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
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…..fun 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!