Dan Simmons’ Sportsman’s Quest: great time of year for hunting, fishing

August is a great month for hunting and fishing. If you drew an early big game tag for antelope, elk, deer or a special archery tag, it’s time to get packing for a possible hunt of a lifetime. If you’re like the rest of us, you’ll have to wait a bit longer. More on that in our next column.

The good news is that the fishing is still great for tuna on the West Coast. Try a late summer family fishing trip out of San Diego. Recent reports are still showing plenty of yellowtail tuna in the area. There is even a chance for a giant Blue Fin further off shore on a full-day trip.

Consider introducing the kids in the family, or the kids in someone else’s family to a first-time experience they will never forget. The half-day fishing boats are an excellent way to introduce them to deep-water ocean fishing.

The bonding experience doesn’t get any better and you get to become a young boy’s or girl’s hero – that’s sort of special. Remember the first time someone showed you how to tie the improved clinch knot? It’s through these experiences we are able to pass on our outdoors skills and preserve a heritage, which if not used will be lost.

Well, the Rock Cod and a variety of inshore fish are biting. You may even have a chance to catch some of the other warm-water fish such as albacore, barracuda, or one of the least appreciated, but one of my all-time favorites – the scrappy mackerel. All of which, when caught on light line, give you the same sensation as their big cousins, the Yellowfin tuna or Dorado.

It’s an exciting thrill to hear the line “sizzling off” from the reel as the fish makes its first run or heads for the bottom. The raucous activity of your fellow fishermen, as they also hook up and the taste of the salt air is also part of the experience. As good as this experience is, watching your son, daughter or friend get excited over their first fish is even better.

Tuna trip tips

If this is your first time for a major tuna trip, here are a few tips.

Often beginners don’t know what to expect, or have unrealistic expectations. They are unaware of challenges brought on by weather, improper equipment or facilities, inexperienced skippers and crew, significant expense, or simply the difference between fishing and catching.

If done improperly, the first-ime experience may be the beginner’s last and only excursion and we’ve lost the potential to encourage a future angler and possibly gain a lifelong fishing partner.

In my quest for the perfect introductory ocean fishing experience, I choose San Diego, California, as the best place to start due to its predictable weather, pleasant surroundings and abundant fishing fleet operators. It also offers more than just a fishing opportunity with its many attractions, ample accommodations and long history of pleasant Southwest hospitality.

To test my theory, I invited longtime friend and co-worker, Laura Oslund, to join me. She had never fished, but for many years was anxious to try the new experience.

Next, I called my friends at H &M Landing, San Diego’s oldest and most experienced sport fishing company. They started this business in 1935 and are still located on Point Loma, not far from the airport, or Interstates 15 and 8. So, for us it was freeway all the way.

After checking in with them the night before, it was a 6 a.m. departure. I had two choices for a day trip: the Coronado Islands for a full day or the half-day fishing excursion to the Point Loma kelp beds.

I chose the shorter half-day just to test my friend’s sea legs and get used to the new equipment. I knew we would catch a wide variety of fish and have some fast-action angling. After all, these were my old stomping grounds as I was a “deckie” at H&M during my college days. I wanted this opportunity along the beautiful San Diego coast to be positive.

It was a good choice. The deciding factor was our limited time and the possibility of a greater numbers, but possibly smaller fish. It also gave us the opportunity to explore and visit some of the other sights and nearby activities.

Some action

Within 45 minutes of leaving the harbor we were hearing the familiar shouts of the deck hands, “hook up, gaff,” everyone was soon into fish. First, it was a beautiful red and black Sheephead, then a White Sea Bass and then we hit the school of beautiful Bonito. These speedsters, of the tuna family, almost pulled the rod from my friend’s hand as she had her first fish on, then another and another.

Sensing the activity and always ready for an easy meal, we were soon surrounded by hungry sea lions.

Their antics and habit of stealing the hooked fish frustrated some of the more experienced anglers, but was fascinating to the first-timers. Their huge bodies flew effortlessly through the water and with the agility of acrobats did what they do so well – eat fish. This necessitated a move to another area and we hit another group of mixed fish species.

At the end of the trip my friend remarked to the skipper, “This was my first trip, it won’t be my last. It’s now an addiction.” This was the purpose and goal of the trip. By early afternoon we were back at the landing, arms sore, a bit sunburned and our inexperienced “sea legs” weary from the constant balancing act. It was a good day and the fish will make good table fare.

The skipper invited her to “Come back anytime, and you can even bring Dan with you.” I interjected, “Wait a minute, I’m your longtime friend.” “Yeah,” he said, “but she added to the fish count.”

Yes, that’s right, I got skunked and wouldn’t have mentioned it now, but it likely will end up on the local news, knowing her and our local newspapers.

Laura was anxious to return for a full-day adventure. Perhaps she’ll take me with her again. I deliver bagels and untangle lines like a pro.

Other sites

The trip was then balanced with a visit to the Maritime Museum on the harbor waterfront where you can board the Star of India, the world’s oldest active ship, built in 1927; the 1898 steam ferry Berkley; the H.M.S. Surprise, a magnificent replica of an 18th century royal navy frigate, or you can tour an actual decommissioned Soviet sub.

Also, not to be missed is a trip along the peninsula’s Sunset Cliffs on your way to the Point Loma lighthouse. If you have an extra day there’s the San Diego Wild Animal Park, the zoo or Sea World. You may even choose another day of fishing, my favorite. All of these combined will make a new fisherman’s trip something never to be forgotten.

The message: take a kid, or someone new to fishing or hunting, on your next adventure. We’ll all be better off for it, having added another fishing partner to the outdoor family.

If you have an adventure, a story or a comment give Dan Simmons a call 775-727-9777 or e-mail him at dansimmons@usa.net