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CALIFORNIA'S ONLY SPORTSMAN'S NEWS SINCE 1953

Southern CA Saltwater

Long Range Report: Tough Go

BY GUNDY GUNDERSON/Special to Western Outdoor NewsPublished: Mar 13, 2018

Fleet struggles to put together catch; poor current gives way to aggressive sharks

SAN DIEGO — It is generally accepted that the Royal Star is one of, if not the best, long range boats in the fleet. Over the years, the vessel’s accomplishments have left little doubt. But that does not make a boat and a veteran skipper immune from the fickle fortunes of trophy yellowfin tuna fishing. The natural laws of fishing and catching do not pay respect to reputations. The candid comments of a legendary skipper lend credence to an upbeat philosophy that has kept the Royal Star at the top of the heap.


Star returns


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DENMARK PHENOM MARTIN Lenzberg with a JP winning 248 landed on the Star.


fattycurtisrsFATTY! CURTIS LAMBERT poses with his 226 Royal Star tuna.

rodneysharprsRODNEY SHARP STANDS with a stock-grade bank yellowfin taken on the Star.

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THE TAXMAN MADE life tough on the final days.

After an inauspicious start to the open fly-down/fly-back trip that saw a day where no yellowfin tuna were caught, a rarity by any standard, the Royal Star began to find some footing. The weather and jackass current found the boat struggling to put anything on the deck. But fortunes change in fishing and toward the end of the trip skippered by Capt. Tim Ekstrom, the boat, crew and anglers thought things were beginning to turn around. The veteran skipper sent this report, saying, “I’d venture that seeing them is better than not, though it’s still a mighty struggle to catch one. Staying on the positive train, a huge improvement in the weather added to the day large. Still biding our time, we continue to drive hard and fish through the down cycle. Change is due to come.”


The skipper also commented on a “hot stick” angler. “One angler for whom change is not needed, is the Denmark phenom Martin Lenzberg. There is a distinct method to his madness that appears to be magic. Or not? Time will tell, regardless of how or why Martin is on top of the world experiencing the trip of a lifetime. It seems that when or if we are stopped, Martin will catch one. And catch one he did again today; the only one. At 248, Martin added to his legend and ended our day on a much improved note.


The following day, more improvement. “A much better day in every respect,” Ekstrom said. “Better weather, better sign, and better catching leads one to believe that the drought may be coming to an end. Having something to settle in and work on alone, got the blood flowing topside, while the anglers on deck were quick to take full advantage. Not that we loaded up, but fair scratching on 90- to 140-pound tuna in the morning and afternoon, and a nice crack at the “skin” was a huge divergence from production over the past three days. We’ll take it.”


But just as things appeared to be improving, another hiccup. “It seemed like we had finally gained some traction,” he continued. “Vastly improved fish sign combined with better conditions and excellent weather suggested this zone was on the upswing; just in time for the final day. And the day did begin on the right note. A fair morning hit on mid-grade yellowfin had us feeling pretty good about the day to come. But consistent with our fortunes this voyage, success was fleeting.”


The next morning, a batch of fish slid onto the bank, but then another bad development. “Along with the fish that moved back into the shallows came the sharks,” the savvy captain continued. “And they were hungry. No doubt, less those bastards, the day would have been logged as a significant success. Enough bites on quality fish were to be had. But those opportunities were too good to be true for some bad actors that pounced on the doomed tuna after full daylight in short order. We wrestled a few through but multiple relocations proved the challenge was greater than we could overcome.”


The skipper continued philosophically, “‘It’s always something’ — a go-to saying in the face of the multitude of obstacles found in the grand arena. Though frustrating, one cannot be surprised by the challenges. They come with the territory, and make the good times that much better. I have to comment on the superior disposition of every individual on board. In the face of challenging fishing, especially prolonged challenging fishing, nothing has a more deleterious effect on morale than griping or sad sacking about. There was none of that here.”


Intrepid begins


loadingbaitintLOADING BAIT ON the Intrepid.

The Intrepid was the only other boat out with the rest of the fleet in maintenance or show mode. The boat was on the annual Catchy Tackle 16-Day Trip. Once again, communication was hobbled by poor Wi-Fi reception. Capt. Sam Moore forwarded this report after a promising first day: “The boys arrived on scene just after 0930 this morning. There was a good sign of fish most of the day but current conditions were not favorable, and most of the action today was on fish less than 100 pounds. The boat did manage a few fish over the 100-pound mark. The weather was nice today and we have high hopes for tomorrow.”


After day two, the boat forwarded this short report: “We are seeing good sign of fish today and put together a nice morning on 80- to 150-pound fish, with some wahoo in the mix. The weather is nice and we have high hopes for the days ahead.”


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