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The Independence finds big yellowtail down south

Tip your servers, they work hard for their money

(left): A satisfied angler with this 45 plus pound yellowtail caught on the first fishing day during the Independence 8-day run.
(right): Big bluefin tuna caught during the dark hours while fishing aboard the Intrepid 3-day trip.
(left): A satisfied angler with this 45 plus pound yellowtail caught on the first fishing day during the Independence 8-day run.
(right): Big bluefin tuna caught during the dark hours while fishing aboard the Intrepid 3-day trip.

Dock Totals 5/19– 5/25: 2012 anglers aboard 85 half-day to 3-day trips out of San Diego landings over the past week caught 1 black seabass (released), 597 bluefin tuna (up to 240 pounds), 8 bocaccio, 439 bonito, 841 calico bass, 1 lingcod, 1 mako shark, 2896 rockfish, 57 sand bass, 126 sculpin, 73 sheephead, 179 whitefish, and 90 yellowtail.

Saltwater: While the 1.5- to 3-day trips have been concentrating on the area of bluefin tuna from the Corner down to off Ensenada with mixed results, the Independence ran south on their 8-day Graftech/Roger Eckhardt Limited Load trip and began fishing off the lower half of the Baja peninsula with a bang, boating a smattering of mid-grade yellowfin tuna and some whopper yellowtail to near-50 pounds. Upon arriving at their initial spot, fish were boiling around the boat as they set the anchor, and the fish were biting right away.

Back north, the Intrepid and others were still getting the majority of the big bruiser bluefin during dark hours between sunset and 4 am, though they did score a few on the kite during the day, along with smaller school-sized bluefin on light line and fly-lined baits. As has been the case lately, bringing a range of setups from 20-pound test to 100-pound test is recommended to fully take advantage of and enjoy the range of action. Much of the daytime light-line action was while on the anchor.

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As the boats generally do not give out info on where they are fishing unless it is a "parking lot" on a spot and no secret, one has to wonder where they are fishing, especially, as with the Intrepid, they are anchoring the boat. In recent years, much of the action has been in water too deep to pin a boat, and drifting is the normal MO, though long ago in the late 1970s when I worked the deck, we did indeed anchor up to catch the smaller bluefin just off the southeast end of San Clemente Island. We would drop anchor in about 9 fathoms, or around 60 feet of water, where we could lay the boat out with the stern facing away from the island in the normal breeze out of the west/northwest, and then soak small "pinhead" anchovies on the fly-line (no weight, just a live bait hook) in hopes that a passing fish would bite. "Soaking a bait" meant letting it go far away from the boat, and sometimes the wait was tedious — so much so that about half of the passengers would just give up, rig up a dropper loop, and drop to the bottom for sculpin, sheephead, and other fish in the lower water column.

Back then, the reels used were usually Penn 500 Jigmasters spooled with line as light as 10 or 15 pounds, of which the reel could hold about 400 yards, which was plenty given the long hard runs. Even so, and though the fish were small at about a 20-pound average, being bit and hooked up would usually result in a prolonged battle, with maybe 50-50 odds of bringing the fish to gaff. Any heavier line would drag the small bait down, if fish were not swimming well or far from the boat, the odds of hooking up were greatly reduced. Today’s much improved tackle gives anglers a better chance of landing the strong-pulling fish on light line, but either breaking off or pulling a smallish hook is still a thing. Setting the drags correctly and staying with the fish so it is straight out to avoid tangles are important, along with keeping tension on the fish and being patient.

We did not have brine holds in which to stow the fish below deck then, but rather, gunnysacks hanging along the house on hooks with numbers on the bags for each angler. Larger fish like tuna, white seabass, and yellowtail would go into a fish box on the deck. Given that deckhand work involved being poked, hooked, and an occasional slice of a filet knife, it could be a painful job. I can remember chumming with a painfully swollen right hand, or the time when I was hooked a couple times by folks casting without looking behind them, or when I was jabbed while handling tangled ganoin rigs when on rockfish. Once, a slip with a knife while fileting in rough seas opened up a slice on my index finger that required an on-the-spot tape job so I could finish my work. But the most painful thing came when I was rushing to the bow to gaff a fish at color and I kicked a bag full of sculpin. Several spines punctured my thin cheap deck boots, and I got "spine poisoning." Thankfully, that was a one-off for me. It’s not often that you catch bluefin tuna and sculpin at the same spot. And even though it was very painful, the memory is still bittersweet, as I was allowed to sit for an hour or so in the wheelhouse until the pain subsided.

My point here is that being a deckhand is not all fun and games. It is a service industry job and often hectic. Decking a sportboat can be hard, painful work with long hours and little rest. The struggle of keeping an eye on the bait while up all night on deck watch while underway, the havoc of a wide-open bite, the pain of minor injuries, the hassle of untangling wrapped lines, the work of hefting fish over the rail, and the confrontation with the occasional unruly passenger are normal for the hard-working crews, and they earn their pay, often working 18 or more hours in a 24-hour day. Pay is generally low compared to other physically strenuous jobs such as construction, and they do rely on tips to get by. So, even on those slow trips, make sure and tip your "servers." They’re out there, so go get ‘em!

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(left): A satisfied angler with this 45 plus pound yellowtail caught on the first fishing day during the Independence 8-day run.
(right): Big bluefin tuna caught during the dark hours while fishing aboard the Intrepid 3-day trip.
(left): A satisfied angler with this 45 plus pound yellowtail caught on the first fishing day during the Independence 8-day run.
(right): Big bluefin tuna caught during the dark hours while fishing aboard the Intrepid 3-day trip.

Dock Totals 5/19– 5/25: 2012 anglers aboard 85 half-day to 3-day trips out of San Diego landings over the past week caught 1 black seabass (released), 597 bluefin tuna (up to 240 pounds), 8 bocaccio, 439 bonito, 841 calico bass, 1 lingcod, 1 mako shark, 2896 rockfish, 57 sand bass, 126 sculpin, 73 sheephead, 179 whitefish, and 90 yellowtail.

Saltwater: While the 1.5- to 3-day trips have been concentrating on the area of bluefin tuna from the Corner down to off Ensenada with mixed results, the Independence ran south on their 8-day Graftech/Roger Eckhardt Limited Load trip and began fishing off the lower half of the Baja peninsula with a bang, boating a smattering of mid-grade yellowfin tuna and some whopper yellowtail to near-50 pounds. Upon arriving at their initial spot, fish were boiling around the boat as they set the anchor, and the fish were biting right away.

Back north, the Intrepid and others were still getting the majority of the big bruiser bluefin during dark hours between sunset and 4 am, though they did score a few on the kite during the day, along with smaller school-sized bluefin on light line and fly-lined baits. As has been the case lately, bringing a range of setups from 20-pound test to 100-pound test is recommended to fully take advantage of and enjoy the range of action. Much of the daytime light-line action was while on the anchor.

Sponsored
Sponsored

As the boats generally do not give out info on where they are fishing unless it is a "parking lot" on a spot and no secret, one has to wonder where they are fishing, especially, as with the Intrepid, they are anchoring the boat. In recent years, much of the action has been in water too deep to pin a boat, and drifting is the normal MO, though long ago in the late 1970s when I worked the deck, we did indeed anchor up to catch the smaller bluefin just off the southeast end of San Clemente Island. We would drop anchor in about 9 fathoms, or around 60 feet of water, where we could lay the boat out with the stern facing away from the island in the normal breeze out of the west/northwest, and then soak small "pinhead" anchovies on the fly-line (no weight, just a live bait hook) in hopes that a passing fish would bite. "Soaking a bait" meant letting it go far away from the boat, and sometimes the wait was tedious — so much so that about half of the passengers would just give up, rig up a dropper loop, and drop to the bottom for sculpin, sheephead, and other fish in the lower water column.

Back then, the reels used were usually Penn 500 Jigmasters spooled with line as light as 10 or 15 pounds, of which the reel could hold about 400 yards, which was plenty given the long hard runs. Even so, and though the fish were small at about a 20-pound average, being bit and hooked up would usually result in a prolonged battle, with maybe 50-50 odds of bringing the fish to gaff. Any heavier line would drag the small bait down, if fish were not swimming well or far from the boat, the odds of hooking up were greatly reduced. Today’s much improved tackle gives anglers a better chance of landing the strong-pulling fish on light line, but either breaking off or pulling a smallish hook is still a thing. Setting the drags correctly and staying with the fish so it is straight out to avoid tangles are important, along with keeping tension on the fish and being patient.

We did not have brine holds in which to stow the fish below deck then, but rather, gunnysacks hanging along the house on hooks with numbers on the bags for each angler. Larger fish like tuna, white seabass, and yellowtail would go into a fish box on the deck. Given that deckhand work involved being poked, hooked, and an occasional slice of a filet knife, it could be a painful job. I can remember chumming with a painfully swollen right hand, or the time when I was hooked a couple times by folks casting without looking behind them, or when I was jabbed while handling tangled ganoin rigs when on rockfish. Once, a slip with a knife while fileting in rough seas opened up a slice on my index finger that required an on-the-spot tape job so I could finish my work. But the most painful thing came when I was rushing to the bow to gaff a fish at color and I kicked a bag full of sculpin. Several spines punctured my thin cheap deck boots, and I got "spine poisoning." Thankfully, that was a one-off for me. It’s not often that you catch bluefin tuna and sculpin at the same spot. And even though it was very painful, the memory is still bittersweet, as I was allowed to sit for an hour or so in the wheelhouse until the pain subsided.

My point here is that being a deckhand is not all fun and games. It is a service industry job and often hectic. Decking a sportboat can be hard, painful work with long hours and little rest. The struggle of keeping an eye on the bait while up all night on deck watch while underway, the havoc of a wide-open bite, the pain of minor injuries, the hassle of untangling wrapped lines, the work of hefting fish over the rail, and the confrontation with the occasional unruly passenger are normal for the hard-working crews, and they earn their pay, often working 18 or more hours in a 24-hour day. Pay is generally low compared to other physically strenuous jobs such as construction, and they do rely on tips to get by. So, even on those slow trips, make sure and tip your "servers." They’re out there, so go get ‘em!

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