Sunday, March 25, 2012
March 24/25, Saturday and Sunday's 36 hour tuna safari by the partyboat Capt John was run out of Galveston's Pier 19 with Capt Johnny Williams and Capt Shawn Clark heading up the show. The first show-stopping element of the trip was the weather forecast - with only 2-3 ft. seas being called for, fortunately, this turned out even better than that: the light-to-no wind, a cool night and warm days in addition to the 2-3 ft. seas being short lived and going to 1' to slick-calm topped it off.
Leaving Pier 19 Sunday morning with 40 of us fishermen aboard and shortly afterward entering the relatively calm Gulf, the offshore run began.
The first two stops were made over rocky bottom structure about 68 nautical miles to the south of Galveston. These stops in 160 ft. of water produced vermilion snapper, triggerfish and unfortunately red snapper which was vented as necessary and released to be caught again, hopefully in June or early July.
A short run of about four miles to the south had us at the next two bottom fishing spots. The 180 ft. deep water had more vermilion snapper, mangrove snapper, scamp grouper - vented and released as they are out of season until next month - and more red snapper, also given the vent and release treatment.
Next on the agenda was the overnight tuna fishing. Leaving the 160 and 180 ft. bottom fishing, a run farther offshore in a SSE direction was begun. We arrived at the Boom Vang Spar production platform about 45 minutes before Saturday's sunset. This spar platform is located about 117 nautical miles - 135 statute miles - south of Galveston in 3,450 ft. of water. Swell heights were now around one foot; all looked pretty good for the start of tuna fishing. Blackfin tuna were there but running smaller than usual. Also, no yellowfin were coming to join us on deck. Around 10:30 P.M., Capt Williams decided to make a move to the Nancen spar production platform about 8 nautical miles to the east. Nancen is in 3,675 ft. of water, and swells were now below 1 ft. and later going slick calm.
One of the visual sights near Nancen was a well lit, large floating platform at what appeared to be about 2 miles off to the east. Not only was this drilling platform big and well lit, it had a flare line that was level with its main deck, having a huge flame pattern pointed off sort of to the north, this was an impressive sight as we approached and then drift-fished at Nancen. As darkness fell, it became even more spectacular. You never know what sights are to be seen out there. Besides the Capt John, there were two other party boats, a six-pack charter boat, a big sportfisherman and four other center console boats working the area. In my close-to fifty years of offshore fishing(April will mark my 50th), I've never seen such a display of lights, boats and a big flare. The photos with this don't even scratch the surface of the sight of this total combination, especially when you throw in the various reflections on the slicked-off Gulf.
Back to he tuna fishing - both yellowfin and blackfin were there. The five yellowfin taken hit chrome diamond jigs, a surface popper and the heaviest, an 81 pounder or Carolina rigged Spanish sardine. Blackfin tuna fishing picked up but was still down a bit in average size as the heaviest were in the 15 to 18 lb. range. For the most part, they hit 4-6 ounce chrome diamond jigs and butterfly type vertical jigs.
A little after sunrise Sunday, we left Nancen and headed inshore for more bottom fishing on the return run home. Our overnight tuna totals were 116 blackfin to 18# and 5 yellowfin of 81#, a 50, two 40's and a 35 pounder. The 81 pounder that ate a circle hooked sardine was taken by Gil Madray on an outfit that was on the light side for a tuna this size. It took about an hour and fifteen minutes to bring it to two gaffs. A lot can go wrong in a long fish fight of any type. He was fortunate to win this fish fight in spite of all the hard effort he put into it - great job of getting it done between the maneuvering up and down the rail, the pulling and winding until it was gaffed and on the deck! This was a team effort between him, the deck crew and fellow fishermen who gave all the room needed to get the job done.
We arrived at the next bottom fishing area about 30 miles to the north after around a two hour run. A rocky bottom spot in 260 ft. of water was fished, mainly for vermilion snapper which were slow to bite the small pieces of cut squid presented to them, which are usually a virtual sure strike generator. They marked well on the fish finding sonar but didn't get very enthused about biting....fishing!
A run to the north just short of an hour and we arrived at the next fishing target, a submerged "rig to reef" in 200 ft. of water. Vermilion snapper were at home, along with some red ones that once again were vented and released, and the trip's second heaviest fish, an 80 pound Warsaw grouper that hit and ate a small piece of cut squid on a small circle hook double drop bottom rig intended for vermilion. All held up and a prize for David Becker ended up iced down in one of the many fish boxes. Next was a drift by an in-service production platform six miles farther north. Anticipating a near surface cruising ling to cast one of my "Patrick's Galveston Rigs" ahead of had my attention turned to "high". The calm and clear blue water didn't produce a target for me but a guy up near the boat did manage to hook and bring to gaff a "keeper" ling of 37-1/2" total length - glad someone got one! Now is a prime time of the year for really big ones to show up. "Big Ones" translates into 70-100 pounders - bring lots of "ready" with you for those guys.
Our next and last fishing stop was at a bottom stop on the west side of the Claypile bank in 120 ft. of water. The catch there included more vermilion snapper, red ones vented and released along with one kingfish of about 25#. The last stop of the trip on our itenerary was the return to Galveston's Pier 19.
Catch totals for the trip were:
5 yellowfin tuna of 81, 50, 41, 40 and 35#.
116 blackfin tuna to 18#.
1 skipjack tuna.
726 vermilion snapper to 4#.
1 almaco jack.
1 Bermuda chub.
1 African pompano
4 sand tilefish
3 mangrove snapper
8 lane snapper
1 kingfish, 25#
1 Warsaw grouper, 80#
Gil Madray, Jamaica Beach: 31 vermilion (40 allowed on 36 hour trips) and the trip's heaviest yellowfin tuna - a nice one of 81#, at Nancen.
Steve Lightfoot, College Station: 28 vermilion snapper, 14 blackfin tuna, a 41# yellowfin tuna on a 6 oz. chrome diamond jig.
Jake Lustick, College Station:24 vermilion and 5 blackfin
Peter Letts, Cedar Creek Lake: 39 vermilion snapper, 9 blackfin tuna (4 & 6 oz. dia. jigs).
Greg Jarrett, Chicago, Il: 3 blackfin tuna, 8 vermilion and released r. snapper to 18#.
Richard Eberle, Texas City: 6 blackfin tuna, a triggerfish, 2 sand tilefish and 37 vermilion snapper.
Rita Baumann, Texas City: 5 blackfin tuna, 12 vermilion snapper.
Cindy Lucia, Texas City: 25 vermilion.
David BeckerKingwood: 15 vermilion, 4 blackfin tuna, 80# Warsaw grouper.
As you can see, this was another of those varied species catches from a Capt John 36 hour tuna safari. While the blackfin tuna numbers were down a bit, the yellowfins were working to balance it out, along with the vermilion snapper and a Warsaw grouper. This unusual combination of platforms, the natural gas flare, multiple boats and the calm Gulf were an unusual sight during the overnight period. Each of these 36 hour tuna safaris have their own personality and while the catches and weather variables are part of it all are generally a place to be. To make your reservations on an upcoming Capt John 36 hour tuna safari, give the office a call at 409-762-8808.