This would turn out to be one of the best (if not THE best) overnight/1.5 day trips I have ever been on, and not just because the fishing was excellent...
This was the never ending season. Except for a 5-day trip that was detoured by the remnants of hurricane Norbert in September, this was the season I had to mostly watch from the sidelines, also known as Phoenix, Arizona.
After checking the forecast multiple times (it's what I do), getting approval from "the boss," and several Facebook exchanges, I met Sharla at the landing as she was signing in our load of 27 anglers for this 1.5 day trip...the day after Thanksgiving.
I had never fished on the Eclipse but had heard good things about it and certainly remember the boat back in the days when it was known as the Cat Special. I can say this: For it's size, it has a LOT of room and was very comfortable fishing 27 guys.
After loading up, meeting some of the guys and enjoying a platter of gourmet cheeses and meats (it was really good), we got the low down from captain Adam Williams on where we would be headed and what we would be doing on this trip.
Cortez Bank was our destination and we would be there at first light. A few other boats had some really good scores out there earlier in the week and there was nothing happening out there that would indicate those fish had gone anywhere. We shall see!
I awoke to the best alarm clock on the boat: The smell of cooking bacon! Chef Jason (he really is a cullinary-trained chef, and it shows) was just beginning his day of preparing some of the best meals I have ever had on a boat, rivaling the best I have sampled in the long range fleet!
Unfortunately...or rather, fortunately, breakfast would have to wait.
It wasn't long after sunrise when we ran into a school of jumbo bonto that also produced a few yellowtail and turned into skipjack and yellowfin tuna! What an evolution.
Purple lightning struck my bait first and I quickly boated and released a 3 pound skippy.
The pick bite started to pick up with fish regularly boiling around the boat on the anchovy chum while most of us fished the live sardine.
My next fish felt even better than the first and after a 10 minute battle I had my first bluefin tuna onboard. I ended up with 2 more bluefin of the 20 or so on the boat. The small sliding egg sinker I had rigged up drew my bait a little deeper than the rest, down into the bluefin zone I theorized. My biggest bluefin, which we guessed might push the 30# mark, eventually won the jackpot.
With reggae music playing over the loudspeaker, we were in the midst of a steady yellowfin tuna bite in flat calm weather on the Cortez Bank the weekend after Thanksgiving. Amazing.
Luckily Jason had set aside a few plates of his awesome french toast with fresh fruit and bacon. Those of us looking to take a break in the action enjoyed an uncrowded galley.
The sunshine, warm air, warm water of 67° and tropical-type fish made it seem more like the middle of summer as the action kept on going until just before noon.
I had 5 or 6 tuna on the boat by 9am and I think the boat topped 100 fish by that time.
Even on this open trip, everyone worked really well together as if we were a long-term charter group. Tangles and crossed lines were at a minimum and not many fish were lost. Not that it mattered, the fishing was THAT good.
Things eventually started to slow down a bit, and after a lunch of organic beef bacon burgers and seasoned fries, we were on the prowl for a new bunch of fish. I think at that point we were close to U.S. limits on Yellowfin anyway. Yes, the Cortez bank is in U.S. waters.
HOOKUP! The boat was stopped on yellowtail this time and we started getting a steady pick on the yellows. I hooked one after a long soak on the sardine and could tell right away the difference between this fish and the tuna, skipjack and bonito we had been catching earlier.
Captain Adam advised we were drifting in about 40 fathoms and he was marking fish near the bottom. "You might want to drop a jig down deep for yellowtail or bottom grabbers," he said.
OK Tady 4/0, do your thing! The first two drops were bocaccio. Then I had a few bites that were a little more solid, but quickly become unbottoned. Third time down I tried to wind like crazy after the jig hit bottom.
Crank-Crank-Crank-Crank-WHOA! I'm on...and this has to be a yellowtail. Indeed, 5 minutes later, a 12# yo-yo iron yellowtail hit the deck of the Eclipse.
During this latest bite in continued calm weather, it was quickly becoming apparent that this trip had all the earmarks of obtaining the title of "EPIC." But wait, there's more...
While drifting, Adam noticied we were drifting right over the top of a high spot, ran up to the bow to kick over the anchor, and we proceeded to clean up on the rockfish.
For myself, I only caught one sizable red (vermillion rockfish). But there were a number of HUGE reds along with a variety of other miscellaneous rockfish and at least one 20# lingcod!
All this variety, excellent fishing, a great group of guys, a crew that was always on top of the action, fantastic food and of course the weather. How could this day get any better?
Well, there's the sunset, a refreshing shower and roasted pork loin with broccolini for dinner.
The bow was pointed towards Mission Bay for the long trip back home and the boys ended up cutting fish all night long. Hey, there were a LOT of fish!
Many thanks to the crew of the Eclipse for making this trip not good, not great, but truly EPIC.
I was just a regular old paying passenger, so I have no promotional debt to owe, just telling it like it was...and it was good. No, wait...EPIC. Sorry if I used that word too many times in this story.