Author: Colby Uva
Overnight Tuna Fishing Aboard The Fury At Dana Wharf
For now at least, Dana Point California is one of the last small towns along the Southern California Coast with a wharf. The wharf in Dana has a small bait barge that supplies a small charter boat fleet as well as a number of private boats (more private boats then in most Southern California towns). Bait can be purchased only by boat, however a few clever jetty fishermen have devised methods, such as cutting a whole in a boogie board , and sticking a 5 gallon bucket in it, and literally swimming out to the barge to buy bait.
Dana Point is very close to the southernmost islands in the California island chain (San Clemente Island, and Catalina). Being that it is a small town, there are still relatively inexpensive fishing options, especially during the off season. At the end of August, I booked an overnight trip aboard the Fury, the only overnight boat in the wharf , it is owned and operated by Captain Marcus.
"I grabbed my accurate 50, and dropped a flat fall. I worked it for about 45 minutes, up and down with no luck. "
Our trip boarded at 9pm, and as the crew loaded the boat with bait, Cpt. Marcus gathered all 32 passengers (yes there was a very full trip) into the galley to discuss the plans for the trip. The original plan had been to go to San Clemente, however the yellowfin tuna bite had been on fire down in Mexico, so he was looking for a unanimous vote to go south, meaning that everyone on the trip would need to buy their Mexican permits.
"I started fly lining my sardine (the west coast equivalent to free lining), and within about 5 seconds I was bit!"
The possibility to get into schools of foaming tuna amongst a group of seasoned fishermen made getting that vote not hard. Soon we were slowly making our way down to Mexico. Around 4:30 in the morning, the boat had arrived on the tuna grounds. Or at least thats when I woke up.
It was still dark, the boat was drifting and there were schools of small baitfish showering around the boat for at least 100 yds. I grabbed my accurate 50, and dropped a flat fall. I worked it for about 45 minutes, up and down with no luck. I decided to call it quits and headed back to sleep to make sure I was fully conscious for the days fishing.
"After landing 3 fish on heavy tackle ... I pulled out my spinning rod, a penn spinfisher 4500 spooled with 30Lb braid, and with the 12Lb fluorocarbon leader"
When I woke up, the whole boat looked like it had been awake and fishing for a while. Within a few hours, with some bait being pitched, a few yellowfin started to show up and boil around the boat. They were very finicky and only people fishing 20Lb fluorocarbon or lighter were getting hit. I had expected to be on a trip targeting bluefin, so my lightest was 30Lb fluoro, and I did not get bit for the 1st few hours. It was a frustrating experience, after seeing about 20 15-20Lb yellowfin being caught right next to me.
Finally, I sucked it up and asked one of my fellow anglers if he had any light fluorocarbon. He was kind enough to lend me some 12Lb fluorocarbon and a very light hook. Still no luck. It was around 11 am , and Cpt. Marcus told everyone to wrap it up, it was time to start heading north. I knew that the fishing was going to end around 2pm, so I was very discouraged with my own performance.
"I don’t think I saw a single angler was without a smile on their face on the ride home. "
Around noon we pulled up to another boat and acquaintance of Cpt Marcus, that had just limited out on yellowfin. We basically picked up where they had left off. Tuna were boiling everywhere. Since I had yet to catch one, I didn’t want to risk scaling down to 12Lb, so I pulled out my 50 (only had a 50, and small spinner with me), threw on some 30Lb fluorocarbon, and backed down my drag big time.
I started fly lining my sardine (the west coast equivalent to free lining), and within about 5 seconds I was bit! My first yellowfin was in the boat a few minutes later. I have experienced party boat fishing where you have to walk under peoples rods before when fishing on the Reward Fleet in Miami, but this is a whole other ball game. People on these boats know that you will need to get under them, and you need to follow your fish over and under people. With 30 anglers and at any given time 15 of them being hooked up to yellowfin, this can get wild. It does get the adrenaline pumping, and sometimes tempers flair up, but if you put it in perspective to what it is, people seem to handle the mayhem quite well.
" I definitely recommend this trip for anyone in Dana Point or the Orange County area. "
After landing 3 fish on heavy tackle and light drag, and knowing that the limit was 5 per person. I pulled out my spinning rod, a penn spinfisher 4500 spooled with 30Lb braid, and with the 12Lb fluorocarbon leader. It was time to go light tackle and have fun with these fish. With the light tackle, I just let them take it and the fish just tired themselves out. It was a lot of fun, I landed two 15Lb yellowfin with this method.
I had the pleasure of fishing with an older gentleman in his late 70’s from Arizona, him and his wife and his son had come together. His knees where done, and he had to sit up on the bow but boy was he still living life, he landed his own yellowfin as well.
I don’t think I saw a single angler was without a smile on their face on the ride home. Plenty of meat would be brought home, and plenty of arms were sore, and bruised. I definitely recommend this trip for anyone in Dana Point or the Orange County area. This trip is $130 , which is much less expensive than leaving out of the major ports, with access to the same fish.
Below Are A Few More Of My Trips And Experiences That Have Introduced Me To Southern California Fishing
My First Impression Of SOCAL Fishing In January - When I first got to Southern California I really didn't know what to expect. My mobility was limited without a car, so I joined fishing clubs and got tips from local anglers and friends that had fished in San Diego. I spent the first few months Airbnbing and that allowed me to be near the action to see what was going on without having to p as a fortune for ubers. (Also see ubering as a fishermen).
Coming from Florida I had always seen pictures of Cow Tuna lining the rails of big long range boats. It seemed so far, and so expensive for a young fisherman, actually out of reach. Before coming over here I did all of my research to learn about all the boats. It still astounds me the scale of the operation at H&M Landing & Fisherman's Landing. It's the most impressive fishing fleet I've ever seen.
Each boat is there own full on hospitallity business. They are basically floating hotels who compete on amenities, "restaurants" as most have their own chefs and of course the most important "fish counts" which are regularly updated on the landings websites.
When I first came to San Diego I fell in the love with the marlin club building. It was fricking awesome. There is nothing like it that I ca think of in Miami. It's a piece of history. Fishing history that is actually preserved, and that's something to speak of especially in 2020.
Anyways I went down there so often that eventually the weighmaster Roger asked me if I wanted to come speak at the club. So I did I gave a speech about the concept of Spend More Time Fishing which after much research I have found is responsible for most of the major innovations of the world from the conquest of much of The Roman Empire to the fricking lightbulb. As a matter of fact I found this out later but one of Andrew Carnegie's biggest scandals was when a fishing club that he was a member of "didn't keep up with" a damn they had bought and it killed thousands of people.
Oh back to fishing on a center console in San Diego. Yea I met Will at the club and he invited me to go fishing on his 18 foot Boston whaler out to the canyons for tuna and that was my first offshore experience in a private boat. Click the link up top to see that report.
Every year from January to February rockfish season in US waters closes for them suckers to spawn. You can still target them, but you will need to head south down into Mexican waters. By getting on a 3/4 day trip out of San Diego you should have plenty of time to get down there. What is nice about the trip is since it's a little specific, most people on the trip are decent fishermen and so you will have a pretty good crew to fish with. My first trip for Mexican rockfish was with JD on the Fisherman III , check it out at the link above.
First Full Day Trip Out Of San Diego
My first full day trip I actually drove down. From Dana Point with my fiance Fiona to fish on the Liberty. We saw a ton of tuna but only one was caught, lucky for Fiona the crew hooked it and handed it to her because she was the only girl on the boat. While it was tough for me to watch her catch a bluefin before me after I cleaned the 40Lber at the house we had Sashimi for us and a ton of family members who visited. I hooked one on and iron on the surface but he pulled the hook.
After months of moving , tradeshows, setting up a new warehouse etc, I finally made it out on my first over night trip in Southern California aboard the Fury (I highly recommend this boat and Cpt. Marcus it's new owner). It was some of the most insane fishing I have ever experienced. While I had hoped for bluefin the quantity of yellowfin we caught more than made up for it. It was so wild in fact that at one point I switched to a 12Lb set up just to have fun with the yellowfin. We ended up leaving them biting because our boat full of 30 people had limited out. Take a look at the link above to read about that trip.
Fishing clubs are probably one of the best inventions in the fishing world. Fishing clubs are a great way to warn about a local fishery and its ins and outs. By joining a fishing club, not only will you learn more about that type of fishing, but you also meet new fishing buddies to go fish with, and learn of exclusive deals on tackle, trips and more. The link above is list of all of the fishing clubs in Southern California. If you want to fish out here. Join these clubs and get involved.
In March to take a break from moving Fiona from DC and busting our asses in the warehouse we took a trip down to Ensenada to fish and relax. Click the link above to learn more about that trip.
My article is mostly about the fishing aspect but the goal of Bullbuster is to help you spend more time fishing. If you have a family a lot of time that means getting them involved. Fiona wrote a great article covering this perspective with a Things To Do In Ensenada Mexico article.
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