Gary Graham – ROAD TREKKER

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Even June gloom came early…
"The bluefin are biting big-time," the phone call began early on Memorial Day morning. Bill McWethy, San Diego businessman and owner of the C Bandit, a 75-foot luxury sportfisher built by TITAN MARINE USA continued, "Fish to 125 pounds according to a deckhand on the Shogun and Pete says we can leave tomorrow at noon; are you in?"

Appointments were rescheduled, business lunches and interviews were cancelled and I was at the boat Tuesday, well before the departure time. In addition to Captain Peter Groesbeck, there was Jeremy Smith, Victor Hourani, Pete Giacalone of Kusler Yachts, Bill and myself making the two day trip.

OUR LAST STOP of the trip was a sundowner that limited us out.

In case you hadn’t heard, Baja Norte is experiencing one of its most promising spring sportfishing starts in years. Just below the border, the waters surrounding the Coronado Islands have been on fire. "Some of the best yellowtail fishing in years," smiled John Campbell, Yellowtail Derby Tournament Director, at the event’s kick-off earlier in May. "Not only is there more volume of fish, there are some mossbacks up to 50 pounds being landed … all of which prompted us to make several overnight trips to the islands.”

But even farther down Baja Norte's west coast, the story seems to be echoing.

“I have been fishing Ensenada and So. California for over 40 years and I have never seen such a volume of fish as I am seeing now," exclaimed Captain Louie Prieto.

Edgar Sanchez, of the Marina Coral Store in Ensenada, agreed. “The sportfishing boats here in the marina have had some outstanding fishing lately.”

All the way down at San Quintin, Captain Kelly Catain along with Captain Juan Vargas have been recording impressive catches of everything from halibut to early season white sea bass adding to Baja Norte's super spring.

As we cruised inside of south Coronado Island, huge clouds of sea birds diving on the bait forced to the surface by feeding fish provided encouragement for the crew while they finished the task of rigging and retying leaders and hooks for the next morning’s fishing. Continuing our journey in search of the ever-elusive bluefin tuna, the seas were oily slick and our ride downhill was smooth.

Our first jig strike came at 6:30 a.m. on Wednesday – a double on yellowfin tuna just short of 140 miles south of the border in 66° degree, calm, blue water … an encouraging sign. Throughout the morning, in spite of the lack of any signs, it was a steady pick as the boat’s sonar led the captain from one spot of fish to another. A single here, a double there, and even a few quadruples followed by a few bait fish, all of which chewed up the morning quickly. This was in a sea devoid of other boats!

As we drifted on farther down the coast, the bite continued. Kelp paddies provided cover for huge schools of yellowtail ranging in size from “nice one” to “firecracker-size” throwbacks. It wasn't until mid-afternoon that we spotted the Pacific Queen on the horizon.

Inside of us, Pacific Queen Captain Drew Card reported similar action, including the lack of any signs of the bluefin that had been seen in the area for the past three weeks. But perhaps the biggest signal that things were a’changin’ was the absence of the seiners that had been in the area.

The day continued with each stop being better than the last. Late in the afternoon, we did finally spot one tuna seiner whose bright yellow helicopter circled us during one of our frequent stops.

Jeremy spotted a huge kelp bed in his stabilized binos that was about three miles away and Giacalone, who was at the wheel, turned the boat in its direction only to be stopped by a double. Meanwhile, Captain Drew volunteered not to hit the paddy before we could reach it. As it turned out, it was loaded with yellowtail and we moved on, leaving it for them.

Our last stop of the trip was a sundowner that limited us out. As for the bluefin that drew us down in the first place? Once again, they demonstrated their elusive quality. Just like snook, once you hear about the bite, it's probably over.

By this time of year, usually it’s the action at the southern tip of Baja that gets all the ink. But even with the June gloom in May, this year the yellowfin and yellowtail make Baja Norte an interesting option for your quick fishing fix. Don't miss out!

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