One of the annual responsibilities we undertake is the thoroughly cleaning of the "dark" areas, or zones inside Royal Star that rarely see the light of day. As these are the perfect environments for corrosion to take hold and go unnoticed, every year we clear out every compartment and get down and dirty cleaning and checking the structual integrity of the vessel. As these photos demonstrate, after twenty four years of heavy duty service Royal Star is still in premium condition. By completing these projects on an annual basis, she will stay that way. And, we will sleep soundly at night.
Today I am sending along a few photos from the haul out on Wednesday that provide some good perspective of Royal Star's overall dimensions. Presently we are in full teardown mode beginning the variety of improvement projects this season. I will continue to send photos in the early part of next week featuring the fishing from our prior tagging voyage and the work we are performing on Royal Star.
With the Royal Star coming out of the water on the day of arrival things have been plenty active to say the least. It is quite a transition from fishing and the scenic grandeur of the open ocean to the industrial setting of a working boat yard. Like I said the other day, I am certain that all of the boys would rather be fishing. However, in a way Randy and I look forwrd to our annual maintenance interval as the boat always returns to service in better condition than before sporting improvements that make our time at sea on Royal Star safer and more enjoyable. So, for the next month we will be hard at it with a short break from the projects next week for our annual pilgrimage to the Fred Hall show in Long beach. Over the next week or so I will share more fishing photos and some shots from the work being completed on board Royal Star. Have a fine day and look forward for more news to come.
We finally got the break always hoped for on these passages north with the ocean transforming from angry and disagreeable to warm, pleasant, and serene by noon. It made for a productive day of travel as we were holed up and pinned down by conditions the previous two days. When the weather broke the boys emerged and got down to business tidying up and tending to their responsibilities consistent with our arrival and annual shutdown tomorrow.
Although we are always glad to stop the train and spend a month on terra firma, I have to admit that I would still rather be fishing. It is a necessary evil however and this year we have plenty on the docket to maintain Royal Star's mechanical and cosmetic condition to the first class standard that all of our anglers expect. Of course as all offshore, heavy duty vessels are concerned the maintenance demands are perpetual. There really never is an end to what can and/or needs to be done. As such, every year when the maintenance period arrives we prioritize and address what projects are to be completed in the order of necessity beginning with mechanical and ending with cosmetic.
Foremost we place the mechanical systems and safe, reliable operation of Royal Star above all. The prettiest paint job in the world on a boat broken down and drifting, or returning from a voyage on a boat with a hold full of rotten fish doesn't do anyone any good. Of course the perfect scenario is for everything to perfect, that is the standard we always strive to achieve. When it comes to maintaining these vessels however that "perfect" classification is somewhat like the proverbial dangling carrot tied off close enough to smell and taste, but just beyond reach. There is always one more thing, large or small, that remains to be done - always.This notion applies of course only if one suffers the curse of being a perfectionist. It's a tough way to go through life.
Enough of that as we still have photos to share and fish stories to tell. Today features another accomplished angler from Thailand who showed us how to get it done with the Shimano "Stella's" as well as any other type of equipment he used. Nattak Thewphaingram or "Ek" is a fishing fanatic who was immediately enamored with the Revillagigedo islands and the idea of the tagging project. As such, Ek pitched into the catching with a vengeance spending every possible moment at the rail pulling on yellowfin tuna and wahoo. Also long time Royal Star angler and tagging enthusiast Dr. Stuart Exall is pictured in action always making a splendid time of it.
With more photos to share I will continue posting from the home front over the next few days ahead of the Fred Hall Long Beach show. In addition to fishing photos, this year I will also post shots featuring some of our maintenance projects as our anglers expressed considerable interest in the idea last season. Enjoy your day and look for more to come.
Not a whole lot to report today as we punch our way north in what so far has been a consistently unpleasant sea condition. I know I have already mentioned it, but if there is ever an occasion to emphasize the potential negatives in riding the boat home from Cabo, this is it. In fact, for a change of pace in the photo department today I will send a special series for all of you to enjoy. I would not characterize this weather as anything other than sloppy and uncomfortable, but it did make for a few decent photos from the bridge.
Otherwise the trek continues with another full day of continuing joy in the forecast. Fortunately we got a good jump in the beginning so we are on schedule for our 0900 arrival at Fisherman's Landing on the 24th. With no fish to tangle with it should be a swift unloading then, not being the types to let the grass grow underfoot, we will proceed directly to Driscoll boatyard to haul out Royal Star for our annual hull inspection and maintenance.
We have some distance to travel before then, and plenty more photos to share, so look for reports to continue tomorrow and beyond. Enjoy your day and be glad you are not here.
After a flawless disembarkation at Cabo San Lucas, we continued the journey north in weather conditions that were exactly what we expected, and a stark reminder of why the majority of anglers choose to avoid this portion of the adventure. Speaking from a perspective well acquainted with this run, I can assure everyone that there is no fun involved. Drudgery is how I would best describe the overall tenor as the miles click off slowly and we apply our effort to various maintenance projects in need of attention. There is an underlying theme of tranquility however, as there are rare occasions when the weather is nice and the scenery spectacular. But, regardless of those isolated occasions, this ride is not one that I would recommend to all but the heartiest of individuals; and even then I would hesitate.
That said for us it is simply another day at the office as we are accustomed to the ocean's mood swings and whatever she doles out. As we head north I can't help but pine about the amazing opportunity we, and all of the anglers who have participated in prior Revillagigedo tagging voyages, have realized over the past five years. From the first voyage, that was surrounded by skepticism from anglers and industry leaders alike, to the voyage just returned we have come a long way. I vividly recall the prevailing sentiment of "why would you want to go fishing at the Revilla's and not keep any fish" dominating the discussions surrounding this project. The idea of tagging fish for science met stiff resistance from the old school element that could not imagine anyone having a good time doing it any way other than how it had been done before. The old school measure of success, a mountain of fish stacked like cordwood on the sidewalk following a trip, was tenacious as it took several incredible voyages, with glowing reports success from participating anglers, to crack the foundation.
Now, four years later, the majority of anglers have recognized that there is much more to fishing than a huge body count at the end of a trip. There are times even when the act of releasing a fish is more rewarding than retaining it. I have experienced this countless times now through the tagging projects we have had the opportunity to be a part of on Royal Star. By no means am I am going over the edge becoming a purist, catch and release only advocate. But I, and likely everyone who has participated in this project, have evolved our thinking to genuinely embrace, appreciate, and enjoy the act of releasing a relative few of these incredible game fish for our, and our children's future. It is something to think about. If you do happen to be one of the rapidly shrinking minority of anglers who believe otherwise, I can only say that you are missing the boat, both figuratively and literally.
In advance of our day's photos I should provide a little background on the anglers from Thailand who all carry and use nicknames according to their culture. I was given a lesson on this by long time Royal Star favorite Dr. Stuart Exall who was solely responsible for his fishing friends from Thailand making the Revillagigedo voyage. None of the nicknames listed in the daily reports were a result of any anglers on board, I, or the Royal Star crew. The Thai anglers were, Stan, Ek, T'ai, O, Jai, Jew, and Boy. All of the nicknames have a meaning in Thai and as I understood it are assigned by their parents. Today's photos feature another phenomenal angler who's skill set is on par with any of the finest fishermen I know. Somchai Pisankiwanich or "Boy" adapted to our style of angling in short order, and within a couple of days was fishing and catching alongside experienced long range anglers as if he had been doing it his whole life. In addition, Boy's magnanimous personality kept everyone laughing and in high spirits at all times. Look for reports to continue as we have a couple more days of traveling up the line to maintain the narrative.
A pleasant, mellow day of travel in agreeable weather that featured a few bumps and rolls to remind us that we were crossing a vast stretch of open ocean. Otherwise the time was passed in high spirits as anglers reminisced and shared perspectives about the incredible fishing enjoyed during this adventure, and what more future Revillagigedo tagging projects will bring.
On that note I want to encourage any and all anglers considering a Revillagigedo tagging voyage to call sooner than later as we presently hold a permit to continue the project through 2011. The future of the project beyond that is subject to the goals and satisfaction of the directors of the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission and Mexico's Instituto Nacional de Pesca. Thus far the project, and Royal Star, have received the full support of both organizations, but the vast agenda of both may require they shift the focus of their efforts to other areas. At this point we do plan to seek permission to continue the project beyond 2011, but past next year we can not be certain that the incredible opportunity to access the entire Revillagigedo marine biosphere inside the protected, six mile buffer zone will exist. At present both scheduled 2011 Revillagigedo tagging voyages have limited availability. I want to make certain that the many anglers who have expressed the desire to join us on one of these amazing adventures has the opportunity to reserve space. So, if you are interested please give Tracy a call as soon as possible.
We arrive in Cabo San Lucas tomorrow where this remarkable group of visionary anglers will disembark and begin the long wait until their next Revillagigedo voyage in 2011. We will continue heading up the line in what appears will be an unpleasant experience crashing and banging our way northward against prevailing wind and seas. In the meantime daily reports and photos will continue as we have plenty more to share.
Today's photo features another extraordinary angler from Thailand from whom I learned plenty about the ability of the Shimano "Stella's" to handle yellowfin tuna in the 100 pound class. A consummate fisherman, angler Sakda Chittasenee, known to us as "Stan", was at the rail every day from dawn until dusk enjoying every aspect of the fishing these incredible voyages offer. In the category of hardcore fisherman, I have never experienced anyone who surpasses Stan's ability, enthusiasm, and passion for this sport. In addition, like all the anglers who joined us this voyage from Thailand, Stan is an incredibly gracious individual expressing his gratitude and appreciation for this amazing fishery at every opportunity. I am looking forward to the opportunity to share the deck with Stan again on future Royal Star Revillagigedo tagging adventures.
From the entire Royal Star crew we want to express our most sincere thanks to Stan for making the long journey to participate in this one of a kind opportunity.
What an ending to an already fantastic fishing voyage. It was a classic scene early as our anglers, who were obviously affected by the demands of yesterday's action, were thrust into the fire again right from the gate. As we picked our way up the island in the dawn hour I barely saw a few tuna jumping at about one half mile in the dusky light. Heading up to the approximate location, we located the school and began a drift featuring non stop action on 120 - 150# yellowfin lasting over three hours. This was just the beginning.
I have to report that the same anglers who demonstrated such vigor and stamina yesterday were not quite so perky to begin with today. Of course once everyone's muscles were stretched, and the blood got flowing, we got down to business. But the scene early was none too pretty as anglers dropped in their first baits, got hammered almost immediately by fired up mid range yellowfin that were wholly unsympathetic to the aches and pains administered by their brethren the prior day, and dragged the first round of anglers around the boat struggling to get their feet under them and establish a rhythm. I have to admit that these kind of scenes elicit pure joy in my demeanor. There is nothing quite like seeing anglers straggle to the rail on straight autopilot after seven full days of fishing, hook a fish, and wear a look on their face confused somewhere between yes, this is the greatest thing in the world, and oh no, not again. Of course I am out there instigating the whole thing encouraging everyone to get to the rail and join the action before it is too late and the fish move on. I love my job.
As I mentioned once the initial shock of the hardcore action wore off, all these anglers got in the groove and production followed as the beautiful mid grader's came on board in a steady stream. About 0900 the action petered out and anglers had a merciful hour and a half break before we got on another school and just about ended the voyage drifting and catching the same 120's - 150's through the late afternoon. A three hour morning drift, and a five and a half hour mid day through afternoon drift added up to another seventy five yellowfin tagged and released for the day. With only a little time remaining after our long afternoon, we finished the voyage with one last attempt that produced the last tagged yellowfin of the voyage honors for Doug Taylor. When I made the announcement calling it a voyage a jubilant chorus erupted on deck as our completely sated, thoroughly exhausted anglers celebrated our success, and, I suspect, the fact that they no longer faced the fisherman's instinctual obligation to catch as long as the fish are biting. Pure bliss is how I would describe the setting. Reveling in the overall success of the voyage, we headed up the line in fine weather highly anticipating the next day of relaxation in good company as we share stories and memories of the past week inside the amazing Revillagigedo Marine Biosphere. I will be at the helm as Royal Star travels up the line sending plenty more thoughts in the daily updates.
Photos of the day feature a trio of Steve Branscombe, Joe Vandervoort, and Doug Taylor pulling to their hearts content amidst some hot and heavy action. Also, Royal Star veteran Matt Walenta, all the way from Brooklyn, New York shows how it's done with Clarion's beautiful southwest side providing a spectacular background.
In full contrast to yesterday again the ocean was completely different today thankfully returning to action mode with plenty of signs of mid grade yellowfin tuna to be seen, and plenty to be landed when the right spot was located. It wasn't a full tilt pace all day long, but there was very little down time as there was nearly always something to be heading for, or something to stop the boat on. More akin to the first couple of days we spent here, with the afternoon came the best opportunities as the fish erupted all along one side of the island and we pieced together two excellent, day making drifts that significantly added to our total score of eighty two yellowfin tagged and released today. As the afternoon progressed into evening, the size average also increased with the majority of the fish landed easily entering the 120 - 150# category to the huge delight of everyone.
A remarkable side note, to me anyway, is the performance of the Thai anglers using high grade spinning tackle to land these spirited 100 - 150# class yellowfin tuna. By mentioning this I am far from attempting to begin a new trend, but I have to admit that I am fascinated by the success ratio on the big spinners that defies just about every idea of big yellowfin tuna fishing that west coast tuna fishermen entertain. With the Shimano "Stella" 2000 series reels loaded with one hundred thirty pound spectra and mono top shots, and short, beefy rods, time and again these incredibly capable fishermen made short work of yellowfin tuna in a size class that most southland anglers would hardly believe possible, or assign to the pure luck category. Between pulling like madmen, an obviously elevated skill set, and premium equipment designed for duty far more extreme than I imagined, these anglers have expanded my fishing knowledge by a wide margin. And like I mentioned these successful battles are not long drawn out nightmares on the brink of disaster at all times. Over the past few days I have witnessed at least twenty five battles with yellowfin tuna over one hundred pounds on the spinning tackle that last an average of five to ten minutes.
Today took the cake however as a couple of anglers threw down against yellowfin in the one hundred forty to one hundred fifty pound class using the spinners and again commanded the outcome dishing out straight punishment against their opponents that were landed in about ten to fifteen minutes. Amazing. I have to admit that I am really hoping for a few giants to latch on tomorrow as my skepticism has been soundly rebuked in every respect thus far. Now I really want to witness the outcome of a skirmish with a 200 pound class tuna on the spinning tackle. I know what my idea of the outcome is. But, like I said, thus far my notions about the capability of this tackle have been authoritatively proven wrong.
On that note that is really the final missing element, if one wants to dig for something missing, that would launch this voyage into the category we hope all voyages attain. With the amount of time we have spent scouring this entire island obviously there are very few giants in the vicinity, but tomorrow may certainly surprise us as we have all seen just how profound the day to day conditions can change. Regardless, with the caliber of the fishing we have enjoyed thus far we are not looking to complain. The final day is now upon us. With that in mind at the very least we hope to keep the ball rolling and end this already successful voyage on a high note.
Today's photos feature the action at the rail that entered the hot and heavy category on a few occasions. Also, in support of today's theme, the spinning rods are seen in action along side traditional, west coast style tuna gear. What a contrast.
Just what the doctor ordered today with consistent action on 90 - 100# class yellowfin tuna keeping anglers engaged and motivated from just after daylight through just after dark. As fortuitious is the repreive granted by the local "grinners" that made their presence known, but only occasionally taxed our efforts. Best of all, and likely the key to our success on the outside, are flat calm seas and a variable, gentle breeze that made for heavenly fishing conditions, perfect temperatures throughout the day, and a festive atmosphere all around. Standout yellowfin of the day were in the 150 pound class though we did have at least one opportunity at a tuna in the "cow" category that we could not make good on. No one is complaining about steady action on one hundred pound class tuna however. All anglers are at the rail, fully engaged in the effort, and ecstatic to be pulling for all they are worth on these spirited opponents.
So, with ninety nine of these beauties captured, tagged, and released in the name of science today, we are highly motivated by the potential for more tomorrow and beyond. Needless to say we have no plans to relocate as this island presently offers everything an angler could hope for and then some; the some refering to giants that I am certain are lurking around here somewhere.
For our day's photo I pulled a shot from a few days back featuring angler Somkit Anukulauthaiwong doing some business at Roca Partida. Demonstrating the perfect form all the seven guy's from Thailand are presenting, Somkit, or "Jew" as we know him, put his skill to good use today on numerous one hundred pound class yellowfin tuna.
Look for more reports of good fishing to follow.
Arriving at a new island this morning, we got off to a quick start with a handful of 70 pound yellowfin that were implanted with archival tags. After full daylight the life dissipated and we went into search mode. By mid morning we found another area and enjoyed good action on school size tuna with a few wahoo in the mix. After lunch we searched for some larger models. We found them and had excellent fishing on 70 - 120# fish for the rest of the afternoon. We are anchored up for the night and will be here in the morning looking forward to more good fishing.
Today's first photo shows Don Franks and senior scientist Kurt Schaeffer implanting an archival tag.
The second is of accomplished Thai angler Boi with a 100 pound model.
This morning we got off to a quick start with a grey bite that kept 4 - 7 going for about an hour before they backed off. The fish were mixed sizes from 15 - 90 #. We then worked some scattered blackies for three 150 pounders. We thought we were in them. We looked in the blackies for another hour , but the fish had moved on. We then went back inside and tried for wahoo. They eagerly responded and we spent the rest of the morning tagging wahoo, while keeping our eyes peeled to the outside, hoping to see sign of the better size tuna. When the wahoo backed off we took off for the outside, looking off the edge. Finding nothing we made one more pass on the inside for another handful of wahoo and a couple more school size tuna. We are traveling this afternoon and will be fishing tomorrow morning.
Jai who owns a tackle store in Thailand gets the honors today with his 148cm fish.
We made a move last night and awoke to conditions that were not conducive to fishing. We looked around for nothing and made a run back to salvage the afternoon. This sometimes happens. The positive side of things is that the travel time gave our anglers a time to get a little rest before we were hard at it again.
For the afternoon we had some action on 60 - 100# tuna, deploying a couple more archival tags in perfectly healthy tuna. Also we enjoyed a few wahoo stops just to get the adrenaline really racing through our veins.
We are opting for another location change tonight and are hoping to find better conditions tomorrow.
Today we have Steve Branscombe who had the hot stick this afternoon.
We enjoyed good action this morning on 20 - 50 # yellowfin. By late morning we went looking for something bigger. It took us till early afternoon to get on better size fish. We spent the afternoon in a couple of drifts on 50 - 130 # fish. So far we've had steady action and tagged a good number of fish.
We are off to look at different scenery for tomorrow, hoping to put out more tags and have a little more fun while we are at it.
Today's first photo is of tagging veteran Stuart Exall with a tagged tuna before release.
Our second is of the same fish being measured.
We traveled down throughout the morning to our first fishing destination in breezy weather. The guys finished all of the rigging in preparation for our arrival after lunch. Upon arrival we tagged a few small tuna while getting things figured out. By mid afternoon we were enjoying good action on 40 - 110# Yellowfin Tuna. Everything went very smoothly with two to four fish going for the remainder of the day.
The first picture of the day shows three of our new Thai friends "bendo" on butterfly jigs.
The second is of Greg De Selice with a 105# tuna.
We picked up our anglers and departed without a hitch this afternoon headed for 11 days of tuna tagging. We have a very diverse and experienced group representing four countries aboard. The excitement level is high in anticipation of good fishing and good fun in our future.
We cleared Point Loma at 11:00 headed for Cabo to pick up our anglers for the first Revilla Tagging Trip. We have a good load of sardines onboard and our weather is better than expected. We will arrive in Cabo on the 10th so look for Tim's reports to continue on the 11th.
Our beautiful weather continues as we travel up the line with an eta of 0900 tomorrow. We are running this same trip again next year which is prime time for not only the beach but also Clarion and Hurricane. Give Tracy a call if you're interested.
Following is a list of the anglers who boated 200lbers:
We finished up the trip with a decent scratch that produced 16 fish from 90-130lbs by day's end. We did hook two better fish today that were unintentionally released but overall I saw very little sign of big fish. It is not uncommon for this big fish to not show for days or even weeks. We've written this area off many times in the past and been proven wrong when it popped right back up and produced better fishing than we had previously seen that year.
We are presently enjoying a nice ride up the line feeling content with 15 over 200 and another 20 from 150-198 in the hatch. A tough scratch at times but the decision to hang tough on the beach definitely afforded us the best opportunity at quality tuna.
Many thanks to Dennis Braid for sponsoring this trip, he gave away tons of product and jump started a few anglers with a timely hook and hand. Dennis has been one of the innovators during the evolution of long range cow angling and has been involved from the ground floor. I remember Dennis experimenting with circle hooks and wind on leaders back when I was on the Excel in '93', at the time both were unheard of.
Tim departs on our first Revilla tag trip of the season on Sunday so look for his reports to start on the 8th.
Another tough day of angling in spite of good sign of fish around us all afternoon. We did boat a few 80-120lb fish and hooked one big cow that unfortunately won its freedom. We are spending the night here to hopefully finish up the trip tomorrow on a high note.
Our beautiful weather continues as we sat on the anchor all day for a slow scratch on 80-150lb tuna. No complaints after such a slow day yesterday but we're hoping for a few cows in the mix tomorrow.
Today's shot shows regular Jack West with one of his three cows boated this trip.