A Long-Range Journal: Day 8

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

Long-Range Day 8

Long-Range Day 8

Pictured above is a portion of the dorado school attacking the pink Orca topwater from Shimano.Sam Hudson

A wide-open dorado bite couldn’t help but bloody the decks today, as every single angler limited out on the blue-and-yellow neons if they wanted. In Mexican waters, the limit is 15 fish per species, except with dorado which is just six, says Capt. Tim Ekstrom.

We spent the afternoon searching the open ocean off the Lower Banks, looking for flotsam and porpoise schools. The morning was spent soaking large live baits like mackerel and sardines for one last chance at cow tunas. Jonathon Mitsumori came the closest with a 130-pounder, the only fish of the morning.

From there, it was a day of surfing the currents and temperature breaks, looking for signs of life that just wouldn’t show. The seas were low and the wind was just as weak, making for excellent search conditions. About lunchtime, the captain found a temperature break and saw a couple dorado soaring after flyingfish at the horizon. When we motored into the vicinity, we saw that the school made up at least 1,000 fish. Anglers eating lunch after first call came running to their fishing rods. The two cooks followed, helping the four other mates and captain gaff fish that were coming over the rails. As soon as a live bait hit the water it was attacked by 4 or 5 ‘phins. The fishing was so easy, but it was exciting to watch.

I caught my first fish on a popper from Shimano called the Orca. The dolphin, plus some smaller yellowfin tuna, attacked the topwater with a vengeance. But I quickly realized that even the single treble hook was too dangerous with so many fish flapping around, so we all just stayed with live baits on J- or circle hooks.

At some point, we took a break, allowing the crew to log fish and store them in the RSW hold. RSW stands for refrigerated seawater, a cold slush that hovers near 30 degrees F. A number of different anglers cast topwater poppers without the hooks to the dodos (a nickname for dorado) just to see how many would attack. On average, 5 to 10 fish would take a swipe at the plug before letting go.

Just before sundown there was some fast action for tuna mixed in with yet another school of porpoise. The bottlenose dolphin, plus other species, make up some massive schools out here. Fortunately, fighting-size tuna regularly stay with the porpoise schools. Three anglers hooked up to fish averaging about 30 to 50 pounds, while just about everyone else tried. After the three fish were brought to the boat, the sun had set and so were our chances of finding the school again.

Tonight, we’re making a 140-mile run to The Ridges, farther north along the Baja Peninsula. Captain expects us to be there by 7 a.m. to fish. This style of fishing does not lend itself to big fish … but to more action. Wahoo, yellowfin tuna, yellowtails and dorado are all likely catches. Tomorrow will be the last complete day of fishing. We’ll have about a two-day run ahead us to make it back to the San Diego docks by Wednesday morning.