The night started out like every other pre-fishing night, rigging up the gear, setting the coffee machine, trip to the grocery store, prepping the boat, yada yada yada… The alarm woke me up at 1:00 a.m. and I left my house towards The Newport Dunes where we were launching my 20-foot Grady White. We had high hopes for the day as I had successfully fished three times in the past week all resulting in Bluefin tuna. My prior trips were on my buddies 35-foot Cabo, Swagger, so this was my first trip trying to catch one of these beasts from a small boat. The crew consisted of myself, my buddy Joe and my friend Matt, who had never fished in the Pacific Ocean before. I forewarned him that if everything went as expected he would have the trip of a lifetime.
Once launched, we skipped the bait barge and headed southwest to the motherland. The numbers I had produced just a few days prior. The weather was forecasted to blow 10-15+ from the northwest by the afternoon so I knew we had limited time to make it happen. Dressed in my lucky Fishworks Fine Lines Windbreaker, Hooded Fleece, New Original Camo Cap, and Offshore Pants (new edition coming soon), I was ready for anything headed our way. Three hours into the dark, steaming at 20+ knots, we arrived at our location only to be greeted by 30+ other private boaters and the entire sport boat fleet, obviously word had gotten out. Remaining positive, we stayed on the outside of the fleet and put the kite in the air. My go-to setup for this kind of fishing is a 7-foot CalStar 770 XXH rod paired with an Accurate ATD 50, spooled with 120 hollow-core braid connected to 300-pound leader rigged to a 9-inch pink/silver Carolina Lures Yummee Flyer. These have been the hot ticket for the SoCal cows. Boston Kites are the way to go as they fly with minimal wind and are easiest to launch and adjust, especially from a small skiff. But back to the story…within 15-minutes, the outside clip disengaged and Matt wound like crazy to connect. I could tell right away this wasn’t what we were looking for, as there wasn’t any bend in the rod. Five minutes later we had a 35-pound yellowfin aboard—otherwise known as dinner.
After 20 more minutes, I decided to make a move and get away from all the traffic. I picked another area about 9 miles away with a similar contour line. Once at the new spot, we got the kite and the two yummees up and the waiting game started. It’s key to keep a close, close eye on your yummees, as you want to see every explosion, flash, swirl or downright assault on your lure. With Joe asleep and Matt at the wheel, BAM--a huge explosion and the outside clip snapped. I wound like crazy and yelled at Joe to wake up and get on the reel. I got on the throttle and positioned the boat to maximize leverage against the fish. The rod never left the holder and about 50-minutes later we sunk two gaffs into a giant Bluefin and brought it aboard. If we had left right then we would have all been happy campers, but it was only around 11:30 and we had some more time to kill before heading home.
We ran up swell to about 2-miles above from where we got bit and started on our same line back to our new lucky numbers. By the time we got the yummees set we were about 5-minutes from the exact mark of the first bite. I told the boys to get ready as we moved across our numbers. Our eyes were fixated on the yummees, when suddenly it looked like someone dropped a stick of dynamite on our bait. This was a big fish! Excited, I reeled like crazy to connect. This one was dumping line quickly, I had Matt spin the boat around and start chasing her down before we even got the kite and the other yummee in. Same technique, rod in the holder, grind when you can, let the rod do the work. An hour later it took all three of us, pulling with all our power to slide this beast over the rail. High fives all around, this was 100% cow. But we still had some time to kill so why not go for the hat trick. Plus Matt hadn’t caught a fish yet, so we ran back up the line and positioned ourselves to come back down. I told the boys that if we put one more on the boat we were heading in. And then it happened again, BAM! BAM! Both yummees get blasted. Matt and Joe start winding like crazy to come tight. Chaos begins. First the lines are crossed and then the fish go in opposite directions. Joe yells that his came off, but I tell him to keep winding as the fish might be swimming towards the boat. Then Matt yells the same thing. I’m baffled, I had caught nearly a dozen fish prior to this day and never had one come off… and now two at once. Determined to get our good luck charm Matt a fish, we decided to make the run one last time.
And like clockwork, we got close to the numbers and the outside yummee got blasted! Joe’s winding feverishly. Then out of nowhere comes a 200+ pounder flying six-feet out of the water with the inside yummee. Unbelievable! Matt’s fish is peeling line like crazy while Joe’s is slowly getting worked to the boat. Once at the boat, I have Matt abandon his reel to help me gaff Joe’s fish. Again, it took all three of us pulling on the two gaffs to slide this one in. We didn’t have time to celebrate as Matt’s cow was still on. After 45 minutes, we get to the leader. But this fish wasn’t going to come easy. Several times, he tried to wrap us on the engine, but in the end he was ours.
By now it was 2:30 pm and the weather had picked up. We were 65-miles from Newport. With 4 monster fish and 200 lbs of ice, fuel was going to be an issue. There was one bar left on the gauge and half way still to go, when we realized our luck had ran out; we weren’t going to make it in. But we weren’t going to let this get in the way of an incredible day, so after 3 hours of drifting and $120 of fuel, we were back up and running and we raced into Newport Harbor. By now, it’s 10pm and we’re exhausted. But the night’s just getting started; there’s all that fish. What were we going to do with 4 giant Bluefin? Thankfully, we ended up at our friend’s warehouse who had a forklift and scale and what seemed like a dream was about to become reality. I knew we had some real Southern California monsters, but there’s nothing like seeing those little numbers to make it all real. Fish #1 weighed 163-pounds, #2 weighed a whopping 275-pounds, #3 tipped the scale at 196 and the 4th and final fish weighed 250. We had over 880-pounds of Bluefin, no wonder we ran out of fuel. It was my greatest day ever fishing in local waters, and to be honest I think we could have put a few more in the boat had we stayed out longer and had more fuel. When we left we were still getting bit… Either way, it’ll be a day that I won’t soon forget. Fingers crossed these beasts show up next year, get your gear ready now and capitalize on opportunities given.
PS. While the ocean offered up 4 of its finest, Matt sacrificed his phone to her. All the action photos were lost. But even without those photos, this will forever be a day to remember.