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San Diego is tops in live bait sportfishing

The numbers don’t lie

The Pacific Islander returned to the dock from a successful outing that included a 344-pound bluefin tuna.
The Pacific Islander returned to the dock from a successful outing that included a 344-pound bluefin tuna.

Dock Totals 10/3 – 10/9: 3552 anglers aboard 185 trips out of San Diego landings this past week caught 1352 bluefin tuna (up to 340 pounds), 35 bonito, 255 calico bass (64 released), 1429 dorado, 2 halibut, 7 lingcod, 226 lobster (148 released), 23 rock crab, 3439 rockfish, 43 sand bass, 284 sculpin, 190 sheephead, 181 skipjack tuna, 521 whitefish, 188 yellowfin tuna, and 1716 yellowtail.

Saltwater: Anglers that ride sportfishing boats often have their favorite vessels and crews and are generally loyal customers to their preferred platforms. During late summer and fall, when fishing is good and boats are full to capacity, getting out on a favorite vessel can be tough if reservations are not made far in advance. As San Diego boasts the world’s largest live bait sportfishing fleet, it would seem there are always options even for the most loyal of customers when their favorite has sold all the available spots in advance. The truth is that the captains and crews of the San Diego fleet are adept at their trade, and all try to put their clients on the best possible bite considering their range and time allowed per trip. But, especially with the advent of social media, some of the old stories of bad crews and captains still circulate

When I worked the deck a few decades and a handful of years ago, long before social media gave a voice to every opinion, there were detractors of every boat at one point or another. Sportfishing crews cannot guarantee results and there will always be those who did not have an epic trip despite the overall fish count. Due to rising overhead and inflation, prices have climbed substantially over the years and with such an investment, folks tend to expect results. But fishing is fishing, and even in the best glassy conditions with schools of tuna, dorado, and yellowtail roiling the surface, some anglers will not get their limits of desired species.

This is where ‘boat limits’ come into play. As there is a limit set for every species targeted by the fleet, as well as fines for overtakes or undersized fish, the crew must maintain an awareness of the exact number of each species caught while checking sizes of those species with a minimum length requirement. Tracking every angler’s catch is nearly impossible when the deckhands are busy chumming, untangling lines, helping novices, and gaffing fish, so the overall number of fish divided by the number of anglers is often applied. The number of anglers times the daily limit equals boat limits, even if some anglers did not catch a limit and some caught over the limit. For multi-day trips, no more than three daily limits can be kept per trip of three days or longer.

Of the detractors, I have heard more than once, “How can the boat report limits caught when I didn’t catch my limit?” As a former deckhand, I know the obvious answer: the boat had limits aboard when they returned to the dock, but some anglers had more, and some had less. This misunderstanding is what inspires the untrue (in my experience) statements of ‘sportfishing crews inflate the count,’ as in reporting more fish caught than the actual total in order to sell more tickets. First, one must consider that most boats are and have been selling out their spots during the high season even since before the internet, when the counts were reported only in the newspaper. Why inflate counts when the boat will fill up anyhow? Secondly, considering reputation in the eyes of the angling community, and especially when there are legal ramifications that could bring suspicion or fines from the authorities, would the negative risk/reward balance of such a practice not be obvious?

When anglers board any sportfishing vessel, they are putting their lives in the hands of seasoned crews, yet when disembarking, some will give negative reviews of their experience. Some of this is justified; I have seen cases where disgruntled crew members might have mishandled a passenger’s fish or mixed or lost fillets, or even lost their cool and been rude, but many of these cases are the result of an insatiable or rude passenger in the first place. Still, that is no excuse. Sportfishing is a service industry, and like waitstaff at the local diner, crew members have to have thick skin and perform their duty with a smile and the thought, “The customer is always right”.

Then again, the customer is not always right, especially on a vessel with dozens of other customers aboard. Safety for all aboard is the first and foremost concern. After that, catching is the priority. Way down the list is any one angler’s fish count, and even so, deckhands will pay attention and help those who are having a hard time to improve their experience. That is their job, and generally, San Diego sportfishing crews do their jobs very well. It is an incredible fishery just off our shores and within reach of the fleet, and there need be no exaggeration. Outside of a possible mathematical mistake and in spite of a few disgruntled anglers, rest assured that the counts reported reflect what was caught.

Since we have the prime saltwater fishing locale in the nation, there are some boats that work out of San Diego seasonally. The Pacific Islander spends spring and early summer working out of Oxnard, mostly fishing the Channel Islands targeting halibut, white seabass, and rockfish. In mid to late July, it moves down to San Diego and fishes out of Point Loma Sportfishing’s landing and targeting tuna, dorado, and yellowtail. Though there are schools of yellowfin and yellowtail along with marauding dorado closer to home, the boat traveled some 70 miles out to the Tanner Bank area to target the larger bluefin tuna for the 25 hopeful anglers aboard.

Not everyone aboard landed a fish, and, as is the case with the larger tuna, many broke off. Still, it was a successful trip with just ten bluefin tuna landed. These are large fish and will pull hard for a long time, and thus, no experienced angler expects to land the two-fish limit. But they hope to. The fish that were landed were of a size that will draw anglers even when the odds of landing one are low. There is no need to make up a number when catching ‘cow’ bluefin tuna, especially when the largest fish caught weighed in at a whopping 344 pounds.

Fish Plants: None scheduled

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The Pacific Islander returned to the dock from a successful outing that included a 344-pound bluefin tuna.
The Pacific Islander returned to the dock from a successful outing that included a 344-pound bluefin tuna.

Dock Totals 10/3 – 10/9: 3552 anglers aboard 185 trips out of San Diego landings this past week caught 1352 bluefin tuna (up to 340 pounds), 35 bonito, 255 calico bass (64 released), 1429 dorado, 2 halibut, 7 lingcod, 226 lobster (148 released), 23 rock crab, 3439 rockfish, 43 sand bass, 284 sculpin, 190 sheephead, 181 skipjack tuna, 521 whitefish, 188 yellowfin tuna, and 1716 yellowtail.

Saltwater: Anglers that ride sportfishing boats often have their favorite vessels and crews and are generally loyal customers to their preferred platforms. During late summer and fall, when fishing is good and boats are full to capacity, getting out on a favorite vessel can be tough if reservations are not made far in advance. As San Diego boasts the world’s largest live bait sportfishing fleet, it would seem there are always options even for the most loyal of customers when their favorite has sold all the available spots in advance. The truth is that the captains and crews of the San Diego fleet are adept at their trade, and all try to put their clients on the best possible bite considering their range and time allowed per trip. But, especially with the advent of social media, some of the old stories of bad crews and captains still circulate

When I worked the deck a few decades and a handful of years ago, long before social media gave a voice to every opinion, there were detractors of every boat at one point or another. Sportfishing crews cannot guarantee results and there will always be those who did not have an epic trip despite the overall fish count. Due to rising overhead and inflation, prices have climbed substantially over the years and with such an investment, folks tend to expect results. But fishing is fishing, and even in the best glassy conditions with schools of tuna, dorado, and yellowtail roiling the surface, some anglers will not get their limits of desired species.

This is where ‘boat limits’ come into play. As there is a limit set for every species targeted by the fleet, as well as fines for overtakes or undersized fish, the crew must maintain an awareness of the exact number of each species caught while checking sizes of those species with a minimum length requirement. Tracking every angler’s catch is nearly impossible when the deckhands are busy chumming, untangling lines, helping novices, and gaffing fish, so the overall number of fish divided by the number of anglers is often applied. The number of anglers times the daily limit equals boat limits, even if some anglers did not catch a limit and some caught over the limit. For multi-day trips, no more than three daily limits can be kept per trip of three days or longer.

Of the detractors, I have heard more than once, “How can the boat report limits caught when I didn’t catch my limit?” As a former deckhand, I know the obvious answer: the boat had limits aboard when they returned to the dock, but some anglers had more, and some had less. This misunderstanding is what inspires the untrue (in my experience) statements of ‘sportfishing crews inflate the count,’ as in reporting more fish caught than the actual total in order to sell more tickets. First, one must consider that most boats are and have been selling out their spots during the high season even since before the internet, when the counts were reported only in the newspaper. Why inflate counts when the boat will fill up anyhow? Secondly, considering reputation in the eyes of the angling community, and especially when there are legal ramifications that could bring suspicion or fines from the authorities, would the negative risk/reward balance of such a practice not be obvious?

When anglers board any sportfishing vessel, they are putting their lives in the hands of seasoned crews, yet when disembarking, some will give negative reviews of their experience. Some of this is justified; I have seen cases where disgruntled crew members might have mishandled a passenger’s fish or mixed or lost fillets, or even lost their cool and been rude, but many of these cases are the result of an insatiable or rude passenger in the first place. Still, that is no excuse. Sportfishing is a service industry, and like waitstaff at the local diner, crew members have to have thick skin and perform their duty with a smile and the thought, “The customer is always right”.

Then again, the customer is not always right, especially on a vessel with dozens of other customers aboard. Safety for all aboard is the first and foremost concern. After that, catching is the priority. Way down the list is any one angler’s fish count, and even so, deckhands will pay attention and help those who are having a hard time to improve their experience. That is their job, and generally, San Diego sportfishing crews do their jobs very well. It is an incredible fishery just off our shores and within reach of the fleet, and there need be no exaggeration. Outside of a possible mathematical mistake and in spite of a few disgruntled anglers, rest assured that the counts reported reflect what was caught.

Since we have the prime saltwater fishing locale in the nation, there are some boats that work out of San Diego seasonally. The Pacific Islander spends spring and early summer working out of Oxnard, mostly fishing the Channel Islands targeting halibut, white seabass, and rockfish. In mid to late July, it moves down to San Diego and fishes out of Point Loma Sportfishing’s landing and targeting tuna, dorado, and yellowtail. Though there are schools of yellowfin and yellowtail along with marauding dorado closer to home, the boat traveled some 70 miles out to the Tanner Bank area to target the larger bluefin tuna for the 25 hopeful anglers aboard.

Not everyone aboard landed a fish, and, as is the case with the larger tuna, many broke off. Still, it was a successful trip with just ten bluefin tuna landed. These are large fish and will pull hard for a long time, and thus, no experienced angler expects to land the two-fish limit. But they hope to. The fish that were landed were of a size that will draw anglers even when the odds of landing one are low. There is no need to make up a number when catching ‘cow’ bluefin tuna, especially when the largest fish caught weighed in at a whopping 344 pounds.

Fish Plants: None scheduled

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