST GOOD KNOT TO TIE. FOR MONO TO FLOURO, (BAIT FISHING), TIE A TRIPLE SURGEON KNOT AND CINCH IT WELL. IT IS EASY AND IT WILL HOLD. At noon we had eight fish on board and Drew decided to drive around some.

I was shaking my head and apologizing to Craig for pulling him into this trip but he was having none of it since we were on the water on one of the greatest fishing platforms ever built. It is my understanding that Bill Poole started his long range boat building boom with the Polaris Supreme and there were certainly several other great platforms to come after it. Something about the way Tommy’s team runs the boat and the great "bones” that the boat has, just seems right even when you aren't catching. After a lunch of Chicken Pesto Pasta, Drew chased down some breaking fish under birds on the other end of the island. For fifteen minutes it was wide open on rat yellowtail, (5 to 6 lbs). Most everybody caught a fish and for the first time I noticed how much the rookie factor was weighing on some of the crew. Deckhand Justin came to the bow and suddenly barked at me to, "control the fish, don't let the fish control you", as I was free spooling to let my six pound yellow swim far away from the four other fish that were hooked and at the boat, hot as a pistol after a 20 second fight on 40 lb test. It was hilarious watching ten guys scream for a "gaff" simultaneously but less funny to the crew I think. Either way I bounced mine while Justin was studying a two or three way tangle on the deck. One chance for everyone to catch a fish was it for Drew and he went back on the hunt. We drove over the Bluefin zone again, with almost no one fishing it, and he went to another part of the island to back in near some kelp beds and see if any quality yellowtail were around. They weren't and some of the rookies tagged bonito, more rat yellows and one Calico Bass as the sea lions drew a bead on us. Drew hauled the anchor quickly and we were heading back to the Bluefin school at 5 PM.

It was now that I started to comment, and not in a good way, about the fact that Drew never lets go of his plan for big fish. We had eight respectable fish on board for 24 guys and it was 5 PM, but Drew didn't appear to be thinking about anything but those Bluefin that he had seen on the meter early that morning. So we set up on them again at maybe 5:30 PM and chef Mike put out some killer snacks, (pizza, prawns, chicken wings), to lighten the mood and fill some bellies. It was the same drill, with hookups and losses on those specific flat fall jigs, but no love for any other lures. The fish were at 20 fathoms. Finally I quit. Enough jigging, as my arms couldn't take any more and I hadn’t been touched all day. I grabbed my 30 lb bait stick and when I went to the bait tank I looked into the sea of mini-Macs and saw the most beautiful sardine you could ask for. The corner was clear and I eased the bait into the water and set up a perfect long soak drift. Five minutes later I was slammed and the game was on. My 30 lb set up is really more of a 25 lb rig, with a beautiful, old, rewrapped glass rod and a tiny Andros 5II N with 300 yards of 40lb spectra on it and right away this fish was letting me know who was boss. It probably took me 20 minutes to land it after two trips around the entire boat, but those trips were like Paul Revere’s ride as everyone got to hear that I hooked it on a fly line bait. Once it was circling at the bow I could wind it up in low gear and we gaffed a nice 37 lber. I racked the 30 lb rig and grabbed my 40 lb set up with a Makaira 8 mounted on a Calstar 700H rod. At this point ten or twelve of the experienced guys were ahead of me at the bait tank, all asking that Mike pick through dozens of Macs to find them a Sardine. I looked into the tank and picked out a light colored, smaller Mackerel that was swimming very fast, butt hooked it and threw it 20 feet off the wide open corner. I tapped the spool to pick up all the slack line and as soon as the line came tight the Mackerel took off running and I knew that I would be back out in the zone with a good bait again. 3 minutes later I am picked up again and, after a 5 count, I come tight on another Bluefin. The Makaira drag is smooth as silk and as soon as the fish stops its initial run I started winding in high gear as it took off toward the bow. Coming up the line there were now at least two other fish being fought and a dozen or more baits in the water, so I backed the drag off three clicks to let the fish get more line and to give me an angle to walk the fish over everybody as we went to the bow. Once there I went back to strike on the drag and shifted to low gear as the fish went down. Now with the situation somewhat under control I started to yell for my buddy Craig to hand off the fish. The fish took me back down the line toward the corner, under most people and other hooked fish but with the usual slack lines needing to be unwrapped, and then Craig and I met in the corner and I handed him the fish to finish it.

Knowing that time was precious I grabbed my 30 lb rig again but feeling the flouro I felt some chafing on it. I wanted to throw back in really bad but my experienced voice said don’t do it, because you only get so many chances and this one could be your last. Ten minutes of retying flouro and a hook and I was back at the bait tank. Chef Mike was giving deckhand Mike a breather on the tank and Drew was lighting him up for feeding too many baits to the Bluefin and particularly the sea lions. Chumming had brought maybe a dozen of them to the boat and nearly every “boil” was a brown one. We had tons of bait though and Mike saw me at the tank and dumped a fresh scoop into the well. When the well cleared up enough to see, there was another pristine, seven inch long Sardine swimming underneath the Macs. I netted him, slipped a perfect belly hook shallow under the fins, but the corner was a mess so I eased it into the water halfway up the side and watched it take off running. With all of the sea lions out there the baits were racing around like crazy, but there was no mistaking what happened two minutes later. The bait was taken by a Bluefin attacking at full speed and the spectra nearly fried my skin. I came tight to strike on the drag, but the spool never slowed down and I was worried. I got to the corner and the rod was thumping at a full count pace instead of the normal half count, (slower tail means bigger fish), and my spectra was lower than I had ever seen it, so I asked Gunny to help me push the drag past the strike button, (my hands were too full hanging on to do it). One, two three notches later and the fish slowed down and then stopped. We were probably at fifteen to seventeen pounds of drag on the little reel but I was happily getting a lot of line back, so happy that I never backed off the drag. A couple of minutes later the fish unbuttoned and I said let’s see which one of my knots broke, but as I got to the end of the line I heard Gunny say over his shoulder as he walked away, “hook pulled”. Nothing I could do but get back out there but I decided to change over my other 40 lb rig from the jig to bait as Craig was now enjoying my Makaira setup on a nice 42 lber that he hooked himself. It was a hard decision because now the light was getting really low and we were nearly drifting into the 60 fathom zone where the Bluefin would leave us. Ten minutes of retying flouro and hook again and I went back out with my Avet MXL on my new Seeker 6470H rod. I tossed a butt hooked Mac fifty feet off the corner and with some spool tapping he took off running. The sea lions were thick now and it seemed impossible that they wouldn’t get my bait. There were two of them doing barrel rolls right at the end of where my line was going when I thought I was picked up again. I came tight and line started going out fairly slowly and I didn’t feel a tail thumping at all. I must have a sea lion I said and then, with the drag at 15 lbs strike setting, the line started screaming off the reel faster than I have ever seen it. The Avet drag lever can be easily pushed beyond strike setting and I pushed it all the way to full drag with almost no affect. The line was still screaming out against a full drag setting but then it stopped after maybe 200 yards. I immediately back off the drag as I started winding and was able to work over the top of the other anglers toward the bow while winding on high gear, (6:1). Now I think that maybe a sea lion grabbed a fish and that I am reeling in a dead piece of one but the hook still seems to be swimming. I get 150 yards back and when the line is straight up and down it takes off on a bulldog run straight down and I recognize another Bluefin tail thump. I did a dance from one side the bow to the other for the next fifteen minutes and I had the fish to deep color, but trying to wind it up in low gear was not working. Several times I started to reach for the drag lever to get another notch or two but remembering the pulled hook stopped me. Finally I brought it around shallow enough for Gunny to sink a gaff into a 39 lber and he led the way as we walked the fish toward the stern with it hanging on the gaff above the water. I immediately threw the reel into free spool as you always must do and followed Gunny down the rail but as he passed the bait tank someone hit him with a rod butt and the fish fell back in the water. Out of free spool and back to strike as I took another two minutes to bring it back up to a gaff and over the rail. As it lay on the deck I noticed that the entire hook visible, ring and all, lying beneath a membrane right in the corner of the mouth. One more pound of drag probably would have cost me that fish.

It was now dark and the drift had taken us into shallow water so it was time to call it. Chef Mike served up an incredible Filet of Beef Oscar Style for dinner. The filet was six inches tall and melted in your mouth, with the béarnaise sauce and crab topping only adding to the awesomeness. Craig and I reflected on how true it is that one good drift can make an entire trip and we felt very fortunate to have harvested four Bluefin between us. We felt even more so when we heard that the final count was only 30 Bluefin for the 24 anglers. It had seemed like at least twice that many were caught because of the constant bent rods at the rail, but veteran Tom explained that at least 70 fish were lost to the fight. I didn’t talk to everyone, but there were no dejected faces on board as it seemed that everyone felt like they had their chances to land a Bluefin. The memorable trip had every reason to be much less so given where we stood at 5 PM, but there is that stubborn reality about Drew, he just won’t let go of his big fish focus, no matter what.

Thoughts and a few photos from this and my previous trips,

1) Many more bait hookups should have happened, but rookie fishermen were not fishing swimming baits in the zone. Bluefin almost never come to the boat, but you don’t need to cast fifty feet to get a bait out to them. If you can’t cast don’t try, drop your bait in the water and tug on the line to get it to swim away from you and the boat. If it doesn’t, then reel up and get another bait and try again. I had to pick up three baits for every one that I managed to get to the zone on this drift.
2) Don’t obsess about the type of bait. Go for the right size and get as lively a one that you can. Pinch the gills to hold it and put the hook through shallow on the bottom of the bait, at or just behind center. You can even go shallow in the back if you avoid the spine, but it is easier to get a bait to swim away from the boat when it is hooked one of these two ways than when it is nose hooked. If you can cast well then nose hooking is great too.
3) Be ready with your thumb on the spool when you put the bait in the water. When a good bait takes off swimming it will backlash your reel every time, especially if you fish a short mono top shot over braid. As Frank LoPreste points out in his You Tube casting lessons, it helps to have your line wet to avoid backlashes. When you get a backlash do not leave your line in the water for ten minutes while you try to undo it. Call for a deckhand to help or swiftly get it to a place where you can wind over it and get out of the lineup. You do not want to be the guy in the stern that is hooked on the fish being fought on the bow.
4) Backspool your reel to keep gently tugging on your bait. This both encourages the bait to swim away from the boat and it keeps your line in a straight line out to your bait. Look at your line, not at your rod tip, and never strip line off of your reel unless the bait is taking the line from you. Don’t mistake the boat drift for your bait taking line, if you can’t feel your bait tugging on the line then carefully reel it in and get a new bait.
5) Never reel in another fisherman’s line and put it back in the water without telling him. If your line is reeled in by another fisherman then you need to reel in also, don't just stand there thinking that the slack will work itself out. Start a new drift with another bait instead, because you are now out of position for the zone with slack line in the drift.
6) Don’t fish old, untested equipment on a Bluefin trip. Rent newer, tested equipment for a reasonable fee instead. One former Albacore angler had his reel explode into many parts while attempting to fight a Bluefin on this trip.
7) On every trip this year I was asked in one way or another about tipping. Personally I agree with the often expressed belief that the crew of a sport boat works much harder, for a much longer period of time, than any food server you will ever encounter. I understand that many people cannot spontaneously afford to add 20% to the price of the trip that they booked. My thought would be to plan ahead to provide a tip of at least 15% to 20%, even if you don't win the jackpot. It took me a while to learn this and like many I would often not tip well when I didn't catch fish. Riding more boats taught me both the difficulty of the work and the haphazard nature of fishing results. 15% to 20% may seem like a lot of money, but for a large sport boat divide by 5 or 6 and it doesn't go that far.

Craig Supreme Bluefin.jpg

Craig with one of the 40 lb Bluefin, (tail clipped so it was one that a deckhand finished)
Three amigos Supreme Bluefin.jpg

Three happy guys that each muscled a Bluefin on deck
Jackpot Bluefin Supreme.jpg

The jackpot fish that I called a certain 50 lber, went 44 lbs on the scale and was caught on one of those notorious flat fall jigs.
Combat Fishing.jpg

We had some hectic patty stops on the Angler trip in July in the 160 mile zone. All of the "30-35 lb class" yellowtail ended up weighing between 25 and 27 lbs.
Cole gaff shot.jpg

The boys got into gaffing each other's fish on this trip. Fun to watch from a distance...
Fishing the corner.jpg

Having a boat full of experienced anglers is a mixed experience when it comes to throwing a bait out on "the spot".
Tom Yellowtail web.jpg

I got my share of yellowtail this year for some variety in the freezer. Not a bad thing.
Tom Islander Fish web.jpg

I had a great opener this year when my Islander trip turned into a crazy, successful tuna bite right off the Point. It was a great year for me and if you read this then thanks for sticking with it to the end.

Good Fishing to all of you,

Tom
 
Last edited:
Upvote 0

Tunahead

Long Time Tuna Abused Member
  • Aug 11, 2006
    9,327
    3,264
    Costa Mesa
    Name
    Ron
    Boat
    several
    Great report and pics, and glad you got some fish! End of season? Hell the best may be yet to come! LOL

    (**Friend Lynn & husband own Page Mill Winery in Livermore, fine folks and great wines! ) Nice area
     
    Upvote 0
    P

    Paddyman1

    Dear Lord, Tom! I had to take a break for dinner, a nap, then finish this post! Some hog fish!!!

    FYI - the season isn't half way through yet so better keep the poles handy!
     
    Upvote 0

    HoxFish

    Family Crest - My Lure is True
    Jan 17, 2007
    699
    280
    A daydream about fish
    Name
    Aaron
    Boat
    Moo
    No Mark this trip? The guy is hilarious. Great tips on bait for some fatties, and reduced tangles on the soak.
     
    Upvote 0

    Shark Meat

    Diehard/Determined CAPT
    Apr 5, 2006
    2,040
    496
    San Diego, CA
    Name
    Mike
    Boat
    Glacier Bay 2670 Isle Runner - Shark Meat II
    Just wow!
     
    Upvote 0

    tommyc

    Hacker
    Jul 30, 2011
    342
    299
    Livermore, CA
    Name
    Tom
    Boat
    Beatem N' Eatem
    The tackle box was waiting at the airport. It arrived around 7 PM so in a perfect world they could have delivered it just in time for departure due to the delay.
     
    Upvote 0

    Baller

    Jig Chucker
    Nov 16, 2010
    2,616
    1,837
    La Mesa
    Name
    Bill
    Boat
    American Angler
    Great read! Thanks for sharing with us...
     
    Upvote 0

    rick Jackson

    "Carpe diem"
  • May 28, 2015
    464
    318
    Name
    RIP Jim Peterson
    Boat
    Glasspar Avalon/SeaQuest
    Way to go! Always wanted to fish that boat, excellent report.
    How long did it take to type it up?
     
    Upvote 0