BY BOB SEMERAU
WON Staff Writer
POINT LOMA — Just thinking about any 2.5-day trip offshore at the end of July is enough to get local anglers stirred up like a pack of squid in heat.
This open party trip had left the Point Loma Sportfishing docks just after 6:00 p.m. and arrived out a spot below the border known to be holding kelp paddies loaded with yellowtail and dorado. “We’ll head on over and see what we can find,” called Captain Rick Russell from the wheelhouse of the Pacific Islander.
Last year, after taking ownership of the storied 73-foot-sportfisher, Capt. Russell had installed an entirely new galley and updated the bunk room areas. Several new coats of paint, varnish, a complete new sub-deck and non-skid deck coating, had the vessel gleaming from stem to stern and ready for action. Investing time and a boat load of money — all new RSW refrigerated seawater fish hold, generator, bait tanks and bait slammer — also have helped to make Pacific Islander a first choice for multi-day runs offshore.
The 2.5-day trip was scheduled perfectly for this writer to bring along a couple of anglers with no Pacific offshore experience. Cousins Smokey Joe Bekeris, New Orleans Louisiana, and Billy Fontana, Aspen, Colorado could not have timed their first outing any better.
“We wanted to see what the noise coming from Southern California was all about,” explained Cousin Billy while crossing to the zone overnight.
As greylight broke across the stern, Pacific Islander arrived at the area of recent big numbers for the boat, and in short order lookout Cody Jones spotted a likely kelp a mile off the starboard bow. The first drift got underway as large sardines were sent off pinned to #2 hooks. Instantly, a bite broke out and the battle got underway.
Big Bear angler Dave Brown brought out his son, Joshua, 11, for his first multi-day offshore trip. Tom Kudla, from Salt Lake City, Utah, had his two adult sons, Matt and Tyler, with him for their first trip of the season. Joshua experienced the thrill of the screaming reel at this drift when, assisted by Dad, he became one of the first to get bit and land a nice yellowtail. The Kudla family was getting it done as the three men all landed yellowtail through the morning hours.
After only two drifts the bite slacked, and Capt. Rick moved on down the road in search of another paddy, but 31 yellowtail had already hit the deck before 7:00 a.m. Just past 8:00 a.m. another kelp came along, and baits were tossed out leading to Cousin Billy and Cousin Smokey both getting fish.
This reporter found his share of the action with fly-lined sardines getting the job done on yellowtail and yellowfin tuna. At one point, a sizeable mossback took the bait, running deep rather than out and away as yellowtail typically do. The continuing fight lasted a good while as both the fish and this angler began to tire out. Fortunately, the fish showed color and shortly Capt. Russell put in the gaff on the 30-pound bruiser.
The bite grew more intense as anglers along the windward rail hooked up one after another until nearly all were hanging fish. The chaos was controlled by quick action of the crew and fish began to fill the kill box.
Frequent angler Duc “Denny” Tran pegged a big flattie to go along with a large number of yellows. This guy, a last minute addition to the roster, was clearly the hot stick for the trip. Two drifts later three dozen yellowtail and a couple of dorado were chilling below deck.
Heading out on the hunt once again, Pacific Islander’s cook, Desi Zatarain, served up breakfast as you like it, with his mother’s recipe, with chorizo and egg burritos the favorite. Desi will be off for a bit marrying the love of his life, a beautiful lady named Shea, in the very near future. Congrats, Desi and Shea!
The day continued with several more kelps holding forkies and flatties until late in the afternoon a decision was made to head back to the bait receiver and reload. A quick survey found the group had machine-gunned out the bait at an alarming rate and the remaining stock would not carry a second day’s fishing.
The ride back to San Diego, the reload, and the return took most of the night but proved worth it when at daybreak of day-two, the whole fish storm started all over again.
By mid-morning, limits of yellowtail were in the new RSW and Captain rick took the PI up the line in search of schooling dorado and tuna.
A few more fish were found and at the end of day, the action slacked, allowing the Pacific Islander to return to the dock early from the trip. Final counts showed amazing numbers of yellowtail, a few dorado and some yellowfin in the mix. 12 anglers: 120 yellowtail, 10 dorado, 6 yellowfin tuna.