A Long-Range Journal: Day 1

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

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To say I was pumped for my first-ever long-range trip would not do justice to my feelings.

We started at Fisherman's Landing in San Diego, home to numerous "day-tripper" and long-range boats that specialize in tuna, wahoo and yellowtail fishing. Just hanging around at the historic docks got my heart pumping. I said my goodbyes while I still had cell service, and then it was time to cast off aboard the Royal Star.

The boats all handle 20 or so anglers; many of those 20 are repeat customers completely hooked on the long-range trips. The boats fish the waters mostly south of San Diego. That means the shorter your trip; the closer the fishing happens near port.

Marc Mills, of Shimano, invited me on an 11-day trip and now we’re headed for waters south toward Baja. Capt. Tim Ekstrom had our mates free the lines from the docks and we rumbled to our first-stop at the bait pens that hang at the mouth of San Diego Bay. The pens stack side by side and hold baits like sardines and mackerel. The baitfish were corralled with a seine net, and then scooped into massive wells at the transom with circle nets on long poles.

The mates had to scare off sea lions, pelicans and seagulls looking for scraps, but it was worth it. Capt. Ekstrom believes the baits look nice and healthy, not red or beat up from handling. Still, we’ll likely have to “make bait” at some point on the trip.

Next up, it’s two days of travel.

Today, we followed the coastline, the shore mostly always in view off our port. We’re headed for the Alijos Rocks to catch wahoo, yellowtail and tuna — and the reports have been good. By Monday morning, we should be fishing by 11 a.m., says Ekstrom. There’s a chance we could run into some cow tunas, or even a “super” cow.

Marc Mills brought aboard $100k worth of tackle, including a number of jigging systems. Tomorrow, we’ll get to sit in on some seminars and rigging. I can’t wait.