BY BOB SEMERAU
SAN PEDRO — Weather can be one of the most unpredictable and possibly brutal challenges of offshore banks tuna fishing.
Where to go and what to do had been on everyone’s mind as anglers loaded up for the Western Outdoor News 1.5-day charter aboard Amigo.
“We can head out to the Tanner Bank and probably get limits on bluefin, but it’s blowing 20 knots now and the reports call for 25 in the morning,” explained Captain Jeff Jessop before departing 22nd Street Landing. “We will not do anything that we consider unsafe, but it will get rough.”
“Our other option is to go to San Clemente Island and fish calico bass while looking for yellowtail and white seabass,” continued the owner/operator of the fiberglass hulled 65-foot sportfisher.
A brief discussion ensued among anglers. The hive-mind determined that Amigo should beeline for the banks and get the blues.
Having made the decision to go for limits of larger model bluefin, Amigo headed out about 9:30 p.m. to load bait and face down winds and seas through the night.
Before leaving the harbor, charter anglers received waterproof goodie bags provided by Frogg Toggs holding a P-Line Lazer Minnow jig and spool of super premium 30-pound fluorocarbon from Hi-SEAS. Captain Jessop also received a certificate for a pair of Maui Jim Sunglasses.
Most aboard got their gear stowed and rods rigged before Amigo made the last turn out of L.A. Harbor when the erratic drumbeats of pounding waves began in earnest.
A long, rough ride out to Tanner Bank had some anglers trying to sleep in the galley booths, and others clinging to bunks during the 7- to 8-hour ride out.
Engines eased and Amigo swung around to set anchor in just over 100 feet of water above the seamount known as Tanner Bank. Here fish aggregate during seasonal migrations, finding the area rich in forage with clean, warm water.
First to put fish on the deck was WON Ad-Rep Dylan Depres, with a 30-pound-plus bluefin to break the ice.
“Fishing the fly-line sardines with small 1/0 circle hooks should get you bit pretty quickly, and change your baits,” called Capt. Jessop over the P.A. as he marked fish from the wheelhouse. Amigo deckhands Nick Hawkins and Mark Belmonte were kept busy gaffing fish and clearing tangles, as the bite came in flurries through the next few of hours.
Jacob Wolfe fished with his buddy, Blake Aguirre, both Orange County anglers. Jacob scored a beefy bluefin right off and Blake bagged a bigger model fork-tail in the rough seas.
The strong wind and large waves were rough, but not quite as bad as expected. Hanging a bluefin while Amigo was rocking and rolling made each fish a challenge beyond the norm and added a level of excitement to the whole experience.
George Tarrosa is cook aboard the boat and at times helped on deck, gaffing fish and handling lines. Tarrosa worked with angler Jeff Sharpshair with his first bluefin of the day by putting in the gaff and getting the 20 pounder on deck.
An old hand at WON charters, Chris Booker made his bluefin limit in a hurry and also nailed two nice forkies. Booker has been spending much of his time working the kayak in San Diego harbor waters.
KJ Johnson of Magnum Swimbaits worked the rolling deck like the pro he is, landing his own limit, then hooking and handing several more. In the end, KJ bagged the Maui Jim Prize package with the heaviest fish of the charter, a bluefin weighing-in at 35.38 pounds. The Maui Jim package included a certificate for a pair of Maui Jim Sunglasses and an assortment of accessories for the winning angler.
The conditions improved for a bit and lady angler Lynn Connell, Port Hueneme, who fished with husband James, came out on deck to score her two fish limit.
Shortly before noon Cpt. Jessop checked in to say the boat limit had been reached and to ask how to handle the rest of the charter.
“We can fish here, but that means toughing out these conditions for rockfish and maybe some yellowtail. Or we can go to San Clemente Island and score calico and yellowtail there. It’s about a four-hour run,” explained the able and affable skipper.
The anchor was pulled and the run to SCI begun within minutes, as anglers breathed a sigh of relief to be getting out of the weather.
During the trip across open water cook George Tarrosa served up lunch with some incredibly special hamburgers. Anglers hit their bunks for a rest after changing over gear to calico-light and setting up dropper loop rigs for mossbacks.
Troll lines were run back and after an hour or so heading to the island, a bigger model bluefin had the starboard reel screaming. Since most anglers were down below, deckhand Mark Belmonte boated the fish and no others bit the live baits and jigs tossed out. Amigo got back on the move.
When Amigo traveled out of the windy conditions and slipped into the cove at west end, a steady calico bite on fly-lined ‘dines kept anglers busy.
Anglers Chris Green and Wendell Freer loaded up on calico and released a good number of legal sized fish. Both live sardines and tube baits continued to load up the numbers of calico and gave one sheephead for lucky angler Jeff Sharpshair, of North Hills.
A quick move around to the north side of SCI made for even calmer conditions into a cove near kelp beds loaded with willing biters. The next two hours as the sun began to set in the windy west, anglers had their fill and decided to call it a day. A traditional Italian dinner of spaghetti Bolognese with sausage and garlic bread was served up before Amigo headed for the docks at 22nd Street Landing.
The rough water run home was held to a minimum as Amigo held to the lee of the island and then rounded Catalina a few hours later.
Arriving back at the docks at 3:00 a.m. is an unusual turn of events but anglers agreed it made for welcomed, smooth sailing on the road going home. With limits of bluefin for everyone, the trip was a rousing success with lots of stories to tell about heavy seas, high winds, and fighting fish.