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“A Day of Fishing, the Inshore of Washington States Northwest Coast”

By Featured, Winter 2022

By: Keller Batson

The sun begins to rise over the endless forests of the Olympic peninsula, mingling with the early morning expulsions of fog and dew. The calm sheen of the ocean, the sweep and wind of the mossy two-lane highway slips away beneath me. Every few feet showing the bumps and scars from its never-ending battle with mother nature. I cannot seem to drive fast enough; the siren call of the mighty pacific is pulling me faster and faster towards the little slip of beach I’ll be launching from. The rods are rigged, the tackle is organized, the boat prepped,and the cooler empty.
As I approach the launch the sounds of nature surround and replace the weeks stress with baited anticipation. Screaming eagles, squawking ravens, complaining seagulls, the barks of seals and sealions. Pulling my waders on and lacing my boots, I realize it’s been light for 30 minutes. I’m kicking myself for not rolling out of bed sooner. Its low tide and I’ve got my Outcast aluminum frame pontoon boat on my back. I Pick my way carefully through yards of tide pools with slippery piles of bull kelp squirming around my ankles. The undulating of the swell seems to match the beat of my heart as I load and strap the last bit of gear to my small one-man watercraft. The sky is overcast with the temperature hovering at 44 degrees. I am dressed appropriately, but the whisps of wind whipping around my head seems to find its way into every little crack and crevasse.

I drop into my seat, point the rear of my boat towards the kelp forest I’ll be targeting today then begin to pull. The oars move back and forth lulling me into a hypnotic state with their rhythmic motion as I look down into the alien world below me. Surprised creatures dart to-and-fro as I quietly slip overhead.One could come to this area with a large motorboat, but I’m after maneuverability and stealth.
After rowing for 5-10 minutes, I’ve reached water worthy of a cast. The first rod out of my quiver is the Rainshadow IMMC76MH, a 7’6” 8-17lb ¼-3/4oz spinning rod. My lure is a 5” white and silver soft plastic paddle tail, with a “knocker”creating a tantalizing rattle when retrieved. Having a way to go yet, rather than drifting slowly and searching for bites with “fan casts”, I choose to cast my bait behind me 20-30 yards and slow troll. The moment I touch the oars I feel the rod twitch and bend, I let go of the paddles and set the hook in one fluid motion. Just like that the first fish of the day is in my grasp. It’s a small Lingcod one to two pounds. With a quick pinch of my pliers the small fish reenters the water, I cast again and begin to row. I get about 7 bites and land 3 rockfish on my way to the kelp forest.
Upon reaching my destination I then decide to try and get my limit of 6 black rockfish first, before targeting lingcod. After looking for a school for 45 minutes or so I’ve caught 5 lings and 1 black rock. This is strange, in the past the reverse is usually the case. Lots of rockfish and less lingcod. But knowing theLingcod are spawning, there is likely a high volume of predators. Which is pushing the rockfish out of the area. My options having been weighed, and the decision being made. I reach back to my quiver and pull my lingcod stick. The SW966is an 8’, 12-20lb, ½-3oz, all-purpose RX7 graphite rod with a moderate fast action perfect for casting large 6-7” swimbaits. The lure of choice is a black bodied twin tailed scampi,with a red jig head weighing 1- 1/2oz. The fish are thick here today. In the first half hour I land 10 plus lings in the 2-10 lb. range. These fish come in so many different colors that without prior experience, one would think they had caught multiple species of fish. With brown, yellow, red, orange, iridescent neon blue, and combinations of all the above it can be hard to tell what’s on the other end of your line. The large variety of colors these fish exhibit is determined by diet, and the predominant hues of the environment in which the fish matured. Of course, my favorite is the neon blue variety. These fishes flesh appear as though they have swum straight out of the Fukushima reactor core. As though it would light up a dark room.
I’ve been targeting lings for 2 hours, boated 20 to 30. I can’t keep count. I cast the black split tail about 20 yards to the edge of some rocks and wait to feel my bait hit the bottom. Before I can turn my reel handle twice a nice ling freight trains my bait hard enough to drag me and my boat 5+ ft. My rod is doubled over, and I’m thumbing the line to keep this hot fish out of the rocks(a big no no in many fishing situations, but maybe breaking off is better than letting the fish get into the rocks and 100% breaking and losing my lure). Despite being mere feet from the boulders, due to today’s unique conditions I am in no danger of capsizing. Still, I don’t want to rub onto barnacles and mussels any more than I must. Thus, it is time to try and row clear of any obstacles to net this fish. I see the fish is hovering about 5ft below the surface while I keep tension on the line. Sliding the butt of the rod in between my legs and pinching the reel with my thighs, I begin to row away from the rocks. Now clear, I pick up my rod carefully pulling the fish towards me with my right arm, the net poised in my left. One quick shot and the 10 lb. fish is in the net. Grabbing it by the gill, I put it between my legs. Then once again use my thighs to squeeze the fish hard right on the gill plate. The fish immediately goes limp like a kitten held by the scruff. The fierce eyes of this predator look me up and down as I reach for my club. Two quick pops and it’s over. I cut one of its gills to drain blood from the meat and throw it into the cooler. Why into a cooler and not on a stringer? Most of the time when kayak fishing one would just dangle the fish in the water below the boat. But I know there are massive 1500+lb sea lions in the area. Just waiting for the opportunity at an easy meal. So, I am trying to reduce my chances of having an altercation with any massive pinnipeds.
My day on the water being about half over, I take stock of my catch so far. There are 4 rockfish and 1 lingcod in my cooler. It’s now time to use my favorite (and most effective) technique for targeting large lings, live baiting greenling AKA ling candy. The small tan up to 5 lb. fish is irresistible to the voracious lingcod. I put a small 2.5” bright red vertical jig onto my IMMC76MH and move right up to the edge of the bull kelp. Within 5 minutes I have landed a perfectly sized bait about 2lbs. The time has come use the last rod in my quiver. A red and black themed 30-60lb, 10-14oz, moderate action REVSJ70H-CW-CG slow jig rod. Originally designed to effortlessly fish vertical jigs for pelagic fish like tuna and yellowtail. The small diameter and unexpected power in this 7ft rod make it ideal for fishing from a small craft in tight quarters. I take out a 3-foot wire halibut leader and strategically place the hooks to allow my bait to swim as naturally as possible. Then tie a three-way snap swivel to my 50lb braided main line and snap a 6oz. lead ball on to the clip. Lowering all this to the bottom. I reel up a crank or two to keep from snagging the bottom and to get a good feel for the weight of my bait. Now that I have a feel for this set up, I drop and begin to wait. Tightening my drag I prepare the net and wait for the rod to bend double. The unique thing about this style of fishing is there are few exposed hooks. Most of the time, the only thing keeping the lingcod on the line is the predatory instinct hold onto its meal. It doesn’t take long before I feel the greenling swimming franticly back and forth on its tether.Indicating to me that a lingcod has zeroed in on the small baitfish. A few moments later my rod doubles over. The headshakes are violent as the lingcod rips at the bait below me. Its only 20-30ft to the bottom here so the fight will be short. Thus, the fish will not be tired once near the surface in range of the net, making for a highly unpredictable fight. My rod in my right hand and the net in my left. I pinch the bottom of the reticulum between my palm and its handle to reduce drag in the water. I slowly raise the rod and once close enough shoot my net below the fish. GOT HIM! As soon as the net touches the fish it feels trapped and dives. Nearly pulling the net out of my hand. I place my rod safely into the rod holder. I lift the fish out of the water to rest on top of my legs. This fish is not the one I was looking for. But being near 15lbs it is more than big enough for table fare. I would label it a medium inshore lingcod. The Washington State record is 61lbs, which would be about 5-6ft long. I decide to keep it.

With my ice box approaching capacity it’s time to start thinking about heading back. The tide is going out and this far north its movement can be dramatic. Today’s tidal swing is about 2 ft. prompting me to wait a bit longer. I could be humping my gear an extra 50-100 yards over kelp and slippery rocks if I rush out of here. With 4 rockfish and 2 lingcod, I am only two rockfish from my limit. Being little over a mile from the pullout, rather than pulling hard on the oars. I begin slow trolling back the way I came. Out goes a cast, then to the oars, pulling gently every 3 seconds to keeping my bait in the strike zone. I have gone 40ft and the rod tip twitches twice,then bends over double. From the feel of the fight, I can tell this is a most likely a rockfish. My instincts being correct, it’s a keeper about 3lbs. I repeat the process and before I know it, I am 2/3 of the way back to the launch, limited out.
Upon arriving on the beach, I look back on the day and reflect. The weather was unusually calm and uncharacteristically cooperative. An occurrence I cherish here on the temperamental northwestern pacific. Letting me spend my time fishing. Not fighting with mother nature for position. Proceeding to begin the end, I ease out of my seat and drag my boat up onto the beach. I snap a few pictures of my catch and wrap and secure the rods. I cut the lures off the reels and return them to the tackle box. Unstrap and deflate the pontoons before draining the cooler. All this taking me about a half hour, I see my gear is neatly stacked. Satisfaction radiates through me as I feel the lifelong itch had been temporarily scratched. I head home and my mind is relaxing now that I’ve got some white meat for the freezer. Lightly I grab the shifter and pull into drive. Already planning my next trip, the ocean slips away in my rear-view leaving shimmering memories fluttering to the forefront of my mind.

562 Boat Crew Has Fun Times
On Intrepid 1.5 Day Trip

By Fall 2022, Featured

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.

Day 1:
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.

Day 2:
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.

Helpful Tips:
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.


By Fall 2018, Featured

It was our third and final day of fishing at Queen Charlotte Islands in Canada. Our group of nine anglers were on two separate boats and we needed more halibut to fill our limits. One boat did much better with catching king salmon than the other while our boat did OK on the bottom fish. One day the boat I was on was catching lingcod left and right and while none were huge, they made for plenty of fish tacos this summer.

As far as the halibut, we had tried drifting for them, but it was not working. In fact, our attempt to catch limits of halibut for our three days had been underwhelming to say the least. The weather was not our friend the previous two days and it made it impossible to anchor. Nick DiBenedetto did manage to bring in an estimated 250 plus pound halibut that is on the cover, but it had to be released as it was too big. The limits at the Queen Charlotte Islands ensure that the big ones go back to reproduce. Plus, those real big ones are not as tasty and can be wormy.  As our attempt to catch halibut was looking like a losing battle, our captain Nathan Smulan looked at us and said let’s try trolling. The general response was we don’t want or need salmon, we want halibut. He replied that we would troll for halibut at about 160 feet. In all my years at fishing at various locations in Alaska and Canada I have never heard of trolling for halibut. To be honest I rolled my eyes.

I guess you can teach an old dog new tricks because as soon as we started trolling one of the rods got hit and Pat Burns reeled in a decent size halibut. We trolled two downriggers, both with a three-pound weight on the downriggers and one outfit had a jig with some bait and the other downrigger had a hoochie with some bait. Soon after Pat reeled his in the other side went off and I grabbed the reel. It started to peel line and I told Nathan that this was not a halibut , probably a lingcod. I was wrong again. After a five-minute fight, a chunky 20-pound king salmon was netted and brought on board. It was not soon after that, that another halibut was brought on board.

It did not take long to catch as many halibut on the troll that we did the previous two days. In addition to the butts, we were bringing in the previous mentioned king salmon, lingcod, rockfish and black bass. It was a lot of fun and very productive. It made for a good way to end our fishing trip.

While the fishing was good and probably would have been better if the weather cooperated,  the real attraction at Queen Charlotte Safaris is the service at the lodge and the hands-on friendliness of owner Valerie Hoperich. Valerie has been doing this for years and she brings a welcoming touch to the lodge that was not lost on many of the guest there. Little things like a warm bowl of homemade soup waiting for you when you came in off the boat were a huge hit. Our weather was not the best and it was cold and damp. Even with the protective raingear and boots that the lodge provides, anglers still come in cold and damp on days like we had. But that hot soup along with fresh homemade bread warmed the bones.

There was a group of anglers from Southern California there who had been there before. That tells you something about a lodge when people come back. They all worked for McDonalds with one of the guys owning 6 or 7 of them. I think this was their board meeting LOL. Great place to have it.

The Queen Charlotte Islands otherwise known as Haida Gwaii are about a 2-hour flight from Vancouver BC. The Queen Charlotte Islands were officially renamed Haida Gwaii in December 2009 as part of an historic reconciliation agreement between the Haida Nation and the province of British Columbia. Haida Gwaii was created as an alternative name for the islands to acknowledge the history of the Haida Nation. The name Haida Gwaii translates as “islands of the people” in the Haida language. We flew from LAX to Vancouver and then spent the night in BC and had an easy flight the next day to Sandspit in Haida Gwaii. Covid restrictions made travelling a tad more difficult than anticipated but those restrictions have since been lifted. These islands are beautiful and the vast populations of herring and needlefish in the water means that the islands of Haida Gwaii offer excellent fishing for salmon.

Back to the lodge. The dinners were to die for. I am pretty sure I gained a few pounds while I was there. The last day of fishing we put out crab traps on the way out to the fishing grounds and picked them up on the way in. That night we had freshest crab you could imagine along with steak, mashed potatoes, and vegetables. And then a scrumptious desert. Guest are allowed all the soft drinks they like and at dinner you are offered two generous sized glasses of red or white wine. There is also a small bar that is filled with beer and various alcohol to make your favorite drinks for a price. Ronald was the bartender and a server at dinner and made everyone feel welcome.

Our rooms were small but clean and made up each day. There was plenty of hot water which was a huge plus as most of the people came in at the same time and went to the shower after their hot bowl of soup. I have been to places where all of the sudden you are taking a cold shower but that never happened.

As I mentioned the other boat did better than our boat for the salmon. That boat which had Domenico Alphonzo Francesco Iorfino better known as Dom, Tom Wolf, Jerry Blain and Bruce Roeland really did well catching salmon. They were trolling in pretty much the same area as us, but their boat was the salmon magnet. Captain Cori was the captain and to be honest it is unusual to have a women captain, but she got the guys on the salmon and credit must be given to her. Cori is also and artist and some of her creations are on display at the lodge. And she has to be pretty tough to put up with these four guys for three days of fishing.

Our boat did well with lingcod and halibut. The real bummer is that I have never experienced better yelloweye fishing, but they are a restricted fish and had to be put back. We all caught some monster yelloweye which might be my favorite fish to eat.  The boat I was on consisted of Bill Ellis, Nick DiBenedetto Joe Bahash, Pat Burns and me. Pat was the fishing fool on our boat. He was the first one to drop down and the last one to reel up. There were times when me, Joe, Bill or Nick went in the cabin to take a break when we were fishing but Pat never did. He was like a loyal dog waiting for his owner to come home. Even when we moved from one spot to another, and we all went inside to get warm and maybe grab a bite to eat (they provide great lunches too) Pat stood outside. This guy is dedicated. And I am sure he caught the most fish and deservedly so.

The crew at Queen Charlotte Safaris wants nothing more than to make sure you experience great food, beautiful scenery and excellent service when you are fishing. That is a winning combination.

Let’s Taco ‘bout it Wicked Tuna Style!  With Chef David Powell of the Ocean Odyssey

By Fall 2022, Featured

 I first met chef David Powell on our Tuna Wars Captains Rollo‘s kids at sea fundraiser trip on the Ocean Odyssey out of H&M landing back in June. Tuna Wars is a friendly competition between two boats with the stars of Wicked Tuna, captains Paul Hebert and Dave Marciano along with his Wife Nancy do an annual Tuna Wars competition to lead their teams in this battle of the boats Team Wicked Pissah” aboard the Liberty with Captain Taro Takeuchi and Dave and Nancy Marciano “Team Hard Merchandise” aboard the Ocean Odyssey with captain Rick Scott. The boat with the largest 3 bluefin at the end of the 2-day trip wins, but the real winners are the kids.

Chef David’s culinary background consists of a three year culinary program with a focus on dietetics at Ohio State in 1995. He then worked at private clubs and Chef owned restaurants till taking a position with the Hard Rock Cafe in Vegas, Hollywood and San Diego. In 2007 David met captain Rick Scott of the Ocean Odyssey while fishing on the Premier (1/2 day) trip.  His plan was to fish for a year and now, 15 years later he’s still fishing and doing his magic in the Ocean Odyssey galley. David said “cooking for 30 always has its challenges but doing it while flying through the air adds a new dimension to it, It’s a love hate relationship, but it really gets in your blood” he also adds “it truly takes a unique personality to smile while working 16 hour days and you gotta be just a little crazy LOL!”Chef David’s culinary skills are top notch.  You never know what he’s going to serve up in his galley, his meals are so unique and different from other boats and it’s very refreshing to have a variety of dishes to stimulate your pallet while fishing on a multi day trip.

Here are a few descriptions of Chef David’s menu. His breakfast choices are a to die for, the machaca breakfast burritos filled with a homemade beef machaca, Pica de Gallo, eggs potatoes and a Queso Fresco Cheese with an array of hot sauces to heat it up to your liking.  This was my personal favorite and I had it every morning. Every time I think about this burrito my mouth waters and I can’t wait to get back on the boat to have it again! David’s French toast is the best I’ve ever tasted with notes of vanilla and cinnamon dressed with a dollop of creamy butter and drizzled with maple syrup!

Our lunch menu included a yummy burger, but because this article is named “More than a boat burger” guess what? David passed the test. Did you ever think that you could have homemade pizza on a sport boat? Yes, chef David makes the best pizza you’ve ever had, it’s so delicious with a crispy crust and he makes several kinds to satisfy any pizza lover, like vegetarian with caramelized onions and a meat lovers pizza, one of the most interesting things that I got to try that he does is a chocolate peanut butter pizza! Yes you heard it here, a chocolate peanut butter dessert pizza! I didn’t think that I would like it but I had three slices lol, it was so delicious and so unusual that I didn’t think the combination would work but it works perfectly. A must try for sure.

Our dinner menu consisted of an amazing taco bar. Chef David made three different types of meat to choose from: pork, chicken and beef, with a large spread of toppings where you can build your own taco how you like our choices where; onions & cilantro, pico de gallo, jalapeños, an array of cheeses, lettuce, guacamole & sour cream served with mexican rice and refried beans. Another highlighted dinner dish is David’s Herb crusted prime rib, served with a freshly baked potato with all the toppings, sautéed seasoned green beans, Cesar salad and a roll. My mouth was watering just writing this article and thinking about those meals I had on that trip.

We had a great two days and even though we didn’t win this year’s tuna wars we all had an amazing time with Captain Rick Scott and his very professional crew.  They have an amazing boat, the bunks are comfortable, with an amazing platform to fish from.  You know you’ll be well fed on any trip you take on the Ocean Odyssey with chef David Powell.

Captain Rollo’s Kids at Sea organizes marine- awareness fishing trips for children who might not otherwise have such an opportunity to witness the beauty and splendor of being on the ocean. Youth are provided with on-the water ocean preservation education where they learn hands-on about the ecosystems that exist in our coastal waters. We serve disadvantaged, physically challenged, and at-risk youth. Since 1999, over 130,000 children have benefited. If you’d like to make a donation or donate your time to Captain Rollo’s Kids at Sea go to: 

Ocean Odyssey is located at H&M Landing, 2803 Emerson Street ,San Diego California 9210. To book your private charter contact the Ocean Odyssey at: Call: (619) 889-4535

Bluefin Tuna Poke’

By Chef David Powell

2Lb Bluefin Tuna loin

1-ea. Yellow or orange Bell Pepper

1-ea medium Jalapeño (diced)

1-Tbls Fresh Ginger (minced)

6-ea. chopped Green Onion stalks (1/2 bunch)

4- Garlic Cloves (minced)

1-Tbls Sesame Oil

1/4c. Soy Sauce

1). Cut Bluefin Tuna or Skip Jack into 1/4” cubes cover & chill

2). Cut yellow or orange bell peppers (not Red due to the color contrast) jalapeño and green onions into small pieces.

3). Finely mince ginger and garlic.

4). Add all the above ingredients to tuna dices cover & chill.

5). 20 minutes prior to serving add sesame oil and soy sauce, mix thoroughly.

6). Serve with craft crackers or wonton chips & enjoy!


By Spring 2021, Uncategorized


The 24 PENN Fishing University anglers who headed out for an 8-day long-range adventure aboard Captain Ray Lopez’ American Angler from Point Loma Sportfishing in San Diego knew they would be faced with a dilemma. Head deep into Baja waters to take a chance at tropical exotics like wahoo, or just go partway down, and then come back into US waters for a shot at big bluefin tuna.


Captain Lopez opted to head south immediately upon departure, and after cruising all night, the next two full days were a blur of wide-open yellowtail, sprinting crewmen, and fish being dropped in the RSW hold. Moving among coastal hotspots meant as one area’s bite slowed down, a timely move would put the boat onto another voracious school.

The coastal-grade yellowtail were mostly all nice taggable 12-20 pounders, with a sprinkling of bigger ones up to 25 pounds. The most productive method was yo-yo iron, but surface iron, flylined sardines, sliding sinker rigs, Slow-Pitch jigs, and dropper loop rigs all scored decent numbers of fish.

For the anglers who were interested, a number of bonus species were available along with the yellows. Bruiser-grade calico bass were the most enticing, along with sheephead averaging well over 10 pounds. Plenty of whitefish, sand bass, barracuda, and bonito eagerly attacked jigs and bait intended for yellowtail, though virtually all of these species were safely released.


After two days of the excellent coastal yellowtail action, a fundamental decision had to be made. Captain Lopez informed us that the boats south of us at Alijos Rocks and The Ridge were experiencing modest action at best, with only a handful of wahoo, along with relatively small-size tuna and yellowtail hitting the decks.

Meanwhile, boats closer to home at the Tanner and Cortez Banks were getting into quality-grade bluefin tuna. If the group wanted a shot at those bluefin, turning around right then was a must. Accordingly, the decision was made, and the American Angler pointed her bow north.


As the boat headed north toward the bluefin grounds, the kind of hotel-size kelp paddy everyone hopes for appeared off the bow. As Captain Lopez expertly spun the American Angler into position, a massive school of dorado charged out from under the paddy and directly at the boat.

Dorado in that kind of a frenzy are not selective at all about what pound test line, or what hook size an angler is using. A live [or even dead] sardine was gobbled up instantly upon hitting the water. However, safety etiquette dictates that lures are not used, since a leaping dorado can easily throw the lure, resulting in a dangerous missile zooming directly back at the boat.

This batch of dorado did not contain any lunkers, but the group easily landed their legal limit of delicious 12-20 pounders. After cleaning up the carnage, and tagging and dropping the dorado into the RSW hold, the American Angler resumed heading north.


Arriving in the vicinity of San Clemente Island saw the crew deploy frozen flying fish on the boat’s kite rig. Almost immediately, a huge bluefin tuna responded. Being first on the kite rotation paid off big time for Gordon Brofft, who landed a monster 265-pounder after a brutal fight.

After that, bluefin of 179, 172, and 157 pounds followed in fairly short order on the frozen flying fish before the bite died down. At dusk, a 30-minute flurry of 90-100 pound bluefin responded to fall-type jigs.

The following day saw the overall action slow down, but some finicky 50-80 pound yellowfin tuna were around, and the group managed to land eight of these nice fish, plus a single school-size bluefin.

The final day of fishing found a fresh batch of school-size 20-40 pound bluefin at the Osborne Bank, and 32 of these nice-grade tuna were landed. Due to the light tackle necessary to coax a bite, a larger than normal proportion of fish were lost in order to land that total number.


One of the most experienced long-rangers aboard this trip was Walt Bailey, owner of Pacific Coast Bait & Tackle in Oceanside. He observed: “This trip held a lot of excitement; there was always something happening. We got to fish every day except departure day; seven solid days of fishing on an eight-day trip. The crew really busted their butts to make sure everything went perfectly. I managed to catch five bluefin tuna up to 157 pounds, a limit of yellowtail, a 65-pound yellowfin tuna, and even a 12-pound sheephead.”

Bailey continued, “The biggest mistake I see people make when preparing for a trip like this is not planning ahead. Among the most common errors is not having the reels full-up with line. If a reel is only half full of line, it won’t cast right, and the drag won’t work right. Once you walk onboard, don’t be afraid to ask for help, the crew of the American Angler are some of the best professionals in the world.”


Several new and upcoming PENN products were seen by the public for the first time on this trip. Most popular were the Fathom Low-Profile baitcast-style reels. Designed to be saltwater-specific instead of primarily for freshwater bass, the Low-Pro’s performed admirably, and successfully boated a number of yellowtail and dorado. The Fathom FTH400LP model filled with 50-pound braid will likely prove to be very popular for anglers chasing a variety of California and Baja fish species up to 50 pounds or even more.

Also making their debut were the specialized PENN rods and reels for Slow-Pitch Jigging. This technique is relatively new to California anglers, though it has been popular in Asia for over a decade. This trip produced some yellowtail on the Slow-Pitch Jigs, but large quantities of “by catch” like calico bass, bonito, and barracuda were encountered to keep the testing from being definitive.

As always, a large selection of PENN rod/reel setups were available for anglers to try out. The “demonstrator” rigs included 2-speed Internationals and Fathoms for everything from 40 to 100-pound lines, along with star drag Fathoms in the lighter line classes.


The monster 150-plus pound bluefin tuna were landed on the boat’s extra-heavy kite rigs, but a few 90-100 pound bluefin were caught on fall-type jigs fished on PENN Fathom FTH40NLD2 reels filled with 80-pound braid and 100-pound fluorocarbon wind-ons.

The better-grade yellowfin tuna were ranging 50-80 pounds, and hit flylined sardines fished with PENN Fathom FTH30LD2 reels, filled with 65-pound braid and 40-pound mono topshots, with a 4-foot piece of 40-pound fluorocarbon, and a #1 Owner Mutu circle hook.

The school-size 20-40 pound bluefin were especially finicky, and the standard-issue setup was a PENN Fathom FTHII15SD star drag reel filled with 30-pound braid and a 20 or 25-pound mono topshot, tipped with a 5-foot piece of matching fluorocarbon and a tiny #2 Owner Gorilla Light J-hook.

Both yo-yo iron and surface iron scored yellowtail early in the trip. Most productive of all was a blue/white or scrambled egg-color Tady 4/0 fished yo-yo style; simply dropped straight down all the way to the bottom, and cranked back up at warp speed. Those anglers choosing to throw surface iron did well with Tady 45’s in mint color, cast in the vicinity of boiling fish.


Although “kite fish” do not count in the jackpot, some absolute monsters were caught with it, and merit mention here. The biggest of all was the monster 265-pound bluefin landed by Gordon Profft. Next up was the 179-pound bluefin by Steve Weber, and a 172-pounder by Joe Bailey. Walt Bailey was not far behind with a 157-poud specimen.

The overall jackpot honors were taken by Rob Mitchell’s beautiful 100-pound bluefin tuna, which earned him a PENN 2-speed reel and a nice tuna plaque. In second place was Joel Golding’s 98-pound bluefin, and followed closely by Steve Wann’s 94-pounder.

The Owner Hooks “First Fish” awards went to George Acosta [dorado], and Walt Bailey managed to get both the first tuna, and the first yellowtail prizes. The “Hero Fish” award naturally went to Gordon Profft’s cow bluefin, and the coveted Costa “Mr. Congeniality” prize as voted by the crew of the American Angler, was awarded to Steve Monnig.

Royal Polaris OCTUNACLUB- Article by Doug Inouye – Photos by Ryan June and Dharyl “Big D” Shelbourne

By Spring 2021, Uncategorized



As we all know 2020 was a year that many of us would like to forget, and the word “challenging” doesn’t even begin to describe it.  With so many long range trips being cancelled, I was preparing myself to take that dreaded phone call from the Royal Polaris office about the possibility of cancelling our trip until further notice.  Like many of us, I’m always preparing for my trip months in advance…but this past year was different.

I remained optimistic, but something kept telling me to hold off on the preparation process until we’ve been given the green light.  With our trip 2 weeks out, the office confirmed that we’re still a “go”.  I still didn’t believe it, but I was forced to put the process into motion.   With the pandemic weighing heavily on our minds, our entire charter elected to voluntarily take a COVID test within 72 hours of our departure and to present our negative results during the check in process.

Since we were on a 10 day trip, we wanted to take every necessary safety precaution to reduce the chance of an outbreak among the crew and passengers.  It was the by far the best move we could have made and here’s why.  The day before our scheduled departure date, 2 of our regular passengers had household members who tested positive.  One of the family’s tested twice just to be sure, same results.  Although unfortunate they couldn’t come on the trip, but for the remainder of the group it felt like we dodged a huge bullet.

With the testing now behind us, 24 of us lined up and prepared to board the Royal Polaris with Capt. Roy Rose and his stellar crew.  This year we had a few new faces that decided to join us and we’re all so glad they did.  After we pushed away from the dock and headed to the bait receivers, I noticed that everyone was being cautious and respectful of space and avoiding the typical boarding mayhem (gear storage).

Now on to the fishing report….

After loading up some pristine well cured sardines, Capt. Roy steamed straight to Alijos Rocks in hopes that we’ll be the first boat there in over a week.  The goal was to get our licks in on the wahoo first….well, that was the plan.  We arrived and said “HI” to Brent since who this legacy trip is for and then we put the jigs in the water. A few minutes later, I hear that unmistakable sound coming off my reel.  The excitement of the 1st wahoo coming on board to get our skunk off was awesome.  A few minutes later, Eddie sinks the gaff and makes it official.  The party has officially started and we thanked Brent for that fish!


No takers on bombs or iron, so we get back to trolling and minutes later….Zamir’s ear perk up to a screaming drag.  Wahoo #2 is now in the boat…..but wait, no takers on bombs, bait or iron?  Next troll team gets up and this time, Rusty’s ears were the fortunate recipients.  Wahoo #3 is now in the box….but wait, again no other takers on bait or iron? We’re starting to see a pattern here.  Well for some reason, after we put 3 nice wahoo (35-50lbrs) in the boat they got lock jaw and didn’t want play for the remainder of the day.

Roy didn’t like this pattern, so we opted to give the wahoo a break and decided to make a tank of mackeral in the shallows and then head over to Alijos Bank to target those jumbo yellowtail.  We anchored up around 3pm and within a minute I see Nic’s rod completely bent over and drag peeling off hard and fast.  Oh yeah, here we go…..a few minutes pass and here comes a 40+lb yellowtail over the rail.  I decided to grind a 6XJR but had no takers, tried surface iron…no takers, dropped a colt sniper…nothing.  Grabbed my dropper loop rig and once it hit the bottom, the bite was instant.  Washed, rinsed and repeated this process 3 times and resulted in 3 big yellowtail (35-40lbrs).  Capt. Roy decided we plucked enough (60-70 YT) off this spot and decided to head to “The Pole” to see if we can find bigger ones.

When we arrived we set the anchor and then all of sudden 4 of us got bit simultaneously by some big yellowtail.  All of us were using 80-100lb set ups and one by one, we were getting rocked and busted off.  Our spectra came back all shredded from the rubbing on the rocks and there was nothing we could do.  Just mean, grumpy home guards that had a much different plan for us.  I witnessed 7 fish in a row getting busted off on the sinker rigs, so I opted to fly line instead. A few minutes pass a


nd my

mackeral gets slammed and the moment I felt the fish going into the rocks, I kicked my reel into free spool in hopes that he’ll swim out.  I let the fish swim freely for a few minutes and eventually it started to come up. At this moment, I reeled down, got tight again and got him to gaff soon thereafter.

After heavy casualties, Capt. Roy opted that we head to The Ridge to try our luck on more yellowtail and Wahoo.  When we arrived, the water was a few degrees warmer than Alijos and that gave us hope for better wahoo fishing.   We dropped the jigs back and almost immediately we had a double hook up, but this time the wahoo were a lot bigger.  Guys started slinging the metal and bombs and the wahoo didn’t disappoint.  Lots of 40-50lbrs were coming over the rail at a steady pace…fishing was good.  I looked over and heard Capt. Dave Marciano using some choice expletives because his wahoo kept spitting the hook on his bomb. He made 2 casts, hooked 2 wahoo and then lost 2 wahoo.  He reeled up his jig and took a look at his hook and then he begins to laugh.  Capt. Dave then shows me that he forgot to take the plastic hook point protector off his jig.  We laughed so hard and you can’t make this stuff up! Pure comedy.


Later on that day, a wahoo slammed my jig in the Port side corner……ran straight across the bow and up the Starboard side (all within a split second), then darts back under the boat and runs back to the Port side corner.  At this time, I’m pegged with my rod pointed straight down with my tip in the water trying to get around the bow.  All of a sudden my spectra broke or so I thought.  I’m walking back to the stern and Eddie is yelling and telling me that he has my wahoo. Say what??  He said that he had to cut my spectra because my wahoo was about to saw off 2 others.  Being Eddie, he wrapped my spectra around his pliers and then cut my line.  Capt. Roy grabs the tag end off Eddie’s pliers and splices my spectra back together….minutes later my wahoo hits the deck.  Now that’s RP Livin!!!!!

We finished the day with 80+ wahoo and Capt. Roy elects to make a move after dinner to find some yellowfin tuna.  We anchor up on a spot a few miles away, made another few tanks of bait and by morning we had a tremendous amount of life under the boat.  The yellowfin were free swimming all over the place and eating anything that hit the water.  Jigs, dead bait, chunks, surface iron…..didn’t matter and it just needed to be in the water.  I was standing there drinking my coffee and watching these guys just slay these 15-25lb YFT at a rapid pace.

Then a thought crossed my mind, I’ll try to catch some YFT with a hand line.  I tied on 30 ft of mono to my coffee mug, pinned on a bait and then continued to drink my coffee.  Within a few seconds a YFT nearly rips the mug out of my hand and Dan is standing there looking at me and trying to figure out what’s wrong.  I was desperately trying to get the coffee mug to my mouth to take a sip, but my hand is violently shaking and coffee is spilling out everywhere. We laughed hard and Capt Roy was busting up watching me trying to hold on to my mug.  I told him this was the “original coffee grinder” of long range fishing… times and we quickly put in daily limits of YFT in the boat and headed for new grounds.

With time running out, Capt. Roy told us that we were going to make a move north to see if we can finish off our yellowtail limits and target some bluefin tuna close to home.  I was up in the wheel house chopping it up with Roy and he mentioned that we’re going to get off the train tracks and try something different.  If you know Roy, this dude is outrageously fishy and when he says that he wants to try something “different”, you know it’s from a past experience.   He said that he wants to try fishing in Hippolito Bay since he hasn’t been there in over 10 years.   We arrive and it’s calm, warm and just beautiful.

A few minutes later a big sheephead comes over the rail, then another one, then another one.  I put on small ½ oz mega bait and it’s instantly slammed.  As fast as you can get a small jig, hook up bait or a strip of anything in the water…the sheephead were on it.  We put a nice stringer of these in the boat and then make a short move less than a half mile away.  I grab my surface iron and sling it down swell…..a few minutes later I see a small pack of yellowtail chasing it down, then finally one commits.  Then all of sudden everyone is bent on the rail….bait, yo yo, surface…they wanted it all.  Nice grade of 15-30lb fish, and all we wanted.  We stuck with this program until we were done with our limits.   At this point, everyone has a ton of fish and near limits on most targeted species.  Time to go bluefin fishing.

Capt. Roy tells us that we have about 1.5 days of travel time before we arrive on the BFT grounds.  During this time we’re breaking down a good portion of our gear and prepping for what’s about to come.  We arrive to our destination in the dark and Kurt drops down his 300g FlatFall and then his line went slack. At first he thought he was tangled up with somebody since the current was ripping hard, then his line started peeling off.  A few minutes later a nice 65lb bluefin tuna hits the deck.  As the sun began to rise, the fog and dark clouds kept a nice gray overcast lining in the sky with a slight swell and light wind.  Perfect conditions.  It didn’t take long before a few of us on the bow started hooking fish. We always had a 2-3 fish going through out the entire day.

A handful of us had a very productive morning on these 40-60lb class fish and it was time to start getting everyone involved. The awesome thing about our group, we were all about helping each other.  During the entire duration of our trip, if somebody was having a tough day…there was always somebody there to help.  On our final day of fishing, we were doing hook and hands to ensure that everyone went home with a pristine bluefin.  Midway through the day, we finally got everyone a BFT and it was the icing on the cake. We ended the day with 63 quality bluefin tuna.  The smiles, the stories and the comedy was nothing short of spectacular and we all want to say thank you to Frank, Captain Roy and his stellar crew for always taking care of us.  Until we ride again in July and November…..tight lines!

BIG Life Lessons – by Robert Moorers

By Spring 2021

I wanted my two sons to experience big game fishing, what we got was a whole lot more.”

We started our adventure by arriving in Cabo San Lucas on Monday, November 23rd. We figured we would spend the Thanksgiving week with one day of fishing then enjoy all that Cabo has to offer for the remainder of our time there.  We booked a fishing charter in advance with Fin Addict, a 31’ Bertram captained by Martin Olascoaga and his crew David and Alex.

The advanced preparation was a good sign, they took care of everything: fishing licenses, box lunches, beer, water, and ice.  The boat was fueled and ready to go when we arrived at 6:15 AM on Tuesday morning.  I must say, I have never seen a boat, of any size, more equipped for the task at hand.  The Fin Addict is purpose designed and built, from its twin diesel power to the bait system and outrigger configuration to the way the kite is managed, and the beautiful Okuma and Phenix tackle.

We discussed the day’s strategy with Martin agreeing we would look for tuna.  Though excited to get started we also had our expectations set; the fishing had been hit and miss, the tuna were staying low and had moved out, and the dorado being caught were pretty small.  Even the dependable marlin was scarce.

The day was long and quiet, we ran more than 15 miles along the Pacific / Sea of Cortez dividing line looking for signs.  We saw a few birds and some dolphins, but no spotted or spinners, which tuna typically hangs out with.  All-in-all not a lot of life by Cabo standards.  After hours of trolling with intermittent running to check out glimpses of hope spied through the binos, we turned back towards the cape hoping to pick something up closer to shore.  We did see one striper that we cast on several times, but it just wasn’t having it.  At the end of the day we were skunked; the only catching we did was skipjack to fill the tuna tubes on our way out in the morning.

My boy’s got a first-hand reality check on why it’s called fishing and not catching, but all was not lost, as we motored passed the arch we reflected on the day and we all agreed, it was great.  We melded as a group, as a team, with our newfound friends and crew.  We felt good about the total effort; the patience and perseverance demonstrated.  We left it all on the water that day, spending every ounce of experience and knowhow toward a goal that was not to be.

Now we had a decision to make; do we take our loss and enjoy the next few days in Cabo or try again.  The only day Fin Addict was available was Thursday, Thanksgiving Day.  I let the boys decide and they gave me the answer I was hoping for.  “Let’s get out there again, we can’t give up.”  So, we booked it and got ready to try again.

Thursday started out as a beautiful early morning run on the Pacific side toward Jaime Bank, but about 30-minutes into the run things started getting rough and by the time we started to troll we were rolling gunwale-to-gunwale with capping seas and a pretty good swell.  Again, after trolling for several hours with no good signs we began to fight off those feelings of doubt.  Determined not to be skunked again, we turned and trolled down swell towards Lighthouse Bank on reports of a bait ball and potential for marlin.  On the way we encountered a striper and played a game of cat and mouse for 30-minutes, landing bait practically in its mouth, but it just wouldn’t bite.  Once on the bank there was bait in the water and plenty of boats, but no bent poles.

But there was something else, the occasional spotted dolphin, the right kind of dolphin. The easy call from Martin would have been to suggest we drop lines for marlin, like everyone else.  Instead we motored through the fleet with lines up and connected with a small pod of maybe five dolphins slowly moving north.  We stayed with them for 30-minutes then began to chum intermittently as more dolphins showed up.  As the main fleet of boats faded in the distance, we popped the kite on the hunch there was something more far below this growing pod of dolphins.  Within 20-minutes we got a double hit on the kite, landing a 247lb yellow fin in just under 30-minutes.  We reset and 15-minutes later we had our second strike, a 157 lb. yellow fin, which finished our day.  We had plenty of fish for ourselves and the crew, so we turned for home, getting back in time for a great Thanksgiving feast.  It is worth noting, from what we could see, we were the only boat in the fleet with any tuna at all onboard.

We would have had a great time either way, but I am so glad we did not give up, and neither did the crew of the Fin Addict.  Aside from landing incredible fish, my boys learned some valuable life lessons, and we all made memories of a lifetime.

Thank you to the expertise and efforts of Captain Martin and the crew of Fin Addict.


Side bar:

Lessons Learned

  • Patients
  • Perseverance
  • Comradery
  • Team Building
  • Be Positive
  • Lead, Don’t Follow



East Cape’s Summertime Blues – Article by JIM NIEMIEC

By Featured, FTC fall 2020

Upon arrival in Cabo, our flight was the only one outside of Terminal 2, with the exception of a small commuter jet sitting on the tarmac of Terminal 1, for local flights within Mexico. There was no long line at immigration and all luggage arrived in a timely manner. It was then off to the final declaration of goods brought into Mexico before final clearance to our awaiting shuttle.
The seas were clam and talk around the bar at the pool was of the good fishing currently taking place. We sat down and chatted with Axel who assured us that fishing is very good and that our cruiser would be awaiting us at 6:30 in morning. Arrangements for lunch and cold drinks were made and a check on our Mexican fishing license finalized arrangements for the following days fishing.
The veranda offered up an excellent venue to enjoy a warm Mexican evening on the Sea of Cortez and a cold Pacifico made for a good choice while waiting the chef’s specialties of ceviche, home-made tortilla soup and grilled pargo off the dinner menu.
There were no sardines available for live bait, but one of the local pangas had some scad available allowing us bigger baits for billfish. The fast Eclipse91 headed out to the tuna grounds but the captain could not locate a school of porpoise, so we opted to put out a spread of Zuker jigs and couple of small tuna feathers in search of marlin or Dorado.
It was mid-morning and we had only a couple of billfish strikes, that were so soft that lines were not snapped out of the outriggers. It was like the billfish were just not hungry, although this fishery showed of birds, flying fish and dead calm seas.
About noon a marlin came up behind one of the Zuker lures and my son Dr. Brook Niemiec DVM of San Diego dropped back one of the scads as an offering. That marlin took the live bait and came out of the water throwing its head from side to side. It was a good-sized blue marlin, weighing over 300 lbs. that took nearly an hour to bring to leader and release. Later on, the deckhand spotted a small pod of porpoise and we finished the day by adding 10 school sized tuna to the catch.
It was hot on the sandy beach, which mandated flip-flops to walk from the calm shoreline up to the shade of the resort pool. It was fresh sushi and grilled yellowfin tuna for dinner that night along with a cold bottle of Chardonnay.
Day two started off with a run out to the tuna grounds again, and we found them just about 3 miles off the beach…a huge school of porpoise. Rigged up with small 125 mm Sevenstrand jet heads and hoochie rubber jigs, tuna jumped all over them. Another boat hooked into a marlin while running through the porpoise and this angler hooked into a striped marlin that ate a tiny hoochie jig, only to have in come unbuttoned after 10 minutes. Our choice for light tackle tuna fishing was a matched set of Daiwa Saltiga rods and high-end Saltiga LD30SH reels, spooled with Daiwa J-Braidx8 line. With the fish locker, loaded with ice, now filled with tuna we headed off in quest of more marlin or hopefully a sailfish.
It wasn’t much past 9 AM when a marlin’s dorsal fin appeared behind one of the lures. The sport fisher slowed a little and the foaming sea of prop wash all of sudden showed the presence of 4 billfish, of which at least two were blue marlin. While the blues sounded out, both outrigger Zuker lures were bit and my son and I were hooked up into a billfish double. The fishing ended with my wife Toni bringing another striped marlin to leader for a quick release and then it was back to the beach with colorful fish flags flying high up in the outriggers.
To expect fishing be good a second day in a row was being very optimistic, but the tuna where still in the same area and bit good. After 10 more tuna were added to the onboard fish locker, it was then time to run north in hopes of another blue marlin hookup.
With flat calm water, with literally thousands of Pectoral birds winging over the Sea of Cortez and flying fish everywhere, fishing conditions couldn’t have been any better.
All of a sudden there was an explosion on the short line lure, as a huge blue marlin cleared its entire body out of the water with an orange marlin lure hanging out its huge mouth. The sight of the leaping massive blue was just like the TV commercial for Tropic Star Lodge off Panama of their black marlin being fought.
The tackle was right and the fighting chair was set in the cockpit perfectly to allow this angler and the captain to stay tight with that huge blue. During the battle, which lasted nearly 1.5 hours, that beautiful marlin made many acrobatic jumps and tail-walked across the calm sea.
After being dredged up from spending most of the fight down deep the expended blue came back up to the surface with the deckhand ready to grab the 300-lb. test leader. All was right to simply wait for the swivel to come within hand-reach, when the marlin turned towards the boat, opened its huge mouth, winging its massive bill and threw that jig right back at the boat. Ironically, that marlin stayed up, probably kind of still in a state of shock, and could have been backed down on a few more feet and free gaffed, if that had been the choice rather than plans to release all marlin. It was estimated that blue weighed nothing less than 500-lbs. and they awarded this angler with a catch and release flag, as the fish was beaten and so close to being fully leadered.
That marlin was by far the largest fish this saltwater fishing editor has ever hooked, far surpassing a 350-lb. black marlin off Bazaruto Island in the Indian Ocean and a 300-lb. “cow” yellowfin tuna caught four years ago on the Outer Gordo Banks off Cabo San Lucas.
The last day allowed only for a few morning hours of fishing around the Punta Arena light-house for roosterfish along the beach. After blowing a large rooster that ate a scad, Brook hooked into his roosterfish, which weighed about 18 pounds and would be the last fish of this truly epic time of fishing the Sea of Cortez.
Come next summer the Niemiec family is looking ahead to booking another trip to Hotel Buena Vista Beach Resort, either to fish for more blue marlin, tuna, roosterfish or Dorado, or hopefully all species, the last week of July or early August.

The Sandwich Bite – The Story of Badger’s First Bluefin – Article & Photos by Mike Lane

By Featured, FTC fall 2020

It was a day that will never be forgotten. A day that changed my son’s life. Jaxon Lane AKA ”Badger” is my 10 year old son that keeps bringing his passion for fishing to the next level. Last year I took Badger on three trips in hopes to land a giant Bluefin that ended with multiple blow ups, but no hook ups. We had to wait for this year’s season to get going again. On July 1st the opportunity presented itself to go and give it another shot. I gave my buddy Shannon Perkins a call to see if he wanted to join us and he was in.
If I am going to take Badger I have to make sure the weather is good and that I have multiple people on the water that I can call in case of an emergency. Call me a responsible dad I guess. Chris Bona and Billy K were also going to be on the water so it was a go. The night before a big fishing trip is always prep night in the Lane household. As we were getting ready Badger came to me and said “Dad, I have a good feeling about tomorrow”. I smiled and agreed.
At 7am we met up with the boys at the HB Launch ramp and off we went. A trip of 67 miles put us in the zone. Once we hit San Clemente Island, a giant Flying fish jumped out of the water and flew right into the boat! Shannon swatted it down… Oh my God… are u kidding me! If that wasn’t a sign from above, I don’t know what is. Whew.
When we got there we rigged up a fresh flying fish for the balloon. It was time to play. When we got to the zone around 10 am and instantly started to see fish. Blew up the balloon and got the fresh dead flying fish out. Instantly we had a blow up and a miss… ugh!! There were foamers everywhere and I’m watching the big gear while Shannon throws into the foamers. He got hooked up and spooled in 20 seconds. Ha ha! It was great because Badger got to experience that. Billy K. who is an excellent fishermen and captain called us in, so we set up near him. Immediately it was boom, hook up and we are on.
I fought the fish and we landed her. I tried to put Badger on her but it just wasn’t right for some reason. I quickly got another bait out and 20 ft from the boat (as we are letting the bait out) we get the biggest blow up on the bait and Shannon is on. He got her in and now we have two 150-180 Lb. fish tied off and hanging on the side of the boat. How could it get any better than this?

We set up a bait and let it out. Shannon, Badger and I are now getting the boat organized and decided to have lunch. As we were eating our sandwiches, we decided that we were going to call it a day because we were happy with the two fish we caught. As we are eating our sandwiches and out of nowhere…. Boom! The biggest blowup of the day. The fish jumped with a full belly out of the water. This was action. I instantly put the reel into gear to get tight on her, hook Up!! This is where it became the best day ever.
I grabbed the rod and I found a sweet spot on my boat near the bow where I keep two 22 gallon external gas tanks. I sat down on the tank and positioned the rod under my leg and laid it on the rail.. The rod is an Okuma SCT XXXH 7’6 rail rod and paired with Okuma Makaira 50. I got settled and yelled “Badger you ready?” I told him to come sit on my lap and fight this fish…I dropped the Makaira into low gear and Badger went to work… The radio chatter was on fire with all the boys cheering Badger on. Badger is giving it his all and hyping his own self up to not give up. Next thing I know , Shannon yells, “I see color!” He grabs the gaff and gets one end. We get up, Badger and I grab the other two gaffs and as father and son we gaffed her together. HE DID IT!!
The joy of accomplishment I saw on his face was something that I will never forget. The cheering from all the boys made Badger glow. The adrenaline rush was still high as we got her onto the boat. And as tradition, it was time for Badger to take the bite of the heart of his first bluefin! We cleaned the fish, gave him the heart and before he took the bite… He said “Thank You for giving us your life” and took two GIANT bites, tried to swallow it and gagged! LOL proud dad moment.. Proud that he showed his respect to God’s creation by thanking her for giving us her life to feed our family.

That night I asked Badger what was his favorite part of the day, Badger replied “when all my friends were around to cheer me on when I was fighting the fish!” That’s what it’s all about folks! My 10 year old son gets it. Already. I’m truly a proud father. Proud of you Badger. Daddy loves you.

Browns in the Green By: Shawn Arnold

By Featured, FTC fall 2020

“Twitch it. TWITCH IT!! Damn it he swam away” yelled Brandon Keene my guide for the day who works for Grand Teton Flyfishing. We were fishing the Green River about 45 minutes outside of Jackson Hole, Wyoming and this was the second time in 45 minutes that a HUGE brown trout followed my lure to the boat. Since the lure was only a few feet from the boat, the only way to entice the trout would be to leave it there and twitch and hope the fish struck quickly. My thought when I saw the fish was ‘are there pike in this river?’ It was that long. Brandon first said that it was 26” long and within a minute it was up to 28 or 29”. According to a chart I read a 29” brown trout should weigh about 8 pounds. All I know was it was the second big brown trout to follow the Dynamic crankbait to the boat. Not that many did not bite. I caught and released many browns including one about 23”, a rainbow and a hybrid. Also I missed many others that hit but did not stick.
The reason I was fishing with Brandon is I wanted to find an outfit in Jackson Hole who was OK with my spin fishing and not fly fishing. Some of the companies turn their nose up at us spin fishers but not the case with Grand Teton Fly Fishing. Their website showed the option to spin fish and or fly fish and so I was ‘hooked’.
I booked a date and when the owner Scott Smith found out I wanted to spin fish he said I have the guy for you. On the morning we were to fish, Brandon picked me up at my hotel in Jackson Hole around 7 A.M. and on our hour drive to the Green River we were able to find out what a small world it is. In between him showing me animals like elk and deer off in the distance off the road I discovered he used to work for Crocodile Bay Resort in Costa Rica. I went to Crocodile Bay before it actually opened and did a story on it. He knew of Jeff Klassen who was the GM at the time and he knows Todd Staley who was in charge of the fishing there for many years. Todd is now in charge of a conservation group that provides guidelines for fishing in Costa Rica and he lives there still. I actually text Todd while Brandon was driving and said look who I am with.
He also worked the east cape, Mexico and in Patagonia, Argentina. He grew up near Jackson Hole and while he loved the excitement of these other exotic places Jackson Hole is where family is and where he grew up. As he said the winters can be rough but no place he would rather be in the summer. That is saying something with all the places Brandon has worked.
When we got to our spot on the Green River, Brandon got the trailer with the drift boat ready and backed it into the water. We would travel 8 miles down the river that day. They have a cool system that enables them to start at point A and finish at point B as a company takes the truck and trailer to the ramp 8 miles away and parks it there so when you finish you just have to back up the trailer and load. There are no motors on these boats so they depend on the sturdy back of the guide and the flow of the river.
I brought a travel light weight 6’6” rod with me and a spinning reel spooled with 2# test. I was excited to see what I could do tossing mini-jigs at these big boys. Brandon looked at my set-up and kind of giggled. He was trying to be polite but in the fast waters of the river and all the possible things that could snag on it, my 2# test was far too little. He handed me a rod and reel with 8# test and said use this. I was thinking 8# test is way too much but the fast flowing water was murky and with all the bites I got on the lure it did not seem to matter much. And I am pretty sure if one of the before mentioned big browns had hit my mini-jig it was party over. River fish tend to be much stronger than lake fish. They spend their days working the tail against the flow of the river and like someone who is used to running a far distance everyday they are just in better shape and stronger. And for the record the travel rod did come in handy when I hiked and fished a few lakes in the Grand Tetons.
We went down the river for over 4 hours. I pretty much cast non stop that entire time. The only time I took a break was when Brandon made me a turkey sandwich. And using Covid safety measures he put on plastic gloves and made it for me in the boat. They also provided water and soda.
As we went down the river Brandon would survey the water and say cast under that tree, cast by that ripple, etc. etc. Like all the experienced guides at Grand Teton Flyfishing, he had been down this river numerous times and knew it like the back of his hand. There were a few times when he said that spot holds fish and I cast and caught a fish or got hit. The numerous times I got followed was quite an experience also. All in all it was a great day and worth every penny. I would definitely do it again.
I highly recommend Grand Teton Flyfishing. You can find out more about them at