Reader's Special Report: In Search of the Yellowfin

by Bill Vessels

The trip on the Morning Star out of Point Loma (San Diego) was great. We pulled out at 10 PM on Wednesday night (September 20, 1995).

At the bait receiver we filled with 'not so great' mackerel.... but when the Morning Star crew dipped into the second hold to top off, the bait was MUCH better and fresher, so they took the time to replace the first batch of bait with the better stuff.

We were on the grounds before sunrise, about 70 miles out. The weather was good; overcast but not cold. The wind could only be called a breeze, about 10 mph with some chop and only a few whitecaps.

Our first stop was on a kelp paddy about 10 feet in diameter where we picked up about 8 Yellowfin tuna in the 20 pound class. Things got slow around 7 AM so we began to troll southward, as the skipper said the water was a little cool. Four jig stops produced only skipjack for us and we couldn't bring up any Yellowfin.

At about 8:30 AM the cloud ceiling was breaking up slightly and we continued South at a fast troll, not throwing chum at the jig stops because they were still all skippies. We were all looking for kelp paddies. The next few paddies gave up only 2 or 3 fish, but at about 10:30 AM we stopped at a paddy and within minutes 5 or 6 of us were hooked up. Everyone threw a mackerel out and everyone got bit. It was the usual pandemonium of a full-on bite: bait, rods, flopping tuna, and elbows were everywhere you turned. We were on a drift in the breeze, so if your fish sounded it was a pretty enjoyable fight underneath all the other lines. If your tuna came up and raced sideways faster than you could follow it around the rail, you were picking up other people's lines faster than a bad comedian.

The crew was great. They had already made it clear to everyone to cast the bait from the leeward stern and follow your bait around to the windward side. ANYONE bringing a tuna back the other way was given priority. Tangles were cleared by the busy crew and lines were cut whenever necessary to get a person's fish on the deck. These Yellowfin were about 18 - 25 lbs and were taken with line up to 60# test in the heat of the bite. Some of the guys switched to white or chrome jigs and were connecting also.

This bite slowed after a couple of hours and we fast-trolled again, having put almost 100 tuna on the decks at that stop. On the troll again we were only picking up skipjack, but everyone was anxious to spot another kelp paddy. The next few paddy stops resulted in only 2 or 3 tuna, so the skipper turned back to the NNW and at sundown we were back in the area of that great AM stop. We fished a paddy and watched the sunset and made sure everyone had their limit....not a wide open bite like the AM but fun nonetheless. Thirty-five lines on the drift in the dark can be pretty hellish, so as soon as the bite slowed we were all ready to head for home with full sacks. It wasn't the trip of a lifetime, but that's O.K. with me; that means I've still got that one coming to me.