A Long-Range Journal: Day 9

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

mp day 9

mp day 9

A shot of my first-ever wahoo from the Pacific Ocean.

Today marked a couple firsts for me, as I caught new fish species and some of my favorite species in different ways. So far, I’ve kept these blog posts less about me, and more about the trip and anglers and what I’ve learned from them. Well, this blog post is all about me.

Capt. Tim Ekstrom called it when he said, “The Ridge is going to provide a ton of action, though mostly from smaller fish than the first couple days.” Fishing The Ridge as we start to head back north toward San Diego allows all anglers to make sure they have a couple fish for their coolers. Some anglers definitely have more fish than others at this point. On the way to The Ridge, our team of four was on the troll and my rod was hammered. Out of the four lines in the water, mine was the lucky one. Finally, after losing fish earlier in the trip, plus a sharked wahoo, I landed my first-ever ‘hoo (nicknamed skinnys) from the Pacific Ocean.

As an added bonus, less than an hour later, I landed my first wahoo while casting a lure. This technique is completely alien to what I’m used to on the East Coast. After a fish is hooked on the troll, all the other anglers on the boat have an opportunity to make some casts to any other wahoo hanging around. From what I’ve learned from this trip, wahoo definitely travel in packs! I honestly believe this technique would work for wahoo anglers from the Gulf of Mexico up to the Carolinas. (I’ll have to ask some captains about that.)

I cast Mark Rhodes’ wahoo bomb off the port and reeled the lead head skirt toward the boat as fast as I could. About 20 feet out, a blue and silver torpedo came out of nowhere and chomped the offering in plain view. I was almost too astonished to even reel. Since the wahoo hit so close to the boat, I hauled in the estimated 30-pounder before he had much time to run. Mate Blake Wasano made the gaff shot.

Earlier in the day, I caught my first-ever yellowtail (NOT snapper). Then, I caught another and another. The fish hit butterfly jigs off the bottom, but were released because of their sizes. Other anglers fly lined baitfish or used a dropper loop to land their yellows. The yellowtail catches were at just one of a couple stops along The Ridge.

At another spot, a mass of school-size yellowfin tuna bombarded the boat, eating just about everything thrown in their direction. All anglers joined in on the action, choosing different methods of taking the tuna. I cast a Shimano Waxwing out to the 10- to 20-pounders and watched the tuna attack my bait at the surface before setting the hook. A limit of yellowfin tuna is 15 fish, though most fishermen didn’t keep nearly that many. With all the other yellowfin tuna caught throughout the trip, we just didn’t need to add more tuna to the boxes.

Angler Randall Nimura also landed his first wahoo of the trip, following a similar pattern to mine. He landed his first fish on the troll, and “hung” a second fish on a wahoo bomb. I actually caught my ‘hoo on the wahoo bomb while he reeled in his first wahoo on the troll. Two Alaskan commercial salmon fishermen, part of a party of about five on the boat, landed their first two wahoo ever in the evening. The pair of fish hit Ben Van Dyck’s and Tony Rodrigues’ trolled lines just before dark, with both anglers successfully landing their fish.

I want to send out a well-deserved and gracious thank you to Shimano's Marc Mills for making this trip happen, and to Capt. Tim Ekstrom and his crew aboard the Royal Star for making it so memorable. I always thought offshore was king in places like the Florida Keys, but after this last week fishing off the Baja Peninsula, I've got a whole new perspective on West Coast offshore fishing.