2022 started off right where 2021 left off. Yellowtail and rock cod were found in good numbers along the Colonet. Not too long afterwards, bluefin tuna were found biting in the early weeks of January. What started off with a phone call in late January with my buddy Joe soon turned into a reality. Joe, along with our crew consisting of 18 fishermen called the “562 Boat-Crew” booked an extended day and a half trip aboard the luxurious 116 foot Intrepid for July 1st through the 3rd. Knowing that I had another trip booked for the year, my excitement had exploded, making me feel like it was nearly impossible to wait 6 months for it to happen.
It was the morning of July 1st. My dad and I decided to leave the house about 4:30am for a 6:00am e.t.a. in San Diego. With a number of boats and captains I am familiar with offloading, I wanted to be down at the dock early to see how they did. With boats such as the Excel, Fortune, and the Searcher coming in with good fish counts along with the Intrepid limiting out for 2 days on their 5-day trip, we were sure to have good things coming for us. With boarding taking place later than usual, we boarded at 10:00am and were off the dock by 11. After clearing the point, newly appointed captain Travis came down to give us our safety speech and game plan for the trip. He said our bait consisted of a mix of sardine, anchovy, and two slammers full of live squid. Following that, he said we would be making the 10-hour run to the northern Tanner Bank, where they found and limited out on bluefin that morning. With nighttime being mostly knife jigs, he recommended we tie them onto our 80,100, and even 130lb set ups. As for the daytime fishing he suggested we have a 40lb bait set up, with a small colt sniper as well tied on. After our game plan talk, most of the boat proceeded to ready their tackle as we made the 10-hour trek to the Tanner banks. By 9:00pm we were finally in the zone. We were all anxious to be fishing after seeing the good numbers of bluefin come in that same morning. After 45 minutes of searching, we finally came across our first school of tuna. I started out with a Williamson Kensaki 280g knife jig. Although it was lighter than recommended, I was able to cast it out far enough downwind so by the time it was in the bite zone I was nearly straight up and down. After brailling bait for a solid minute or two, we got our first hookup of the trip. Not long after, one fish turned into two, which was turned into four. For a minute we had all thought this was the one school we needed. Unfortunately, we spoke too soon and our school of fish had moved on. By 10:15 we were back on the hunt for another school. It wasn’t until just after midnight Bill had located our second school of the trip.
At 12:22am, Bill came over the PA saying, “Throw some bait, 3’s and 4’s”. Eventually he turned around and said, “Pick up the bait this is a good school, start dumping it.” For those of us who were still awake, we rushed to the rail dropping our jigs. After reaching 125 ft deep, I hit the bottom. At least that’s what it felt like. I quickly pushed my lever on my Penn Torque 40 into the number 2 position coming tight on a fish. Unfortunately, after about 4 seconds of running, my jig was spit out. While I was messing with my fish, the boat erupted into chaos. For 15 anglers awake, 12 of the 15 had hooked up. This was truly the one school we needed. After losing my one fish, I dropped my jig back down hoping for another bite. Thankfully, when retrieving my jig, I was bit somewhere between 350, and 390 ft deep. Once again, I slowly eased my lever into the number 2 position and this time I came tight. The fish started dumping the reel, so I bumped my drag up to strike which was approximately 24lbs. “BITERRRRRR” I yelled. Being my first tuna trip of the year I was so excited to finally yell it. With so many people hooked up I got to experience the fun of night fishing. Working together calling out whether you’re over or under someone is always a challenge. Fortunately, I only experienced one mess up as I worked my way towards the bow. Fishing heavy line kept me worry free as I let Kevlar do his thing and work the tangle out of the line. Tangles are a prime reason why we fish heavy line at night; they are more prominent to happen, so you are less likely to get cut off fishing heavy gear. About 10 minutes into my fight, I found myself ¾ of the way up the port rail close to the bow. Some guys make fun of me for it, but I took my stance on one knee with the rod under my arm fighting this fish when it makes an incredible dash towards the surface of the water. By this time, I swore it was a larger model fish, the way it fought, and how hard it pulled just did not add up right. Eventually I worked my fish back to deep water and made my way around the anchor, into open water and rail space. After about 5 minutes of low gear pulling on this fish, I got it to color and was fortunate enough to have Min stick a gaff in the head of my fish. When the fish hit the deck, it was determined to be about a 70lb fish. Perfect grade of fish. While I was focused on my fish, my buddies Chase, Ryan, Bronson, Sheppy (Dale), Brett, and Marvin had all hooked up, if not landed their own fish. After so many hookups, we were only able to land 12 fish making the trip total up to 16 for the night. When this school moved on, we spent the rest of the night searching with no success. These fish simply disappeared. I stayed up until 4:15am with a handful of other guys hoping for our shots on another school like the one faced earlier but soon had to call it a night.
Day 2 Continued:
After being up for over 24 hours, I decided to sleep in a little longer. My buddies call me crazy, but during bluefin season there are more times than I can count where I stay up for over 24 hours on less than 5 hours of sleep. One thing I do in particular when fishing bluefin is I set an alarm to go off every half-hour, on the hour. In doing so, I forcefully wake up frequently to check if the boat has stopped on a school of fish. On Saturday, I gave myself about 4 hours of sleep before waking up at 8 am. Unfortunately, today remained a slow day across the entire fleet. We saw tons and tons of life, but everything was stuck in a “Lockjaw” position. In total, we stopped on 12 foaming schools of fish, and at least twice that amount in sonar schools. Travis worked hard and continuously all day, into the night. We stopped at 2 schools around 10:30pm and 11:00 pm and my buddy Ryan was lucky enough to catch his second tuna of the trip which happened to be the only one for day 2 of fishing. At the end of the day, we were bluefin fishing. We knew the risks before heading out, the captain and boat can’t control whether or not the fish bite. Captains Bill and Travis worked nonstop to create a safe, fun, and energetic atmosphere for the passengers. Deckhand Ed in the galley did an amazing job of cooking, preparing, and serving the anglers their food on the trip. Kevlar, Min, and Robert did their jobs flawlessly on deck, while working tirelessly through the night. Overall, the 562-Boat Crew had a fun trip even with less-than-ideal weather and fishing conditions.
Bring Dramamine! This can’t be stressed enough. There is no shame in having to take a pill. The pill will usually ensure you enjoy the trip much more.
Fish your heaviest gear. There is no need to go in the water at night with less than 80, it only creates more room for error.
Rig your jigs accordingly. I fished my Williamson Kensaki Knife-Jigs with Mustad’s heavy duty Kevlar 5/0 assist hooks, with a big owner 5/0 4/X treble hook on the bottom. This method ensured a better hook set when the fish were biting the retrieve.
Take care of yourself accordingly. Bluefin fishing is rough. These fish like to bite all night and all day. Learn to spend your time accordingly with naps. Don’t forget to stay hydrated as well.