April 2007

World-Class Tuna: What’s Next?

2006-2007 Season Starts Out With Great Promise

By Bill Roecker

What’s world class? If you’re a miler, you’ll need to scamper across the finish line in under four minutes to be included in the category. If you’re a businessman, you need to figure your worth in the billions, not the millions. If you want a world-class yellowfin tuna, you’ll need to grind in a gorilla that weighs over 300 pounds.

In 1996, 10 tuna were caught that made the magic 300-pound mark. In 1994 and 1995, there were eight big boys each year. You can call ‘em boys because that’s what they are. Scientists say yellowfin tuna over 150 pounds are male. Apparently the females never get that big.

The 2005-2006 big tuna season was bigger than anyone ever imagined, with 2,343 tuna that weighed over 200 pounds caught by San Diego long rangers. Only a dozen made the 300-pound tally. Those truly big tuna don’t come along often, and they aren’t caught easily.

This year, the 2006-2007 season started out with the greatest promise ever, as 13 yellowfin of the 300-pound, super cow-sized class were caught in less than two weeks, and arrived in San Diego before Christmas. Then they got scarce. As this is written in March, three more whoppers have been weighed.

What’s next? Nobody knows, that’s for sure. We could see another flurry of big fish from the Hurricane Bank, or off the Revillagigedos Islands, or even from southern Baja or the Mexican coast. That would be great. If not, we’ve already had a super year for super cows. Here is what’s happened so far. 

Brace Of Threes!          

Steven Schneblin of San Diego caught a 327-pound tuna on a 10-day trip, with a rig kindly supplied by Captain Sam Patella. Sam’s American Angler docked at Pt. Loma Sportfishing Dec.15.

Schneblin pinned the mackerel on a 6/0 Owner Ringed Super Mutu hook tied to 135-pound Izorline with Super Braided spectra Topshot.  He used a Penn 50 N reel and a Custom Cal Star Rod from Blue Water Tackle in Solana Beach.

American Angler’s Web master, Barry Gambarana of Las Vegas, got a 324-pound yellowfin on the same trip. He fished under the kite, using the “Double Trouble” rig: two sardines on 8/0 Eagle Claw 2004 forged hooks, ringed by Jim Kastorff.  Gambarana fished with 135-pound blue Izorline with 135-pound Izor Spectra on an Accurate 50 reel and a 6465 XH Calstar rod .


Treys: Second Pair                  

Roy Rose docked Royal Polaris Dec.19. His 19 anglers had been on an 18-day trip sponsored in part by Izorline. With the boat tied up at Fisherman’s Landing, Rose said, “They started biting good down there. We saw a lot of 300-pounders jumping.”

A pair of those jumped onto the deck, assisted by crewmen wielding gaffs. Ron Nakamura had the best one, a 326.5-pounder.

Nakamura said his fight with the beast, which won first place, lasted an hour. He used a 6/0 ringed Super Mutu hook, 130-pound Izorline and 130-pound Izorline Spectra backing on a Daiwa SLT 50 reel and a Seeker 6463 XXH rod. He also caught tuna of 208, 251 and 254.6 pounds.

Ken Kochi of Huntington Beach won second place for a 325.8-pounder.

Kochi fished a sardine on a 5/0 Gorilla hook, and used 130-pound Izorline and 130-pound Izor Spectra on a Penn 50 reel modified by Cal Sheets, and a 765 H Calstar rod.

He also had a 206.8 and a 247.6-pound tuna.

Super Cow Sweep                  

Independence docked Dec. 20 with an unbeatable catch of giant yellowfin tuna. The 10-day trip with 25 anglers, skippered by owners Mark Pisano and Paul Strasser finished up with 16 tuna over 200 pounds. The crowning glory was the weighing of three tuna over 300 pounds on the Point Loma Sportfishing certified scales.

The trio of super cows went 356.2, 350.8 and 302.8 pounds! Such a lineup hasn’t been seen at the San Diego sportfishing docks for about a decade.

The biggest fish, caught by Dan Taketa of Lompoc, nearly broke into the ranks of the all-time top ten tuna taken by long rangers. At 356 pounds, it was only about six pounds short of making that mark.

Taketa said he hooked his fish on a sardine and a 4/0 ringed Super Mutu circle hook. He used 100-pound Izorline and 130-pound Izor Spectra on a Penn 50 S reel and a Calstar 655 XXH rod.

Taketa’s monster nearly spooled him, and a couple of other anglers did get spooled by the big fish around the Indy.

Sinkers aren’t usually attached to terminal rigging by tuna anglers, but Curt Kamada of El Segundo won second place for a 350.8-pounder that ate a sardine on a 4/0 Mutu hook. Kamada said he tied that hook to a Basil topshot of 100-pound Izorline, tied to 130-pound Izorline and 130-pound Spectra on a Will Fish 50 reel and a Calstar 6455 XXH rod.

Joe Armstead of Mountain View won third place for a 302.8-pound tuna. He said it was a 40-minute fish that took a sardine on a 5/0 ringed Super Mutu. He fished with 100-pound Izorline, 130-pound Power Pro Spectra, a Will Fish 50 reel and a Calstar 6455 XXH rod.

Five 300-Pound Tuna!      

“The first three days were tough,” said Red Rooster III skipper Andy Cates at H&M Landing Dec. 21, “but the last ones were good. Even the slow days had some big fish, though. Almost everyone on the boat got a cow, a 200-pounder.”

The 10-day trip with 20 anglers scored an incredible catch of five tuna of 300 pounds. That hasn’t happened since I started keeping score in 1993.

Biggest of the biggies was a 310-pound yellowfin caught by Larry Rutherford of Ridge Crest. He said the monster whipped up on him for two hours, after it bit a mackerel on a 6/0 Super Mutu hook tied to 130-pound Big Game line and 130-pound Spectra backing. He fished with a Penn 50 W reel and a Calstar 6460 XXH rod.

Chris Adams of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., got second place for a 302.8-pounder. He fished a sardine on a 5/0 Hayabusa hook on 130-pound Izorline and 130-pound Line One Spectra on a Penn 50 reel and a Calstar 6460 XXH rod.

Third place went to Charles Been of Bonita. He bagged a 302-pounder in 45 minutes, after it sucked in a mackerel on a 5/0 ringed Super Mutu. He used 130-pound Izorline and 100-pound Power Pro Spectra on an Accurate 50 W reel and a Seeker 6465 XXH rod.

A trout-country angler, Thomas Mesino of Cut Bank, Mont., took a 300.8-pounder (good for fourth place, since there was no trolling jackpot) after a two-hour fight. It bit a mackerel on a 7/0 Mustad hook, tied to 130-pound Izorline and 130-pound Spectra backing on a Penn 50 reel and a Seeker 6463 XXXH rod.

Rick Rutherford of Seattle bagged a 310-pounder, but ran out of gas and took a little help. He said the fish fought for three and a half hours. It took a mackerel on a 6/0 Mutu hook with 130-pound Izorline and 130-pound Spectra backing on a Penn 50 reel and a Calstar 760 H rod.

Levi Goes Fishing      

Levi Hostetler of Centerville, Mich., is a retired cabinet maker. He worked in the RV building industry in Vanguard, Ind., where Palomino Campers were constructed. Hostetler wanted to go fishing this fall, and he wanted to take a three or four-day trip.

When Hostetler called the San Diego Chamber of Commerce, they referred him to the Excel. There were no spots available at first, but when one opened up on a ten-day trip, Hostetler bought a ticket.

He rode the train and the bus, and then he rode the boat to the area below Mag Bay they call “The Cow Pasture,” among other names.

Excel skipper Justin Fleck found some good fishing for Hostetler and the other anglers. At the end of the trip they had tallied an excellent catch of big tuna, some 27 cows or tuna over 200 pounds, and Hostetler’s was the biggest, at 316.8 pounds! He was pleased he’d been talked into joining the jackpot, because he was the clear winner.

No one was more surprised than Hostetler, who borrowed his tackle.

“This is once in my lifetime,” he said at Fisherman’s Landing Dec. 22, where the fish were weighed on certified scales. “It was a blind stab.

 “At first I had a hard time, but I borrowed a seat harness and that really helped. I wanted to get the feel of it. The crew was very busy, but they helped me a lot.”

Hostetler got the feel, and he got his giant yellowfin with one of the boat’s kite rigs: 8/0 Eagle Claw circle hooks, 130-pound Big Game line and 130-pound Spectra backing on a Penn 50 reel and a Calstar 6455 XXH rod.

Five Cows, Bull        

On Jan. 5, American Angler skipper Sam Patella docked the rig at Pt. Loma Sportfishing. His 24 anglers enjoyed a 10-day trip that produced another 300-pounder and five yellowfin tuna over 200 pounds.

Wally Kakemoto of Milli Lani, Hawaii, found that big one, which weighed 343 pounds on the boat, before it was gilled and gutted for the refrigerated sea water hold.

 “I’d like to thank Taro the deckhand,” said Kakemoto, “for helping me. The fish bit at 200 yards, and then he took another 200. He took me up to the bow, but he came up in the stern.”

Kakemoto said he baited a sardine on a 7/0 Eagle Claw hook. He fished with 130-pound Izorline and 130-pound Power Pro Spectra backing on a TLD 50 reel and a Seeker 6465 XXH rod. The fight lasted an hour and a half.


‘Tired Old Man’             

Frank Lux has been fishing for a long time. He’s 70, and he always seems to come up with a big one. On the last day of fishing aboard the Royal Star, he hooked three big tuna, and kindly passed one off to a buddy. He lost a big one, too; the best one he hooked, he said.

“If you lose a big fish you just get right back out there,” he said at Fisherman’s Landing Jan. 5, after skipper Brett Rouintree docked the rig with 10 cows and Lux’s bull tuna. The trip was a 10-day excursion to southern Baja waters with 23 anglers.

Lux had two giant yellowfin, at 296 and 306 pounds! He remembered the big one well.

“He bit late that day, just before dark. He bit unseen, and he spooled me down to where I could see the pin on the spool, when he stopped. After that, it was just hard work for two hours and 45 minutes.”

Lux baited a mackerel for his 300-pounder, the 16th so far this season, on a 9/0 Eagle Claw circle hook tied to 130-pound Yo-Zuri line and 130-pound Power Pro Spectra backing on a Penn 50 SW reel and a Calstar 6465 XXH rod.

Bob’s 16-Day                  

Sometimes big tuna beat you up for hours, but there are always exceptions. After a very brief 25-minute tussle, Greg Stoney of Ventura landed a 314-pound yellowfin that “bit right by the boat, he almost spooled me on that first run.

“After that,” continued Stoney Jan. 22, “he turned around and came straight to the boat, where I got half of the line back.  It was a great trip, as always on the American Angler.

Stoney fly-lined a mackerel on a 7/0 Gorilla hook on 130-pound Izorline and an Accurate 50 reel on a Seeker 6463 XXXX rod.

Here’s a look at the fleet, with each of the regular long-range boats listed alphabetically, along with the names of the captains, the landings where the boats dock, and their Internet addresses.

American Angler 

(619) 223-5414  Sam Patella and Brian Kiyohara Point Loma Sportfishing                        www.americananglersportfishing.com


(619) 223-7493  Shawn Steward, Justin Fleck
Fisherman's Landing


(619) 226-6006  Mark Pisano, Paul Strasser, Jeff DeBuys
Point Loma Sportfishing

Polaris Supreme 

(619) 390-7890 Tommy Rothery, Drew Henderson
Feel free to call collect!
Fisherman's Landing

Qualifier 105 

(619) 223-2786  John Klein, Brian Sims
Point Loma Sportfishing

Red Rooster III

(619) 224-3857  Andy Cates, Julio Ochoa, John Grabowski
Lee Palm Sportfishers or H&M Landing

Royal Polaris

(619) 226-8030  Frank LoPreste, Roy Rose, Billy Santiago Jr.
Fisherman's Landing

Royal Star

(619) 224-4764  Tim Ekstrom, Randy Toussaint, Brett Rouintree
Fisherman's Landing


(619) 226-2403  Art Taylor, Kevin Ward
Fisherman's Landing


(619) 226-8030  Norman Kagawa, Bruce Smith
Fisherman's Landing

Spirit of Adventure    

(619) 222-1144  Mike Keating, Brian Evans
H&M Landing


(619) 223-1627 Mike Lackey, Gordon Lackey
Point Loma Sportfishing


The Landings

Point Loma Sportfishing: (619) 223-1627 www.pointlomasportfishing.com;  
H&M Landing: (619) 222-1144 www.hmlanding.com
Fisherman's Landing: (619) 221-8500 www.fishermanslanding.com
Lee Palm's Sportfishers: (619) 224-3857 www.redrooster3.com.

Cow Count Update

As of Jan. 25, the cow count stood at 336 tuna over 200 pounds, including 16 over 300 pounds. Will we see more of them this spring? Possibly; maybe even likely. But the 16 already weighed are reason to celebrate.
This is a great season. Viva la vacas!