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Bring kneepads for the Pacific bluefin

Yellowfin can't take to cooler water – capillary walls in gills too thin

From the Polaris Supreme last report of the year on 12-31: “We finished off the year with a bang. Ended up with 21 Bluefin. 2 over 200lbs, 18 from 100-200lbs and one at 90lbs.”
From the Polaris Supreme last report of the year on 12-31: “We finished off the year with a bang. Ended up with 21 Bluefin. 2 over 200lbs, 18 from 100-200lbs and one at 90lbs.”

Dock Totals 12/26 – 1/1: 295 anglers aboard 19 half-day to three-day trips out of San Diego landings this past week caught 2 bonito, 43 calico bass, 2 halibut, 2 lingcod, 37 perch, 1,080 rockfish, 51 sand bass, 34 sculpin, 46 sheephead, and 223 whitefish.

Saltwater: The year ended with a flourish for the fleet fishing midway down the coast of Baja in an area outside and a little north of Cedros Island. As it was a bluefin tuna bite, itseems a fitting end to the year. Weather conditions offshore has kept us kind of in the dark about the bluefin out around the Tanner and Cortez banks in US water about 110 miles west of Point Loma, with few boats making the run and finding mostly small fish in the 15-to-25-pound range. Where did those big tuna to 300 pounds go? Those boats running south found them. 5-to-10-day boats running south for yellowfin and wahoo off Bahia Magdalena out to Alijos Rocks saw some breezing schools of bluefin while running back up the coast for yellowtail, and soon reports of fish up to and over 200 pounds were coming in.

Though the big fish were found, the question is still valid. Bluefin never go away from our part of the ocean, in a sense anyhow. I’m sure, weather allowing, someone will get them biting again at Tanner. There are always some out there within reach, and unlike other tuna species more subject to favorable water temperatures, bluefin don’t have to leave to survive. When we see them in the counts, it means they are close enough given weather and fuel, and the operator is sure enough they have a good chance of putting anglers on them. In many cases, it is not worth the trek offshore to search them out if, for instance, they are aware of an area of fish but options for targeting other species are slim to none if bluefin don’t bite.

This past week, the Polaris Supreme and the Intrepid ran across bluefin and got the larger fish to 200 pounds off the mid-Baja peninsula, while the Royal Star went out to Tanner and caught smaller bluefin to 30 pounds or so. For months, the big bluefin were being caught at Tanner, and south meant yellowfin and dorado. That they are always around doesn’t come with any guarantees. Typically, they will be where their food is. With fish that concentrate on sardine as the top of their dietary intake and feed in the top portion of the water column, it is a little easier to judge about where they will be given surface temperatures.

Most species make their migrations into our waters annually while following warmer water and bait. Pacific bluefin are not held to restrictions that their cold-blooded cousins are because bluefin tuna can create their own heat. Pacific bluefin tuna spawn from mid-April to June, in the Sea of Japan and the southwestern North Pacific Ocean. Young bluefin at about one year of age and barely larger than a football migrate 5,000 miles to the Eastern Pacific, primarily to the waters off California and Baja, and will remain in the area until sexually mature at between 5 and 7 years and between 140 to 300 pounds, when they then return across the Pacific to spawn. They are able to do this because they can dive deep to feed on pelagic crab, squid and other creatures still abundant in cooler water and deeper climes.

Yellowfin tuna, for example, cannot dive 3,000 feet in a burst without having a heart attack due to the extreme drop in temperatures that doesn’t affect the endothermic bluefin. Yellowfin, like most fish, cannot retain the heat they produce as they swim. They lose their body heat as the warm blood courses through the muscles then circulates through the gills. The thin capillary walls in the gills are perfect for the blood to pick up oxygen, but they also leave the blood exposed to the icy temperatures of the water.

To get to our area, Pacific bluefin travel through Arctic waters that sometimes reach temperatures close to 16 degrees Fahrenheit. When water temps drop below 64 degrees, most pelagic species we see during the summer/fall months have returned south to warmer climes. Yellowfin tuna are now being targeted off the southern half of the Baja peninsula. But like their relatives, the Atlantic and southern bluefin, Pacific bluefin tuna have a circulatory system known as a counter-current heat exchange system that enables them to navigate through cold water. Their warm veins leaving the muscles are situated right next to the cooler, incoming arteries so that the heat is passed from the veins to the arteries in an efficient loop. Thus, heat remains in the muscle and never dissipates through the gills. And this is why bluefin can fight a longer, harder battle when hooked, often wearing out anglers and gear.

Typically, anglers targeting larger bluefin are advised to bring setups that can handle 100-pound test and above. Rods that allow the angler to use the leverage of the rail, or ‘rail rods’, are coupled with two-speed high-capacity reels. Often, during what are usually hours-long battles, the angler will kneel with the rod butt under their armpit with the rod on the rail and hold on with all their might while the behemoth tuna dives and runs seemingly untiringly until either the angler wins out or the tuna wears or chews through the line and escapes. Some trips, the big fish will bite, several will be hooked, and none or only a small percentage are landed. Captains advise bringing the big gear or using their rental setups, and bringing kneepads may be desirable as roughened non-slip deck surfaces can be tough for the angler on the other end of the line from such an impressively strong fish.

Still, 2021 was a very good year for bluefin tuna for the fleet, with the long-range Polaris Supreme out of Seaforth Landing topping all boats with 3,002 bluefin landed. Seaforth Landing boats on mostly 1.5 to 3-day runs to Tanner and Cortez banks recorded the most bluefin caught for the year by landing with 18,572 fish by year’s end. This great bluefin fishing over the past few years may not last forever as rising annual average water temps influence migratory patterns, but the odds are in favor of them not changing their pattern.

Albacore tuna, a white-meat species of tuna that used to be caught in the tens of thousands close to San Diego and was a mainstay of the commercial tuna industry in Southern California, was only represented in the sport-fishing counts once in 2021, with only one caught by an angler aboard the New Lo-An out of Point Loma Sportfishing. Due to a temperature-driven migratory shift, albacore have been mostly caught in recent years offshore near the Washington-Oregon border. But bluefin have the adaptability to withstand the change and maintain their cross-Pacific migrations to remain in our neck of the woods for years at a time into the foreseeable future. That they spawn in the Sea of Japan and return to the western Pacific to finish their growth cycle might be a good thing. With 300-400-pound fish causing so much pain, I can’t imagine hanging on to a 900 pounder! The California state record bluefin tuna is 395.4 pounds; the world record Pacific bluefin tuna is 907 pounds.

Fish Plants: January 9 – Lake Wohlford, trout (1,500), January 10 – Lake Jennings, trout (1,500)

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From the Polaris Supreme last report of the year on 12-31: “We finished off the year with a bang. Ended up with 21 Bluefin. 2 over 200lbs, 18 from 100-200lbs and one at 90lbs.”
From the Polaris Supreme last report of the year on 12-31: “We finished off the year with a bang. Ended up with 21 Bluefin. 2 over 200lbs, 18 from 100-200lbs and one at 90lbs.”

Dock Totals 12/26 – 1/1: 295 anglers aboard 19 half-day to three-day trips out of San Diego landings this past week caught 2 bonito, 43 calico bass, 2 halibut, 2 lingcod, 37 perch, 1,080 rockfish, 51 sand bass, 34 sculpin, 46 sheephead, and 223 whitefish.

Saltwater: The year ended with a flourish for the fleet fishing midway down the coast of Baja in an area outside and a little north of Cedros Island. As it was a bluefin tuna bite, itseems a fitting end to the year. Weather conditions offshore has kept us kind of in the dark about the bluefin out around the Tanner and Cortez banks in US water about 110 miles west of Point Loma, with few boats making the run and finding mostly small fish in the 15-to-25-pound range. Where did those big tuna to 300 pounds go? Those boats running south found them. 5-to-10-day boats running south for yellowfin and wahoo off Bahia Magdalena out to Alijos Rocks saw some breezing schools of bluefin while running back up the coast for yellowtail, and soon reports of fish up to and over 200 pounds were coming in.

Though the big fish were found, the question is still valid. Bluefin never go away from our part of the ocean, in a sense anyhow. I’m sure, weather allowing, someone will get them biting again at Tanner. There are always some out there within reach, and unlike other tuna species more subject to favorable water temperatures, bluefin don’t have to leave to survive. When we see them in the counts, it means they are close enough given weather and fuel, and the operator is sure enough they have a good chance of putting anglers on them. In many cases, it is not worth the trek offshore to search them out if, for instance, they are aware of an area of fish but options for targeting other species are slim to none if bluefin don’t bite.

This past week, the Polaris Supreme and the Intrepid ran across bluefin and got the larger fish to 200 pounds off the mid-Baja peninsula, while the Royal Star went out to Tanner and caught smaller bluefin to 30 pounds or so. For months, the big bluefin were being caught at Tanner, and south meant yellowfin and dorado. That they are always around doesn’t come with any guarantees. Typically, they will be where their food is. With fish that concentrate on sardine as the top of their dietary intake and feed in the top portion of the water column, it is a little easier to judge about where they will be given surface temperatures.

Most species make their migrations into our waters annually while following warmer water and bait. Pacific bluefin are not held to restrictions that their cold-blooded cousins are because bluefin tuna can create their own heat. Pacific bluefin tuna spawn from mid-April to June, in the Sea of Japan and the southwestern North Pacific Ocean. Young bluefin at about one year of age and barely larger than a football migrate 5,000 miles to the Eastern Pacific, primarily to the waters off California and Baja, and will remain in the area until sexually mature at between 5 and 7 years and between 140 to 300 pounds, when they then return across the Pacific to spawn. They are able to do this because they can dive deep to feed on pelagic crab, squid and other creatures still abundant in cooler water and deeper climes.

Yellowfin tuna, for example, cannot dive 3,000 feet in a burst without having a heart attack due to the extreme drop in temperatures that doesn’t affect the endothermic bluefin. Yellowfin, like most fish, cannot retain the heat they produce as they swim. They lose their body heat as the warm blood courses through the muscles then circulates through the gills. The thin capillary walls in the gills are perfect for the blood to pick up oxygen, but they also leave the blood exposed to the icy temperatures of the water.

To get to our area, Pacific bluefin travel through Arctic waters that sometimes reach temperatures close to 16 degrees Fahrenheit. When water temps drop below 64 degrees, most pelagic species we see during the summer/fall months have returned south to warmer climes. Yellowfin tuna are now being targeted off the southern half of the Baja peninsula. But like their relatives, the Atlantic and southern bluefin, Pacific bluefin tuna have a circulatory system known as a counter-current heat exchange system that enables them to navigate through cold water. Their warm veins leaving the muscles are situated right next to the cooler, incoming arteries so that the heat is passed from the veins to the arteries in an efficient loop. Thus, heat remains in the muscle and never dissipates through the gills. And this is why bluefin can fight a longer, harder battle when hooked, often wearing out anglers and gear.

Typically, anglers targeting larger bluefin are advised to bring setups that can handle 100-pound test and above. Rods that allow the angler to use the leverage of the rail, or ‘rail rods’, are coupled with two-speed high-capacity reels. Often, during what are usually hours-long battles, the angler will kneel with the rod butt under their armpit with the rod on the rail and hold on with all their might while the behemoth tuna dives and runs seemingly untiringly until either the angler wins out or the tuna wears or chews through the line and escapes. Some trips, the big fish will bite, several will be hooked, and none or only a small percentage are landed. Captains advise bringing the big gear or using their rental setups, and bringing kneepads may be desirable as roughened non-slip deck surfaces can be tough for the angler on the other end of the line from such an impressively strong fish.

Still, 2021 was a very good year for bluefin tuna for the fleet, with the long-range Polaris Supreme out of Seaforth Landing topping all boats with 3,002 bluefin landed. Seaforth Landing boats on mostly 1.5 to 3-day runs to Tanner and Cortez banks recorded the most bluefin caught for the year by landing with 18,572 fish by year’s end. This great bluefin fishing over the past few years may not last forever as rising annual average water temps influence migratory patterns, but the odds are in favor of them not changing their pattern.

Albacore tuna, a white-meat species of tuna that used to be caught in the tens of thousands close to San Diego and was a mainstay of the commercial tuna industry in Southern California, was only represented in the sport-fishing counts once in 2021, with only one caught by an angler aboard the New Lo-An out of Point Loma Sportfishing. Due to a temperature-driven migratory shift, albacore have been mostly caught in recent years offshore near the Washington-Oregon border. But bluefin have the adaptability to withstand the change and maintain their cross-Pacific migrations to remain in our neck of the woods for years at a time into the foreseeable future. That they spawn in the Sea of Japan and return to the western Pacific to finish their growth cycle might be a good thing. With 300-400-pound fish causing so much pain, I can’t imagine hanging on to a 900 pounder! The California state record bluefin tuna is 395.4 pounds; the world record Pacific bluefin tuna is 907 pounds.

Fish Plants: January 9 – Lake Wohlford, trout (1,500), January 10 – Lake Jennings, trout (1,500)

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