By Bill Roecker
Back in 2000, the style of long range tuna fishing took a radical turn. With the closure of the Revillagigedos Islands to close-by, anchored-style fishing, skippers and crews had to venture into open, deep water to fish. Near San Diego in the summer, this style of fishing is called “run and gun,” because the tuna are pursued until they bite or sound. The stops last only as long as fish are nearby and/or biting.
Over the seasons since, many excellent catches have been made close to southern Baja, as well as off the islands with this method. The tuna may be spotted under bird schools, with porpoise herds, or appear only on the boat’s sonar at first. What all this means to anglers is that the time, the “window of opportunity” for hooking big tuna is limited. You’ve got to be ready to get a fresh bait into the water quickly when the tuna show up, and to put it as close to the school as you can.
While squid and scad mackerel and other mackerel like greenback and Spanish varieties have always produced big tuna, that is less common these days, and the bait is definitely a consideration when it comes to hook size, tackle selection, etc. Getting a lively sardine out and in front of a big tuna that’s cruising around at 25 miles an hour or more is sometimes difficult.
Long-time Royal Polaris skipper Steve Loomis watched the weigh-in scene when the boat arrived yesterday.
“You notice most of these fish now are coming on sardines,” he pointed out. “If it’s scratchy tuna fishing, you can’t beat a sardine for bait. Mackerel and squid are just fine sometimes, but when there’s a lot of small bait in the water the sardines are usually best.”
The long range big fish season runs from October to June. Big tuna, fish over 200 pounds, are all male but are referred to as “cows” because of their size. After the first couple of months of cow-catching, the score stands at 268, which would seem to point toward a very good year.
Even better, the current count on “super cows,” or tuna over 300 pounds, stands at 15. Compare that with last year’s total of 18 for the entire season, a very good season for such whoppers. It makes the rest of the season look inviting, to say the least.
Here’s an accounting of super cows as of December 23, 2007:
By Paul Sweeney
Tommy Rothery returned Polaris Supreme to Fisherman’s Landing November 18 after a ten-day Ocean Tackle Research charter. The boat had 13 anglers aboard. Chartermaster Lon Mikkelsen of Hood River, OR saw his father, Bill Mikkelsen of Olympia, WA land the season’s first super cow; a tuna over 300 pounds.
“It was full-speed fishing,” said Chartermaster Lon Mikkelsen.
Bill Mikkelsen’s big fish won first place after it weighed in at 308.8-pounds, caught on a fly-lined sardine. Bill used the boat’s gear, including a 6/0 Mustad 7691 hook, 100-pound P-Line, and a Shimano rod and reel.
“Tommy said it was tail-wrapped from the beginning,” said the elder Mikkelsen. “And he was, but he got lose and went on another run. He took me around the boat twice.”
Vagabond Super Cow
By Paul Sweeney
Vagabond arrived at Point Loma Sportfishing November 20 under owner Mike Lackey’s hand, after a nine-day open-party trip to the Southern Banks with 16 anglers. The boat landed five tuna over 200 pounds, including a whopper super cow; a 327.6-pound yellowfin caught by Tony Saldivar of Laguna Hills.
The fight lasted two hours after the fish hit his fly-lined sardine. “I almost got spooled three times,” said Tony. “I got ‘em in the evening, fought him into the dark. I didn’t think he was anything real big at first, but after an hour, everybody knew it was something bigger. Captain Mike could tell by his tail strokes.”
“It was a seriously mean fish,” said Lackey.
Tony used an 8/0 Eagle Claw hook with 130-pound Maxima line and 130-pound Izorline Spectra backing, a Penn International 50 S reel and a Calstar 655 XXXH rod to land the jackpot winning fish. Tony posed at Point Loma Sportfishing’s certified scales with his 11-month old son Kendall.
359-pound Super Cow
By Paul Sweeney
American Angler returned home November 20 after a ten-day CME4TUNA charter that produced 13 tuna over 200-pounds including the biggest catch this season; a 359-pound super cow. Owner Brian Kiyohara was at the helm of the fifth annual charter.
On his first ten-day trip, Erik Kinoshita, of Torrance, hooked and landed the jackpot winning big bruiser. “It was tail-wrapped at first, but about halfway through the fight it came undone and kamikaze’d right at us. I had a lot of help from the crew. We went around the boat several times. I was hooked up right before sundown and fought into night.”
Erik fished a mackerel on a 4/0 Owner Super Mutu hook, 130-pound Izor Blue Top Shot with 130-pound Izorline Spectra backing, a Penn International 50 VSX reel and a Calstar 760 H rod.
“Only Getting Better”
By Paul Sweeney
Royal Star returned to Fisherman’s Landing November 21 after an eleven-day trip that saw Guadalupe Island and Mag Bay tuna fishing. The boat’s 17 anglers returned with 21 tuna over 200-pounds, including a 310-pound super cow.
“This is reminiscent of two years ago,” said Owner-Skipper Randy Toussaint. “The water is perfect, and it’s only going to get better this next month. Tim (his partner skipper Tim Ekstrom) will be going back out Friday.”
Steve Ong of Sacramento landed three milestone trophies on the trip; a 100-pound, 200-pound and 300-pound fish. His biggest previous fish before this trip was 60-pounds.
“This was my first long range trip in 17 years,” said Ong. “My last one was way back in 1980 on the Excel with Randy Toussaint. His expertise of fishing big fish is unprecedented, and second skipper Brian Simms assisted with my fight. He taught me patience.”
Ong fished a 2004 9/0 Eagle Claw hook, 130-pound Izor with 135-pound Jerry Brown Spectra backing, a Penn 50 SW reel and a 760 H Custom Rod by Yo’s. “He fought straight out,” continued Ong, pointing to the horizon. “I stayed mostly on the starboard side, for about two hours.”
First Class Operation
By Paul Sweeney
“I can hardly wait to go back,” Skipper Jeff DeBuys said after he returned Independence to Point Loma Landing November 21 after a Farallon Boats charter, a 10-day trip.
“There is some good fishing down there, we had beautiful weather and noon to dark drifts.
“We had 26 anglers, ages 16 to 82,” Jeff continued, “and they all got their personal best. We’re extremely happy.”
Bill Asbell, 68, took first place with a 356-pound super cow. “I used a friends rod and reel,” Bill said. “I wasn’t prepared for this stuff. The reel was toast when I got finished. I caught a 400-pound thresher shark in Cabo San Lucas 34 years ago, but this was a lot better fight.”
Bill fished a 5/0 Owner Super Mutu hook, 100-pound Seaguar fluorocarbon liter, 100-pound P-Line Top Shot with 125-pound Spectra backing, a Penn 50 S reel, and a Calstar 6465 XH rod.
Run ‘N Gun
By Paul Sweeney
“I think we’re going to be in good shape,” said Skipper Andy Cates after docking Red Rooster III at H&M Landing November 21. “Anytime you get some big ones, you’re gonna be stoked.”
The boat returned with ten tuna over 200-pounds, including a whopping 331.5-pound super cow. Late-afternoon crowds gathered at H&M Landing’s scales, cheering at weigh-ins and taking pictures.
Outdoor Writer Ed Zieralski of the San Diego Union Tribune was also at the weigh-in; covering the recent surge in big tuna caught. “It looks like the average size is bigger this year than two years ago.”
Bob Lubach of San Diego hooked and landed the big bruiser. “I went from 60-pounds as a previous best,” he said, “to 300-pounds. I was stuck up on the bow for the fight.”
Bob fished a mackerel on a 7/0 Eagle Claw 2004 hook, 130-pound Izorline Top Shot with 130-pound Izorline Spectra backing, an Accurate ATD 50 W reel, and a Calstar 760 H rod. He did not enter the jackpot.
“Don’t’ Let Go!”
By Bill Roecker
The tenth annual George Davis trip aboard the Polaris Supreme arrived at Fisherman’s Landing December 5, after spending ten days in southern waters with a super ultra-light load of seven anglers, including chartermaster Davis. There were five tuna over 200 pounds in the catch. One fish was well over 300 pounds.
The big fish came in at 347.8 pounds, caught by Kevin Stokes, who is studying video making and cinematography, working on his B. A. in digital video at Mt. Sierra College in Monrovia. The giant yellowfin bit a sardine on a 6/0 Mustad 7691 hook tied to 100-pound P-Line and 130-pound Spectra on one of the boat’s rigs: a Tiagra 50 reel and a Calstar 6460 XXH rod. It fought for 35 minutes.
“He didn’t fight too hard,” said Stokes. He just laid there like a big cow. I almost lost him at the end, because his circles went all the way across the stern. They got him with four gaffs and lifted him over the rail.
“My best tuna before this one was 180 pounds. It fought harder. I may have this one mounted. Next, I’ve got to go back to work and to school.”
Stokes said he does freelance work in video.
“Like A Mother”
By Bill Roecker
Jeff DeBuys brought Independence home to Point Loma Sportfishing on December 9, after a 15-day trip with 26 anglers. The Save-On Tackle trip fished inside and outside, as far out as the Hurricane Bank.
“It was an epic trip,” summed up DeBuys, who tallied 19 cows, or tuna over 200 pounds.
“Hello from the tired Indy crew,” he wrote December 1 at the Hurricane Bank. “We had a spectacular day today here at the bank. We arrived at 0900 and got situated in no time, and immediately started getting fish. We were steady all day long on these beautiful grade tuna, 130 lb. to 190 lb. and 3 over 200 to 240 lbs. We ended the day with 70 fish for our efforts. Everything was the hot ticket today, sardine, mackerel, chunk, squid, and good kite action till dark. The weather is really good, and we hope it stays that way for a while.”
When Jeff weighed his catch, the big fish weighed 311 pounds. It was caught by Alex Kastaniuk of La Habra Heights, who also got a 207.6-pounder.
“He fought like a mother,” said Alex. “There were times I thought I’d definitely die. He got wrapped up with other anglers four times, and he took me around the boat for an hour and a half. My best fish before was a 190-pounder. I think I’ll have him cut and wrapped.”
Alex said he fished a sardine on a 7/0 ringed Super Mutu hook. He used 130-pound Seaguar fluorocarbon leader, 130-pound Izorline and 130-pound Izor Spectra backing on a Penn 50 SW reel and a Shimano six-foot rod.
“They Wanted Trophies”
By Bill Roecker
Andy Cates bought Red Rooster III home to H&M Landing December 9 after the 17-day Rod & Reel Radio charter with 17 anglers. Like the other two boats that arrived just before the Rooster, Cates had opportunity to fish both inside and outside, but chose to stay off southern Baja for his anglers.
“They wanted trophies, they said,” remarked Cates. “And it looked like the 300-pounders might be inside.”
On December 5, Cates wrote, “Our last day here and this morning is showing better sign with a 206 and 216 and a few 100 plus pound fish to go with. We are hoping for a big day here to finish off with. Yesterday we had action on smaller fish in the morning and then later a handful of fish in the high hundreds up to 199 and a whopper of 337 caught by Bud Mauerhaun. Bud has had a great trip with a 273, 270 and now this 337 after a long skiff ride. Not bad for 81 years old. Congratulations Bud.”
The trip ended with 20 tuna over 2000 pounds, including a pair over 300 pounds.
“I’m 83 years old,” Bud Mauerhan, “and this 339.6-pounder is my best fish ever. The best one before this was 256 pounds. I had to go in the skiff for a two-hour ride.”
The ride paid off with the big first-place tuna and two others that weighed 269 and 251 pounds. He said he used mackerel for bait on 6/0 ringed Super Mutu hooks. He fished with 130-pound Izorline and 130-pound Line One Spectra on a Penn 50 W reel and a Seeker 6460 XXH rod wrapped by Smitty G.
Archie Irions of Escondido won second place for the other super cow, a 318.9-pounder. He also got a 219.5-pounder on a dart, a Mega Bait jig, with an Accurate 12 reel.
But Irions’ big fish bit on a sardine pinned to a 5/0 Super Mutu ringed hook. He said he used 100-pound Blackwater fluorocarbon leader, 100-pound Momoi line, and 130-pound Line One Spectra on an Accurate 30 topless reel and a Seeker five and a half-foot Black Steel rod.
“It took an hour and a half, “ said Archie. “He’s my best fish ever. He bit 40 feet under the boat, and ran out 450 yards. He came up on the stern corner and they put four gaffs in him.”
By Paul Sweeney
“We were down there at the right time,” American Angler owner skipper Brian Kiyohara said after unloading 26 passengers at Point Loma Landing December 14. “We had great fishing on 60 to 150-pound tuna; our timing was great. We got the job done in three days.”
Skip Stenbro of Tiburon sponsored the trip, which brought back seven tuna over 200 pounds, including a 326.5-pound yellowfin caught on the kite.
After the crew hooked the kite up to a “double-trouble” bait, Anthony Foster of Long Beach saw a small boil followed by an explosion on his two sardines.
“That’s all I saw of him until he was at gaff,” Anthony said of his 326.5-pound trophy yellowfin. “I didn’t know how big he’d be. I fought him for an hour and a half. Crewman Jesse Kemble was helping me the whole time.”
The boat’s kite rig used 8/0 hooks, 130-pound Izorline, a Penn 50 two-speed reel and a Seeker 6465 XXH rod. “My previous best fish was a 50-pounder. Yeah, this was a trip of a lifetime,” continued Anthony.
Three 300-Pounders: Intrepid
By Bill Roecker
Tuesday afternoon was a busy time for Intrepid anglers and the crew assisting them.
“We had five or six fish going of 250 pounds or more,” said Buzz Brizendine. Buzz, who owns the Prowler, was aboard the Intrepid as a crewman and valuable advisor on the ten-day trip with 19 anglers. He helped out with several big fish, including the supercow that enticed a crowd to the dock at Pt. Loma Sportfishing when Intrepid arrived December 14.
When the sun went down most of those big yellowfin were on the boat. Skipper Dan Nichols taped them, and the three biggest ones taped at 337, 300 and 381 pounds.
“I taped that big one three times,” said Dan, “and I shaded the measurements.”
Two of the big tuna came in right at their taped estimates, at 300 and 339 pounds. But Bill Falter’s giant fish came in light, at 355 pounds. Falter, a 51-year-old gas station maintenance expert with 15 years in the business, said his best previous tuna was a 65-pounder he got at Guadalupe Island.
“He boiled on my bait,” said Bill, “and he hit it like nobody’s business. He threw big water in all directions. My line straightened out and I set the hook and right away I knew it was a big fish.
“I had the drag set very tight,” continued Falter, “and I pulled on him hard and he came at the boat. Then he went to the bow and took off and came out surfing way out there. I could have water skied behind him.
“I didn’t give him any slack. I kept the drag on hard and stayed on the bow. The fight took an hour. That’s where they gaffed him, but they brought him up through the passenger gate down the side. Dan taped him at 83.5 inches in length and 61 inches in girth.
“I’ve only been fishing long range for a couple of years,” noted Falter. I’ve done lots of two and three-day trips, and I’ve fished on private boats. I’m hoping somebody will be interested in this one as a mount.”
Falter got his jackpot-winning monster on the boat’s kite gear. The boat’s report said, “…it exploded on a jumbo live squid pinned to a custom double hook leader using an 18/0 Mustad 39960D circle hook and a 12/0 7691 Stinger attached to a 600-pound Soft Steel leader. Backing that up with 200-pound Jerry Brown hollow Spectra on an Avet Pro EXW 50-2 (thanks Harry, you rock) reel and a Seeker 6463 XXXH Black Steel Graphite rod.”
Corey Kong of Torrance won second place for a 339.2-pound yellowfin on a boat rig, after it also ate a squid under the kite.
“He boiled when he took the bait,” said Corey, “and then he ran out 300 yards. He was very stubborn and he fought for an hour. My best fish before this one was a 250-pounder. I want to credit the crew for their excellent help. What will I do with the fish? Cut it and eat him.”
Tom Hoskins of Fullerton won third place for his 300-pound tuna. His previous best was a 280-pounder.
“This one was on a squid and the kite with the boat rig, too,” he said. “He bit, he took off, he came back to the boat and fought me for an hour and a half. We were up on the bow and he took me around the anchor six or eight times.”
Star Gets 27
By Bill Roecker
The cows came home aboard the Royal Star with skipper Tim Ekstrom and Randy Toussaint. The boat docked late Tuesday and the fish were offloaded early Wednesday, December 19. There were 27 cows, or tuna over 200 pounds, including a kite-caught 345.9-pounder taken by Roger Nies of San Diego.
“I saw a little boil,” said Roger, “and then I saw his head. He ran like hell and made two long runs. Then he went down up off the bow and we had a half-hour stand-off.
"He came up on the port corner. This is my second trip. My best fish before was a 292-pounder.”
The fight lasted an hour. Nies used a sardine on a 9/0 Eagle Claw hook on the boat’s kite rig. When the fish was gilled and gutted, Star crewmen found a complete set of gill rakers and attached innards inside the super cow.
“Between The Fronts”
By Bill Roecker
Independence docked at Pt. Loma Sportfishing December 19 after the Fisherman’s Hardware 10-day trip with 26 anglers. Mark Pisano skippered the trip and co-owner Paul Strasser assisted as second. There were seven cows in the catch.
“We had better weather this trip,” said Mark, “We went down and came back between the fronts. We got fish every day. We had good action in the mornings, and the bigger fish bit in the afternoons. Most were on sardines, but we got a few on squid with the kite.”
John Arndt of Huntington Beach won first place for a 300.7-pounder that ate his sardine on a 7/0 Eagle Claw hook. He fished with 130-pound Izorline and 130-pound Izor Spectra on an Avet 50 reel and a Calstar 760 H rod.
“I saw the boil,” said Arndt. “He stayed up on the bow most of the fight, but he came up on the portside stern. He fought an hour and 25 minutes.”
Lucky, Unknown Angler
By Paul Sweeney
Red Rooster III and it’s 21 passengers December 20 after a ten-day trip.
“We got some good quality fish,” Skipper Andy Cates said after he docked Red Rooster III and it’s 21 passengers December 20 after a ten-day trip. “We were fishing 60 to 100-pound fish. We had our chances on the big ones and we did a great job.”
Norm Fugimoto of Izorline chartered the trip, which garnered four cows.
“We had a great group of guys,” said Norm at the H&M Landing Certified Scales. “And the fishing was good. We got a couple toads.”
Greg Brooks of Yucaipa landed a 308.8-pound supercow off the kite. The big yellowfin qualified for first place in the jackpot. The kite rig used “Double Trouble” sardines for bait.
“I saw him make a pass on it,” remarked Greg. “And then he hit it hard. I winded as hard as I could and as fast as I could. I was lucky to hook him. He probably pulled 300 yards on his first run.”
Greg used 7/0 Owner ringed circle hooks, 130-pound Izorline, an Accurate 80 reel and a Calstar XXXH rod.
“He Was Unconscious”
By Bill Roecker
Coming in December 23, the Royal Polaris finished up a 15-day Izorline trip with skipper Roy Rose in grand style, as 15 tuna over 200 pounds were weighed.
One tuna went 301 pounds, caught by Dane S. Shota of Huntington Beach, who was on his second long range trip. Dane, whose best tuna before was 88 pounds, also had two other big fish on this trip, at 288.8 and 285 pounds. He won first and third places in the jackpot.
“He was unconscious,” said one of the anglers aboard. “He just dropped in a bait and the big one was on!”
“He bit off the stern,” said Dane. “He ran out with half my Spectra, and then he fought me mostly from the stern, but he took me around the boat three times. Two and a half hours later, he came up on the stern. I’ll keep these big fish and cut and can them for my family and friends.”
Dane fished with sardines and 7/0 ringed Super Mutu hooks. He used 100-pound Blackwater fluorocarbon leader and 130-pound Izorline on a Penn 30 W reel modified by Cal Sheets, and a Calstar 7455 XH rod. The monster whipped up on him for two hours and 25 minutes.
“That big fish hurt me so much on that rod that I went to an XXH for the next one,” said Dane.” That worked better; a lot better.”
The arrival of Royal Polaris marked the last long trip of 2007.
Coming Up Next
In January the fleet will be fishing for more cows and super cow tuna. Until the water cools off southern Baja that will be a likely spot to find them. Eventually the fleet will likely only find big tuna at the Hurricane Bank, hundreds of miles off Cabo San Lucas, and that’s where the fishing will be until the season ends next June. Prospects look about as good as they ever have for super cows. If you think you’re going, better book soon, because every tuna angler who ever breathed hopes for a 300-pounder, a world-class tuna.
The fleet is in port for Christmas. For the owners and crews, for me and editor Paul Sweeney at FishingVideos.com and the San Diego Sportfishing Council here’s wishing happy holidays for all.