A Long-Range Journal: Day 10

An editor’s trials and triumphs on his first-ever, 11-day, long-range fishing trip off Baja.

day 10

day 10

Pictured in the photo are Robert Alexander and mate Blake Wasano with a fair-size yellowtail catch.

In the last blog post, I may have said it was the final day of fishing before heading back toward San Diego. But Capt. Tim Ekstrom had a card up his sleeve, and today we made an afternoon of catching yellowtails around Cedros Island. The mountainous island sits off the coast of Mexico and is known for its yellowtails, halibut, and bass around the kelp.

Throughout the entire afternoon, Ekstrom motored us above “balls” of yellowtail schools. Some schools would swim off and we would have to find them again, other times we found new schools to fish with our jigs. The preferred method to catch yellowtails here — especially if they’re down deep — is to yo-yo with irons.

Top irons around the boat include those by Salas and Sumo. Marc Mills and I used his Shimano butterfly jigs in blue-and-purple, blue-and-white, and green-and-yellow. The Shimano jigs were on specific setups — Trevala rods with Trinidad 16A reels — to present the baits correctly to the yellows. The light setups looked slightly out of place compared to some of the massive broomsticks used by other anglers. But they proved their worth, even when the rods bent in a half-circle, landing plenty of yellowtails.

The yo-yo technique definitely takes some practice, and some anglers may never get used to it. You cast your iron or jig out and let it hit the bottom. Once the line goes slack, the angler must reel the metal back to the surface as fast as possible. The yellowtails have no problem catching up to the lure. The reels used must be capable of retrieving line quickly, but still handle the pulling power of the yellowtails.

Some yellowtail bites were so hot that Ekstrom would call over the radio that there was a massive ball of ‘tails under the boat. When that happened, you could watch angler-next-to-angler hook up on fish. Sometimes there was double-digit numbers of anglers hooked up to yellowtails at once. It’s fair to say that the yellowtail bites come in waves. When Capt. Ekstrom came out to join the action at the stern, you knew the action was smoking.

The top area for yellowtails around Cedros seemed to be about 200 yards offshore of an industrial area along the shoreline. We watched several cargo ships dock near the shore and load what seemed to be salt onto the ships. When I get back to the office, I’ll have to research if Cedros has some sort of salt mine.

Since the yellowtail and amberjack look so similar, a common discussion among the anglers was which species fights better. Of course these West Coast guys believed that the yellowtails pull just slightly harder, even if most of them had never caught an amberjack. I found that the yellows pulled surprisingly hard for their size, especially after the initial strike. But I never once felt like I was going to get spooled. Much like an AJ, they have a stubborn, dogged way of fighting.

There’s word that we may make a quick stop to fish some of the bottom species common to West Coast anglers tomorrow. Most of the rockfish and ling cod available to catch, I’ve never hooked before. Shared opinions about the bottom fish is that they’re ugly and delicious. Today, we got just a sampling of bottom species with black sea bass and sand bass, amongst the yellowtails and bonito in the mid waters.