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Sportsman’s Quest: The season of adventure begins

As the weather warms, my thoughts turn to sandy beaches, crashing waves and fishing. It’s time to plan my annual San Diego deep sea fishing charter and visit my friends at H&M Landing.

Previous years’ adventures have always begun with this event and it’s always been exciting, with a few trips being exceptional for me, and my friends. Some of these memorable trips can create a menu of possibilities for this year. Feel free to follow our “trail,” or more correctly our “wake.”

There are half-day, full-day and multiple-day adventures. Let’s start with a half-day in-shore fishing trip with Laura Oslund, a friend and coworker, who wanted to catch her first ocean fish.

We decided to take one of the half-day boats to the Point Loma kelp beds on this first trip and try for a variety of fish. They had been catching Bonito, Sheephead, Ling Cod, White Sea Bass, and even the odd Yellow Tail Tuna. This sounded just about right. It didn’t take her long to get started. Her first bait didn’t even reach the bottom when the skipper, Tim Green, interrupted as I was getting her a bagel with cream cheese, and my first cup of coffee, shouting, “Blondie has a fish!” Then the tug of war began. She had the rod pointed at the water’s surface, as if to spear the fish if it appeared.

With the help of Tim she managed to adjust the reel’s drag and bring the rod tip up to a proper position. She then fought the fish like an old pro, and as it surfaced she was excited to see that a tuna had been hooked. Not wanting to wait for the gaff, and the possibility it would throw the hook, she heaved it up and over the side, bounced it off the boat’s cabin, hitting one of her fellow anglers in the chest – no harm done. She had her first ocean fish.

Following that there were a couple more hits and, as often happens, a few crossed or tangled lines – not a problem, I was there to help. She was new to the game and is now a deep saltwater fishing fanatic.

If you’re looking for action with bigger fish, take one of the full-day or even better, day-and-a-half trips to Mexico’s Coronado Island, just a short distance from San Diego or to one of the outer Pacific banks.

On a recent one-day trip my friend Jeff Miller and a few friends boarded at sun-up and enjoyed the cruise south to the Coronado Islands. As the boat reached its fishing position off the islands and the captain dropped anchor he said those welcome words, “Drop your lines,” as he threw out great quantities of live anchovies, as chum, in all directions.

The action was then fast and furious with multiple “hook-ups.” Jeff felt a strong strike on his line and the fish immediately took off in a fast run as the line screamed off the reel throwing a fine cool, wet spray covering his glasses and face.

He knew it was a big one as it dove deep to the bottom, but soon line was able to be recovered as his arms and back reminded him that a bit more physical preparation was needed before he left home. Working out before the trip and being tough are appropriate for these monsters.

By applying just the right amount of drag, the fish was stopped and they were able to gain line, sometimes bringing the fish close enough to the boat, and ready to gaff. But, like all living things, some act differently, are stronger, have a greater will to escape and survive. These are the fish you remember most – the trophies.

At the end of the day they arrived back at the dock with Dorado, Yellow Tail Tuna and even a prize Blue Fin Tuna. The fish were cleaned and packed. All were comfortably tired and headed for dinner, followed by a good night’s sleep at a nearby hotel. It was a good day.

Those are great trips, but if you’re looking for the ultimate group fishing adventure, it’s the multi-day trip on one of the bigger long-range boats. You will head south following the Blue Fin Tuna migrations.

Drew Calvert, the fishing professor, on a long-range trip to Baja waters out of San Diego, found the action was fierce with many 100-pounders coming over the rail. These weren’t shy fish, but swam in a large school, and believe me, they were the teachers. A big “cow” would hit like a freight train and either head straight for Hawaii or dive to depths which would challenge the length of line on your two-speed Schimano, Okuma or Fin-Nor #50 salt water reel. At other times they would circle the boat as if they knew by tangling with others they could cut the line and break away. Big tuna fishing is not for the faint of heart, but with the exception of bill fish, like marlin and sails, there are few things that get the Adrenalin flowing as quickly.

For those satisfied with a bit less adventure, and with perhaps shallower pocketbooks as well, the Yellow Tail, Yellow Fin and Albacore tuna offer more than abundant thrills. With limits of 20-, 30- and 40-pounders coming in regularly, the boats of less extreme range offer, if not the trip of a lifetime, at least the trip of the year.

To get the latest tuna fishing report, give H&M Landing a call at (619) 222-1144 or go to h&mlanding.com

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