BY RACHEL VON FLECK
With no wind or swells in sight, our outlook was a little uncertain as the Pacific Islander anchored up at Tanner Bank Wednesday morning. There was hardly any current, but as the sun came up, we luckily started to see fish activity around the boat. With deckhand Blayke Della Gala throwing steady ones and twos on the starboard corner, I threw out a sardine and hooked into the very first fish of the trip. Captain Rick Russell was standing nearby and as soon as my drag started racing, he shouted, “There’s the right kind!” Shortly after, he grabbed the gaff, and we had our first solid 20-pound yellowtail on board.
Quickly after, Mike Kerner of Newbury Park hooked into the first bluefin. The yellowtail swiftly moved out, and the passengers were bent left and right on 20- to 30-pound bluefin throughout the morning. Light line was the name of the game here, with many of us using 20-pound test and smaller hooks. We lost at least three times as many fish as were landed, but fun was had by all as we boated 48 bluefin and 9 yellowtail before leaving Tanner around 3:00 pm.
As we made our way to San Clemente Island to check out the yellowtail bite, we all relaxed and got to know each other a bit more. Nick Lander of Ventura definitely shared his skills and love of food with us on this trip; there wasn’t a boat burger in sight as we chowed down on gourmet taco plates, corned beef hash, Philly cheesesteaks, and apple stuffed pork loin. You know the food is phenomenal when conversation ceases as food is served with nothing but pleasant, satisfied sounds of enjoyment heard throughout the galley.
We hit the evening bite at Clemente and picked up a few more yellowtail, a bunch of quality-sized calicos, sheephead, and some various rockfish. As sunset came, Captain Rick made the decision to head back to Tanner to start day two there again and see if we could possibly hit our limits on bluefin. We planned to make some bait when we arrived and catch some mackerel, but the macks were huge. Instead, a group of about ten people fished through the night and into the morning, having a blast pulling up sculpin, whitefish, and other rockfish.
In the morning, Second Captain Sonny Heandiges ran through the bunk room at 5:00 am, letting those of us who were sleeping know we already had 12 bluefin on board, and they were biting the Flat-Falls if anyone wanted to join the action. I scurried up the steps to hear “Fresh one!” as another person hooked up, and saw multiple people bent on fish. KC Anglers’ Frank Hernandez of Fullerton had already caught three bluefin tuna before many of us were awake. Bill Zemba of Valencia brought a better grade bluefin over the rail, which we all agreed was definitely the largest fish of the trip so far. At sunrise, we flipped over to primarily live bait again and landed 25 bluefin and 18 quality yellowtail for the morning.
At this point, we had a lot of fish on board, with many more lost, and had used up a lot of our bait already. We decided to make a run to Clemente again for the afternoon to try to get on some of the larger yellows. As we got to Clemente, the Aztec was headed back in so they passed off the remainder of their bait to allow us to keep fishing as we had been. We loaded the bait tank, hit a kelp for one yellowtail, and missed quite a few opportunities. We made a move to another spot, and I got to sit down and chat with Captain Rick a bit more. The previous two years he was running the Chief, and he had a few things to say about his new boat: “I’m stoked be back in action this season. There are a lot of big things coming for the Pacific Islander for the 2021 season as far as upgrades go, and I can’t wait to share them with everyone.”
We soon rolled into the new spot and anchored up, as deckhand Garrett Lander started chumming. “Boil!” was echoed around the boat. The bite was on fire and the passengers worked together to remain calm and land these fish. These yellowtail were anywhere from 15 to 35 pounds and it was a thrill to hook up to one of these beasts. A couple were hooked on surface irons and yo-yos as well, but most were on live bait. We were able to bump up to heavier line for these fish and landed 28 of them by sunset. Terrell Wallace of Green Valley definitely had the standout fish of the afternoon with a huge yellow weighing somewhere around 35 pounds.
As the evening was winding down and the fish slowed, a few of us started pitching out surface irons. I ended up connecting with my first surface iron fish on the DW1 iron, landing a nice 25-pound yellow, and it was definitely one of the most fun fights I’ve had.
As we got ready to head home, many of the passengers gathered together for a celebratory drink. We enjoyed a delicious dinner and discussed our favorite parts of the trip. Captain Rick chimed in that “we had a super nice group of folks this trip, with a handful of returning customers from the old boat. Thank you everyone for lots of laughs and lots of good times.”
It came time to announce the jackpot winner, and I was excited to present the Maui Jim giveaway bag including a new pair of sunglasses to Bill Zemba of Valencia for his standout bluefin tuna. A lot of people also said thank you to the sponsors for the trip, as everyone appreciated the spools of HI-SEAS Blue Water fluorocarbon ranging from 20- to 40-pound (perfect for the fishing conditions we had this trip), the Frogg Toggs dry bags, and the P-Line Laser Minnow jig.
After dinner, as I was chatting with Fred “Bogie” Bogenshutz of Rancho Mirage, a Vietnam veteran, and he spoke a bit of his time in the service. He reminisced on the trip, and said it felt great to be part of a fantastic group of people, all working together to meet one common goal. He said he wanted to salute all the veterans, and fishing together with his friends brought back fond memories of his time in the service and the camaraderie he felt back then.
Spirits were high as we made our way back home, a satisfied feeling felt throughout the boat. We ended the trip with 75 bluefin and 74 yellowtail for two days. Many new friendships were made, a couple people caught their first bluefin, and everyone went home with fish and lots of wonderful photos and memories to look back on for years to come.