July 16, 2005 - WFO Albacore
This past Wed provided an opportunity to do a little Marlin "scouting" (as in paying one's dues). It's that time - even a little later than usual) of reports of sightings here and there (from the 267 to the Albacore fleet, middle grounds, Rock Pile, etc). And so Harry Okuda and I opted to at least take a look. (It should also be reported that the presence of quality Mackeral in the Shelter Island Marinas continues and it is time to load up for the coming season.) Starting at the bottom of the "9" (mile bank), past North Island, down the 100 fathom curve to the Rock Pile, out to the 101 and half way to the 425. The sky was solid socked in, the air cool, and the wind gradually picking up the further south one went. The water temp was dropping (68 north of North Island) and it simply was looking more and more miserable. Therefore, turned back worked up the "9" on the outer drop-off to the 178 and then home. No life. No bait seen. No marlin. Don't go. Stay home. If you need excitement watch fishing videos. Save fuel and then - go Albacore fishing!
The winds picked up? You bet. We heard that down at the 295 it was blowing close to 30 knots and "not quite" fishable. Survivability is more like it. But it was also reported that the 295 was "on fire" with lots of bait and lots of longfins. They were biting, but almost impossible to fish in those conditions. The only bright report was the later optimistic observation that "it was laying down."
What happened next would sound better if accompanied by (with due respect to Roosevelt's New Deal) back-ground music of "Happy Days are Here Again." Thursday saw the fish exploding in the area of the so-called "Hidden Reef," that imaginary high spot to the east of the 390 (about 40 miles down below). Breaking, biting and boiling fish. And all quality 20-25 pd fish and even larger if you can believe the big-eyed optimists. And Friday saw more of the same slightly more to south west - above the top of the 1010 trench and the D-220 area. Again, only 45-50 miles from "the Point" (Loma, that is). The one common factor of these three days was that the main bite was not taking off til late morning and/or later in the PM. There were also reports of scattered fishing at and below the D-220 and bottom of the 1010 with the sport boats fishing even further to the south.
With these reports "we" (Dr. Kenneth, Geoff Halpern, and Dennis Albert, our local web site maven) decided to give it a try (Saturday, that is). With all the reports of late biting, Kenneth urged that we leave in the morning instead of the usual 9-10 PM departure the evening before. Going the 8 knot routine we compromised and left at 0400 allowing us to troll both Marlin and Albacore jigs along the way.
It was 69 degrees at the Coronado Canyon, but slowly dropped as we went south. Our goal was the area of the Friday report. And bait? - Never have seen constant meter marks like that from below the islands throughout the trip. As the morning wore on there were reports from below of very scattered, scratch-type fishing - nothing to get one excited about. If the fish were moving the possibility of finding them at the 213 was appealing and we headed in that direction. But when we heard of only 1 or 2 bites in that area we turned back looking for that often elusive Cherry Patch. By noon - nothing on board. But about that time came a repeated report from the hero of the day - unfortunately not identified - at 55/25. They were bit and surrounded constantly by biting, boiling fish. Don't chase radio fish, but this was sounded too good and wasn't that far away. Punch in the numbers and off we went. It was tempting to pull in the lines and run, but we weren't that far. At 56-28, less than 3 miles from them, a double, but one fell off. This was at 12:45 PM. About 42-43 miles from Point Loma.
What followed was one of the greatest bites any of us has ever experienced. 20-25-30-40-50 pd. line, bait, lures - made no difference. Over the next 75 minutes we played catch and release for 35 of these quality (20-26 pd) fish. We chummed and they never left us. It was a lift-pole stop. And we were all alone. Ken put the numbers on the air and several boats headed in. We motioned them in to us and they had instant bites. We had our limits and wished them well. It was only 2 PM and so we headed back pulling the Marlin lures as we went. Along the way we saw breaking fish about 3 miles north of the area, but left them be. And it sounded that the area we left was becoming a fleet with everyone doing well. It was a pleasure not having to worry about the "fish til dark" routine.
There was another area about 10 miles to the south that was producing similar results (44-47/41-43?????). And the weather? Perfect. Not glassy, but wind less than 5-8 knots and no swells. The temp in the area was about 63.3. We understand that they bit as well down by the D-220 and bottom of the 1010. But it obviously had not been necessary to run that far. There were also reports of several small Bluefin and Yellowfin tuna being caught. There was also a report that the day before, the "American Angler" left the Point at 1 PM on a multi-day trip. The reached this area and by dark had 230 fish. Not a bad day start to their trip.
Yes, the season is off and running. And the crappy weather of recent weeks is now gone and good-riddance, but, who knows what is yet to come. We thought we had limits, but when we got around to pulling the fish from the bags we found that we had 1 more than the allotted 20. It turned out that, yuk, after our last trip 2 weeks earlier, "they," my crew had left one fish in the bag. And was it ripe? The maggots thought so. I wonder what canned maggots taste like?
So, if you crave a little WFO fishing NOW is the time.