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Monster Yellows At The Cortes

I told you last week about spending Labor Day up in the 805.  That bite is still going on.  Actually, it seems like it picked up steam this week.  The picture (right) comes from Tuesday on the Gentleman, 3/4-day boat out of Channel Islands Sportfishing.  They caught 23 that day and was just one of several boats on the catch this week in the 805.  Hopefully, some of you who read my article took the initiative to get out and enjoy that bite.

After consecutive weeks up north though, I felt like it was time to get in the game and put my time in targeting bluefin.  Wednesday night, I hopped aboard the Oceanside 95 out of Helgren’s Sportfishing for a 1.5-day trip.

During his trip briefing, Capt. Rick Slavkin told us we’d be making the long run out to the Cortes Bank (100+ miles) where on their previous trip they had a decent hit on schoolie sized bluefin and jumbo yellowtails (6 Bluefin Tuna 59 Yellowtail for 30 anglers).  From there, we’d head back to Clemente and put time in at Cow Town for the big boys.  Sounded like a solid plan.  I asked crewmember Cory Nakano what he would setup for the first part of the trip.  He told me 20 and 25 bait rigs, and then something heavy like a flatfall and/or yo-yo iron would be the ticket.  I setup my rigs and hit my bunk.

It was a bumpy ride out.  We arrived in the zone around 8:30 to commence our fishing day.  Rick located a school and anchored up toward the lower end of the bank.

Right away, the bite was on.  An angler immediately hooked a large bonito, and shortly after I added a nicer sized yellow (18-20 lbs.?) to kickoff the proceedings.  I caught fishing my 20# bait setup and considered myself lucky to get that fish.  I felt like I couldn’t pull as hard as I needed to.  I bumped up to 25# on my fluoro leader, and that felt better on the next one I caught.

It stayed steady through the morning, but there were a lot of casualties.  Reason one was that the yellows were an excellent grade of fish.

There were definitely fish north of 30 in the mix!

We were fishing pretty shallow (100-feet or so), and I saw several instances of anglers returning frayed lines from these fish running them into the hard bottom below us.

Several fish were also lost to sea lions (I’ll come back to this).  We also kept swinging around on the anchor due to the conditions.  “Wind in your face” was key to figuring out what side of the boat to fish on.

About The Sea Lions

Cortes Bank is the open ocean.  Just like the yellows were a bigger, meaner grade of fish; the sea lions were big, aggressive apex predators too.  Seeing the carnage around me (and with 2 yellows to my credit already), I said screw it and bumped up to my 40# rig.  It turned out to be a good decision.  I hooked up on a long soak off the bow.  I was fighting the fish with a lot of line out and taking a lot of time, even on 40#.  The fish ended up getting picked up by a dog.  Crewmember Dylan, aka Splinter, was by my side coaching me, and Rick was up top calling the play-by-play.

Long story short, I got the fish, but the fight wrecked me.

I took a lunch break.  My BD colleague, Danny Lynch, was in the galley with his girlfriend Pam Sharp.  Danny told me over lunch that he was 1 for 5 fishing 15#, but that his one was a smaller bluefin.  I learned that there was a small faction on board fishing ultra light to get a bluefin.  I briefly considered switching up after the conversation…but nah.

I got one more bite.  It was great having the confidence of hooking up on heavy line.  It was a relatively short fight.  I felt good about how I bounced back.  In an odd turn though, angler Luis Anguiano, who was hooked up next to me, was hooked up on the same fish!  Teamwork makes the dream work.

Look at the swell behind us!

We took a shot in Cow Town in the dark, but couldn’t get a bite.  I would’ve loved to have seen it happen, but it’s just one of those deals where you have to give yourself enough chances.

Thanks to Capt. Rick and crew for a fun trip and taking good care of us.  I’ll get another shot next weekend.  Hopefully, they get back on the chew.

Good luck if you get out there.

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