Sunday, November 12, 2017

Epic 10 Day Trip

I was fortunate enough to fish the Merritt 10-Day trip on the Excel November 1 to 11, 2017.  David Choate, an expert angler, posted a wonderful report of our trip on Facebook.  The following is his report:

"Fresh back from a 10 day fall trip on the Excel, working our way up and down the coast. It was truly fall fishing at it's finest, as we caught variety and quality. 
Fall fishing can be known for it's variety, and to show how much variety we caught, 
Ron Walker won the species contest with 20 different species!!!!!
Ron also showed us how to subdue big tuna, landing the trips largest yellowfin tuna, a 337 super cow tuna!
We had great weather most the trip, just a slight bump during a couple of spells. 
Started off fishing for wahoo, we caught a couple, but not what we expected. But we did catch some nice yellows that day, finishing off with a great bite on dorado, very nice sized dorado at that. 
Our next day of angling, we encountered some nice school grade yellowfin tuna. If you worked at it, selected a good bait, fished light line and a small hook, you were rewarded with tuna in the 25-40 pound class. Fun fish on lighter line, and Lord knows I love angling. Also found a few more wahoo, very nice size on those we landed. 
On to bigger fish land the next day, 
Jan Howard started us out, landing a gorgeous 245 YFT. Josh Rytz was next, putting the wood to a 208 in practically no time at all. It was a picky bite, but if you stuck with it, you had a chance of a trophy. My roomie Mark Thomann bested a 298!!!!
Day 2 in big fish land produced again, this is when 
Ron landed his 337, Mark a 321, Josh another biggie, Yuma Rick a couple of cows. 
Day 3, more of the same, and again all the fish were over 200 lbs!
When the bite slowed, it was time to start working our way back towards home. 
The next day was indeed a variety day: Skipjack, bass, grouper, yellowfin tuna, yellowtail, and a few other species. At the end of the fishing time, it was a bite on every bait, but we had to start working our way up. 
The next day found temperatures dropping, but fishing was still good. We caught skipjack, bonito, bass, barracuda, and yellowtail. 
The wind was increasing and made it tough to fish effectively, and captain 
Justin called it a trip. 
The Excel rode through the weather great, it was a wet ride, but didn't seem that rough to me. I love riding this big boat. 
Jake and Nick did a great job in the galley, varying the meals and always on time and tasting great. 
The Excel crew was excellent as well, with 
Mike RamirezSean "Chowda", Jacob Hensley, and Colin Sarfeh helping us keep out of trouble and landing our fish. 
Special thanks to 
Brad Merritt, our chartermaster extraordinaire, for the nice giveaways, and keeping things flowing."

The rest of the story will be told by the photos.
Loading Bait

Alijos Rocks - we spent 4 hours trolling for Wahoo before leaving.

Independence transferring to the Excel a mud anchor.

Brad's Wahoo

David's Yellowfin Tuna

David's Wahoo

My 245# Yellowfin Tuna caught on 130# short fluoro top shot on a Penn 50SW, bobber balloon and 2005 Eagle Claw 9/0 hook.

Gail's Cow

Josh's first ever Cow
Josh's second Cow

Marshall's 298 Cow

Mark's 321# Cow

Marshall's cow (a hand off from Choate)

Ron's 337# Super Cow

Uncle Rick's Cow
One of Yuma Rick's two cows (his first and second ever).

The End

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Guadalupe Island

We left Saturday October 7th on a 7 day trip to Guadalupe Island.   I hadn't been there since August 2009 when the yellowfin tuna were only 50 to 60 pounds.  That was before Mexico closed the island to fishing for several years.

We picked up bait at the receiver and headed south.  We checked in with Ensanada (part of the new regulations that opened the island to fishing again) then continued our journey to Guadalupe Island.  Tim Ekstrom was our Captain with Brian Simms as his second.  Galley chefs were Alex and Cameron while the deck was covered by Blake, Paul and Drew. 

We arrived at the island around noon on Sunday.  Captain Tim drove south along the island until he found the fish.  We were advised to fish 80 pound line and pull like hell if we hook a fish or we would never get them through the white sharks.

The weather was perfect - warm with calm seas and blue, crystal clear waters.  The sharks were brutal, taking 75% of hooked tuna.  I hooked a big fish that headed straight to the beach rocking me. Jeff landed a 135 pound yellowfin - much larger fish than were here on my last trip to Guadalupe.  I managed to catch a 75 pounder and gave it to the galley. Later in the trip we had sashimi and a seared ahi dinner from my fish. We ended our first day with 11 yellowfin and 5 yellowtail.

Tuna I sent to the Galley

Monday morning Tim took us south to Tuna Ally to fish for yellowtail.  They were slow to bite but we put 11 on the boat.  Around noon, we headed back to the tuna area as they are an afternoon bite.  The tuna started biting around 1:30 p.m.  We picked at them all afternoon for 20 tuna from 120 to 138 pounds.  A little less lost to the sharks today about 50% plus equipment failures.  I managed to land a 130 pound tuna.

Tuesday was the same routine - yelowtail in the morning and tuna in the afternoon but a slower day.  I hooked another big tuna on my Penn 12VSX on 80 pound and the reel had a grinding sound when I turned the handle then the fish took a big run and the drags seized up and popped the fish off.  Sharks took 85% of fish hooked.  We boated 22 yellowtail and 12 tuna. 

At this point I should mention that fishing for these fish is not like fishing for them anywhere else because of the white sharks.  There are over 78 great white sharks that they've identified as residents.  Tim and the Royal Star crew have a system to boat these fish that works better than letting passengers pull on the fish.  As soon as a tuna is hooked, the angler pulls hard and fast until he slows and a crew member takes over until he shows and its handed to another crew member - and the crew pulls harder than any of the passengers.  Most of these fish were hooked on 80#.

Another interesting fact about catching fish on the Royal Star is that all fish are spiked, wire down the spine, gill and gutted (without cutting into the belly) and in the RSW hold within 5 minutes.  All fish are top quality.

Each morning the Pangas arrived for the fish heads and guts from the previous day to use in their lobster cages.  The crew also gave them breakfast burritos and sodas.

Wednesday started with 22 yellowtail but the afternoon only yielded 12 tuna.  I had 2 yellowtail and no tuna.  Thursday found the fish unwilling to bite.  Captain Ekstrom tried very hard but the fish didn't want to cooperate.  We fished hard until 6 p.m. when it was time to head up the line.  We only had 9 yellows and 3 tuna cooperate this day.  Fishing Guadalupe is brutal - the sharks relentless even with 3 other boats fishing the island.

Black Seabass released

Friday morning greeted us with glassy seas and sunny skies.  We broke down all the heavy gear while the Captain looked for kelp paddies.  We stopped on a few but none were holding fish.  At 11:30, Tim called it a trip.  We had a total of 50 yellowfin tuna from 75 to 154 pounds and 49 yellowtail 20 to 50 pounds.  Big fish honors go to Hugh with both the big tuna and yellowtail, however, Captain Tim said since crew pulled on everyone's fish that to be fair they will refund jackpot money to everyone.  I had two tuna and two yellowtail for the trip.  I gave the two yellowtail to Steve who had no fish for the trip and we ate one of my tuna leaving one 130 pound tuna to take home.

We packed everything up so the crew could wash down the boat.  At 5:30 p.m. we rolled into Ensanada to check in with customs.  Saturday morning at 5:30 we checked into U. S. Customs and arrived back at Fisherman's Landing by 6:30 a.m.

Landing lot full so Mike had to double park.  Fortunately, 4 of us shared a cart so I had help getting my gear to the car.  I also sent my fish for processing directly off the boat and told Sean I'll pick up my filets when I return from the Excel 10 Day in November.