Owners Bill and Ingrid Poole were at Fisherman’s Landing to greet their Excel when it docked December 12 at nine a.m. Skipper Shawn Steward had flown home to Ventura and his expectant wife, so relief skipper Justin Fleck handled the chores at the weigh-in of the catch from the Braid 16-day trip.
Excel backing in
It was known from the beginning that the boat would likely be bringing a new dock record catch of yellowfin tuna over 200 pounds. That was realized, and the count went to 78 fish over the mark, and a 301-pounder for Dan Felger of Thousand Oaks. That brought the season’s cow total to 1292.
“Back in the old days at the (Revillagigedos) islands,” Poole remembered, “when we’d get ten or 18 or 22 cows, it was a wonderful catch. But our gear wasn’t nearly a strong as it is now. We’d hook 15 fish at The Lunker Hole (San Benedicto) and we’d get one or two on the deck.”
Excel record catch
Chartermaster Dennis Braid said, “We only lost a couple of fish. I got six over 200 pounds and released 11 fish at the Hurricane Bank.”
The Hurricane Bank had 200-pounders, all right, but not as many or as large as the tuna on the inside were, so Steward took his 25 anglers in to the area below and outside of Magdalena Bay, where they were rewarded with the record catch.
A shout went up when Felger’s giant was hung on the scales, which registered 301.1 pounds.
Dan Felger's 301-pounder
When I asked him how it fought, he said, “It was my easiest big fish. It wasn’t squirrelly like the smaller ones. It made a 100-yard run, and I knew it was big. It fought for an hour and came up on the bow, after it took me around the boat once. I released eight or ten fish this trip, and I fished with a 4-ounce slip sinker.
“I crimped everything,” said Felger, who eschewed all knots. “I’ve been fishing long range for ten years, and my best before this fish was a 235-pounder. Not bad for an old guy, huh? I’m 75 and a half. I got seven fish over 200 pounds including the big one. I’m stoked.”
Dan said he fished a sardine on an 8/0 Eagle Claw hook, with a 130-pound Basil topshot on 130-pound Izorline Spectra. He said he used an Accurate 50W reel and a Calstar 755 XXH rod. His fish weighed 301, 241, 230 219, 210 and 204 pounds.
Jack Nilsen of Accurate was there to present Felger with a new Accurate reel of his choice for his 300-pounder, which turned out to be a new 50W.
Felger and Jack Nilsen
Ken Cirks of Orange won second place, for a 282.5-pounder. He also had six more over 200 pounds. Ken said he fished sardines on Mustad 39965 hooks, tied to 100-pound Mustad line and 130-pound Spectra backing. He used a Penn 50W reel and a Calstar X4XH rod. His fish weighed 234, 216, 202, 201, 201 and 200 pounds.
“They were all big fish,” said Ken. “If you got a bait away from the boat when they rushed it, you got a fish. I had a bigger one up to the boat, but…these will all be 300-pounders next year. I can’t wait.”
Tom Carlisle of Rolling Hills Estates won third place for a 277.3-pound tuna that came to the boat in 30 minutes. He also had four other tuna over 200 pounds. Tom said he fished sardines on 9/0 Eagle Claw hooks. He used 130-pound Momoi line and 130-pound Spectra backing on a Penn 50W reel by Cal Sheets, and a 6455 XXH rod. His other fish weighed 222, 221, 213 and 211 pounds.
Tom Howe of Las Vegas, an Excel regular, had four over 200 pounds: 262, 244, 240, and 225 pounds. He said he fished sardines on 9/0 Eagle Claw hooks (“I broke two of those,” he added) tied to a Basil 130-pound Momoi topshot and 130-pound Spectra backing. He used a Penn 50 SW reel and a Calstar 6455 XXH rod.
Justin Greenberg of Beverly Hills got three over the mark: 272, 264 and 249 pounds. He fished sardines on 7/0 ringed Super Mutu hooks, and used 130-pound Seaguard fluorocarbon leader on 130-pound Spectra backing, with a Penn 30 Baker topless conversion and a Calstar 6460 XXH rod. His big fish fought for two hours, he said.
Andy Marcum of Oceanside took two tuna over 200 pounds: 254 and 237 pounds. Andy fished sardines on 7/0 Super Mutu hooks. He used 130-poundSoft Steel Ultra line and 130-pound Jerry Brown Line One Spectra, on a Penn 50 VSW reel and a P-Bod custom 755 XXH rod.
Jim Carlisle of Long Beach got a 268 and a 251-pounder. He used sardine baits on 9/0 Eagle Claw hooks, with a 130-pound Basil topshot of Momoi and 130-pound Line One Spectra backing on a Tiagra 50W reel and a Calstar X46XH rod.
Rich Grigsby of Annapolis, MD got a 221-pounder on a sardine and an 8/0 Eagle Claw hook. He fished with a Basil topshot of 130-pound Momoi and 130-pound Line One Spectra backing, with a Penn 50T by Cal Sheets and a Baja Boomer rod.
More On Pierce
The following is an e-mail from Rich Holland at Western Outdoor News, about one of the two 300-pound tuna caught by June Pierce aboard the Red Rooster III many years ago:
June Pierce caught a 310-pound yellowfin. I still have the photos. She was disqualified for an IGFA record when I wrote about the rod being passed under the anchor line by a deckhand.”