Feature Article: WON_Toronato Charter

WON/Toronado Charter: TUNA OR BUST

BY DENNIS YAMAMOTO/Special to Western Outdoor NewsPublished: Sep 20, 2019

Captain Ray Lagmay chases the elusive bluefin and yellowfin tuna until the bitter end of the annual WON 2½-day charter aboard the Toronado

Boy oh boy, tuna, tuna, tuna. One day they bite like there’s gonna be no food left tomorrow, then the next, they play hard to get and develop lockjaw.

Two full days of fishing amidst an armada of very large and very small fishing boats for the tasty tuna had Captain Lagmay using all the tricks his decades of fishing experience could muster. After all was said and done, the hard fishing anglers of this WON charter mustered 15 bluefin and 36 yellow­fin tuna into the refrigerated fish hold of this reliable fishing vessel.

TAG TEAM TUNA taken by partners Richard Wisz and Fred Bernthal, both of Sierra Madre. It weighed over 50 pounds and took over two hours to land on light line. Good to see you again. Congratulations!

Since the “Toro” was docked early on departure day and all the passengers were on board, checked in, and had received a pack of VMC hooks, we got an early jump by leaving the dock from Pierpoint Landing in Long Beach by 9 p.m. Anglers were advised that they were free to use the 4 Daiwa rod and reel combos that I took aboard from WON as well as load up their own reels with the Daiwa J-braid, Sufix monofilament, and Yo-Zuri fluorocarbon leader material. After meticulously and carefully loading the bait tanks with lively sardines for almost two hours, second Captain Johnny “Nonsense” gave the group a soothing nights’ sleep with a smooth, downhill ride. He had also given a lively tuna fishing seminar on what to do as well as what not to do, while offering $1 for the first passenger to land a tuna the following day. The most important suggestion was to use 20- to 25-pound-test fluorocarbon leaders just to get a bite. That seemed to be a bit challenging since most of the tuna were between 20 and 80 pounds of fighting muscle.

Day one of this WON charter had Captain Lagmay stopping on many meter marks with very little signs of tuna on the surface. Most of the wary beasts were still asleep at about 20-plus fathoms deep and had little interest in our offerings.

Suddenly, regular on this trip William Ha of the Turners Outdoorsman store in Pasadena was hooked up on his Shimano rod and Stella reel to a solid bluefin. He related that he was using the suggested 25-pound fluorocarbon leader and had full bendo during the entire battle on his lightweight outfit. Unfortunately, the leader parted after a battle that lasted almost an hour. This same scenario occurred several times over until this author decided to wet a line and landed a 38-pound bluefin on 20-pound-test on my Daiwa Lexa 400 (7:1).

Captain Johnny Nonsense’s dollar bill was earned by Robert Hildebrand of Simi Valley who gamely ate the heart of his first bluefin tuna ever! This was an agonizing day of prolonged battles mostly won by nasty blue­fin hooked on the light line. Many anglers tried to get a bite on heavier leader lines, but the tuna snubbed their noses at them until they dropped down to 25-pound-test or less. Finesse fishing at its finest!

All in all, the anglers still toughed it out at the rail and did the best they could under those circumstances while Jaime Molina’s boom box blasted lively music to fish by. Twenty of the WON anglers were repeat customers with three fathers and sons fishing together again on the Toro.

juniorandseniorJUNIOR AND SENIOR James Blanchard mimic photo taken on last years’ WON Toronado charter. Third year in a row! Thank you!

Day one ended with 11 bluefin and 8 hard-earned yellowfin tuna. Jackpot winner for day one was Saverino Simone of Valencia who managed to land a 44-pound bluefin tuna. A 50-plus pounder was tag teamed by buddies and repeat customers Fred Bernthal and Richard Wisz, both of Sierra Madre. New cook Nick Escobedo prepared an excellent steak dinner for those who were hungry enough after eating most of the day.

Day one depleted a massive amount of sardines trying to chum up the elusive tuna, so the Toronado made arrangements to supplement its supply in Mission Bay for day two. This day proved to be even slower than the first, however, the fish had grown overnight and five extended morning battles with the insane bluefin that all lasted over an hour each resulted in parted lines and heartbreak once again. After lunch, meter mark after meter mark produced very little in the way of bites, however, quizzically, there were a couple of pelagic sting rays hooked on flylined sardines that I forgot about on day one. Longtime WON supporter Ted Reed of Chino Hills was one such lucky angler who was proud to provide me with that information.

Just about everyone had given up on catching anything on day two, but not Captain Lagmay, who continued with his commitment to excellence, and as the sun was setting, encountered a sundowner bite that lasted for a little over a half-hour at dark thirty. Once the melee had ended and the excitement had subsided, 4 bluefin and 28 yellowfin had hit the deck for the animated anglers aboard the Toronado. Thanks for the “never give up” attitude of Captain Ray! Old friend (we are both ancient), Mando Torres of Compton won the jackpot for day two and donated his entire winnings to the hard working crew of the Toronado. Thanks to cook Nick who had been patiently waiting to serve his stir fry dinner until the craziness subsided.

Once the ice cream dessert was devoured, raffles were held for several items donated by WON supporters. Some winners were: $50 Turners Outdoorsman gift cards to Tony Anthony, Saverino Simone, James Blanchard, Jr., and Dale Harris of Riverside. The Daiwa tackle bag was taken by Eddie Munoz from Victorville. Daiwa pliers by Jim Bridges, Shawn Cooper, and Ron Wray. Rapala lures by Rodger Bombard, Mando Torres, Will Ha, Robert Hildebrand, and James Blanchard, Sr.

Thanks to all the sponsors for their generous contributions to a successful outing. A huge shout-out to all the WON supporters and repeat friends that continue to support this charter. See y’all next year!

OLD BUDDY MANDO Torres from Compton with his bluefin and Shawn Cooper of Simi Valley with his yellowfin seem to be very happy with their respective catches.

DECK BOSS TOM Veloz hefts this beautiful bluefin landed by Ruben Gonzalez from Carson.

TONY ANTHONY SINGS bass with a group that replicates the Temptations! Also a repeat customer, this author sings a “My Girl” duet with him! Good times with good friends!

roberthildebrandROBERT HILDEBRAND OF Simi Valley proudly displays his $1 donated by Captain Johnny and earned for catching the first tuna of the trip. It was his first bluefin ever so he gamely ate the beating heart while deck boss Tom Veloz gaffed the fish.

fontanasrodgerFONTANA’S RODGER BOMBARD and his bluefin tuna with one of many small boats in the background.

deckhandjojoDECKHAND JOJO SALDANA gets between son and father Eric and Jim Bridges from Fullerton and Bishop. Also repeat customers, thank you!

THIS REPORTER LANDS the first bluefin tuna of the WON charter aboard the Toronado out of Pierpoint Landing after several were lost.

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