~~It had been 3 years since my last long range trip. Personal events have kept me away from going fishing. But finally everything worked out and I was able to make this trip on the Polaris Supreme. Having fished with Tommy Rothery and the crew of the Supreme I knew the only worries I would have would be the weather and if the fish were hungry.
The weeks prior I kept track of the fishing. Where each long range boat had fished and what they landed. With two weeks remaining until my trip departed things were looking good but there was still two weeks left. Knowing that it would only take one boat to fish the “Rocks” and my chances for catching wahoo could disappear, I could use a little luck. Then the weather worked in my favor. A hurricane came up from the tropics and kept any boat from fishing the “Rocks”.
Thursday morning I arrived in San Diego and was ready to start my long range trip. It was three years since my last long trip. That was also on the Polaris Supreme and with this same charter. That year I was the new guy”. By the end of that trip I was invited back for the next year’s trip. I told the charter master that this might be my last trip ever. Who knows if I would have caught a few wahoo on that it might have been my last.
I invited Terry Kitahara and his two sons, Byran and Eddie. We were Team ONO. Terry and I really just wanted to catch Wahoo or Ono. Byran had been on several of my trips before and this was Eddie’s first long trip. Terry’s sons are great young men. The four of us fitted in great with the rest of the charter.
By mid-day we were underway to the bait barge. As we left the bait barge we hadn’t been told where were we would fish first, offshore in US waters or head south. When we cleared Pt. Loma and didn’t turn right I knew the game plan. Skipper Drew had mentioned one of our options was to take our time to get to the Rocks while the winds died down. Well the Rocks are south of the point and we were heading to the south and not west. The rest of the day was spent rigging up tackle, eating the fine cuisine prepare by Chef Mike and catching up on the sleep that I had missed the two previous nights. I did more eating and sleeping than rigging of tackle. The crew and rest of the anglers gave me grief for it. But that’s part of fishing with people you know.
Friday we continued down the coast. Drew gave us an update on the weather at the Rocks, the winds were dying down and his plan was to get there Sunday morning. So its yellowtail fishing today and tomorrow we fished all around Benitos Island on Friday. Most fish were in the 10 to 15 pound size, nice eating size but not much on fight. Toss in a bonito or barracuda here and there and that was our first day. As the sun set we were traveling down the coast.
Saturday we fished the high spots as we continued south more yellowtails and the stray yellowfin tuna. I was at the right place at the right time and hooked one of the yellowfin tuna or YFT for short. Most of fishing is being at the right place at the right time. By the afternoon the winds at the Rocks had dropped down to fishable speeds and Drew pointed the Polaris Supreme to the Rocks. We would be there around 7 or 8 in the morning. Just about the time wahoo are looking for their first meal of the day. As long as no one had fished the Rocks on Saturday the Rocks would be ready for us to enjoy their bounty.
Sunday was here and what I had been waiting for the Rocks and wahoo fishing. I had been there three years earlier but the timing was off. Another vessel had been fishing the Rocks before we arrive. And they hooked just about all the fish that were in the area at that time. But today would be different. The Rocks had not been fished for weeks due to Hurricanes and great tuna fishing in off of San Diego. Drew’s game plan was put into play this morning. We had taken our time to get there, the weather was great, now let’s find out if anyone is home. It didn’t take long to find out. Maybe 10 minutes had passed when one of our four trollers got hooked. I tossed out a chrome candy bar jig and got a slight tap on my first cast. Second cast got a solid hit and just kept grinding on the reel trying to set the hook. The wahoo finally made a short run up the port side of the Supreme and showed itself. It was a small wahoo or skin as some call them. I followed the fish up the portside and then the skin did a head shake and released itself. All I could think was three years and I blew it. Most fall trips you may get one shot at landing a wahoo. Now I just missed mine.
Trollers went back out again. As the crew cleared the deck and put the wahoo in the Raw Sea fish hold, I noticed that all the skins on the first stop were small. They were 20-25 pounds just like the one that I lost. But that is a good sign. Small fish are more aggressive and maybe the larger ones would show up soon. The crew didn’t have much time as a trolling rod was hit again. Again more of the same, a troll fish landed and a couple of fish on casting jigs. No action for me on that stop. I was up on the next troll rotation so I quickly got my trolling outfit and found a corner to fish. I like to troll in close and with a very tight drag. Maybe 5 minutes had passed and my troll rod jumped to attention and the reel was slowing giving line out. I un-hooked the rod from the trolling straps in the stern port corner, followed the fish across the stern and up the starboard side of the boat. Grinding as I walked, the boat slowed and the skin came in with a little muscle on my part. The fish was gaffed and I had ended my drought. It wasn’t a big skin maybe 25 pounds but it was a skin!
Out again went the trollers and again the same thing, one maybe two fish on the troll and a couple of jig fish. I wasn’t getting any more bites on my chrome candy bar jig so I switched to a chrome and red sinker bomb. It’s a little smaller and easier for the small wahoo to hang on to. The change of lures worked to perfection on the next stop not only did I hook another wahoo, but this one had some size to it.
When it was weighed at the landing it went 40 pounds. Nice size for the Rocks. The stops continued until late afternoon. Most stops had 3 to 6 wahoo each and there were a couple of stops where more than 10 fish were landed. As the day progressed I had 3 wahoo in the fish hold, missed two strikes and had three taken by sharks, aka the taxman. This was the first time I experienced sharks eating wahoo at the Rocks. I’ve seen them eat tuna but not wahoo. I was not happy paying the taxman but I did have two fish on the sinker bomb and one on the troll an excellent day by most fall trips. There were a couple of anglers who were “hot”. They fished their butts off but it paid off very well. I wish I could still cast and crank all day long like those guys but I was totally out of wahoo fishing shape.
As the day was ending I was trolling on the starboard stern corner. The angler on the port stern corner had a trolling plug that just would not run straight and second skipper Jed asked me if I would trade places with him. So I reached down to grab the rod and crank in my plug. I had just gotten the safety straps off when a wahoo decided it wanted my plug. All I could do was yell “FRESH ONE”. Jed looked over and said “really”. This wahoo was ripped off line so I knew it was a good one. A few minutes passed and the fish neared the boat. Jed was ready with the gaff and was raking me over the coals for not getting the fish in quickly. I told him this one got some size to it. Jed said “you’re just getting too old”. When we saw the fish at deep color the joking stopped. After a couple of quick dives to try to free itself, the wahoo was gaffed and introduced to the deck of the Polaris Supreme. Finally got a decent wahoo from the Rocks today, it just missed the 50 lb. mark by a few ounces great way to end an amazing day of wahoo fishing.
This was the best day of wahoo fishing I have seen on a fall trip. Everyone on board had many chances of landing wahoo. If you were not good at casting lures you still had plenty of chances getting them trolling or live bait fishing. Everyone was talking about how they missed a few but no one was upset about it. We all had more than enough chances to get some wahoo today. We would stay the night at the Rocks and give it a try in the morning to see if we had missed any wahoo. Second day at the Rocks could be tough. We had hooked most of the “stupid” ones today.
Monday morning at the Rocks was flat calm just a little ripple on the water. You wouldn’t know that you were 160 miles offshore. I knew today was not going to be an amazing as yesterday. You do not get two days back to back of even good wahoo fishing at one spot. This morning the troll stops were farther apart. Yesterday maybe 20 minutes was the longest time between stops. Today 20 minutes was the shortest time. Most anglers were still fishing the trolling plugs they used the day before. By the time my trolling team was up I had switched lures to a chrome jethead with black, clear and purple skirts. I dropped the lure in one of the center positions and placed it far enough back that it was smoking (trailing bubbles) pretty well. I was out numbered 3 to 1 but I knew this lure had proven itself many times when fishing for wahoo was tough. After 20 minutes no strikes but I had to take a “break”. I called over Byran to watch my rod while I disappeared to the head. Well you know what happened. The rod goes off while I’m in the head. When I finally return to the deck there’s my jethead and a 45 lb. wahoo coming over the rail. I joked with Byran that he did a great job landing my wahoo. I took the trolling rod from him and gave him one of my tags for the fish. Byran had a look on his face that was priceless. Eventually we placed his tag on the fish.
Fishing continued to be slow compared by the previous day. I was able to hook one 40 lb. wahoo on a sinker bomb. I think we landed 25 fish by noon. It was time to pull the plug, the Rocks had been good to us and it was time to north.
As we left the Rocks and headed back up the line towards San Diego I knew that I was just part of an amazing wahoo bite. Usually if you get 2 wahoo on a fall trip you’ve have a great catch. Well the last day and a half at the Rocks I landed 5 wahoo and I was near the bottom of wahoo landed on the boat. In years past I’ve caught more than my fair share of the wahoo catch. This year I wanted to enjoy the fishing more and not worry about being the hot stik on the boat.
A couple of other factors have to be mentioned here. First of I don’t like to see fish go to waste. So I only kept what I needed for my personal use and my friends. I gave 2 fish to Terry and the final one was for Tommy and Susan Rothery. I told them if fishing was good I would get them one. I know that those fish were going to “good homes”. Secondly I would have to pay for the fish to be cleaned, filleted and then air shipped to my home. So I really didn’t want to catch a lot of wahoo. When I landed the two 40 lb. plus fish that was all I needed for my needs.
The rest of Monday was a travel day. That gave us plenty of time to re-load our reels with fresh line and repair any reels. I re-loaded by 50 lb. jig reel and then went below for a nap. I woke up our afternoon snack and then took another nap, woke up for dinner, played some cards and then went to sleep for the night a nice and relaxing day.
Tuesday and Wednesday, we were fishing for yellowtails as we traveled up the line. Drew hit various spots and we had some success, but I don’t think many of us had your hearts into it. After catching wahoo, catching yellows was “boring”. LOL… I spent the days trying to hook yellows on lures that I hadn’t used in years. Old school lures that many had heard of but never used. The one that worked the best was a 4 oz. green mackerel painted Crocodile. The best thing about fishing a Crocodile you don’t have to crank it fast. I’d catch one take a break, when we got to the next spot I’d try the Croc again. If it didn’t work there I’d wait for the next spot and try again. By late afternoon I called it a day. Really didn’t need any more yellows and was completely stuffed from the breakfast, lunch and afternoon snacks. By 5 PM I didn't have any room for dinner so off to my bunk I went.
Wednesday we were further up the line and yellowtail fishing again. Most of today for me was a rest day. Eat a little, nap a little, eat a little, play some cards, nap a little. Didn’t fish much as we still had two more days left to hit the US tuna grounds and I wanted to be ready for that. I did mention that I wasn’t in fishing shape. Getting old and not fishing regularly, I was dragging on Wednesday. The crew did give me grief again but that’s to be expected.
For the past week now I had been eating like a king on the Polaris Supreme. Breakfast to order, wonderful hearty lunches, afternoon snacks to die for and dinners that any restaurant would be proud to serve. The Supreme only carries 24 passengers. Yet there food bill is equal to boats that carry 30 passengers, so you get the best on the Supreme. It not often that you have baby lamb chops for afternoon snacks. All I can say is the food was 5 stars.
Thursday, we are now at Cortez Bank making bait at sunrise. First time all trip were are making bait. The small mackerel were biting full speed as the sun came up. Four hook rig four mackerel, eight hook rig eight mackerel every hook had a mackerel in less than an hour we filled the tanks. Now off to the tuna grounds nearby. The hunt for tuna begins but not much action this morning. A jig strike here and there, then were finally hit a school of YFT’s. These are decent size 18 lbs. and up. Better than what they were catching last week. We continue to fish this area and are rewarded with more stops on YFT. Most of the fish are biting the live mackerel but I am using my old standby jig. Salas 6X Jr. in blue and white. For me it’s more fun to catch them on iron. When the bite slows you can always toss live bait and still get bit. I get a couple of fish on the jig, take a break and then get a couple of bait. Then its first call for lunch. Chef Mike is serving monster burgers for lunch. They look more like steaks than burgers. I know once I sit down I’ll be there for a while, but I got YFTs already and I want that “burger”.
Thursday was great for those who wanted to catch tuna. Even a few Bluefin tuna were landed and we still had another day to go.
Our final day on the tuna grounds was similar to the day before. Very good Yellowfin tuna strikes on meter marks. At times there were even biting on 50 lb. mono. I landed a couple very quickly on 50 lb.; Sashimi grade yellowfin tuna in the RSW.
As Friday ended, I was feeling blessed to have taken this trip. Anyone who wanted to caught, tuna (Yellowfin or Bluefin), Yellowtail and Wahoo had more than ample chances to catch their fill of these fish. The only fish that did not want to find the Polaris Supreme this trip was Dorado or Mahi Mahi. But the amazing wahoo fishing more than made up for the absence of Dorado
Now all the hard work would begin: Tearing down of fishing outfits, stowing fishing tackle, packing up clothes and planning what to do with all those fish when we arrive back in San Diego on Saturday.
My main concern was making it to the airport in time for my Saturday flight. I really didn’t want to fly out the same day we returned but I knew if I stay around in San Diego too long I wouldn’t want to go home.
Saturday morning the unloading of tackle, gear and fish when smoothly. I dropped of 2 wahoo and 2 Yellowfin tuna to 5 Star Fish Processing. On my last trip they handled all of my fish and air shipped them to me without any problems. I highly recommend their services when you return from your long range trip.
I would like to say it was a joy to fish with my fellow anglers on this trip. We had various skill levels on this trip. From hot stiks to novices, we all fished together without any problems or drama. That is something that is rare on these trips.
Final words are for the great folks of the Polaris Supreme. Susan and Tommy always treat me like family. Drew, Jed and the crew were always ready to lend a hand, a gaff or a verbal jab when needed. I know I said it before but the food was amazing. Thanks Chef Mike and Gringo.
If I could find the time every year this would be the trip I would take every year. And if you are thinking about going on a long range trip give the Polaris Supreme a try.
aka Mr. Ono