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Sportsman’s Quest: The tuna bite is on

I’ve just returned from another scouting trip to San Diego, Calif.

This time to check the tuna fishing activity; the bite is certainly on and increasing. If you want the adventure of a lifetime, it’s time to plan.

I was able to become reacquainted with old friend Frank Ursitti. I first met him when he was a charter boat captain and he’s now the new owner of H&M Landing, having taken over from our mutual friend, Phil Lowbred. This was comfortable “small world” stuff that is often part of the fishing adventure. Frank then gave me the rundown on the season and the expanded opportunities at H&M, where in my youth I once worked as a deck hand.

As in the past, there are several options and the odds of landing giant Bluefin or Yellowfin tuna increase with the amount of time spent on the water.

I like starting the season with a one-day trip to the Coronado Islands just south of San Diego, in Mexican waters. It’s a good way to get your sea legs, and stomach, in shape while catching a mixed bag of Yellowtail tuna, barracuda, cod and possibly Mahi Mahi.

Well-appointed boats leave early in the morning and you’re soon on the fishing grounds for a full day of action. You return tired, with sore arms from landing fish and ready for a good night’s sleep at a nearby motel. This is also a great family trip, with lots of action and good food; my favorite is the galleys’ famous hamburgers.

All necessary rods and gear can be rented, but like most anglers, after a couple of trips the gear fever sends me to Bass Pro/Cabela’s for my personal medium-weight outfit. The folks in the tackle shop are familiar with what you need and take pleasure in helping you get ready.

On a recent one-day trip we boarded at sunup 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 called out those welcome words, “Drop your lines” as the crew threw out great quantities of live anchovies, as chum, in all directions.

The action was then fast and furious with multiple “hook-ups.” I felt a strong strike on my 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 my glasses and face. I knew it was a big one as he dove deep to the bottom, but soon line was able to be recovered as my arms and back reminded me that a bit more physical preparation was needed before I left home.

As the fish tired and came closer to the boat I called-out, “Gaff” and a deckhand (“Deckie”) was by my side ready to gaff it. As it was brought aboard, my heart rate slowed a bit and I admired this twenty-pound Yellowtail. The crew has this down to a science and all I had to do was regain my breath, relax and let the adrenaline subside sufficiently to get fresh bait back into the water. The action is fast, exhilarating and addictive with the anticipation of the next strike always there.

At the end of the day we arrived back at the dock. Our fish were cleaned and packed. We were comfortably tired and headed for dinner followed by a good night’s sleep. It was a good day.

Other options are the day-and-a-half boats, with two-or three-day adventures further afield, offering ever increasing opportunities to catch even bigger fish and the ultimate goal of landing a giant Bluefin tuna.

The season is just beginning and the thought of a big tuna ripping line and a long battle testing your skill increases with each cast. The occasional exception recently occurred when an inexperienced lady, on her first trip, while enjoying fishing with her experienced husband, hooked into a huge Bluefin during her first hour of fishing. She hung on, powered up and quickly landed one of the largest fish of the day. It beat her husband’s catch easily. I’m sure the story will be told and retold at family gatherings.

I’ve just booked my next trip on one of the multi-day boats and look forward to stowing my gear, enjoying a moon-lit ride as the water shimmers in the bow wake cutting through blue and silver waters. I’ll share a couple of cold beverages and fishing tips with new and old friends, then head below deck, find my bunk and dream of the coming excitement until the captain’s voice comes over the loudspeaker with a, “Good morning – it’s time to get up,” (or something like that). We’ll have breakfast and get ready to fish. The anchor will then be set, the crew will “chum” with fresh live bait and he will give the anticipated order to “Drop your baits.” The adventure begins.

If you’re looking for something more exotic or a greater number of fishing days, larger boats offer greater comfort and the opportunities are unlimited. The open booking long-range fishing boat Red Rooster would be an ultimate dream trip to far southern waters.

Large custom yachts are also an option for small group fishing and offer flexible schedules and the ultimate luxury. These may seem extravagant, but with shared costs the bottom line is they are cheaper than many guided hunts or trips to foreign fishing destinations.

For more information on these or other fishing adventures go to www.hmlanding.com.

Dan Simmons lives in Pahrump. His columns appear monthly in the Pahrump Valley Times.

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