A great day of angling on trophy tuna that started with a ripper morning bite followed by a slow scratch until the late afternoon when we had a classic sundowner. The overall grade was better today with numerous fish in the 100-130lb range in addition to a handfull of 175lbers and two more over 200. Flyline or a one ounce slider with a sardine on 100-130 flouro accounted for all the fish today.With a few more days we are settled in with high hopes that the bite continues.
Todays shot shows Royal Star regulars Kamell Allaway and Doug Taylor who teamed up on this deuce which ate both their baits.
Nice steady scratching on quality tuna to start the trip here at the big C today. The bite and size of fish progressively improved throughout the day and culminated with a nice shot at sundown that produced 12 fish from 100-234lbs. The average fish was 70-130 with a 214 and a 234 being the standouts.
Hanging tight enjoying the weather, hoping for another good day tomorrow.
Bob Ryan shows off the 234 in today's shot.
So begins another adventure as we work South on our annual Lets talk Hookup trip which this year is a twelve day.A nice leisurely ride rigging gear is all we have to report for now but we're hoping that all changes when we start fishing on the 29th. Hope everyone has recovered from the holidays and we can provide some excitement for your upcoming work week..
Success in the form of a few tasty cactus complimented the final passage north in restored calm weather. Such was not the case last night, when we did some classic bumpin' and jumpin' for a while, but the discomfort was brief and served as a reminder of how good we have had it since the departing southeaster abated. In overview we have had it good from many perspectives.
Foremost the annual "Las Rocas" charter, hosted by Glenn Evans and Tommy Walker, is exemplary when it comes to this style of fishing. While the main thrust is focused on trophy yellowfin tuna, these anglers are rigged and prepared for anything. They make the best of whatever opportunity comes along. Recognizing that the extraordinary run a few years back was exactly that - extraordinary, they handily adapted to the different program this voyage making the most of what was available. It was not a boon, but certainly enough, and ultimately the fine load on board featuring the coveted big three - quantity, quality, and variety attests to the success of our collective effort; they couldn't have done it without our drive and ability producing opportunity, we couldn't have done it without their dedication and effort producing results.
Our many thanks go out to this group as we grab a couple of days in to remind ourselves of the good fortune we share. I have to mention that this voyage was somewhat of a reawakening for me personally as I have not enjoyed the chance to pound away at the fishing offshore for quite some time. This is my favorite style of fishing, when we must employ all our skills and ability over many days to make it happen. And when we do, the results are rich in value. When it is not easy, when the playing field is not leveled by stupendous amounts of hungry fish that make heroes of one and all - this is fishing. These are the times when differences between operators and operations are glaringly apparent.
I have previously offered my distaste for the occasional generic periods in this fishery when the distinct nature of each operation is marginalized by a lack of options and/or opportunity. When the fishing down below switches to offshore such is rarely the case. The excitement of this style of fishing is unmatched; the competition between colleagues is intense; the rewards are richly satisfying, it is old school fishing, where the results consistently favor ability - nothing generic, or equal, about it. I am invigorated, and exhilarated after a successful day in such circumstances; and there were several during this run. And, I look forward to a whole lot more.
In closing I extend our most gracious, sincere thanks to one and all on the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. From the entire Royal Star team Happy Thanksgiving 2011. Captain Randy Toussaint and Captain Brian Sims will be heading up the next voyage departing on the 24th with aspirations focused on maintaining productive happenings below. Our final voyage photo features the entire "Las Rocas" group on the day of departure - seems like a year ago since this image was taken. What a long, successful, satisfying voyage it has been. We look forward to many more to come. Thank you all again!
A steady jog up the line was punctuated by short yellowtail queries when we encountered signs; and encounter signs we did. Despite freshening wind and building seas we hit the brakes on several occasions to find smaller, 12 - 16 pound yellowtail eager and willing to join their far more robust brethren in the RSW tanks. Needless to say between the cranky sea state, skinny fish, and a general lack of enthusiasm for the whole program we played through seeking better quality and conditions to the north.
In the end I can't say that conditions north were much better - one had to possess that sometimes at least slightly questionable fisherman's drive to make good on the opportunity, but adherence to our second nature produced the obvious result. They were there, we couldn't, we wouldn't, resist, and trudged into sloppy conditions to enjoy a fantastic show while catching to our heart's content. And overall it didn't take much - we had plenty already and catching a few "extry's" was more a diversion than anything; but what a fine diversion it was. Acre's of swirling, churning 20# class yellowtail were scattered beneath thousands of opportunistic sea birds all of which were getting their share of the smaller fin bait being pushed to the surface by marauding yellowtail.
It was a fine sight and delightful way to end the game fishing portion of the adventure. Short of the crap weather it took place in, it was ideal - not too few to make it feel like a wasted effort, not too many to make it feel like fish going to waste. Tomorrow's goal is to satisfy the previously touted Chef Rivera tradition. Otherwise enjoy today's second photo of "The Legend" Jerry Kruse with his beefy, 218 coming over the rail. Better weather is soon to come.
While we are dedicated to the pursuit of trophy yellowfin there is something to be said for fishing for quantity in numbers. And after five days of driving, thankfully in beautiful, calm conditions, we were ready to stop the train and practice the simultaneous arts of fishing and catching. Of course we did piece together a catch on the bigger tuna - an RSW tank near full of dandies, including three over the deuce mark, a couple of handfuls of 175 - 195's, and another few handfuls of 100 to 165's attests to this fact, but overall the action below was comprised of a few bright moments and lots of driving and looking. Despite knowing that we could have at least pieced together another final day on the big fish we opted for a move up the line. It was time to forge ahead.
The objective of distributing all action encountered among every participant was foremost; balance in this category is typically hard to come by in the big fish arena - as it was this time also. So we pushed north in continuing fine weather shifting gears into yellowtail and school size tuna mode fully content with our effort down below. We arrived at our primary destination at 0645 and jumped right in the saddle. We climbed off at 1600 bowlegged, chaffed, and blissfully sore.
By far the stand out detail of the morning was the quality of the yellowtail, both the catching and fish themselves, that were fat and stocky and absolutely jugged to the gills with perfect market size squid. Between cooler water temperatures now and the unabated banquet that has obviously been occurring around this bank these 22 - 30# yellowtail, with a super high fat content, will undoubtedly serve up as delicacies in whatever form they are presented. Combined with only a couple of days in the RSW tanks and flat calm conditions the corpulent "forkies" promise to wow anyone and everyone with their incredibly rich, delicate, fillets.
After wearing ourselves down pulling on big yellows we shifted gears in the afternoon switching the game to school size tuna. They were a little reluctant to answer our challenge but eventually found their courage and rallied a few waves for an assault. Being a little shy of muscle and brawn, though credit was certainly deserved for effort, they were systematically mowed down adding to our bounty in the hatch and rounding out our "limit style" day. It was great fishing; great action, great fun, tremendously productive, and thoroughly satisfying. A full day of sitting on the anchor, fishing, and catching was just what the doctor ordered. We would have had a good time either way, but no doubt the catching component made the experience a whole lot better. There are now many full sacks whereas before today not so much. This evened the score for everybody - everyone got a chance to play.
As such the next inevitable move carries us north to target a few more yellowtail and perhaps a few electives in pursuit of the now imbedded Royal Star tradition of a final day fresh, white meat fish lunch. Executive Chef Drew Rivera has both his bass catching outfit ready on the bow and his knife razor sharpened; his creativity is already flowing. If it is meant to be well see if he can best the previous voyage's offering.
Photo of the day features a humorous blood and gore scene I have debated sharing over the past few days. In the end I had to do it. This is a case of the spiking and bleeding of a giant yellowfin tuna gone awry. Once in awhile the "sweet spot" is grazed with the spike rather than plugged dead center. The result is typically some form of detonation the includes the big tuna doing the proverbial "funky chicken" throwing serious gore far and wide.
And when this does occur the only solution is to get after the mad flapping beast and subdue it with a correctly place second effort - which is easier said than done. It is no task for the faint of heart; both in that one can't be weak kneed at the sight of blood, and one must throw caution to the wind and pounce on two hundred plus pounds of insanely out of control pure muscle. In this respect Chief Engineer Sean Bickel is the perfect man for the job. This guy is all man in mind set, humor, and ability. He is my right hand man for good reason. And in the immediate aftermath of this incident we shared a long, sincerely appreciated laugh. I have been this guy more than once myself; and loved every minute of it. A final word of caution - if you are squeamish at the sight of blood and gore don't look. Otherwise enjoy some good humor; to us this was an intensely hilarious moment. It's an eclectic brand of humor out here. If you're laughing at this picture, and I hope that you are, welcome to the club.
Five days of working in this zone; five full days of fishing hard, burning in the glasses ten hours straight; five days of evaluating conditions and trends, of building a big picture, all came together in a grand finale. Although there was a smidgen of doubt in the early morning, due to the erratic nature of the fish in this zone, we were fairly certain that we were located for the big push if it was to come. I kept mentioning to our anglers that the stage was set, that we were in the right place, knowing that with the indications we were seeing it was a gamble well worth venturing.
As we plowed around throughout the morning and early afternoon the area continued to develop. More birds began to fill in, more life became visibly active, a palpable sense of something building, an almost electric tension, was driving everything to an inevitable end. It was only a matter of time. And then, over the span of maybe twenty minutes, all hell broke loose.
It began with one spot carrying what appeared to be a decent handful of fish. We got a couple of fifty pound tuna from a stop, then one more, and then something hit the switch. A tremendous spot of trophy size yellowfin erupted from out of nowhere transforming the setting to a pure big fish, run and gun scenario. It was active fishing; a fisherman's dream, especially from the bridge perspective, but definitely also from below.
In the world of sport fishing there is nothing to compare with the excitement of running on a big foamer of breaking tuna, sliding into the spot while they are still crashing and jumping from water right next to the boat, then tossing a bait into the melee. It is a brand of pleasure that validates all of our passion - and purchases. This is the reason we come, this is what drives us to buy our arsenal of Shimano products, and tackle chests burgeoning with gear. The unending attraction of this moment, the insatiable yearning to live the dream again and again; it is actually somewhat sinister how it invades our soul, deeply, satisfyingly sinister.
It goes without saying that upon commencement of the afternoon show, that we were in the exact middle of when it began, we kicked into high gear employing every fishing skill we have acquired to our inexpressible delight. This was an afternoon/evening of fishing that I also live for. Again, zero luck involved. It was a matter of reading the sign, predicting where they would surface next, and placing the boat in the best position of advantage while adapting to an incredibly dynamic, constantly changing playing field.
These scenarios reveal everything about who is behind the helm. Settings like these expose the true fisherman. And I can say with certainty, even though we were far from loading up by long range standards, that I have never felt more like a fisherman, that I have never been more satisfied, in applying everything I have learned to produce exceptional results. We used to say something in an old marketing pitch like "Royal Star - Experience the Difference". Our anglers throughout this voyage, but especially this afternoon, most certainly did. This was an exceptional opportunity; laid out on a silver platter to compliment our approach. Justice was done.
Twenty six yellowfin, half from 40 - 60#, ten from 90 - 120, and a few 140 - 150's was the result for the final three hours of daylight. And speaking of daylight, I have to share this final story that ended our day on a perfect note. With darkness falling and our final stop cleaned up I took off upwind for a final, Hail Mary look in true Royal Star form. It was so dark that one could barely see anything without binoculars. West into the rapidly fading sliver of light was the only heading viable. Then, Chief Engineer Sean Bickel calls out breaking fish, in the dark, about a half mile to the east. I turned on a dime, jammed the throttles forward, and made the run peering into near blackness. As we approached I couldn't see a thing. Sean was still calling out the fish at one hundred yards, I was spitting flavorful language about not being able to see a thing, and then we see one fish boil, in total blackness, right out the door. I stopped, twenty angler's threw baits, and caught three more. There is no quit in us - never has been, never will be; many a Royal Star angler has discovered this over the years. It was our day; no doubt about it.
Photos for the day feature anglers Steve Ong and Roger Florian rightly satisfied with their 150# class yellowfin landed among our air breathing friends. They were right today - finally.
It took some real imagination today. Imagination, fish savvy, timing, and again no luck; this just isn't that kind of fishing. Success thus far has been a manifestation of the guys working their tails off to get us on the fish - then we have to catch them. And again catching them was no easy task, at least in the case of the bigger tuna. We did enjoy some wholesale slaughter action on mixed knee and ball slapper grade dorado that were associating with a partially submerged object we encountered mid day. The prolific, ravenous dorado provided a well deserved respite from the tuna action, or lack thereof, as "aquarium style" conditions, and suicidal appetites produced a bite every time for as long as we liked.
As so often occurs in such dorado frenzies the heated action consumes time in a flash; before one can almost blink it is all over. In today's case, with all urgency to finish quick and move on checked by a lack of morning sign, we practiced deep breathing, slowed ourselves to enjoy and appreciate each moment, and methodically harvested the beautiful demons one by one. And then, fully sated and satisfied, we moved on.
Unfortunately for yours truly I later suffered one of those hindsight experiences that so often come when working solo offshore. I was pretty certain of where the trophy tuna were going to pop up for the evening show, but, being a long way from that point, we had to fish our way toward my chosen zone. Plenty enough scattered indications kept detouring our efforts all the while eating up the clock that spins alarmingly fast at this time of year. When we finally did see what we were looking for the race was on.
It wasn't a race against another competitor this time, thankfully we are at least temporarily liberated from that nonsense, but a far more formidable, unbending source exerted pressure contrary to our objectives. With the sun already below the horizon, we ran this old girl like a young filly racing against nearly unbeatable odds; we literally had five minutes to make it happen at best, if we arrived in time. The adrenaline was pumping, along with my heart, as we flew into a final stop with barely enough light to see; zero margin for error; one single shot to make or break the day.
Long time veteran Ed Dahlkamp was manning the kite that my guys masterfully deployed in record time. One could barely see the bait swinging a hundred yards down swell. Then, even if one couldn't see the bait, what happened next left no doubt as to where it was; and 'was' is the correct tense in this description. A bomber explosion erased the bait from the picture as a charged up cow (giant yellowfin tuna) arose to snatch the bait amidst it's air breathing buddies. The epic battle that followed culminated with the rod breaking at the final moment and crewman Steve Gregonis applying his veteran skills to make good a terrible situation rife with peril.
203 was the weight of the vanquished beast in addition to another 150 picked off on the sardine by veteran Tommy Walker. It ended the day on a high note but oh did I long for what could have been. Watching the sign for the final thirty minutes - big spots of fish breaking under thousands of birds, all while pounding up into it at full throttle knowing that we would be in the game, gettin' 'em, if we were there, was torture to my fishing soul. Could've, would've, should've; if we hadn't of stopped here or there, if we would have kept going; the incessant rehashing the afternoon's events; at least we were fishing. And in the end - catching, a little bit.
Something is better than nothing. And, like I said, one is worth a lot. I had to rely on a photos from a few days back as I was thoroughly caught up in the heat of the moment this evening - photos were the farthest thing from my mind. Fortunately they weren't a few days back when I grabbed a shot of co charter master Glenn Evans with his 155, and Nacho Camerena pulling on what became a 177 on the bow.
Another busy day of fishing in the lower precincts with marginal production despite an incredible showing of big fish; to say they're not in a biting mode is an understatement. It was exciting though; there were spots to run on all day long as we locked on and headed for any number of choices, but the excitement was doled out sparingly at whatever destination we chose.
The general consensus at day's end fairly matches yesterday's evaluation. We want, we hope, to be here when this area shifts into a biting mode. The potential is unlimited. Like yesterday just before sundown that potential was obvious to everyone. Spots were up and jumping as far as the eye could see. The maddening fact that one could hardly draw a strike was temporarily overshadowed by the sheer quantity of fish visible.
How is it possible for so many actively feeding tuna in our immediate vicinity to virtually ignore our offerings? It is a question I have advanced about a million times over the past twenty seven years. It defies reason. The standard response among offshore fisherman is "that's why nets were invented". It hard to argue against that perspective after participating in a showing like the past three days. For us rod and reeler's however these occasions make the good times that much more poignant. It is the old carrot and the stick theory. And no doubt that is a great example - we have all been made to look like the donkey in the equation more than a few times by tuna out here. But that is what keeps up coming back; to exact vengeance, to settle the score, or to simply catch a few rather than only try.
And fortunately for us victory today was not completely elusive. We did manage to coax our share of bites from the wily rascals. Well, "share" is a relative term in the case of today's results for there were only a few handfuls of opportunities created. But, that is a few handfuls more than most. And, to my unending satisfaction, good luck was not the determining factor. I absolutely abhor fishing days when dumb luck usurps experience and ability; unless I am the lucky one.
Though it wasn't much on the whole it was to those in the category of success. The good thing about these fish is that it only takes one. Today's photos feature a couple of champions who now rest easy with one chilled in the hatch. "The Legend" Jerry Kruse earned his 218 the hard way; this was one tough old bastard (the fish) in every respect. And Jerry, at seventy nine years young, was no slouch himself. It was nip and tuck for a few tense moments at the end, but the results obviously favored "The Legend's" tenacity. Photo number two features co-charter master Tommy Walker with a chunky 185 that will grace many a friend's sushi table upon return. Beautiful weather will grace the effort tomorrow. Time will tell.
There were enough indicators yesterday to suggest far more in this zone than met the eye. Too many scattered signals across a traditional zone broad in scope doesn't add up to nothing in this fishery; signs reminiscent of the beginning of some very big years were glaringly apparent. The showing today removed any and all speculation. They are here, in force. Whether they bite or not is another story. Today they certainly didn't cooperate well enough to quench our desire, but we landed sufficient numbers to make believers out of everyone; not that this seasoned group of big fish anglers needed any convincing.
The grade of fish leaves nothing to be desired. A few 130 to 140's with the remainder 170 and better. Thus far we have one deuce and a few in the 185 - 195 pound class. We have seen numerous bigger rigs both in our bait and jumping around. We have fine weather to augment the effort and a wealth of time remaining. And a final message to any last minute anglers still waiting on the sidelines - pack your bags. What we saw today was no joke. There is mucho big fish around. With far warmer conditions favoring a run carrying into next month and beyond this is as good a gamble as one is going to find.
At the very least watch over the next few days to see how it develops. If today was any indication of what is to come there should be more progress in numbers. The whole gang is now here so we should also have a better idea as to how this action will distribute among us. It might not be time to pull the trigger just yet, but if one is itching to make a trip down here I would certainly begin to get your affairs in order. This looks very good; good enough that I can't wait to see what tomorrow brings. We are on the verge here, I know it.
First photo of the day features Alaska fisherman Eric Mc Kee, who is a brother in arms to us in more ways than one, put on a clinic today landing a 188 and 194 in short, professional order. Photo number two features long time friend and veteran John Finneran pulling on what became a 179 just before sundown.
A classic tortoise and the hare story as a few lathered up lads blew by us on the run south. Turbo's glowing, salt spray flying; exhilarated, triumphant - fervently seeking the glory known to be at position "X". The only obstacle to this strategy is that "X" is a shifting, dynamic, living, breathing entity. The fishing gospel warns against predetermined notions. Following one's instinct is consistently far better than chasing old dope (fishing information).
But, no one is immune to the malady of error in this arena. All in all it is fairly well distributed; I've certainly had my share, though in my advancing seniority I will say that there are more than a few hard learned lessons I regularly apply that narrow the luck curve. Admittedly it is very satisfying when some advantage, large or small, is attributable to experience. Twenty seven years out here is worth something.
Twice on the cruise south I referenced a calling from the grounds. I was not joking. I have been feeling it strong over the past three days. And - they are here; not in earth shattering numbers, not in drop everything and go proportions - yet. But we both saw and caught what we were looking for in quantity sufficient to instill considerable optimism for things far better to come. And they will.
Photos for the day feature two signature long range, big fish moments. Speaking of signatures, the silhouette of ultra veteran Leonard Cunningham is easily recognized as he pulls on a good one at day's end. Photo number two features the team one wishes for when the cards are down and professionals make the difference. Five and eight year veteran crewmen Blake Wasano and Steve Gregonis reach in unison for a one thirty that hit the deck almost immediately following this photo.
In closing I should mention again that we still have a few openings on the upcoming twelve day departing the day after Thanksgiving. Things are shaping up nicely down here. This is beginning to show signs of a classic lower banks set up extending through December and beyond. We are on the verge here. Give Tracy or Captain Sims a call.
They are still calling, we are still traveling, and the anticipation is building. Fine weather made for a productive day as we caught up with our rigging tasks and ultimately finished to enjoy a tranquil evening; the calm before the big event - we hope. While we did work our way down the roll up our sleeves segment begins tomorrow extending through early next week. Foremost to our present advantage is the calm weather that is so crucial to success in these lower zones. Whatever happens, for at least the next couple of days, we won't be able to gripe about the weather. So it begins.
Excitement in many forms today; seas, wind, and rain, strikingly real sights and sounds, then, ultimately, the weather breaking mid afternoon in favor of sunny skies and rapidly diminishing unfavorable travel conditions. It was a welcome relief. In particular for everyone cooped up inside basically since our departure yesterday. Needless to say once liberated the deck chairs came out and the luscious, pristine air quenched an innate thirst while various spirits addressed a thirst more base in origin.
Regardless it was well deserved and hard earned.
In all the marvels we traverse out here none compares to living a significant break in the weather that transforms a miserable sea into a becoming realm of tranquility. The measure of relief is so grand that it erases the previous extreme in an unbelievably compressed span of time. Within hours, sometimes within minutes, it is as if the prior condition didn't even happen; like waking from a horrid, amazingly real nightmare to realize all is well. The slumber following such an experience is usually so sweet. Such is it when unfavorable weather breaks - the sun shines, seas abate; the seemingly never ending erratic motion ceases replacing a somber, serious atmosphere with a mood of festivity.
It's an up close and personal confrontation with the real world out here, sometimes on the good side of the equation, sometimes on the other. Thank goodness for us, and as an obvious testament to our success, the good far outweighs the opposite. Right now it is good; and is forecast to continue as such for the next three days at least. We are glad of it; and plan to put such conditions to good use. They are calling. Moo...
Well I made mention of the pending payback for the sublime conditions we enjoyed over the past couple of days; and it didn't take long. I wouldn't exactly categorize the retribution as furious, it was more akin to a petulant tantrum, but the potential, the intent, was certainly there. As to this newly arrived group of anglers, who were fired up, chomping at the bit to bust out running from the gates, I have to say that they were served up a bit of humility as Neptune erected a few blockades.
There was no running here; the pace was dictated by the sea state that was none too good. But, it was none too bad either. In fact it was much better than I anticipated. I have mentioned the merits of Royal Star's seaworthiness in numerous previous narratives. It seems as though every time we encounter weather conditions that could pose a challenge I am reminded of the security we have between the ocean and everyone on board. This is one tough boat built for this duty, and far more.
Now I wouldn't dream of hoodwinking anyone into believing the ride is comfortable in such conditions - it is not, but it is safe, and as comfortable as can be delivered by the vessel itself. Otherwise we are at the whim of the elements. As my kids say "you get what you get, and you don't throw a fit". That's pretty much it in a nutshell. So despite the blustery southeast winds and sloppy, confused, building seas, we departed with vigor refusing to be thwarted by what amounted to the tantrum I mentioned above. It was nothing to trifle with, we were definitely watching the business close, but in perspective it was nothing more than a sloppy day on the pond; we have dealt with far, far worse.
Regardless I would still offer that these undeserving anglers were dished up some serious injustice departing in significant uphill conditions - slow traveling against prevailing wind and seas, right from the gates; nothing like a little crash course in seamanship five minutes south of the harbor entrance. It is supposed to be calm with the wind and seas astern for a few days allowing anglers to acclimate; unless of course one draws the very occasional "southeaster" card that turns conditions contrary to normal. So be it. In the case of this seasoned group of anglers it was taken in good sprits. It comes with the territory. We'll forge through it tomorrow with the promise of greener pastures beckoning far below. Moo....
Photo for the day features a bright moment I marginally captured. It's worth sharing though; a little bit of brightness amongst an otherwise dreary afternoon. It goes back to that "cup half full" philosophy; just look at this thing.
A nice day of travel in continuing flat calm - grease; every mechanically propelled mariner's dream. Except for a gentle sway or roll the boat hardly even moved; lake Pacific continues to exercise her guile; the payback promises to expose some real passion, or fury. For now though we will continue to believe the facade. It is so easy to succumb to the beneficent, mesmerizing grace. We'll take it, bank it, and be grateful for it. A little bit of charm goes a long way; a lot goes even further.
Catching highlights were small, red, and prickly, but large in flavor. We took a couple of hours in delightful, stress free fishing scoring on a few good drops and missing on a few others. And in reverence to the towering reputation of our beloved, aforementioned Chef's, enough of the tasty red devils were fielded to continue the final day, fresh catch, Royal Star tradition. Boy was it good. Actually it was beyond good; far beyond my culinary literacy.
As a final bookend the show of cetaceans in the late afternoon was incredible at worst, spectacular at best. Between numerous Humpback whales cavorting, breeching, fluking, and feeding, all amongst dozens of majestic Blue and Fin whales, we could not help but divert from our heading in several instances to provide our anglers an up close and personal, ring side view. Amazing; this is an amazing world. We are glad for the opportunity to forge our miniscule role.
In closing gratitude is extended to our long time friends Larry Fancher and Fred Fukanaga both of whom have consistently assembled exemplary groups of anglers we are blessed to share time at sea with for nearly twenty years. Men like these are the core of long range fishing attracted year after year by the un paralleled adventure and experiences these voyages offer. As our business and families mature we hope for the opportunity to fish with both Larry and Fred for many years to come. I know I'll be here.
Photo of the day features more of our long time friends Ann and Don Van Dyke with a wahoo Ann snagged earlier in the trip. As most of you know Ann occasionally carries the load in the office for Tracy extending her warm character and love for fishing at every turn. As always we had a great time with this fantastic couple who, in addition to having a great time, consistently manage to get their share. By this time I'm figuring it can't all be luck.
There's plenty to be said for a flat calm ride to the northwest. It is a brand of tranquility recognized and appreciated by all. Basking in a rain of diamonds that ricocheted off the sheet glass surface in a brilliant chaos of dancing sparks genuine peace was natural to come by. And with the coming of dawn the spectacle only magnified. A surreal, blanketing calm invoked the urge to whisper through the amber moonlight liquid, rich, becoming, and ambiguous. It was one of those mornings I stood in solitude on the bridge wing awestruck, cataloguing - placing all things in proper order, assigning rights and values, and reaching those basic conclusions that I hope most fall upon when stricken with natural beauty that transcends mortality.
The previous evening was the same. The full moon rising cast a spellbinding beauty attracting the attention of even the most stoic old schooler. It was so obvious, so compelling, that, at the very least, the distant call was understood in the immediate as a photographic moment. And it certainly was. But, as so often occurs on this mendacious ocean, the relative moment of stunning attraction was replaced by the underlying inferno in short order. From sheet glass to twenty five knots of north east beach wind over the course of an hour our heavenly tranquility absconded deftly leaving a sloppy, cold sea in it's place.
But it didn't last too long; just enough to remind us of our true significance among the elements. Otherwise we passed half the day in travel gaining altitude in search mode heading toward our ultimate destination. Originally we sought to stop in the early a.m. to target coastal yellowtail and all others worthy that climbed on our lines. But, needless to say, the howling, damn cold north east wind sapped all enthusiasm for the effort. There was no doubt cast in these conditions; one of those rare decisions on the bridge made easy.
End of the day found us leisurely targeting reluctant yellowtail that did provide some early excitement then tapered off into one here and one there. It was plenty though; fish rich we had enough already. A few more for the fun of it, a few more cut loose, a few more for the stewpot, and a pleasant afternoon of good fishing among good friends - the objective of the final maneuver was fulfilled. Actually, with a little bit of time remaining, we may just make a quick drift or two on our way up the line to provide the culinary masters Drew Rivera and Jeffery Grant the opportunity to work their magic. I wouldn't doubt that at least a few of the traditional Fred Fukanaga group would savor some fresh reds for the steamer as well.
Photos today feature new long range angler Daneen Woods with her first trophy yellowfin she handily subdued on the big gear fished under the kite. Photo number two features long time veteran Nigel Parker whom I harangued into a half hearted grin for this photo. This was the fish that was carrying the memento I described a few days back. That was worth the smile alone.
A full day of fishing enjoyment as we satisfied the "jerkin' and pullin'" component of this fall ten day in every respect. Productive angling on 12 - 25 pound yellowfin tuna, 15 - 25 pound yellowtail, and even a few still lost bluefin, was coupled with light winds and an ocean becalmed for an all around ideal day on the high seas. And without question it was thoroughly appreciated with yesterday's paltry results in fresh reference.
A couple of happy campers in today's images pleased to be on the receiving end of Poseidon's beneficence. Veteran long range angler's Steve Fukuda and long time favorite Jan Abbot can't mask their jubilance as they pose with their twenty five pound bluefin. I couldn't either on the other side of the camera. In fact, other than one short, spirited, Captain Bligh episode, when every angler on deck was reacquainted with the depth of my passion and fishing commitment, I couldn't obscure my sense of well being the entire day. The glass was full; to the brim.
We took off on a search mission today seeking to expand our big fish options and perhaps round out our catch with some colorful, tasty dorado. Instead of rounding out our catch however we ran straight into a round house right that knocked us down and took us out of the game. This was one of those painful but necessary times when the strategy was sound and the execution perfect, but the results reflected none of it. Needless to say the dorado option is no longer a "lead pipe cinch".
Far from meaning it is over on the colorful leapers, or that the big tuna search below is futile, we just missed today; nothing more, nothing less. In fact, referring to the majority of productive offshore years around the lower banks, the best of the action occurred past mid November and lasted well into January. There were even a couple of different years when the trophy tuna didn't show until the second week of December. I mention this because water conditions are favoring just such a set up. Still in the 78 - 81 degree Fahrenheit range with an abundance of feed one could easily believe that good things are in the works.
Not that good things didn't happen regardless of our bust as our colleague put together another solid day on the big fish below our grid. They are around in good numbers awaiting the next cycle; and the next. With this in mind I again want to remind potential anglers that our upcoming November 25th - December 7th 12 day has plenty of availability. If you still need convincing observe today's photos and take my word for it. As everyone has learned over my many years of dispensing advice and sharing opinion I would not steer anglers in the wrong direction. Conditions favor a continuation of the present big fish action, and an expansion of opportunities as the season advances into December and beyond. Give Tracy a call if you can make the voyage. You will not be disappointed.
The first of today's photos features angler Ron Miyakawa, crewman Steve Gregonis, and yours truly with Ron's 204 coming over the rail. I'm usually the photographer but this time succumbed to a moment of vanity asking Captain Brian "Gerbie" Sims to do the honors. This fat boy (the fish) fell for a well presented squid on the "big gear". Photo number two features one of those odd/humorous fishing moments I relish the opportunity to share. If anglers reading today's narrative were fishing in the vicinity of Los Cabos lately and lost a battle with a big tuna, perhaps even in the W.O.N. tournament, take a close look at the trolling lure in the photo and determine if it is yours. After being unable to resist the temptation of a big, surface presented squid, this one hundred fifty five pound tuna came over the rail with our gear and this rig in it's mouth trailing about twenty yards of 40# monofilament. Obviously the fish was none too concerned by the inconvenience; though he did look a little skinny.
Anyway if you or any of your fishing friends were out around Los Cabos during the past week or so please pass this tale along. The gear was near brand new without a shred of growth or any sign of wear on it. While insignificant in the big picture it would make for a great story if we could reunite the defeated angler/team with their lost equipment.
A lot more photo opportunities today as we more than tripled the previous day's tally. Still the fishing was slow; still conditions, in the form of twenty five knot winds and current running contrary, extracted most of fun from it, and still these anglers were resolute throwing their full effort into the challenge. There wasn't a single thing pretty in the whole episode; it was plain work to be out there.
And while I am disappointed when these occasions arise I also recognize that nothing will change the elements. Reasonable discourse with an agitated Zeus and Poseidon is futile. When the two collaborate we take and make the best of it. And in the case of today's fishing make the best of it we did. Truth be told there were actually a couple of junctures when I had a fleeting sense that we might just get things going with steadier fish coming over the rail. There were at least a couple of decent packs of tuna showing themselves and occasionally flashing through but the majority refused to settle in. And the few that did put on the brakes and set up camp in our vicinity were fickle and finicky at best.
Between that and conditions that made getting any fly lined bait away from the boat a monumental victory it was a setting ripe for temptation. The temptation to drop down in gear size is age old and worn. Oh how many disasters, how many heart breaks, how many disappointments have I officiated during the past twenty five years in this arena. And yes every once in a while the miracle occurs, as it did today, but such practice is so predictable; as are the 99% majority results. So a few brave, brazen souls dropped their gear size today and prompted the bite they were after. One was on the receiving end of a probable once in a lifetime gift from Poseidon, the others got predictably smoked or busted off after drawn out battles.
Credit where credit is due veteran Royal Star angler Larry Ritter did a number of things right that led to his successful outcome. First was loading his reel with fresh, 50# Izorline. If one is attempting to best one in a thousand odds Izorline is the monofilament to prepare with. To steal the slogan it definitely is "Brutally Strong" - perfect for the environment on a long range vessel. Second was Larry's choice of gear beginning with an improved Shimano TLD 30 in perfect working condition. Third and most important was the application of patience that I am admittedly incapable of.
Captain Brian Sims and Larry finessed that fish on a backup with at least five hundred yards of line out, in addition to the four hundred yards on the original reel, until the poor devil ultimately expired under the stress and sank to the bottom. Then, similar to the three hundred eighteen pound beast we captured on sixty pound in the same fashion a few years ago, they slowly but surely dragged the fish across the bottom until it was straight under the boat and wound it up dead as dead can be, stiff as a board. Needless to say we have the soft mud bottom of these lower banks to thank for this success story. And of course Captain Sims and Larry for showing dogged determination to refute the odds. When the battle ended in triumph I congratulated Larry and promptly told him the same thing I told the lottery winner a few years back: "Great job, now please, don't ever try it again". Actually I think the language was a little saltier than that; in good humor of course.
Here is Larry and his tuna that bears the mark of the epic collision with the bottom that led to it's demise. Road rash does little to affect the table quality of this 158# trophy though. Certainly Larry will be savoring the results of his victory for many months to come.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words; and undoubtedly one can be. In support of a grandiose narration, valid or otherwise, the tool image is only a piece of the mosaic however. I'm still in favor of painting the whole, true picture in words - obviously. Today's photo's feature a couple of the day's highlights with Charter master Larry Fancher and his 179 on deck, and south land fishing legend Fred Fukunaga with his 203 coming over the rail. These, and a few others, were the day's highlights. As for the rest of the day, and the rest of our anglers, it was a no go.
There were a few odd dorado and an occasional big tuna boil to maintain enthusiasm for the effort but sloppy weather and brutal fishing conditions combined into quite a character test. To this end I have to commend these anglers and express my admiration for the effort applied. No sissies in this bunch; there was a solid effort at the rail from the time we finally managed to plant our anchor on the bottom, to the time the reddened western horizon was swallowed into blackness. There were even a few diehards that maintained the war cry well into the dark. Though not today rest assured their time will come. Such effort inevitably collides with reward; it is only a matter of when.
Enduring the challenge while awaiting the big reward is pretty much synonymous with giant yellowfin tuna fishing. It is to be expected. These are not typically doled out to any and all. Certainly there are those times when everyone gets in on the act; those are the occasions we live and strive for. But, scratch mode is built in to this fishery; time at the rail with the right equipment in hand is the only way to produce results. And even then one's number does not always come up. Often times the fish gods are harsh, and do not appear impartial. Such is fishing.
For us those strived for results were scant today. Better than nothing though; five happy anglers have a big ingot of swimming gold perfectly spiked, bled, and dressed resting the RSW tank, but our aspirations are far greater. The positive news is that we see plenty of sign around; at least enough to convince me that we have a chance at a good hit tomorrow and beyond. The quality is what we came for, and the setting is ripe for plenty more. While it appears that we are going to have to battle conditions again and earn them the hard way we are game. Like I said there are no sissies here. I love these guys - and gals.
We all become something of our own meteorologists out here. In the physical sense we study our forecast maps, apply our experience and local knowledge, then prepare and act accordingly. Beyond the gradients and arrows one also draws upon old lore and innate sense as well as what I would hope is a strong interest in self preservation. I don't surmise that everyone out here falls into this category, and indeed one must be cautious of "Chicken Little Syndrome", but attentive observation to the elements, and something more, should be prerequisite in the seasoned mariner.
This latest little blow was not an easy mark. First conclusion upon receipt of such a hostile forecast would be to head in tight and hunker down for at least a little while. But down here on the cusp the results were far from certain, and showed strong promise of remaining benign. With shelter close enough to make a run for it if things got nasty we opted to remain outside and keep fishing. In the end conditions remained agreeable, calm even, and we enjoyed a full day of fishing unperturbed.
To our chagrin however I can't say the catching was anything special. We scratched a few while expending a wealth of effort scouring every nook and cranny of each ridge but scant sign had little to yield. Conditions were excellent and plenty of life in the form of bait fish and birds suggested otherwise; perhaps it was the fish that succumbed to "CLS" today.
But for the afternoon when we finally did get down to a marginal amount of catching it would have been a brutal day. Fortune arrived in the form of a few jumbo wahoo and more than a few 22 - 30# yellowtail that engaged interest and lifted spirits; though I have to admit this group of veteran anglers was far from shaken by a little slow fishing. It comes with the territory as the saying goes and everyone on board rolled with the day enjoying the nice weather and good company fishing aside.
On a high note the afternoon fortunate's demonstrated that in the realm of long range fishing often it only takes one to make the day. Angler Vince Varia does a fine job proving this point in today's photo. After enduring a couple of typical wahoo mishaps in the form of bite off's and missed strikes, Vince made good on this opportunity. This sixty eight pound wahoo more than did the trick providing long time veteran Vince with a substantial, satisfying fight as well as table fare second to none. Taking a good look at this big, beautiful wahoo just think of the tender, snow white fillets cooked to perfection following a cool six days resting fresh at thirty degrees Fahrenheit in one of our RSW tanks. This is a prize worth coming for; and no better individual than Mr. Varia could be rewarded with such fortune.
Angler Gary Licht, venturing his first ten day long range voyage, provided an ideal example today of what this fishery is all about. Gary's effort and results today are the reason my passion for sport fishing never dulls or sours. That's not to say I don't succumb to the occasional grouch elicited by any number of challenges compounded by crushing anxiety among anglers grinding through forty eight hours of travel before reaching our first destination. This is about the perfect description of what occurred early this morning when Gary made a zero dark thirty trip to the bridge to inquire if he could troll.
Taking a step back Gary and I have fished together on various five and six day voyages since at least 2005. Between big yellowfin at Guadalupe, yellowtail at the inside islands, and numerous bluefin and albacore offshore Gary's qualifications as an experienced long range angler are sound. He is an adept fisherman who took the next step in the long range progression toward the ultimate show.
But Gary's vast experience did little to temper the anticipation of his upcoming ten day voyage during the previous month. I fielded a few calls discussing gear and fishing with him to the point of good humor between us. The last conversation before his trip went something like this:"Hey Tim I just wanted to make sure I had my gear set up properly, or am bringing the correct tackle, etc. etc." My response was something to the effect of: "Gary, we went over all your gear twice already; your good; you are well prepared and ready for anything and everything. And if not, we have plenty of gear on board to shore up any deficiencies." Then Gary comes clean saying: "Well, I know it. The truth is I am just excited, read the reports about the good fishing the guys are having right now, and couldn't help myself from calling again."
We shared a good laugh as I told him to hang in there for the final three days before his trip departed. And of course, he called again. So one can imagine the degree of anticipation old Gary was struggling with on the second morning of travel after about four hundred miles of ocean passed under the hull without a fish coming on board. He was ready to jump out of his skin. I actually felt a little bad after sternly admonishing him to go back down below and wait until daylight to put a jig in. I was taken aback by his contagious enthusiasm for fishing. I recalled the exact same anticipation as I headed out to the albacore grounds at eleven years old unable to sleep a wink, pestering my Dad with the classic "are we there yet?" question every twenty minutes or so.
Needless to say Gary's jig did indeed hit the water the second I mustered my crew and his long morning of trolling began. He was vigilant the entire time however thrilled to be in the act of fishing whether catching or not. Undeterred by the fishless hours he remained on station through 11:30 a.m. when the fish gods finally yielded the long awaited reward. It did not come easy though. A spirited fight, somewhat atypical for wahoo, followed the strike. Under the boat, up to the bow, almost in the wheels, back to the stern, then, mercifully, drilled by Captain Sims with the gaff.
Here is Gary with his long awaited for, well deserved prize. Every once in a while I am gratefully reminded of what this fishery represents. Gary with his fifty pound wahoo did it today. Ultimately there was plenty of additional good fishing to go along with it. Steady action on school size tuna made for a fruitful afternoon. Tomorrow will again be spent in action mode looking for variety and quantity.
There's a story to tell every day out here. As the miles glide by resources unending pique interest and memory; resources both natural and human. There is nothing like a good conversation to ignite a new thought; some illustration providing momentary clarity, or some comment illuminating an obvious point obscured or overlooked. Such opportunity is one of the many reasons I relish the time at sea among wise friends. Not all fit in this category of course, but long ago I ceased to be surprised by what one may glean from even the most unlikely character.
As a dialogue today unfolded concerning the modern tools anglers have at their disposal to judge conditions and plan voyages one fact, supported by endless irrefutable results, was painfully clear. No matter how technical one becomes, no matter how many charts, graphs, statistics, and blog masters one consults, the original draw of fishing - the mystery, the mystique, is still secure. The safe has not been, and probably never will, be cracked. I live for the times when the unexpected upends conventional patterns and/or beliefs surprising many and rewarding few. There is no guarantee out here - on both sides of the equation. There is still a reason to just go fishing.
Of course this idea must be rationally applied; blasting out into a full gale seeking yellowfin tuna in 56 degree green water in February is an obvious stretch; forming an idea based on some conventional notion such as "there are no wahoo caught in December" or "there are no 200 hundred pound yellowfin in October" is a better example. Thinking that the results of a long range voyage one year somehow play into the next is another fine example. I've proffered my wisdom on this topic in many past narratives. One never really knows, and one never will know the results of a voyage in advance. The special nature of fishing is the unknown; the ultimate reward is besting the odds.
I'll present a question to all of you: Is it better to head into a voyage with reports of pure doom and gloom everywhere, find the unexpected mother lode, then load up and return in glory? Or, is it better to depart with reports of glory on the bow, arrive in the zone, get your share, and return in triumph? It may be that the question evinces differences between the perspective of one behind the helm and one fishing on deck. But, on long range vessels we are all in the same boat, and, during extended voyages, inevitably congeal into a group mind. At the very least veteran long range anglers, who have likely experienced both extremes, can appreciate the query.
We're still sliding down bypassing the islands above in favor of whatever we find below. Plans are to get down to business tomorrow offering anglers the chance to stretch their muscles and reacquaint themselves with the rail. This will be a warm up stop in preparation for the big show beyond - we hope.
Ambition unleashed by beach catches of trophy yellowfin tuna, the driving force behind long range fishing since the beginning, simultaneously complicates and simplifies every departing voyage plan. Without question every Captain out here shares the similar instinct drawn to giant yellowfin tuna as iron to a magnet. We can not resist the attraction. Tempered though it must be as we have plenty of potentially productive miles to cover before arriving on the lower end; and arrive we will - ultimately.
We depart in fine conditions with a bar set high by both the previous voyage and the previous year's results - this was a voyage of legend in 2010. Needless to say the driving forces have the potential to set an individual a little on edge - no room for error here; not one second of complacency. This is the exact position anglers hope to find the Captain of their voyage in - nothing like the pressure of a ten thousand ton press to manifest the best in one's ability. As I mentioned such occasions may not manifest the best in one's personality, but ability is another story, if one is a competitor.
And in this respect I have to relate that we could not be recipients of better fortune in the form of numerous colleagues in this fleet that fit the call to perfection. Superb fishermen, hungry for achievement, working collectively to locate the fish and maximize the opportunity - that is a combination for success we embrace with good reason. The sheer quantity of magnificent catches of giant yellowfin in this fleet over the past twenty five years attests to it. But every season, as every voyage, as every day is new. The goal is clear. We are in the business of making it happen.
To this effect we could not be better positioned with a group of anglers well familiar with the stakes, and effort, necessary to accomplish our goal. And in the end, regardless of the outcome, a good time will be had by all. This fine assembly of seasoned anglers recognizes and appreciates all aspects of their annual long range adventures. Whether we are clobbering ridge variety, or are getting clobbered by giant yellowfin tuna, these anglers will make a fine time of it.
In closing I want to mention a few admin notes via Tracy in the office. First is the arrival of our new 2012 - 2013 brochure featuring the printed schedule and literature describing our upcoming voyages. Second, I made reference a couple of months prior to our ultimate goal to "go green" by shifting to an electronic brochure in the future. To initiate the transition we are offering the option of receiving the new brochure via e-mail as opposed to regular mail. Many of you have already requested this option or responded to my earlier advisement forwarding your e-mail address to Tracy at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have not, and prefer to receive your 2012 - 2013 Royal Star brochure electronically, please send Tracy your e-mail and we will send the brochure in PDF format via e-mail during the next week. I should add that your e-mail address will not be shared with any entity for any purpose. It will remain a part the Royal Star data base for annual brochure transmission and sharing Royal Star fishing and schedule information only.
Finally I again want to mention availability on the upcoming "Let's Talk Hookup" twelve day departing Friday, November 27th following Thanksgiving, returning Wednesday, December 7th. For an ideal time to target giant yellowfin tuna, either down the beach or on the outside around the Revillas, one can not choose a better time of the year. With indications presently favoring a classic beach set up, the voyage presently features "ultra limited load" status and a solid giant tuna opportunity. With plenty of good fortune in the upcoming week we hope to provide even stronger incentive to jump off the fence and give Tracy a call. Look for reports from this voyage to continue as we forge south in search of the coveted prize. Here we go.