Hot Action on Eight-Day Trip Aboard the American Angler

By Steve Carson

The anglers who headed out in mid-October aboard the 90-foot American Angler, out of Point Loma Sportfishing in San Diego, with Captain Ray Lopez at the helm, experienced multi-species Nirvana on an eight-day Penn Fishing University excursion. This October eight-day trip is known as the Fall Variety Special, and it more than lived up to its billing, with 27 different species of game fish caught.

One of the most spectacular dorado bites of the year was accented with an almost equally hot yellowtail bite, and plenty of school-size yellowfin tuna added to the fun. For spice, we had a couple of legitimate shots at wahoo, and a taste of exotics. On the way home, we had some great samples of untouched calico bass fishing along the scenic northern Baja coastline.


The area outside of Magdalena Bay known as “the shark buoys” was holding huge numbers of big dorado. After a couple of short flurries, the group hit the Mother Lode, as uncountable thousands of ravenous dorado surrounded the boat.

In a true angler’s fantasy scenario, dorado from 20 to 35 pounds savagely attacked anything that hit the water for over two hours. For safety’s sake flylined sardines with no weight were the only thing to use, as head-shaking dorado jumping high in the air and flopping wildly on deck meant that any kind of lure or sinker could become a deadly flying missile.

Some anglers opted for heavy 50-pound tackle to quickly winch their fish to the boat amidst the chaos. Others opted to go with lighter and more sporting 25-pound tackle and just a three-foot, 50-pound test fluorocarbon leader to deal with the dorado’s small but sharp teeth. Anglers using both approaches easily tagged their limit of dorado.


Other than a single individual fish caught on a Tady 45 surface jig by this writer, most of the 140 yellowtail caught on this trip were fooled by yo-yo jigs. When the bite was hot it didn’t matter much, but blue/white Sumo JR jigs and five-ounce blue/mackerel Williamson Herring Jigs were among the best choices.

Favored yo-yo tackle consisted of a Penn 113HN Baja Special reel, with a 100-yard topshot of 50-pound mono, mounted on a Penn Bluewater Carnage CARBW700H rod. Most of the yellowtail were beautiful 22 to 28 pound class fish, with a nice mixture of 30-plus pound “toad” specimens.

Yellowfin Tuna

Although one presumably 100-pound plus tuna was hooked and lost, the majority the tuna landed by the group was in the school size category, although a good number of those were quality-grade 30-45 pounders.

Flylined sardines were the top offering, rigged on a 2/0 Owner Ringed Gorilla hook and three feet of 40-pound fluorocarbon leader. Monofilament topshots could be 30 or 40 pound test, and preferred topshot lengths averaged about 50 yards over 50 or 65-pound superbraid backing. Standard rod/reel choice was a Penn Fathom FTH25N reel and Penn Bluewater Carnage CARBW800M rod.

Although they tantalized the group with some spectacular aerial shows and bitten-off lures, only a baker’s dozen wahoo in the 35- to 50-pound class actually hit the deck. About half were caught trolling the usual pink/black Marauders. A surprisingly high rate of success was had for anglers casting jigs using just a three-foot 120-pound fluorocarbon leader, connected directly to 65- or 80-pound superbraid line with a size 6 [163 pound] Owner dark welded stainless steel ring. Best jig casting rod/reel combo for wahoo was a field-test version of the upcoming Penn Torque TRQ40NLD2 two-speed reel, filled with 80-pound superbraid line, and mounted on a Penn Bluewater Carnage CARBW700XH rod.

Bonus species

Species abundance was off the charts on this trip. In addition to the major varieties already listed, popular exotics like gulf grouper and amberjack added to the diversity, and a few rarities like cubera snapper also came aboard. Plenty of more familiar species like calico bass, whitefish, rockfish, and sheephead were of course available. This writer also landed a very unusual mutton hamlet [a species of dwarf grouper] in its bright-red color phase, and an as-yet unidentified beast that for now is being called a beaded grouper.

The overall species tally of 27 was impressive, as was the final score of 170 yellowtail, 140 yellowfin tuna, limits of dorado, and 13 wahoo. Just about everybody also got a couple of bonus species, although almost all of those were released.

Captain’s Summary

Skipper Ray Lopez summarized the trip: “At this time of year our expectations are high, and we never know what will be available. The highest water temperatures we encountered were 80-81 degrees at the Ridge. When things cool off a little bit, the larger cow-size tuna will start to show. The sheer volume of dorado shows that they are currently in an ‘up’ cycle, and are even larger than last year. Wahoo fishing is just starting to get better, and the larger yellowtail were really running together this trip. The fall season is definitely shaping up.”

Jackpot Winners

Top jackpot honors went to George Carlton of San Diego, who bested a 47-pound yellowfin tuna that earned him a Penn International 16VSX reel and a nice commemorative plaque. Second place was Jerry Frey of Arnold, CA, who had a 43-pound yellowfin, and in third place was Craig Bernal of Mission Viejo with a 42.2-pound tuna. The yellowtail jackpot was a tie between Greg Frazier of Upland and Brian Baker of Placerville with matching 36.6 pounders. The “Flambeau Hero Fish” was the 28.5 pound cubera snapper caught by Luis Velasquez of Sacramento, and the coveted “Flambeau True Sportsman” award as voted by the crew went to James Mertzweiler of Alaska.

The American Angler runs a year-round schedule of 4- to 14-day long-range trips at Point Loma Sportfishing in San Diego, for more information  call (619) 223-5414. Next year’s eight-day PFU excursion aboard the American Angler will take place October 16-24, 2013.

Fishing Magazine, Coastal Angler & The Angler Magazine is your leading source for freshwater fishing and saltwater fishing videos, fishing photos, saltwater fishing.
Send this to a friend