The final report from this voyage will also be the final report directly from Royal Star for awhile as we officially begin our annual, one month maintenance period today. Actually it will be about five weeks this year as our next voyage departs for Alijos Rocks and beyond on April 8, 2007.
Before we sign off however, I want to encourage all of you to continue to check our current conditions section over the next few days as I have numerous fantastic photos from the voyage that I will be posting regularly. Beyond that, Randy, Tracy, and I will be at the annual Fred Hall show in Long Beach looking forward to seeing everyone there.
As for the final report from our trip up the line, I can only say that once again this run is a stark reminder of why we encourage anglers to fly home when and if they are able. Overall it was far from horrific, but we spent more than half the ride either hanging on with both hands if we were standing, or thankfully sitting down as we banged and crashed our way through twenty five knot winds, six to ten foot seas, and a beautiful northwest ground swell at eight to fourteen feet - not ideal traveling weather, and definitely not fun. All in a day's work for us though and believe me, we, and Royal Star, is none the worse for it.
So farewell for a short time and be sure to check our photos and stop by the Fred Hall show next week. We will see you there.
Well it's time to begin the most important ritual of all as these tagging voyages did not come to fruition of their own. As in all scientific projects, financial support is critical to success, and Royal Star Sport fishing, and the eighteen fishing participants, were not the only members of the sport fishing community who made cash donations toward the purchase of electronic tags.
Similar to 2006, all major tackle manufacturers and sport fishing oriented venues were encouraged to contribute towards the purchase of electronic tags for the project. Identical to 2006, AFTCO, Shimano, and SAC graciously donated towards the purchase of multiple electronic tags, all of which are presently carried in liberated yellowfin tuna. If even one of these fish is recaptured, and the recovered tag provides the scientific community with more incredibly valuable data, the entire sport fishing community, and most importantly, the yellowfin tuna resource on which we all depend, wins.
So our most sincere gratitude is extended to AFTCO, Shimano, and SAC whose vision extends far beyond the present with all of our future in mind.
Next on the list of well deserved thanks is my true best friend Michael Joseph whom many of you will remember as manager of our land operations while Royal Star operated in Panama. Among Michael's many interests is the success of such tagging projects as he is keenly aware of the goodwill they generate between the fishing and scientific community. Presently, there is no individual more qualified to assist in the tagging of large tunas as Michael boasts many years experience in the tuna farming industry in addition to a lifetime of additional fisheries occupations. Also, Michael sincerely enjoys the opportunity to participate and learn during such projects while his colorful, fearless character adds a welcome element to the environment on deck. As a veteran of all but two tagging projects on Royal Star, in addition to many other voyages where his participation was crucial, Michael's contributions to our operation are extremely valuable and sincerely appreciated. So when you see the burly guy in so many of photos while we are tagging wahoo and yellowfin tuna, take note and appreciate how valuable this man is as part of the Royal Star operation. I certainly do.
Finally, I want to thank Senior Scientist Kurt Schaefer and Danny Fuller from the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission, Gabriel Aldana Flores from Instituto Nacional de Pesca, and this exceptional group of anglers whom I will list individually. It is because of these dedicated men that we have enjoyed such overwhelming success on the 2007 Revillagigedo tagging voyage.
After bumping and jumping our way up the line in twenty five knots of morning breeze with accompanying eight to twelve foot mixed up seas, we were preparing ourselves for the E - ticket portion of the ride into Cabo San Lucas in the standard zone about one hundred miles from the tip of Baja California. Typically the final one hundred miles is where we endure the worst of it, and with the morning stage set as it was, we were under no illusions about what mother nature had in store for us. And then, just as if someone turned off the switch, the wind began subsiding and the sea state followed, and by 1500 hrs., we found ourselves enjoying a pleasant ride albiet an occasional dramatic roll from a few residual seas. Regardless it was a welcome relief and a fitting end to another spectular, totally unique Royal Star fishing adventure.
So, for you number crunchers, the final, accurate tally of fish tagged is as follows:
Yellowfin Tuna total - 591 Yellowfin with archival tags - 65 Yellowfin over 100#'s with archivals - 45 Yellowfin over 100#'s total tagged - 350 Remaining yellowfin tuna - five to eighty pounds Wahoo - 114 Skipjack tuna with archival tags - 11 Striped marlin - 1 Sailfish - 1
When you consider the totals, divided by eighteen incredibly fortunate anglers, and factor in all the additional pulling they did battling incidentals, one can only imagine the amount of time these guys spent in action, at the rail, to their hearts content. Conservatively figured, Royal Star's holds would have been filled several times over with the amount of fish we released carrying tags this voyage. With this in mind I consider it very fortunate that we were in tagging mode as this was the perfect opportunity to thoroughly fufill our fishing urges, taking full advantage of this spectacular angling opportunity, with a worthy, well justified purpose. These anglers committed their time and hard earned resources to a fledgling idea far off the beaten path of long range sport fishing. In doing so they expressed their faith in the concept and their refined perspective on the future of fishing for yellowfin tuna and Wahoo in the Eastern Pacific Ocean. Now, as members of an elite fraternity numbering twenty seven anglers total, the 2007 Revillagigedo tagging group has earned not only the incredible fishing opportunities they experienced at the Revilla's, but the respect of the sport fishing community as pioneers of the present day.
At the risk of boring readers I will sign off now with parting mention of our continued ride up from Cabo San Lucas that so far is proceeding in very good weather. All good things must come to an end however, and the forecast tells a story of difficult weather ahead. But for now were are enjoying the ride and will report again tomorrow with more thoughts on the tagging voyage as well as our progress up the line. We have many reasons to be thankful and many individuals and sponsors to thank, so look for reports to continue through our arrival in San Diego on the 28th.
It was another signature Ekstrom finish drawing it down to the final half hour of remaining time to fish before we found the mother lode. Before that occured however the day was far from a far from a bust as we began our morning with another fantastic drift on one hundred to one hundred fifty pound yellowfin tuna that commenced just before daylight and lasted until 0800. In our first drift alone we managed to tag another thirty five yellowfin tuna well over one hundred pounds!
Following our big morning stop the island began to look different as the wind began to freshen quickly and conditions deteriorated. After several passes through the most productive zones during the previous three days, and another fruitless three hour tour on the outside, we worked back into the island for the afternoon with seven tags remaining to deploy of the original seven hundred sixty five. Again we made several passes through the hot zone to find giant current rips, lots of wind, and no fish. With a half hour remaining, we made a final pass down the island in the shallow zones where one would normally expect to find mabey a few wahoo, but more likely big balls of what we call rudderfish (chubs) and triggerfish. There we found what we were looking for. At this point our huge bait capacity really became evident as it was time to clear out the final forty or fifty scoops in our tanks still remaining after eight days of incredible fishing. I can honestly speculate, based purely on observation, that there were no survivors as the ocean erupted in all directions around Royal Star out as far as several hundred yards. The incredible sight of hundreds of yellowfin tuna, all one hundred pounds and much larger, flying out of the water in spectacular leaps gouging cavernous pits in the ocean surface while slurping down thousands of doomed sardines was, incredibly enough, augmented by the possibly even more amazing sight of hundreds of big yellowfin laying under the bow of Royal Star rising like giant goldfish in a tank at feeding time to lap up hooked sardines as calm as people going about their business on any given day. Needless to say we got the final seven tags out and finished up the fishing portion of the voyage on the higest note imaginable. In fact, more than fifteen hours have passed since we departed and I am still energized from such a fitting end to a genuinely remarkable fishing trip.
Now begins the final travel portion of the voyage that end's tomorrow for most anglers in Cabo San Lucas. They will be taking the express route home while the crew and I will be cruising the boat up the line along with a couple of hearty souls and tuna commission scientists Kurt Schaefer and Danny Fuller. We all have plenty of work to do and I'm certain I can conjure up a few more thoughts to write about so look for our daily reports to continue through our San Diego arrival on the 28th.
So much for Isla Socorro and the longing for the clean fishing for 130 - 175# yellowfin we enjoyed there the first three days of our voyage. I won't say that the action today at Clarion eclipsed what we experienced at Socorro, but it definitely removed all ideas of departure for one final round of fishing on the inside.
It all began after our daylight spot fell well short of expectations producing only a couple of yellowfin over one hundred pounds and a frustrating run on the sharks. At 0800 we were warming up the engines and preparing the boat for what seemed like an inevitable departure for Socorro within a few hours. Then we worked down to another zone I have wanted to take a closer look at to try one last drift before heading up the island on a farewell tour. The farewell tour never happened because the last drift became a full fledged ripper on one hundred fifteen to one hundred forty pound yellowfin that lasted a full two and one half hours before the sharks moved in and forced our departure. When we finished our incredible drift we were almost four miles off the island and had another forty five tagged yellowfin tuna, well over one hundred pounds, to our credit.
By that time we deemed it wise to give our anglers a break taking another mid day tour outside the reserve in search of a few fish to put in the hatch in the event what we encountered was of a worthy size class. I can't remember if I mentioned it yesterday, but we did find a mammoth school on our tour outside only to be dissapointed by the fact that the ravenous tuna crashing towards the boat, chomping everything that hit the water, were in the twenty to twenty five pound class; well below the size expectation for our RSW tanks on a voyage in this region. Today's outside sojourn was not to be however as no sign was found beyond about five and one half miles from the island.
Not to be deterred from our primary goal however, we headed back into the shallows for the late afternoon and were treated to a couple more stops on yellowfin, one for about ten fifty to seventy pounders, and the other for about ten more one hundred fifteen to one hundred forty pound tuna with a handful of bonus wahoo mixed in. On a side note, if any readers are wondering about my approximations when recounting the day's fishing statistics it is simply because the numbers have not been totaled each day by the time I write these reports. So far I have been very close in my figuring however so rest assured the reported numbers are far from wild guesses.
Needless to say we decided about half way through our morning drift that departing Clarion for any other fishing destination would be sheer madness and a foolish violation of one of the cardinal rules of fishing - Never leave fish to find them. As such, with perfect working weather, a plentiful quantity of beautiful sardines remaining, and a group of warriors, I mean anglers, ready to give it their all one final day, we will be finishing up our fishing time here at Clarion tomorrow and heading in to Cabo San Lucas thereafter.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, we had another fine day of angling here at Clarion with much improved weather and action similiar to yesterday except for the addition of a pair of two hundred twenty pound class yellowfin tuna. Very good numbers of tuna, throughout the same area we had our best action on wahoo, wreaked havoc on the lighter live bait outfits as the anglers hoping for skinnies were taken for a ride that almost inevitably ended in some form of equipment failure. But, when we geared up for them (the tuna), we definitely got our share; although the sharks got their share too. Most of the tuna landed today were in the same 90 - 140# as yesterday with the exception of course of the two jumbos reported above.
Of note is the fact that the wahoo fishing was of the same caliber as yesterday showing no indication of the pressure applied by our best efforts to tag and release the wily speedsters. In fact, it seemed that there may have been even more wahoo around the island today. All of these indications, including what we saw on our mid day sojourn to the outside, convinced me to give it at least one more morning here at Clarion before considering a final move to stretch out the voyage and finish up on the inside. Although the action is great here at Clarion, it has been pretty difficult to shake the memory of Isla Socorro where the fishing for big yellowfin was nothing short of epic and the local shark population considerably less offensive. Time will tell and in the meantime our fantastic group of anglers, visually worn by an busy schedule of almost non stop fishing, is ready to give the wahoo and yellowfin tuna at Isla Clarion another go beginnig well before daylight tomorrow.
It was a nice day of fishing here at Clarion that was much as any of the hundreds of other days I have spent here tageting wahoo and yellowfin tuna. The wahoo were definitely around and ready to bite a little, but nowhere near the quantities and caliber of action we experienced at Clarion last year. This is not a surprise though as we all know that pelagic fish move in and away from these places depending on a wide variety of factors.
The tuna fishing was fine as well, and the pace of action was actually relaxing compared to the previous four days of non stop catching. After we threw in the towel on the wahoo effort, we dropped the anchor just after noon and stayed put catching 80 - 140# yellowfin one and two at a time until about one hour before sundown. Like I said it was a pleasant afternoon that at any given time saw about two thirds of our anglers at the rail while the others enjoyed themselves on the top deck spectating or inside relaxing.
Overall the signs of tuna around the island are fantastic but I can not report any significant sign of jumbo size tuna from either what we landed or what we saw. We are going to give it at least one more day however as we still have a few stones to turn over in search of the big ones. In addition, the south side of Isla Clarion is presently a good place to be as the wind is up and blowing with grumpy weather on the outside. In the meantime we will certainly give the wahoo a few more chances to sport some new jewelry while the quest to tag and release jumbo yellowfin tuna continues.
It was a day of non stop action reminiscent of many prior visits to Roca Partida only much more pronounced that anything I have ever seen here in the past. Taking what I witnessed today into account, I have to believe that the act of closing this island to large scale industrial fishing efforts has had a marked impact on the local environment. In short, I have never seen this area so filled with life, and the only comparison I can muster is some of our voyages to Clipperton island many years past.
Now the only downside for the fishing effort, particularly the wahoo fishing, is that the shark population at Roca Partida is almost beyond description with an aggressive disposition as an added bonus. It was almost impossible to land a wahoo without the fish getting mauled and even those that survived the gauntlet were at high risk of being consumed after release. As such we threw in the towel on the wahoo fishing after only a few stops realizing the futility of the effort. Overall we did manage to tag and release about fifteen wahoo successfully, but most of those we landed way off the bank surrounding "The Rock" in the zone that was relatively shark free.
As far as the tuna fishing was concerned I refer back to my original comment about the amount of life in the area that included quantities of 5 - 100# yellowfin tuna and jumbo 10 - 14# skipjack that I could only imagine. Not only were there incredible quantities of fish but it seemed that everyone of them was intent upon carrying a souvenir tag as their voracious appetite lead them to the boat just about everytime we pulled back the throttles. It made for some incredible visual displays and outrageous action as all anglers pitched in to catch, tag, and release as many as possible while the going was good. I can definitely report that very little tuna fishing took place today as the more appropriate description is tuna catching. Of course we had our woes with the sharks on some stops, but the size of fish on most stops, and the use of heavy gear enabled us to deploy well over two hundred tags with about twenty five percent of those in tuna forty pounds or better.
In the end it was another incredible day of fishing in beautiful weather in a beautiful setting. Yes the catching portion was a huge part of the fun, but to see the ocean so alive with every animal there in sync was the real magic; what an opportunity. The thought that came to my mind early in the day was that this must have been what it was like in the old days well before the industrialization of fishing. Upon departing the area in the late afternoon I believe the thought was right.
With that under our belts we are now underway for Isla Clarion where we will continue the effort tomorrow in search of both wahoo and more large size yellowfin tuna. We have four full days remaining and still a big load of magnificent sardines so it is with great anticipation that we head west towards our destination tomorrow.
I can honestly say that with three full days of fantastic action on 120 - 175# yellowfin tuna, with several one nineties and three over two hundred mixed in, we are ready to focus on our next goal of a few hundred wahoo without regret.
The action today began just after dawn when a spot of big yellowfin erupted on the hoarde of flying fish that had gathered around the lights during the night. With the irresitable banquet laid out before them, the tuna came on like a freight train, hammering just about everything that hit the water for the twenty minutes preceeding sunrise. The pace thankfully slowed after that and we enjoyed a leisurely morning catching the big fish two or three at a time after the early rush. Much like the previous two days, the morning bite was only a warm up as we had two more stops, one drifting on a school, and one while anchored, where we found similiar action on the big, aggressive, biting yellowfin tuna. Needless to say everyone is nursing a few sore muscles following this caliber of action, but everyone is game, still at the rail, and still fishing hard every time the boat stops. And thankfully so because we have five full days of fishing remaining, and plenty more to see with both Roca Partida and Isla Clarion, unfished in ages in the zone inside six miles, waiting on our bow.
To keep everyone up to date on the tagging progress, we are at just over two hundred yellowfin tuna tagged with close to one hundred thirty of those released in the one hundred to one hundred ninety pound class. So far three over the two hundred mark have been tagged and the remaining sixty five or seventy are in the thirty to ninety pound class. We are off to a booming start and will be heading west in search of both wahoo and more yellowfin tuna at Roca Partida tomorrow. We have absolutely beautiful weather in our favor and are looking forward to what the new zone may bring. Look for tomorrow's report with the details.
Well the fishing certainly didn't slow down other than a few short lulls from a mid day tour of the island that provided both incredible spot action on thirty to fifty pound yellowfin tuna and spectacular scenery with the lush, brilliant green north side of Isla Socorro providing a magnificent background.
We set our strategy to focus again on the bigger fish during the afternoon and were not dissapointed as the scene unfolded according to plan with fantastic action again on yellowfin tuna from one hundred twenty to one hundred seventy pounds with two coming in over the two hundred pound mark and a couple of other heartbreaks that were guaranteed jumbos.
Exhilarating, exhausting, and immensely satisfying is how I would describe the present setting that has all of these incredibly fortunate anglers working away to keep up with the number one rule of thumb down here of maintaining your equipment in perfect condition. This sometimes challenging requirement however is an integral part of the bliss of long range angling and is generally a welcome indication of the very good fishing that anglers are hoping for. Such is the present case and rest assured that every angler on board is in long range fishing heaven.
Taking this into account, we plan to give this at least one more full day before tearing ourselves away from this incredible giant yellowfin tuna fishing to fufill our wahoo tagging goals. On that note, the tagging is proceeding as well as we could have ever imagined with close to one hundred fifty tags deployed in yellowfin tuna here at Socorro. Especially noteworthy, is the fact that twenty five of the electronic or "archival" tags have been deployed in yellowfin tuna over one hundred pounds, with close to ten of those in fish over one hundred forty. Our enthusiasm for this project, and it's future potential, is fueled by exactly what we have seen in this group of anglers during the past two days. We will report in again tomorrow.
Suffice to say that everyone now has a good idea of what this totally unique, perhaps once in a lifetime, opportunity is all about as we spent our first full day of fishing pinned to the rail a good portion of the time catching very agressive yellowfin tuna in the forty to over two hundred pound class. There were actually two distinct size classes around yesterday with some schools producing outrageous action on forty to eighty pound tuna and two other stops, one in particular that lasted over three hours, that was straight one hundred ten to one hundred seventy five pound fish with a handful of jumbos (fish over two hundred) mixed in. The other good news, that is perhaps as good as the fishing itself, is the fact that the sharks were only a minor nuisance compared to last year, occasionally taking a live bait or a fish, but leaving us alone for the most part.
So our first day is logged as a complete success tagging eighty nine yellowfin tuna, approximately forty of which were one hundred to two hundred twenty five pounds, on the lee side of beautiful Socorro island. Between the setting, that includes a fantastic show of steam venting from the top of volcanic Socorro, the fishing that speaks for itself, and this expemplary group of anglers that are proving we can, and will, move this industry into the future, we could not be happier. Needless to say we have no plans to relocate yet as we have plenty of time remaining in the trip. "A bird in the hand" I believe is the old saying.
It's funny how such a significant amount of time away from the islands and this incredible fishery is erased almost immediately upon arrival as the conditions and setting is so familiar to those of us who have spent a good portion of our lives fishing these waters. That is exactly how I felt yesterday as we moved into the shallows around Isla San Benedicto yesterday afternoon and shifted into fishing mode. Of course I can't say the same sentiment prevailed in our anglers most of whom were awestruck by a scene teaming with life ranging from the omnipresent boobie birds to dolphins and humpback whales, and of course, jumping yellowfin tuna.
Upon arrival the island looked very lively but the big challenge yesterday was very difficult weather that made the outside pursuit of birdschools and crashing tuna almost impossible. As such we worked in tight to the island but were limited to the very small area on the south end where conditions were agreeable enough to do some tagging. With only a few hours to fish and hideous conditions to look around, I can't really give old "Smokey" and glowing report, but we did manage to get a little fishing in with, to our surprise, minimal grief from the local sharks. Like I said we really did not give the island a thorough check due to time and conditions, but what I did see was convincing enough to prompt a move to Isla Socorro tomorrow where we will check in with the navy base before continuing the fishing effort.
Now that all our anglers have joined the expedition, we are continuing the journey southward with intentions to begin the tagging phase of our voyage tomorrow afternoon. We scheduled this year's voyage to follow our traditional fly down/fly back format in the interest of most anglers who appreciate the huge reduction in travel time required to reach the fishing grounds. In this case, our travel time to reach Isla San Benedicto is only about twenty hours so it will be a busy morning of preparing equipment and tackle.
Other than everything running smooth and our beautiful load of bait looking perfect, we don't have much to report, but I suspect the case will be different tomorrow. Look for reports to continue detailing what I hope will be a glorious week of successful fishing.
We are finally underway on the voyage we have been eagerly awaiting since this time last year. Departure day arrived two days prior and the best description to convey the feeling on board is that we are like kids again on our way to Disneyland anxiously counting to minutes until our arrival. Not that this will be a vacation for the crew or I in any sense, but the ability to conduct tagging operations on yellowfin tuna and wahoo, unfettered in the spectacular Revillagigedo marine reserve, is an opportunity unmatched by anything I have experienced in my twenty two years of long range fishing. I know I stated it last year, and will do my best to minimize my rambling on this voyage, but I can't avoid mentioning the sense of gratification that comes from participating in such projects knowing that while we are having the time of our lives experiencing the most incredible fishing and scenery imaginable, we are also doing our part to advance the knowledge of the gamefish we depend on, and the environment in which they thrive.
Needless to say we are thrilled for the opportunity, and with the help of Senior Scientist Kurt Schaefer and Dan Fuller from the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission, and Gabriel Aldana Flores from the Instituto Nacional de Pesca, we are looking forward to a successful voyage in all respects. On that note we appear to have started off on a good note with a primo load of bait that could not be better for the fishing we plan to engage in. We have one more full day of travel before our arrival in Cabo San Lucas on the 14th where we will meet our anglers and officially begin this eleven day, fly down/fly back voyage. Look for daily reports to continue from this point on.
We spent the day on the ridge for good action on school tuna and yellowtail. We are running up tonight in good weather and plan finishing up the trip at Cedros tomorrow.
Roland would like to say hello to his daughters!
Craig would like to thank his family Leah, Mckenna and Jake for a great birthday present!