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Fall 2019

Big Blue Charters and Freedom Alliance Team Up in Sitka – BY Shawn Arnold

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The year is 1972, Mike Keating was in high school and getting ready to join one of the branches of our armed forces as it seemed likely he would be drafted. Like the Kenny Rogers song, Mike has told me that he would have been proud to go and do his patriotic chore when drafted. When he was in high school, he felt in awe of those that served. In 1973 the draft had ended though and while Mike was ready to go and serve there was not a need without the draft and or war.
Flash forward to 2019. Mike is living his dream. He runs Big Blue Charters in Sitka, Alaska along with his wife Karen. He loves Alaska and loves fishing. He has a fleet of what he and many think are the nicest boats in Sitka. His captains are held in high esteem in the industry. And while he never served in the military, he still feels a sense of need to give to those that did.
Mike holds the utmost respect for those that have served, and every Memorial Day he and Big Blue Charters and other Sitka companies work with the Freedom Alliance to take wounded servicemen out fishing in Sitka.
Freedom Alliance provides wounded troops with recreational therapy that improves their rehabilitation. And what better way to spend recreation time than while catching fish in Alaska. Freedom Alliance takes troops that were wounded and takes them to beautiful and peaceful places like Sitka to help them heal.
They say that traumatic brain injury and post traumatic stress are the most common war injuries inflicted on this generation of combat veterans. Medical professionals and the troops themselves say that the great outdoors is the medication in treating the lingering wounds of war.
Ryan Behm from Freedom Alliance who was previously a combat medic brought a group of wounded vets to the Last Frontier. In addition to Big Blue Charters the vets fished with Vonnie’s Charters too.
The vets fished 3 days and while I never spent time on the boat with them, I communicated with them every afternoon after we all came in. I fished with Captain Mike on his boat as the Big Blue boats worked as a team to find the fish. We were not disappointed as every day produced solid Alaska fishing.
It was easy for the vets and anyone for that matter who fishes with Big Blue Charters. You just show up with a good attitude. Everyone gets an excellent homemade sandwich made by Karen Keating, chips and cookies and the cooler is full of beverages. First class fishing gear is provided including reels by Okuma and Avet and rods by GLoomis and Whopper Stoppers. Big Blue Charter even provides Xtra Tuff boots which are very comfortable.
On to the good stuff. Drop your bait to the bottom and in typical Sitka style you can bring up a halibut, a lingcod, shortraker, yelloweye, or an assortment of other tasty fish that all make great fish tacos. While we did not catch anything huge one of the vets brought in a well over hundred -pound halibut while Kevin Briles who lives in Sitka pulled one in about 70 pounds and I got one around 60. There were so many halibut caught and released because they were too small that would win jackpots in southern California it was unreal. At one point I had 10 straight drops and pulled in halibut in the 10 to 20- pound range every drop and all were carefully released.
In addition to the excellent bottom fishing the king salmon fishing was better this year than the previous year. There are two ways to fish for salmon and Big Blue Charters both trolls and mooches. I personally prefer to mooch, which is simply dropping either a cut or whole herring down to near the bottom and reeling up and then repeating. I like this method as you get to feel the salmon hit. Salmon have very soft mouths unlike bass so there is some finesse needed when hooking them. The old rip a lip method will lose you a lot of fish. When the salmon hits you reel, reel, reel until it is tight then just give a slight hookset. And once the king is on be prepared for battle. They are known to come to the boat rather easily until they figure out they are hooked. At that point hold on as you are going on a ride. Just like catching a yellowtail or tuna, it is a follow your fish mentality until you get it in.
The kings we caught were average size ranging from 17 to 25 pounds. They are a fun fish to catch and make excellent table fare. One of the nice things about fishing with Big Blue Charters is they have a deal with an excellent processing plant, so your fish is fillet and flash frozen that day. Then when you go to the airport the processor will meet you at the airport and for a very fair fee will box it and let you take your fish home with you. They say the fish last for a year, but I have always eaten mine before a year. The fish is so fresh it is hard to eat it elsewhere.
While Captain Mike guided me for 3 days, Captain Jesse Graham took the vets out two days without being paid and Captain Dan Corduan did it once. That was their contribution to the vets, and it was a huge one. Dan served in the military and through conversation found out he was in boot camp with one of the wounded vets. Small world, right? Since this was early in the season the Big Blue deckhands were not available yet, so Jesse and Dan also did double work and really worked their butts off for free. But both understand freedom is not free and without these vets risking their lives for us we might not be free at all. I feel that both Jesse and Dan are to be commended for their efforts and honestly, I feel lucky to know such fine young men.
There was a sweatshirt that one of the vets wore that stated, “ Those that expect to reap the blessings of freedom, must, like men, undergo the fatigues of supporting it.” Thomas Paine. A truer statement could not be said, and the vets, Jesse and Dan did their part. And while Mike did not serve in the military those many years ago, he is still serving those that did.

 

finesse needed when hooking them. The old rip a lip method will lose you a lot of fish. When the salmon hits you reel, reel, reel until it is tight then just give a slight hookset. And once the king is on be prepared for battle. They are known to come to the boat rather easily until they figure out they are hooked. At that point hold on as you are going on a ride. Just like catching a yellowtail or tuna, it is a follow your fish mentality until you get it in.
The kings we caught were average size ranging from 17 to 25 pounds. They are a fun fish to catch and make excellent table fare. One of the nice things about fishing with Big Blue Charters is they have a deal with an excellent processing plant, so your fish is fillet and flash frozen that day. Then when you go to the airport the processor will meet you at the airport and for a very fair fee will box it and let you take your fish home with you. They say the fish last for a year, but I have always eaten mine before a year. The fish is so fresh it is hard to eat it elsewhere.
While Captain Mike guided me for 3 days, Captain Jesse Graham took the vets out two days without being paid and Captain Dan Corduan did it once. That was their contribution to the vets, and it was a huge one. Dan served in the military and through conversation found out he was in boot camp with one of the wounded vets. Small world, right? Since this was early in the season the Big Blue deckhands were not available yet, so Jesse and Dan also did double work and really worked their butts off for free. But both understand freedom is not free and without these vets risking their lives for us we might not be free at all. I feel that both Jesse and Dan are to be commended for their efforts and honestly, I feel lucky to know such fine young men.
There was a sweatshirt that one of the vets wore that stated, “ Those that expect to reap the blessings of freedom, must, like men, undergo the fatigues of supporting it.” Thomas Paine. A truer statement could not be said, and the vets, Jesse and Dan did their part. And while Mike did not serve in the military those many years ago, he is still serving those that did.

 

 

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Fathers, Sons, and Friends Experiencing a World Class Fishery Together – by Darin Dohi, 310Rodworks

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As my 52nd year on this planet comes to a close, I have come to know and appreciate the value of sharing the art of fishing with those you are closest to. Such was a recent fly down trip to Cedros Island in Baja California, Mexico over the 4th of July week. To say that it was a trip to remember doesn’t begin to tell the whole story.

In July of 2018, Rosie Flowers of Cedros Sportfishing (formerly Cedros Adventures) and I got together and decided that we would promote a 6-day trip to their lodge on Cedros Island the following year. The dates were selected (July 3 – July 8, 2019) and preparations began. For the better part of a year we worked to fill the 12 available spots. Prime fishing dates, a trip limited to 12 passengers, on a storied island where big yellowtail (Jurel) and trophy sized calico bass are the primary targets…it could only lead to great stories and memories to last a lifetime. As part of this unique trip, I provided everyone with a 310Rodworks custom built United Composites USA swimbait rod. This rod was a token of appreciation to each angler for participating.

Over the course of the following year, the guest list ebbed and flowed. People were added. People were dropped. In the end, Rosie settled on a list of 12 passengers, including myself. That list was made up of three father/son duos, and three pairs of friends who have been fishing along-side one another for years. It was this combination of families and friends that created an environment for some of the very best and most meaningful experiences.
Rosie Flowers leads an amazing operation known as Cedros Sportfishing. The system that she has developed over the last few years has streamlined the process of not only getting to the island but also back home. She has mastered the art of getting through the Cross Border Express (CBX) in Otay Mesa, California to the Tijuana Airport and back, at the end of the trip. What this means to someone travelling to Cedros is that the travel time has been literally cut in half. Now, anglers are routinely arriving on the island around noon. With the second half of the day to burn, the option exists to take the pangas out the first afternoon for a few hours of fishing. In the several trips I personally have taken down to the island, we have never come close to having the option to fish the first day. This was indeed a welcomed change.

So the first afternoon was spent throwing surface iron at massive schools of giant bonito! We’re talking an honest 8 to 12lb average. Not only are they voracious eaters, but they are not shy about grabbing on to a surface jig and peeling line off your reel! We caught so many I couldn’t even tell you an exact number. It was tons of fun for our first afternoon. A few of us even got to sample the yellowtail and bass populations in that short first run. In all, that initial time on the water gave all of us a chance to shake off some of the rust that built up on our fishing skills and prepared us for what was to come the following morning.

My travel/fishing partner Kevin Inouye of Torrance joined me on this trip. This was his first experience at Cedros and he was excited to join the ranks of the thousands if not millions of jig slingers of Southern California. You see, prior to this trip, he had never thrown the surface iron (light jigs) at anything let alone world class yellows and bass. You may recall an article written up about a trip to Puerto Vallarta in 2018 where Kevin, again as a first time-er, put on a show of his angling skill and keenly hooked and landed 4 giant yellowfin tuna on that trip. Kevin will be the first to tell you that he is not a widely experienced angler, but he always seems to have the talent or ability to get the right bites at the right time. My hats off to Kevin for his humble nature and his willingness to try new things. He again showed the fish who the boss was. He took a blue and white Killer Jig EX-7 and promptly hooked and landed a number of yellowtail from the high teens to the low 30’s. Not only did he make the right adjustments to this retrieve, he changed his reel as well as rod until he found a combination that he was able to make the right distance casts as well as retrieve the jig at the proper tempo to entice the fish to bite. He had a fantastic trip.

Javier Mata with his super panga is the largest panga on the island. It has easily enough space to fish 4 anglers. On his boat were two father/son duos the Kinshofers and the Ghareebs. Pat and his son George Kinshofer were joined by their lifelong friends, Mike Ghareeb and his son Alec Ghareeb. Both Pat and Mike are well seasoned anglers in their own right. Why wouldn’t they be…they grew up with Rosie Flowers from all the way back in their high school days. Of course they had the skills to catch a few nice fish. But talent was not only with the dads but with their sons as well. Over the course of the trip, in spite of there being slightly adverse weather conditions, Alec could be seen up on the bow deck throwing jigs at the boils. He is a complete waterman and has incredible balance and dexterity. He caught a lot of fish over the course of the 4 ½ days we were on the water! And now…we have to discuss a very special young man George. He is all of 19 years old. He is an incredible athlete. He plays numerous ball sports, he is amazingly fast on his feet, and he has unmatched hand eye coordination. George found himself tied into, what would end up being the big fish of the trip, a 38lb yellowtail, that was hooked on a jig,

 fishing on the United Composites USA swimbait rod. He played the fish, made rounds a

 

round the boat, patiently waiting his opportunity to put pressure on the fish and finally coax it to within range of Javier’s gaff. He did all of this in spite of the fact that he was born with just one hand. He is no stranger to making things work. He did it throughout his baseball career. He has always made adjustments. But he has never asked to be treated any differently nor has he asked for accommodations. He simply and completely just loves to fish…and he does it well.

Another father and son duo, Ken Frisbee and his son Alex were paired with pangero Mario. Ken and Alex did damage on the yellowtail population. They caught them using nearly every technique available. Slow trolled mackerel, flylined mackerel, surface jigs, and yoyo jigs. Although he didn’t score a yellowtail on it, Alex even deployed the fly rod. You’ll be happy to know that his efforts with the fly rod were rewarded with a number of bass and smaller fish before the trip was done. Ken, a long-time resident of San Diego was of course equipped with the fundamental skills to catch what we were fishing for. He was never shy about pulling on fish. Like many of us he had to sort through the many bonito hooked to finally find a yellowtail. And find them he did. Just as so many of us have our back stories to every adventure, Ken and Alex had theirs. Just a few days before our adventure began, Alex, who lives in Colorado, was in a horrific accident that sent his truck tumbling across the highway. Even in spite of the injuries he sustained, and a very sore back, he was determined to make the trip and join us for some world class fishing. Not only did he have a good time, but he definitely showed us a thing or two about courage and tenacity. Alex…we hope you’re feeling better.

Our seasoned Cedros veterans filled out the last two pangas of our trip.

 

First there was the pairing of David Bandy and Tim Boal. The two of them have fished at Cedros three previous times. They have consistently faced challenging conditions. Truth be told, they may not have even joined us for this trip but they wanted to give it another try. What convinced them was the change to flying in and out of Tijuana Airport, and the new operation that has been headed up by Rosie and her team. With both David and Tim having experienced the fishery numerous times in the past, they knew what to expect. They had their tackle prepped in advance and everything was in place for them to knock it out of the park. Not only did their catches include some impressive yellowtail but they also found the time and with the help of their pangero Martin, they found some of the resident island flat fish. The trip continued to add to their memories of this island. It is easy to understand that once you have a taste of the fishery of Cedros, you’ll want to go back over and over.
Finally, Keith Shibata and Ryan June returned to the Island with our group after not having been back in nearly 10 years. Keith and Ryan are seasoned anglers with a tremendous amount of long range experience. They have spent the better part of their time away from Cedros riding on boats like the Shogun, the Intrepid, and the Royal Polaris. Keith and Ryan fished with legendary pangero Eulalio (Lalo) Mata. He is probably one of the most experienced captains on the island. He consistently put Keith and Ryan on the fish. Although the weather didn’t permit Ryan to get into much action on his fly rod, all other methods employed were producing results.
Our fishing adventure was topped off by the amazing crew at the lodge. Richard is THE MAN in-charge of everything from morning until night. He takes care of the needs of the people. He is backed up by the ladies in the kitchen who prepped not only our on-land meals but the lunches that are packed fresh daily for our trip out on the water. We were met by appetizers every afternoon that you just couldn’t pass up, and our sit down dinners were better than some restaurants that you might frequent here in the U.S. The house crew took care of laundering our clothes on a daily basis, keeping everything spotless, and keeping our accommodations clean and pleasant. The fish cleaning crew made quick work of our daily catch that was brought back to be packed to send home. Finally, the team that gets all the gear to and from the boats. Each morning and every afternoon the gear is hauled down to the pangas. A team of 4 to 6 men handle loading and unloading of the gear. Once it returns to the lodge, it is then rinsed of the salt residue and wiped clean to be made ready for the following day. The care and consideration for the tackle that each angler brings with them is unbelievable. We have to thank Richard and his crew for making the trip amazing.
Upon return to the Tijuana airport, we were greeted by porters who took responsibility for getting our belongings including our gear, luggage, and fish back to the CBX. It was such a simple process. It took nearly no time at all. In fact, through the customs and border crossing clearance, we completed the process in less than 20 minutes total. It was absolutely astounding how simple and fast we got back to the U.S. side and on our way home. If you’ve had any concerns or reservations about joining Rosie and her crew for a trip to Cedros, I am here to tell you that it has never been better. In fact, I consider myself lucky to have taken another trip down there with the crew of Cedros Sportfishing. They’ve shown me how easy it can be to travel to an amazing destination, catch fish with reckless abandon, and make memories that will last not only a lifetime but for generations. Fathers, Sons, and Friends can all participate in these trips and learn to connect over something we all love…FISHING.

Royal Polaris 16 Day John Collins Charter- By Doug Inouye Photos by Doug Inouye and Dharyl Shelbourne

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It was late April and 22 eager and excited anglers were anxiously waiting to pull away from the Fisherman’s Landing for our first destination, Alijos Rocks. Capt. Roy Rose rolled out the game plan and explained for us to get ready to fish the Rocks for some jumbo yellowtail and maybe wahoo if the water temperature was ideal. As we made the 2 days run in spectacular weather, John Collins introduced himself to the entire group and put together an absolutely stunning array of raffle prizes. The best part was all proceeds would directly benefit the Friends of Rollo organization. Everyone walked away a winner. Among the great prizes offered and that people won were brand new Avet Reels, GrafTech Rail Rods, Fisherman’s Landing Gift Cards, a deer hunting trip, Hi Seas Fluorocarbon, AFW wire, United Composites Shirts and more.

Let me rewind here for a moment to talk about our Charter master, John Collins. For those who don’t know John, he’s been a part of the long range industry since the late 80’s. He’s a walking encyclopedia of long range knowledge, history and quite possibly one of the nicest guys that you’ll ever meet and share the rail with. I first met and fished with John back in 2008 when he was working aboard the Indy. Back then, I didn’t have the privilege to sit down with him to talk about how he became involved in this industry. I wasn’t going to miss this opportunity a second time and he did not disappoint. What a great guy!

Roy Rose quote of the day – “Whatever you do….don’t look them in the eye”.

As we approached the Rocks, the anticipation was high as many us were ready to pull on some fish after 2 days of travel. Capt. Roy drove around the high spots and we put the anchor down and it was game on. John Collins, Matt Chang and myself prefer the long rods and it did not disappoint. The 3 of us were slinging the surface iron deep into the flat spots, watching these bruising yellows chase down the jig and eventually blowing up on it like nobody’s business. Yes, we sacrificed some jigs as they burned us off going over the ledge, but that’s part of the game.
Many times I would feel my line rubbing on the rocks and I would just kick it into free spool and let the fish swim out without any tension. This method worked well as I was able to save many jigs and land fish. Over the next 4 hours, a better grade fish (30-40lbrs) moved in with a bad attitude. They were chasing jigs all the way to the stern and at one point I yelled “Oh man, look at all of them right here….” Right then, Captain Roy Rose said “Whatever you do….don’t look them in the eye!” Many of us began laughing so hard, classic Roy. At noon, we pulled the plug and to continue our trek south.
Final count – 173 Yellows to 40lbs.

Next stop….The Bank.
After recovering over the past few days from sore arms, shoulders and hands…we prepared ourselves for battle once again. This time, big wahoo were the target.

Once we arrived at the Bank we started trolling and within minutes, Team #1 was screaming “hook up!!!!” A gigantic pack of marauding wahoo were eager and ready to play. The wahoo were eating bombs, stick baits, 6XJrs, Sumo jigs, Hopkins and bait….it really didn’t matter. If it was bright pink, orange, silver, gold or swimming….they would attack it. Over the course of the next few days, we managed to put a good score together on some excellent grade of 30-50lb wahoo.

Bank ATM malfunction aka “Tough Fishing”.
Now that everyone has had the chance to pull and tag some wahoo, it was now time to focus on tuna fishing. We anchored up on the corner of the bank along with the XL and we would pluck away at these fish for the next couple of days. I’m not going to sugar coat anything, but tuna fishing was tough overall. The tax men and their gangster pack of colleagues made things worse. They were eating big baits, sardines, chunks….you name it, they were on it.

However, if you put in your rail time you were eventually rewarded with the right kind. On these types of trips (when fishing is tough), it’s all about making the necessary adjustments to tip the odds into your favor. Those who adjusted had a phenomenal trip in the catching department on all species. Some anglers had 1-2 tuna, some had zero and some had daily limits for the entire trip.

It was the classic case of a certain percentage of the anglers caught a majority of the fish. The most interesting part among the experienced, was the sharing of knowledge, observations and implementation. For those who were willing to listen, they would change their terminal end and would share if it produced good results. Those who didn’t adjust or did not ask, rarely got bit and began to rely on their kite rotation for a bite. However, the slow fishing didn’t impact the amount of fun that we were having. The best part about this group, we all realized that it’s about laughing and getting to meet new people…..catching fish was just the bonus.

We did manage to catch 4 cows. 3 out of the 4 came on the kite with big baits. 254lbs, 232lbs, 220lbs and 209lbs. Most of the fish we caught fly lining were in that 120-180lb class. We stuck it out until it was time to start heading back up the line. I believe we ended up with 100+ tuna for our efforts, but the yellowtail and Wahoo fishing was outstanding and saved the trip. For myself, the most productive terminal gear was a 8’ top shot of 100lb Hi Seas Bluewater Fluorocarbon with a Quik Rig 5/0 Red ringed hook connected to 80lb Seaguar Threadlock. This rig produced a lot of bites for me and a few others.

We did stop at the bluefin tuna grounds on the way back up the line and only caught 2 fish (65lbs and 20lbs) before we had to call the trip. Thanks again to the entire RP Crew – Capt. Roy, Capt. Jeff, Dharyl, Eddie, Chris, Mike, Dave and Kyle.