Nothing brings back nostalgia like these spring yellows.
Yesterday I posted a pic of the yellowtail I got on the Malihini Sunday on my facebook page (I mean that’s what you do when you do something these days, right?). One of the first comments came from on old buddy in that of Justin Hemmerling.
If you fished on the Producer or Indian in the ‘90s you fished with Hemmerling. He was on the Producer in ’94 and ’95 when I used to fish on there with Chuck Chon, and then we worked together that next year on Ray Sobiek’s rig before Hemmerling went with Chris Randel when he bought the Indian and started running out of H&M in 1997.
Some of the yellowtail fishing we got into back then was really something. I think it was the end of an era when overnight boats would get islands charters in May and June and there would be line-ups at North Island off Pukey Point or in the Middle Grounds or wherever. There are just so many memories.
One is definitely having Ray Sobiek tell me how if you set up on an outside corner of a ridge that comes up off North Island when there’s a crowd you can suck the fish right to you. This was 16 years ago when I was 16, and I couldn’t really appreciate set ups and conditions. Not yet. But I’ll never forget having the boats three rows deep off North Island and having the fish pop up behind us. Sobiek told me (yelled) to get off the tank and he jumped up and chummed the fish right into the zone where the lines were going. Yellows pushed water right up the ridge through the Prowler and New Lo An, bending a few rods in the process on the other rigs, then the whole stern on the Producer umbrellad. Sobiek was real big on the hook and hand — hook one and it was all good, cast and don’t get bit and get screamed at for fishing. I’ll never forget firing out a 45 on a 540 and handing it off to a women who wasn’t bit. It all happened so fast that all Sobiek could say was good job after he looked over and saw the rod going to the lady. The eight-pound yellow hit the deck and Sobiak let out one of his classics: “not bad for a girl.”
When the bite was over he just dropper the bait scoop, lit a Marlboro Red with his gold Zippo and walked through the galley and into the wheelhouse and got on the P.A. and said (I’ll never forget the words), “nice lick guys and girl… we’re out of time.”
I’ve been lucky in that I’ve seen some really incredible islands yellowtail fishing. There’s a bunch of memories: having squid at the Everingham Bros. receiver in early July in '96 after an incredible spring on the yellows and getting over 100 on the squid and eighth-ounce slider one day with Ken Seivers and the guys from Fisherman’s Landing Tackle, trolling Rapalas in between finding bird schools both at the Coronados and down the beach all the way to Pescadero and getting 100-plus yellow a trip like clockwork, sitting at spots like Gunsight, the Smooch (pre tuna pens) and Oscar Ridge and picking yellows and big bass, watching Danny Wade every time he came out and just being amazed in that both the guy could get a fish every time they flared up and wanted to bite and that he would be casting on a dipping bird before the fish even got up. Good times, no doubt.
While the islands have not got with it yet, this spring’s yellows from La Jolla to Point Loma are every bit as fun and a better grade than those yellowtail bites I remember from the mid ‘90s.
I love nostalgia and looking back at how things were and how much things have changed. Everyone wants to talk about how shit the fishing has been the last few seasons — it has been tough, no doubt — but there have been opportunities galore, it just takes work. No doubt in another 16 years I’ll be telling my son how we used to catch 50-pound seabass and 30-plus-pound yellows on squid beds all by ourselves with uncle Greg in zones that Noah will never get to fish.
If I had the time and I could get my boat out I’d pull a play from Sobiek’s playbook and hear that classic voice in my head say, “fuck the crowds, we’re going to get out in the deep water outside and below the islands and go looking.”
If there are yellows off Green Tanks in 50 fathoms there’s more marching up the line, maybe around the 100 fathom curve where there’s been so many great spring bites on migratory yellowtail from outside the islands on down to the Finger?
If they are there, maybe they are a little more eager to bite. But then again, all it takes is one spring yellow on the surface iron to serve as a reminder as to why you love fishing so much.