Searcher Finds Big Fish Galore For Penn Fishing University Anglers

By: Steve Carson

July 18, 2007

The 21 Penn Fishing University anglers aboard Captain Art Taylor’s 95-foot Searcher from Fisherman’s Landing in San Diego experienced red-hot action last week on big yellowtail, along with a shot at quality-size yellowfin tuna on a recent 7-day long-range excursion.

Although the albacore were a no-show for us both on the way down and on the way home, the group saw numerous personal bests for size and personal firsts for both species and technique. Several NorCal anglers were fortunate enough to be aboard.

Current and water conditions at Alijos were somewhat fickle, but kite baits consistently drew strikes from yellowfin in the 30 to 50 pound class. Best offering dangled under the kite was the ‘double trouble’ 2-sardine rigging. Also among the keeper tuna were some smaller tuna and lots of pesky yellowtail in the 10-pound class.

Jim Sanders with 53 lb yellowfin tuna Persistence paid off for anglers who fly lined greenback mackerel on 40-pound mono with a 50-pound test fluorocarbon leader and a #4/0 Owner Ringed Mutu circle hook, and several of the larger tuna were decked that way along with many of the smaller units. A total of 28 tuna up to 58 pounds were landed at Alijos.

Dropper-loop rigged sardines and yo-yo iron dropped down 300 feet were the ticket for some larger 30-plus pound class yellowtail both at the stones and Alijos Bank. I was able to score a half-dozen of the bigger yellows on 50-pound test Big Game Hi-Test mono by dropping a blue/white Sumo #6 because my Penn Torque TRQ300 still offered plenty of speed even with the reel 1/3 empty due to its’ 6.3 to 1 gear ratio.

No signs of wahoo were evident anywhere in the 66-degree water, but a diverse mixture of whitefish, sheephead, popeye catalufa and even a few starry rockfish kept fish coming over the rail at an almost constant pace. We did spot [but did not hook!] a few feeding dorado and a sea turtle feeding in our chumline, promising that warm water action is on the way soon.

One of the largest concentrations of oversize yellowtail in recent memory was stacked up at the south end of Cedros Island. Several long-range boats had already hit them hard the day before, but we found the 25-35 pound yellows eager to bite on both surface and yo-yo iron, along with sardines rigged almost any style.

Particularly effective were blue/white and scrambled egg Sumo #6 and #JR jigs fished yo-yo style or at 45-degrees. The yellows were also aggressively chasing the surface iron, and numerous outstanding fish over 30 pounds were nailed on blue/white Tady 45’s and Candy Bars, along with sardine-color Sumo 7X lights.

This writer did especially well by throwing a blue sardine-color Tady/Candy Bar jig on the new Tady TL1097 with a Penn Torque TRQ200. The reel was filled with a 100-yard top shot of 40-pound Big Game Hi-Test mono over 250 yards of 50-pound Big Game Braid. This combo allowed me to very nearly cast to the knot [100 yards], and is already my favorite serious surface iron combo.

Dennis Harvel (right) with 38 lb. yellowtailAs is often the case at Cedros, a late-afternoon bite on oversize yellowtail developed for anglers using the biggest greenback mackerel in the bait tank. It took patience to allow time for the yellows to swallow the 2-pound plus baits, but clearly the speed of the mackerel were triggering the predatory ‘chase’ instincts of the game fish.

Besides the red-hot yellowtail action, we also managed to deck a beautiful 35-pound white seabass, a couple of very large halibut and even a pair of Humboldt squid during our stay at Cedros.

Jim Sanders of Aromas [near Salinas] was on his first long-range trip longer than 5 days. “I almost caught my limit on yellowtail, including my personal best of 30 pounds. My biggest tuna was also my personal best, it went 53 pounds and won second place in the jackpot.”

“I had never fished jigs with this much success before, and I also enjoyed learning about fishing the dropper loop rig. Fishing tuna under the kite was fun, especially because it catches the biggest fish.”

“The longer tips are a different mindset with the travel and prep time at the beginning. It’s also hard to release 20-pound fish without knowing what’s in the future.”

Veteran long-ranger Dennis Harvel of Sacramento also managed to achieve his “personal best” yellowtail with a 38-pounder that hit a dropper-loop rigged sardine at Alijos Rocks. “This was the most and the biggest yellowtail I have ever caught,” commented Harvel. “We also released a lot of what would be very good size yellowtail in California waters, including some 15 and 20-pounders.”

“The trip was great, the food is as good as you get on a cruise ship, and crew is absolutely outstanding. I was hoping for a few albacore, but unfortunately they weren’t available.”

Chef Randy Fickes with 45 lb halibut-DINNER!We had a pair of field-test models of the upcoming Penn Torque TRQ100 reels. Mounted on an 8-foot Penn Bluewater GSD800L rod and filled with a top shot of 30-pound test Big Game Hi-Test mono over 40-pound test Superbraid, they were a potent combination on the big Cedros Island yellowtail with both fly lined sardines and small blue/white Sumo #C2 and Tady #4/0 jigs.

Between the two test reels, over 30 yellowtail from 10 to 35 pounds and one stray 20-pound Alijos yellowfin were caught by various crewmembers, passengers and myself. Randy Fickes, the Searcher’s chef exclaimed, “This reel casts a sardine an unbelievable distance!”

Once hooked up, the little Torque reels more than lived up to their name, exhibiting astounding cranking power almost equivalent to a 2-speed in “low.”

Captain Art Taylor has owned the Searcher for many years, and his professionalism and fishing expertise show in every facet of the operation. Veteran crewmembers include second skipper Kevin Ward, Kenny Merrill, Joe Santos and even rookie long-ranger Jordan Rickman has several years working on the local boats. Master chef Randy Fickes is backed up by Will Brown, who made sure that nobody lost any weight.

Top spot in the jackpot was taken by Bill Zemba of Castaic with a 58.4 pound yellowfin tuna. Zemba received a Penn Torque TRQ300 reel and Penn Bluewater GS765XL rod combo and a tuna trophy. Jim Sanders of Aromas was runner-up with his 53.0 pound yellowfin, and Lloyd Doyle of Long Beach was third with a 46.4 pound yellowfin.

The Owner Hooks “First Yellowtail” award was snared by Rick Garratt of Sherman Oaks, while Walt Graham of Las Vegas got the “First Tuna” prize. The Flying Fisherman “Iron Man” prize went to the big yellowtail boated by David Redkey of Mission Viejo.

The Albackore “True Sportsman” award was given to Juan Cabrera of Riverside. This award is decided by the boat’s crew, based on the angler who best exemplifies the true spirit of sportsmanship.

Other outstanding catches included the 38-pound yellowtail by Dennis Harvel of Sacramento, a 35-pound white seabass by John Avitia of Kingman, AZ and a monster 45-pound halibut by chef Randy Fickes. That big halibut was served up as a spectacular dinner for the passengers on the final night out.