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FTC fall 2020

East Cape’s Summertime Blues – Article by JIM NIEMIEC

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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

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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?

SANDWICH BREAK.
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.

TIME TO GO HOME
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

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“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 www.grandtetonflyfishing.com

 

 

 

Craking The Code in Local Bluefin

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Bluefin Gear
Fishing bluefin is like playing a round of golf. Golfers need specific golf clubs for each section of the greens, anglers need a set of outfits for each type of bluefin bite. A good ‘starter kit’ for local bluefin would be a 30, 40, 60, and 80-pound class outfits. While a two-speed reel is not necessary on your thirty-pound outfit, the forty thru eighty-pound outfits need to be lever drag two speed reels. If I wanted to add to this quiver, I would include a jig stick for throwing poppers and surface iron and another rail rod outfit with #100 lb. line.
Most west coast sport boats that are targeting bluefin will have their own ‘kite outfits’ onboard for anglers to use on the kite rotation. The crews have these outfits rigged properly for the kite and it is one less heavy outfit to bring on the trip. For the private boat set, the options are endless. If your style of fishing is on the rail, I recommend the Seeker OSP 2 x 4 or 3X and a thirty or fifty size two speed reel loaded with 100/130-pound braid. On my boat we like the challenge of a standup battle and use a Seeker Black Steel 6465XH rod paired with a PENN International 50 or 70VISX reel and 50/80 lb. line. The six- and half-foot rod when combined with an AFTCO bucket harness is deadly on big tuna.
On this ‘bluefin starter kit’ the outfit that seems to be most versatile and has other fishing applications is the forty-pound outfit. My ‘go-to’ forty-pound outfit is a PENN Fathom 30 two speed lever drag reel filled with #65-pound braid and a hundred-foot top-shot of forty-pound Big Game monofilament. Paired with Seeker 6470-7’ rod, it is a great heavy bait rod and can send a sardine on a flight off the corner or bow. After tuna season, this outfit doubles as a ‘yo yo’ outfit for yellowtail in the spring. I also bring it down to Baja in the fall for school tuna, dorado, and wahoo. A perfect all-around outfit for many applications.
Work the Zone
On many bluefin trips, we set up a drift and deploy a dead flying fish from the kite. With the kite rig on the downwind side of the boat, we deploy ‘sinker rigs’ with live baits and staggered the depths. Prior to the trip, to fish the proper depth, we will mark our braid at 20, 30, and 40 fathom intervals. We start by bringing our outfits out to any of the local high school football fields. For the twenty-fathom mark (120’) – we use the monofilament top shot as a marker – where the monofilament attaches to the braid (100’) or if using a short top-shot we take a black Magic Marker and make a three inch black mark at 120’. While standing at the goal line, have someone walk the line out to the forty-yard line. Next, go another twenty yards and make a black mark for your thirty-fathom mark. And then another twenty yards for your forty-fathom mark.
When deploying a sinker rig and you hear the captain say “Marking fish at thirty fathoms” – slowly drop your bait or jig down to the second black mark and you are fishing the zone. It amazes me how many times we mark fish at a specific depth and the outfit at that depth gets bit instantly. It is not science, just properly fishing the depth zone where the tuna are swimming through under the boat. These marks will be extremely helpful at night when deep jigging a Flat Fall or iron for bluefin. If the captain is marking tuna at a specific depth, drop to your black mark and work the jig up and down repeatedly in that zone. It works!
Innovation
As the local bluefin fishery evolves, do not hesitate to try something new to get a bite. A new presentation can mean the difference between coming home with a trophy or nothing at all. One of the techniques I am playing with this season is trolling a blue/white Illander with a ballyhoo east coast style on the long rigger or stinger position while prospecting for a bluefin zone. It is a proven bluefin trolling bait on the east coast – should work here as well right?
Another technique that I am experimenting with is the down rigger baits. During the middle of the day and between the slack tides, we often mark fish at thirty and forty fathoms and wait for them to come up on the slack tide. Why not deploy a live mackerel or sardine down at 150’-180’ and slow troll it thru the zone? I know a lot of captains that have down riggers on their boat, but they rarely are used on the west coast tuna fishery – we need to change that this season.
I have only heard of limited success stories out here on the west coast but deploying a Green Stick rig should be a deadly tool on our bigger bluefin fishery. The Green Stick set up cost prevents most of the private boat fleet from experimenting with them here locally, but it sure seems like the smaller ‘Kona’ Green Stick system would be deadly on our bluefin. My last trip to Kona I watched 25’ -30’ skiffs using the ‘Kona’ stick and absolutely smashing big yellowfin on them while the live bait and troll fleet had a slow day. Innovation – one of the keys to being successful on local bluefin.
Finally, if you are on a private boat, bring a pair of gyro binoculars and help the captain locate fish. The more ‘eyes in the sky’ the better for hunting bluefin. If you are not the type that can sit and glass all day in binoculars – the next best thing is a good pair of polarized sunglasses to locate terns, color spots, and breaking fish. When I am not in the glasses, I wear Costa Tuna Alley frames with 580G Sunlight Silver Mirror for the low light or overcast days then switch to 580G Green Mirror lens for when the sun comes out or heavy glare. All it takes it one tiny sign to turn into a ripper bite that will make the trip.

Bluefin Care
All tuna, especially bluefin, should be bled and iced or cooled down after capture to ensure some tasty eating tuna dinners. Many of the sport boats have RSW systems to preserve your catch until your back at the dock. After the bluefin is boated, a deckhand will cut the gills to help bleed the fish – or on some boats remove the stomach and intestines before the tuna is dropped down in the RSW. The latter method delivers a beautiful product and is ready for the fish processors to prepare your catch.
If you own your own boat and want to get in on this bluefin fishery, invest in a proper insulated kill bag and understand ice management on your next tuna trip. For our boat, we purchased an XL Reliable kill bag and load the bottom with eight blocks of ice. On top of the blocks, we will add another 100-150 lbs. of crushed ice to keep our catch chilled for an overnight trip. The block ice helps keep the crushed ice cool and we seem to get way more shelf life when combining the block ice with crushed. A plastic shovel helps keep the ice evenly spread over the fish.
I hope this article got you thinking about new bluefin tactics to try out this season. Our bluefin tuna fishery is incredibly challenging when compared to our other fisheries. However, by keeping an open mind to innovation and polishing up proven techniques, any angler can crack the code on a local bluefin!