If there’s one thing I’ve learned during this remarkable year of fishing, it’s that we as anglers have the tendency to quickly take even the most spectacular things for granted. For example, we’ve all seen the posts where someone will report that they spent all morning looking for tuna 8 miles out of Dana Point and that fishing sucked because most of the breaking fish they saw wouldn’t bite and they only caught one 40-pound bluefin. If you’ve had a similar experience this week you might be nodding your head and thinking “yeah, that does suck”.
If you are one of those people, I’d like you to take a second to think about what has recently come to be considered a tough day of fishing. Only one tuna for five or six hours of fishing? Well, I’ve been fishing in Southern California for about 30 years and for the first 29 of them, I’d never imagined that I’d be able to run a few miles off the beach and have an honest chance to catch a big tuna. Why am I telling you this? I think it’s important for all of us to remember just how lucky we are to have this kind of fishing available to us and to remember that regardless of what you do or don’t catch, there are no bad days of fishing this year.
So stop worrying about results and celebrate the opportunities.
Speaking of opportunities, if you’re a private boater that wants to take full advantage of this amazing fishing, you’re going to need to drive away from the fleet. If you’re a regular reader, you’ve been hearing me say this over and over and over again this year. And guess what? I’m going to keep saying it until the fish stop biting; it’s just that important.
It’s 10:00 a.m. on Thursday morning and I’ve already received reports from a couple of friends who are fishing away from the fleet this morning. My partner Matt Kotch is out fishing with Eric Noguchi and his sons Logan and Gavin. They launched out of Oceanside this morning and already have a half dozen yellowfin tuna. Matt kept the conversation short because they were running on a foamer of fish but did say that they were close to the dock and all by themselves. Captain Jimmy Decker is also out this morning and is fishing north of the fleet and already has three bluefin on the boat.
If you’re nervous about driving away from where the rest of the boats are fishing, don’t be. Finding fish offshore right now is about as easy as it’s ever going to get in Southern California. While there’s no guarantee that those fish will bite, not catching fish that you found by yourself beats the hell out of sitting in the middle of a fleet watching other guys catch fish.
Let’s use a trip I took last week as an example of how to go about finding your own fish. As everyone knows there are tuna biting outside San Onofre. What not everyone pays attention to is that those fish have been biting along a warm water edge that abuts the coastal shelf. Basically, there is a hard water temp break that is lined up with where the water goes from really deep to not so deep along the coast and the fish are inside of that. If you’re a www.fishdope.com member you can look at where the fish reports are coming from in relation to water temp and seafloor topography.
Anyway, rather than launch out of Dana Point, where everyone else was launching, I launched out of Long Beach and ran a course that hugged the coastal shelf. As I ran I looked for water temps to jump up above 70-degrees and once I did I slowed down and took a look around. I immediately started to see bait and dolphins and soon saw a couple of marlin (6 miles outside Huntington Beach). The marlin immediately sank out so I continued south until I found a bird school through the binoculars. Those birds ended up being over a couple of juvenile humpback whales that had a school of anchovies balled up and the bluefin tuna where there in force. We had that spot all to ourselves for an hour and ended up going 3 for 6 on the 40-pound class bluefin.
There are fish being caught from below the border up to the Channel Islands and from the beach to the offshore banks. Wherever you decide to go, make sure and bring some heavy gear. Even when the fishing has been slow the fish are not line shy, so don’t fish anything lighter than 40-pound. I’ve been fishing 60-pound fluorocarbon leader and getting plenty of bites. This morning the New Lo-An reported that they have a bluefin on the boat that’s pushing 200-pounds and there are 70-plus pound yellowfin being hooked on a regular basis. These are absolute fish of a lifetime in our local waters, so don’t blow your chance at one by hooking it on 20-pound line.