Long distance trips worth $400-500

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A huge range of larger yellowfin tuna caught south of Baja by the fishermen aboard the Intrepid during their last 15 day trip.

Dock totals 1/16 – 1/22: 714 anglers on 37 half-day to 1.5-day trips from San Diego last week caught 40 barracuda, 45 bluefin, 12 bocaccio, 34 bonito, 136 calico bass (104 released), 3 halibut, 55 lingcod, 79 lobsters (55 released), 72 perch, 10 rock crabs, 1,125 rockfish, 492 sandbar, 453 sculpin, 27 sheep, 5 triggerfish, 99 whitefish and 178 yellowtail flounder.

Salt water: Fishing last week was much better than the previous week on the beach, in local waters and along the Baja coast. Close to home, the half-day boats Premier and the Dolphin focused on the flats a stone’s throw from the border and two miles offshore, where a solid bite of sand bass was the mainstay of the socket. As usual, a few calicos and sculpins were there. The New Seaforth has run long half-day trips south of the border with great results on rockfish. Boundaries are common and big red bites for those fishing just across the border, where unlike US waters, rockfish are open. These trips tend to be relatively light loads with plenty of elbow room, and at $130 the trip can be worth it with a nice bag limit. Passports, book or card, are necessary. The rate includes a Mexican fishing license and a biosphere bracelet.

Dab still bites well for boats fishing off San Quintin, and that action has shifted out to Ensenada, where local operations are getting limits in the 12-25 pound range. It’s getting closer, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see yellowtail flounder start showing up for the long half-day fishing trips around the Coronado Islands. Skipjack and barracuda also did well along the beach in North Baja, which is a sign that there is plenty of bait in the area to attract the most favorite trevallies. Long-range boats returning from big tuna, wahoo and flounder fishing six to nine hundred miles south have stopped along the beach between San Quintin and Ensenada to supplement when not already limited.

When fishing in Mexican waters, there is a limit of five fish per species and a total of ten fish per day, with some exceptions. No matter how long the trip is three days or longer, three daily catch limits is the maximum number of fish an angler can keep. Exceptions are shark, bluefin tuna, gilthead seabream, marlin and grouper. For bluefin tuna and gilthead seabream, only two per angler per day can be kept, and counts as five fish. So, for example, a fisherman can have five yellowtails and two bluefin tuna and that’s their daily limit. For marlin, one fish per angler per day is allowed. The same goes for grouper and shark, and these also count as five fish per species towards the total ten fish per day allowed. For species with a five fish limit, anglers can keep any combination up to five per species and can have a bag limit of ten different species. Some trips of three days and less currently produce a wide range of species. The Tribute returned from its 2.5 day run with 29 anglers who caught 263 Redfish, 68 Yellowtail, 51 Whitefish, 40 Barracuda, 25 Sheephead and 22 Lingcod. It’s a quality trip.

The long-haul fleet is in the middle of its peak season. Trips of eight to fifteen days produce yellowfin tuna at over 300 pounds, wahoo, grouper and yellowtail good action at over 50 pounds. These boats fish from the outside of Cedros Island, Alijos Rocks, and south to the best high points beyond the end of the Baja Peninsula. The benefit of these trips is that they have time to adjust their target areas and species based on conditions on any given day. They can fish off the coast and hide downwind of islands if the winds and seas pick up.

Typically, the target species on long-distance voyages are yellowfin tuna, wahoo, and yellowtail flounder, in that order. They will often encounter schools of bluefin tuna, and dorado can appear anywhere the water is warm enough, usually 68 degrees Celsius and above. Marlins are sometimes fought and released, but when they are they are usually more of an added attraction than a target. If the surface is not producing, dropping a large bait or jig can produce a large grouper, pargo, or other bottom fish, especially when parked on a high point or steep island. Nights are spent on the move or at anchor, and when the latter, anglers can fish all night if the excitement and anticipation are too much to sleep. I often find this to be the case on any overnight to multi-day trip. At least until the dog is tired of catching – then undoubtedly “zees” will be caught.

With cabins and excellent plates prepared by seasoned chefs, these trips may seem expensive, but compared to a cruise or an extended trip to a tourist destination in Rivera, this fisherman would spend his money on the fishing trip. My heartbeat jumps a bit at reports like the Intrepid, which returned to dock on January 23 after a 15-day outing:

“Our 15-day UC (United Composites) was a success. We ended up with 3 out of 200# and a bunch out of 140#. Our jackpot winners are as follows: Third place went to Rich Rose with a 201.6lb yellowfin tuna, Second place went to Ben Barnes with a 216.1lb yellowfin tuna and First place went to Dee Jay Owens with a yellowfin tuna. of 253.6 pounds. Strong workers! An honorable mention goes to Bret Rapozo with a 197.1 pound yellowfin. Thank you to everyone who fished with us. Looking forward to this trip next year.”

Considering the market price per pound, even four to five hundred dollars a day, a long distance sport fishing trip can pay for itself in nets, but generally the experience is rewarding enough to attract a steady stream of regulars and new arrivals every winter. Wherever you wet it, tight lines!

Fish factories: Jan. 27 – Lake Poway, trout (1,500), Jan. 28 – Santee Lakes, trout (1,500)

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