Saturday, June 29, 2013

minisails and tuna

We took it easy going out this morning, heading into a short chop left over from last night’s storm, but once we got where we were going and put the lines out it, things laid right out into the typical Pacific ground swell.   We found a current line and it wasn’t long before we saw a sail, then another that everyone on the boat took a turn trying to hook, I guess the boys were out of practice.    A few minutes later we ran across another pair, after missing mine the first time, then dropping back and another miss, I finally came tight and so did James from the bridge. 
Cool thing about this double header was the size of the fish, these were the smallest sails that I’ve seen caught on a hook and line in the Pacific.   No wonder the boys had such a hard time getting them to stick.   A couple of years ago in February, about 80 miles offshore of Los Suenos, we caught some that were a few inches long with a dip net under the lights.   No doubt in my mind that these were spawned at about the same time of year, now probably 5 or 6 months old.   Nonetheless, it was a double header sailfish.    A little while later, we caught a bon a fide Pacific sail in the 90-100 pound class, so they’re not all small this time of year.
A blip popped up on the radar about 8 miles away so we started trolling that direction to get a clearer image.  About halfway there, James was sure that it was a huge flock of birds, hopefully over dolphins and tuna.   He knows that one of my favorite things to do is stand on the bow of the Dragin Fly and cast poppers at busting tunas.   Hopes were high as we approached hundreds of boobey-birds, much like a gannet, and a handful of high circling frigits. 
All the ingredients were there, but there were no tunas mixed in with these spotted dolphins.   We made a couple of loops and everything scattered and so did our hopes.   James wasn’t fazed, he saw another blip on the radar about 4 miles out, but after 20 minutes of trolling their direction we just couldn’t keep up.   James suggested we pick up the spread and run.   On the way there, the guys converted over a couple of the rods to cedar plugs and got out the flying fish for the 50’s, a trick that Capt. Brian Harrington on the Run Off taught us.   Not much cooler than seeing a big tuna crash a fake flying fish dangling from the end of the outriggers.
I made my way to the bow with my favorite popper, actually a lure called a Ranger that skips across the surface when cranked REALLY fast.    Ask Capt. Greg Voliva what it will do to a school of old drum.  Pretty much the same reaction with tuna, except they often hit it in the air, which was the case with my first cast.  
There was a bit of breeze that had puffed up and we were trolling down sea with the dolphins, trying to catch up with the tunas.   With the Ranger and 65  pound braid, you can throw this plug a  LONG ways.  When it finally falls out of orbit and splashes down it bounces about 3 feet in the air.   I must have thrown it right on top of him.  After initial impact, the Ranger got a good bounce followed by a solid 100 pounder that gulped it down and fairly immediately showed me the bottom of that 12000 Shimano spinning reel.  I busted him off pretty quickly and was glad that I did.   
These were spinner dolphins and ahead of the pod of 100 plus black spinners were the tunas that were “airing out” and throwing a lot of whitewater.    It seems that if you were right on them, you got a bite or three, but they were moving really, really fast.   The would pop up here, then there,  kind of like playing Whack A Mole. 
Just as I was  regretting breaking off that big fish I was losing hope that we would get another bite.  I was almost at the end of my retrieve, my plug was racing back to the spread for maybe another cast.  I was getting tired.  The airborne 60 pounder chasing my lure woke everyone up.  At the same time that I came tight, both rods with the cedar plugs bowed right over…….we pulled off all 3 of them.
The next pass I finally got a little redemption.  I didn’t see the fish, but I saw a pretty good hole in the water where my plug used to be.   I didn’t think much of this one until we got up and down and it just would not give up.  He gave me ALL that I wanted.  I thought that it was maybe a 30 pounder, but it turned out to be in the 50 pound range.   With some meat in the box, we went back for more, hooking a total of 8 between 50 and over triple digits.  The second and last one we landed was about 60 pounds, just couldn’t keep those big ones on the line.