Umarex Gauntlet



Click here for Merit McCrea – WHEELHOUSE SCOOP

Tuesday, September 26, 2017
Hooping renaissance
Tuesday, October 10, 2017
Shifting gears

Fine fall fishing indeed!
Fall is my favorite season of course, best offshore fishing of the year, a fresh hunting season getting underway, crowds are gone and there’s a little extra space on the boats, so it’s easy to get aboard, even last minute. With that in mind, I made the journey to Fisherman’s Landing where the Condor is berthed. I carried enough gear for a long-range trip, such has been the nature of the bite, all season long. One might be chasing wide-open school sized yellow­fin, or dropping a Flat-Fall on 100-pound for 200-pound bluefin, even on an overnighter.

Well, the bite had been wide-open fishing, single-stop tuna limits, but sometimes a lot of time in finding that right bunch. So I opted for a 1.5 dayer, maximizing the chances for success — dawn ’til dusk “in search of.”

CHRIS HUTTON OF Seal Beach, and second skipper Vinnie Baglioni on the gaff. One of the first dorado on the boat in a wide-open stop aboard the Condor. By 8 a.m. we had limits all around. WON PHOTO BY MERIT McCREA

It’s a bit nostalgic, being back on the iron bird. I’d spent a lot of time on that boat, captaining it for years — fished the ’83-’84 El Niño with it, a licensed captain before a licensed California driver — something the boat’s builder, Fred Benko, never failed to mention to others.

Baiting at the Everingham dock is a breeze, with the New Lo-An pulling in as we wrapped up loading on some beautiful but hefty, 8- to 9-inch sardines. Capt. and owner Scott Meisel uses the opportunity for a run-down of the safety gear and the day’s prospects. There are just 11 of us fishing open party on the beamy 85 footer. That’s fall fishing!

We will start our morning a fair way south, below the area the fleet has most recently been targeting one-stop-shopping for yellowfin tuna limits. The area has proven to be a real eye strainer, for it has been taking as long as all day to find that one dream paddy, maybe more.

We’re headed to an area where recent transits recorded ample kelps to try, and we’re not sure what we’ll find there.

At daylight, we’re still headed south when the trolling jigs go out. But it’s not long before we pull up on our first kelp.

Not much going. By 0730, we’re on our fourth. It positively erupts! Gold and blue flashes stream from the kelp — besieging the boat.

MAHI MADNESS — Rods bowing and fish flopping, the dorado bit like mad fiends, everything in the water, regardless of line or hook size. Deckhand Luke Jobbins and angler Harold Hanevic in the foreground. WON PHOTO BY MERIT McCREA

Rods bend and it’s dorado pandemonium. I throw one on 40-pound and go for my camera, snap a few pics of the early morning action while that flopping fish ruins my 40-pound stick, an American Graphite leftover from the Big 5 bargain-blank bin at the Long Beach Fred Hall Show several years back, with a kick-ass Talica 12 II strapped deckhand style to it.

With a pile of great pics in the can, the bite is still ripping, so I grab the small-reel 60-pound rig. It’s not the first Condor rodeo for that Sabre. It got its first wrap-job by me at 14 years old. Now it sports a Les Saitman wrap, barely hanging in there at over 30 years old. Its crusty and crumpled Varmac braced guides are still intact.

Strapped to it is sportfishing legend of Los Angeles Rod and Reel Club fame, Dan Felger’s  Accurate Boss Magnum 270. Given to him by “Schmidt.” It’s a lot of pulling power in a small package. A second dorado is on instantly and almost too hot to handle at the rail in a few seconds, DONE!

In fact, we have our limits of beautiful mahi by the end of the stop.

A few kelps later we’ve caught and released several more dorado, and the strategy changes. We are in tuna mode now and instead of stopping on paddies, we cruise them with the sonar to see if there are tuna, and if no deeper mark, move on our merry way.

About noonish we’re seeing a few pods of porpoise, too, but no luck with the tuna so far. It takes until 3 p.m. to find one with some meat on it.

As we pull in and slow, I toss a 160 Flat-Fall, one that was supposed to have seen its final fish already. Just a few weeks back, it was just resting quietly, broken off on the bottom near Bird Rock, Catalina Island, waiting to rust away. That’s where I found it and put it back to work.

THE FIRST TWO tuna of the day for this WON Staff writer. This is the “schoolie grade” of yellowfin tuna the San Diego fleet has been finding limits of in recent weeks.

Spooning the Flat-Fall down on the sink, 60 yards out on Izor 60-pound, a beefy Boss Dauntless 600 N reel and Phenix Abyss PSX 1009 J jig stick, it gets hammered. No match for 60-pound First String, the mid-teens or more tuna is quickly on my side of the rail. Meanwhile, several others are hooked, including Chris Hutton’s 30 pounder.

But by then, although the fish splash and boil like crazy, fresh bites are few. So, it’s in with 20-pound Izor fluoro leader. The rig is a dynamite Accurate Boss Extreme 500N, on a Cousins CLB 80L-CT, and 8-foot fly-line rod. The big ’dine is bit instantly on the light line, and it takes a little longer to boat that one. But another follows. That one wins its freedom, with the tiny number 4 hook tearing out at the final lift for the gaff — oops, too much!

Though the fish are thick under the boat, there’s nothing else going on. I learned long ago, tuna stick to that boat like glue, even when they’re through biting. You can drift all day looking at meter marks for next to nothing. Meisel is wise to the deal and we wind up and move on without delay. Of course, as we pull off, there’s whitewater in our wake, as the fish foam, trying to call us back. But it’s bull. They won’t bite anything with a hook in it now and Meisel knows it.

From there, the afternoon wears long, several stops for nothing, one for a fish on the jig, and the sun is sinking low. All day, there are two crewmen atop the wheelhouse scanning the far horizon for sign. Scott, too, glasses the calm seas. Sitting on the spacious sun deck, I spot a few porpoise jumping and Meisel simultaneously lets out a whoop. “Got those dolphin?” “Yep!”

GETTING ORGANIZED FOR the trip home. Those are some fine flatheads. WON PHOTO BY MERIT McCREA

It’s our last shot. I toss out with the Flat-Fall, and nothing, but the stern is chaos, wide-open yellowfin tuna, So I burn the thing back in. Just 20 feet from the rail the jig stops and 60-pound rips back out, line hisses across the surface. Tuna! Got another! Seconds later it’s on the boat and I’m in the corner with the little Felger reel getting ripped off by tuna. It’s instant bite, every bait — again on 60-pound line. W.F.O!

About four baits in, I finally regain my self control enough to let one actually swallow the big bait, and I hook it. It’s as good as it gets! In the final few minutes of daylight, we’re done, instant tuna limits!

They also ate the popper until it was gone in the mêlée, this time on a classic Calstar 800M and Newell P322F with Alan Tani T-bar handle and 40-pound. It was an awesome bite, and it’s a good thing we were able to fish dawn till dusk.

* * *

Merit McCrea is saltwater editor for Western Outdoor News. A veteran Southern California party boat captain, he also works as a marine research scientist with the Love Lab at the University of California at Santa Barbara’s Marine Science Institute. He can be reached at:

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